Monday, May 30, 2011


This Memorial Day, let’s pay respect to our honored dead by not needlessly adding to their number.

Bin Laden is finally KIA and the Taliban have been chased back into the hills. That’s the game, isn’t it? It’s what we went to Afghanistan to do, as I recall the rhetoric from the time. 9/11 has been avenged as best as it can be, and the government that harbored the terrorists has gone from being the ruling authority to just another bunch of criminal creeps on the lam, killing their fellow citizens indiscriminately in the name of god.

This is absolutely as good as we are going to get it in Afghanistan.

You know what the long-term prospects for that entire part of the world are?


Islam’s internecine squabbles make Ireland’s decades of Catholic/Protestant bloodshed look like A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. They’ve been at war with themselves for millenia, not decades. As sure as I’m sitting here, if they had had access to nuclear weapons a thousand years ago, they would have blown themselves to Kingdom Come loooooong before now.

As it is, now it’s only a question of when, not if. The best we can hope for is to not be downwind on that terrible day.

And since there’s nothing we can do to avert it, whether we have boots on the ground there or not, I say let’s not hang around just to add to the body count.

Look, I’m in favor of the U.S. having a thriving military presence the world over. This world is a dangerous fucking place. People from east to west and top to bottom like power and they like killing each other. It’s only smart to have an American military presence in the general vicinity of likely global hotspots, to help keep the local shitheads in line (I’m looking at you, crazy North Korea guy).

To cover our own asses and see to our own interests.

I don’t think we should be the policemen of the world, but I definitely think we ought to have some of our cops on hand when shit pops off; a limited force with an intelligence-heavy mission tasked to preserve American democracy, not export it.

And we are doing nothing to preserve our domestic security (or export it) by being in Afghanistan anymore. On the contrary, now that our mission objectives have been achieved and we don’t get out, we play more and more into the jihadists’ storyline of us coming as Crusaders to conquer. One needn’t be a terrorist sympathizer to look at circumstances as they currently exist and come to the same conclusion.

Plus, I have a dog in this hunt. My only nephew is a Marine, scheduled to be rotated back over there sometime later this year. Whether or not we stay in Afghanistan is more than an academic exercise to me, or a philosophical gambit. I watched this kid grow up, uncled the hell out of as best I could from a couple states away and I’ll be damned if I want to see his future pissed away because we haven’t figured out an exit strategy yet.

Bush got us in—and should have gotten us out years ago, granted—but now it’s fully on Obama. I can’t imagine what further objective he expects to achieve by not fulfilling his campaign pledge to get us the hell out of there. If it helps the President make up his mind, I myself would be willing to give him a Mulligan on his Guantanamo campaign promise in exchange for keeping this one...

The time to step up is now, Mr. Obama. Killing bin Laden was well and good, but it was side-work; your main gig is to keep us safe at home, and our continuing presence in Afghanistan is compromising that prime objective more with every day it continues.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rare childhood photo of Captain America surfaces:

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What gets me out of bed in the morning:

Be damned if I can tell you what keeps me going after they go to school. Oh yeah, That’s right: all that lovely caffeine-packed extra-strength Excedrin. I would be lost without my socially-approved amphetamines.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A dog for all reasons

Three years ago yesterday, our beloved mutt Woody enjoyed his last day of good health. We played in the warm Christmas Island spring weather in our back yard, constructing a small, above-ground pool for The Boy, Woody circling the pool worriedly, correctly identifying it as a source of potential future heartache.

It was a beautiful, magical day. The halo-effect around Woody’s head, above, happened in-camera.

Three years ago today, I woke up in the morning to find that Woody hadn’t moved an inch from where I’d left him the night before. When I approached him, he gave me a weak thump-thump-thump of his tail on the floor, but his eyes had that far-away look I recognized from when my first dog, Doolittle, was trying to tell me it was time to break up the band.

Goodbyes were said discreetly before work that morning; our poor two-and-a-half year-old son had no idea that when he came home from daycare that afternoon, the house would have an enormous Woody-shaped hole in it.

The vet, of course, threw all kind of treatment options on the table, but ultimately, we’d only be fighting a delaying action, and prolonging his life at the expense of his quality of life. He was far too cool a dog to be done that way. Woody and I had known when we went in to the doggie doctor that morning it was for the last time.

Most importantly to me, I knew that look in the eyes. He’d had a great run, but he was done. Anything I did to extend his suffering (total renal failure, for the record) would be a strictly selfish, totally dick move on my part, and disrespectful of  the dignity with which Woody had always lived his life. Following are examples 1 and 2 of said dignity, even demonstrating undeniable grace under pressure while wearing the Cone Of Neurosis:

Anyhow, it’s three years on now, and when I think of the phrase “my dog,” it’s a picture of Woody that still pops up in my head. I love our big goofy pup Jake entirely, but my God, to say he’s no Woody is to say Popeye the Sailor Man is no Captain Ahab. It hardly seems a fair comparison.

Plus, as much fun and as sweet-natured as Jake is, he’s the family’s dog. He belongs to all three of us, and of the three of us, probably me least of all. Which is fine with me. But that means Woody was probably the last dog I’ll have to call my own, and I miss that special closeness. Especially on stupid days like today.

So I’m keeping The Boy home from school. We’re gonna watch a lot of super-hero cartoons, eat some junk food, stay in our pajamas way too late in the day, maybe even do some yard work if the weather’s nice and after lunch, we’re gonna bring one of his friends over for a playdate at the nearby indoor jungle gym.

I refuse to spend another May 20 stumbling alone around the house, mourning the dog that’s not here and resenting the one that is.

The clip job that follows is long and self-indulgent. I cannot overstate how much I look forward to the year when this anniversary—like my wedding anniversary—slips unnoticed past me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bad Arnold is bad

What a scoundrel! What giant brass balls.

What a cool piece of artwork I made and what a transparent excuse this is for posting it. It is a treatment I did tonight of a photo I took myself, back in the early days of Arnold’s governancy. This is not so much a post accompanied by a piece of art, as it is a piece of art with an exceptionally long-winded caption.

Back when Arnold was new in office, I worked for a Sacramento-area newspaper and occasionally had the opportunity to shoot the new governor in action, at budget announcements, ribbon cuttings, etc. After a while, his security detail got real butch with me and I sort of lost my desire to photograph the B-movie actor turned governor.

So I can’t say it breaks my heart he’s in hot water now. But I do feel bad for his wife. Kennedy dames are bred to compromise where it comes to their husband’s wandering wieners, but knocking up the nanny then covering it up for a decade while continuing to employ her to raise their children—that’s bad even on the sliding Kennedy-Men scale of infidelity. That’s reteaming with Ivan Reitman and Danny DeVito bad. I can see it now. Arnold finds himself in this predicament, and the undivorced husband of the nanny—played by DeVito—gets wind of it and decides to blackmail the governor… Oh, the hilarity that would ensue.

That’s something else. He ran for governor twice while sitting on this whopper of a scandal. [Massive, Liberty-Bell-sized balls on this fucking guy.] But more practically, who knows who might have found out about this secret love-child situation, and what favors might the governor have been pressed into using the powers of his office to do for anyone possessing this information?

There are going to be investigations up the ass. People with axes to grind are going to make all kinds of hay out of this, and Arnold’s indiscretion is so cartoonishly monstrous, I’m not even sure they’re wrong to go after him with everything they’ve got.

It’s cool to come to America, exploit the American Dream (that is what it’s there for, after all) and rise to the top of the heap completely on your own terms. I mean, it’s really pretty fucking cool. But it’s not cool to live a secret life that involves a second family, and it’s way not cool to integrate that family on the sly with your legitimate one. It’s the stuff of dimestore-novel villainy.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for Hollywood to forgive him. Maybe if Mel Gibson gets his box office mojo back in the meantime, he could take him under his wing and make a Mad Max Meets Terminator movie together.

I could definitely forgive them both for a couple of hours if they did that, especially if Jim Cameron or Chris Nolan were attached to direct.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Happy 85th, Mom!

Heaven ain’t ready for you yet. Not by a long shot.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Funniest YouTube comment this month

Someday, I'll do a whole post about my Johnny Cash channel on YouTube. But today I just want to give props to the funniest comment I've received in a long while.

Watch the clip (or just glance at the pic, below), then read the comment beneath the clip.

"I loved him in Iron Man."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

(Captain) America, heck yeah!

How long can you hold your breath?

Now that Osama bin Laden is pushing up guppies, all the polls say Americans are steeling themselves for some kind of retaliation from al Qaeda.

Which reveals Americans to be far savvier than I have at times given them credit for.

We’ve been edgy about a follow-up attack since 9/11. But now, when that attack comes, it will necessarily follow the killing of bin Laden, and a lot of people will try to conflate the two for their own political ends. I’m thinking mainly al Qeada and Fox News, working from opposite sides toward the same end, as usual.

The next batch of suicidal fuckwits (al Qaeda, not Fox) will definitely cite the bin Laden killing in their suicide videos, but we won’t be fooled. Their attack’s proximity to bin Laden’s death won’t be causal, it will at best give them bragging rights. “Hey, this one goes out to Allah, and my homie, Osama... uh, death to America.”

Whenever the next domestic atrocity occurs, it will be the attack that Bush, Rumsfeld et al warned us was coming for seven years, not an attack incited by Obama’s successful sanctioning of OBL. We’d be fools not to continue to be wary, but bigger fools to point fingers at anyone but the terrorists when the next assault inevitably comes.

To be perfectly fair, though, bin Laden’s killing is likely to move these clowns’ deadlines up.

Makes for damned nervous times.

So as usual, when the shit really hits the fan, I did what the majority of Americans do—I turned to Fox News. There were 9/11 ceremonies in D.C. and Ground Zero on Thursday. I could get the facts anywhere, but I could only get that giggly, high-fructose buzz of outrage, indignation and anti-administration spin from Fox News. How, I wondered, were they going to turn Obama’s high-profile anti-terror success into proof positive of his anti-American, Socialist, secret-Muslim agenda?

Eventually I’d seek out BBC America, the NY Times,… you know, cooler heads. But nobody does crazy better than Fox, and these are crazy times we’re living in.

Sure enough, one of their incredible blonde Barbie® anchors had honest-to-God 9/11 hero Todd Beamer’s Dad on.

A lump rose in my throat…

…for just a second, until I had to use it to choke down my gorge instead, as Todd’s Dad started a lengthy harangue about Obama’s “excessive use of personal pronouns” when announcing the death of bin Laden, followed by a helping of disgruntled beefing that the media was giving Obama (never “the President”), too much credit, too. There was basically a thread running though all his remarks, and it was weirdly not about 9/11 or his son’s heroism. For instance, then he went on to fulminate about how finding bin Laden fell into Obama’s lap. He literally said, “What’s he going to do? Nothing?” Mr. Beamer, Sr., it turns out, is one hell of a swell fellow if you happen to hate the President as much as he does. His son was a bad-ass, but he’s just an ass. He’s such a no-goodnik* that the Fox News anchor was forced to play the devil’s advocate role for Obama!

Then they casually mentioned a fact which revealed why such a high-profile victim’s family-member had time on his hands that day… He was on Fox News because he’d turned down a Presidential invitation to the Manhattan 9/11 ceremonies. One class act.

The rest of Fox’s coverage of the 9/11 thing Thursday was equally as revealing. More footage—by far—of W with his megaphone from 10 years ago (not to be mistaken for the pix of W with his megaphone from his college cheerleader days) than of the current, Osama-killing President laying a wreath at the ceremony they would otherwise have been covering like bees on a honeycomb. And barely a mention of the snubbed invitation the White House extended to GW Bush to attend today’s ceremony, the final resolution of the signature event to which he tied his entire administration.

To be fair, the snub is probably all MSNBC is talking about, but I prefer reveling in my opponent’s hypocrisy than cringing at my own side’s.

The rest of Fox’s coverage was mostly dedicated to variations on nascent conspiracy theories involving why Obama won’t release the “Osama Death Pictures.”

Here’s my theory: Releasing the photos will only enflame passions even more in the Muslim world. Everybody—left, right, center—knows that. Obama also understands by now, thanks to the Birther nonsense, that no amount of evidence of bin Laden’s death will be enough to satisfy his most vocal domestic critics. And finally, something else everybody knows is that in this age of social media and Wikileaks, as sure as God made little green apples, those pictures will surface. I’d put money on even the “kill video” showing up at some point. As long as a copy of it exists, it will come to light eventually. And we know a copy exists.

So here’s what I think Obama is going to do. He’s taken the high ground and refused to release the photos. Excellent move. That way, when they get out—whether the administration leaks them or somebody else does—he’ll get to claim plausible deniability, and the proof-of-death that everybody from Glenn Beck to Bill Maher is calling for will be out there.

The death of bin Laden coming during this period of so-called “Arab Spring”—whenever I hear the term “Arab Spring,” I imagine a discount soap that makes the wearer smell like kerosene, sulfur and perspiration—will have repercussions we cannot imagine. It’s not entirely far-fetched to imagine, if religious hard-liners scoop up the newly-vacated seats of power over there instead of the bright-eyed, idealistic young protesters, this Arab Spring could ultimately lead to a nuclear winter.

That’s what a careful study of world history has taught me. The only consistent trend-line that establishes itself is that people will regularly do crazy shit that will result in the deaths of untold numbers of innocents. Which brings us right back to where we are today.

Bin Laden’s history, dude. Your move!

* Downgraded from the original pejorative out of respect for his son’s bad-assitude.

Friday, May 06, 2011

“Thor” brings spectacle, grandeur, light touch

Wow, and wow.

I’ve never been a huge Thor fan, except for Walt Simonson’s epic run back in the ’80s (see cover example below).

I usually like my fantasy rooted in the here-and-now. Or at least some far-flung then-and-there from actual human history, or a plausible future. The last full-on fantasy film franchise to consistently place my butt in theater seats was the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and it is certainly the exception that proves the rule.

The original Lee/Kirby Thor comics also thrilled in their day:

Jack Kirby’s drawings (above) were not sophisticated, but they jumped off the page with a primal 4-color energy that comic artists have been trying to replicate for decades since. And on Thor, instead of the usual 9-12 panels per page, Kirby usually crafted about four panels per at the most, each one crammed to overfilling with otherworldly spectacle.

The new Kenneth Branagh movie, opening today, does the same thing, writ large on the silver screen.

For the newbie: Thor is a Norse God, living where the Norse Gods live in a groovy outer-space gated community called Asgard. Thor pisses off his Dad, Odin, who is King of Asgard, who strips his impertinent son of his powers and banishes him to earth as punishment for his arrogance and misbehavior. Enter Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman; they meet cute, then cue the Asgardian skullduggery, courtesy of Thor’s no-good brother Loki, the god of Mischief.

The storylines cut back and forth until they come together predictably in the end.

Hey, even though it’s directed by a Brit thespian, it’s still a comic-book movie. Critics looking for a re-invention of the wheel, ala Dark Knight, are bound to come away pissing on this movie as an unwelcome return to form for the genre. Hornswoggle!

(As long as we’re going negative, though… save your money and see this movie in the 2D it was shot in. Only the Asgard and outer space scenes really benefit from the 3D work-over. I suspect the rest of the movie’s relative muddiness is the result of the same process that made the fantasy sequences sing.)

But is it a great summer movie? Oh, yes. The star, Chris Hemsworth, is 6’7” and had to lose muscle mass to fit into his costume when he showed up on set, and is still an overwhelming physical presence. His shirtless scenes almost made me wish I was a man, too.

Natalie Portman brings every inch of Natalie Portman-ness to her role as the physicist girlfriend-to-be of Thor. She is cute and sweet and perky and says things in an endearing way… this performance will do nothing to alienate her from the fan-boy base she picked up in the second wave of Star Wars films.

And Jeremy Renner, from The Hurt Locker, cameos as archer Hawkeye, foreshadowing next summer’s Joss When-helmed blockbuster-in-waiting, The Avengers, which will unite the stars of the Iron Man, Thor and Captain America franchises—and more—next summer. (Just don’t look for Ben Affleck as Daredevil; I believe there may have been a scheduling conflict...)

Branagh directs with fleetness and authority. I will admit it was distracting, however, how many Asgard scenes he shot with the camera at some weird tilted angle. It reminded me too much of Battlefield Earth. We need to find a new movie shorthand for Alien Environment.

Anthony Hopkins is perfectly cast as Odin, but the Warriors Three and Sif failed to make much of an impression. The guy who played Loki was good without being memorable. He was like a poor-man’s Alan Cummings; why not just get Alan Cummings? It’s not like Marvel is afraid to cast the same actor in different roles in its films; This July’s Captain America stars the same toothsome pin-up who played Johnny Storm in Marvel’s for-kids-only Fantastic Four franchise.

But I don’t think any of that matters much. Even if this film stands on its own, I predict this Thor film ends up a stand-alone, and the Avengers franchise goes Thor-heavy. Why do I think this? As is becoming Marvel’s movie calling-card, when Thor ends, wait till the credits finish rolling. The McGuffin for next summer’s Avengers movie is revealed, and from a storytelling perspective, it makes perfect sense. This particular Ultimate Power Source is an old weapon of one of Captain America’s greatest foes, has celestial ramifications (requiring Thor’s supernatural assistance), and is tech-based, thus begging Tony Stark’s participation.

This movie met expectations on every level, and exceeded them on some.

I would definitely go see Thor again. Any takers, contact me in the comments or privately.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How sensitive is The Boy?

This sensitive: When I was getting him dressed this morning (yes, he can dress himself, but me doing it with him saves us about 10 minutes every weekday morning), I put a sock and shoe on his right foot, then repeated the process on his left.

After I was done, I pointed out to him that I had put them on a sock and a shoe and a sock and a shoe, when I know perfectly well he is a sock and a sock and a shoe and a shoe man. I thought we’d have a good laugh, but it really didn’t sit at all well with him.

(If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you probably haven’t seen this classic exchange from “All In The Family,” below, which The Boy, thanks to me, has. I’m just not sure anymore he understands that it’s supposed to be a comedy.)

He stormed out of the room, and even later, just before he and The Missus left for school, I caught him walking down the hall, fists clenched except for his forefingers, which were pointed dejectedly toward the ground, ala Steve Martin and Dan Ackroyd’s Czech brothers when they have failed to score successfully (below, skip to about 6:25).

As soon as he’s got a little better grasp of language-play, I can’t wait to introduce him to M*A*S*H so I can be put to parental shame by dead-on impressions of all my childhood comedy heroes.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Yes We Can!

Fox News is gonna have a hard time spinning this electoral gold into a stinky, '‘Socialist’ turd, but I bet they’re having emergency meetings right now to figure out how to do just that!

If it comes out that bin Laden was indeed tracked and killed by a small, specialized team of badass U.S. motherfuckers as early reports indicate, let me be so tacky as to remind the reader that I’ve long advocated targeted assassinations over placing thousands of boots in harm’s way on foreign soil.

America. Fuck yeah.

Hippie Child v Red State

This round goes to Red State: