Friday, July 30, 2010

Anthony Weiner Rips the GOP on 9/11 Vote

So, I'm tooling around Las Vegas, running errands this afternoon, and I decide to turn on the radio.  A firy voice I recognized as Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was tearing into the GOP on their refusal to vote for a bill that would compensate 9/11 rescue workers for a variety of health issues.  Then, the whiny voice of Sean Hannity cuts in, belittling Weiner.  Hannity is an unlikely superstar, a mental lightweight himbo in the large collection of "face-for-radio" Conservative yakkisphere.  His opinions--allegedly supplied to him by the excruciatingly unlistenable Mark Levin--are only believed by the true die-hard tea bagging crowd.  He simply has no ability to sell his message to anyone on the fence, or on the other side.  And he surely didn't convince me that there was anything wrong about what Weiner had to say.  In fact, I applaud Weiner for having the fire and the guts to say what needs to be said.  Too bad there aren't more like him in the Congress (in addition to Alan Grayson, that is).

What is The Event, and Should We Care?

After the unfortunate implosion of NBC's Heroes, a program I always thought was several notches higher than many critics and viewers gave it credit for, the network needed a replacement.  They got a couple of seasons of "cool" out of Heroes, and they're hoping for a similar buzz this fall with The Event. But what is the event of The Event?  And will it capture our attention the way Heroes did (for a while) and ABC's FlashForward didn't?

I'll check it out for a couple of weeks. I like this sort of mystery/sci-fi story, and am a fan of Jason Ritter (the late John Ritter's son, and star of the brilliant-but-cancelled The Class). That should be enough to entice me, at least until I figure out if it's interesting enough to keep me watching.  And if it's good?  Well then, I'll shut up about it for a while, unless it becomes a runaway hit. I wouldn't want to invoke the Greenlee Curse on it. 

Movies to Avoid: The Stepfather and Wedding Crashers

Last weekend, I watched a movie that I'd almost completely forgotten about by the start of the week. And today I watched another one that I probably would forget if I wasn't writing about it now.  Neither picture was awful, both were shot, edited and presented well, both had acting that was above average, even well above.  But both were utterly by-the-numbers for their genre, completely without originality or surprises.
Images from Wikipedia
Wedding Crashers is an Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn comedy, and if you've seen one, you've really seen them all. It got such great buzz, I thought it might be a notch above.  Like The Hangover, Crashers is vastly overrated.  There are a few chuckles to be had, I suppose. And I'd watch Bradley Cooper in just about anything  (ie., Hangover).  Still, the whole movie is underwhelming.  It starts with the premise that these two overgrown frat boys love to crash weddings on the weekend, creating cover stories and ingratiating themselves in order to get laid.  I'm not saying nobody does this, but I can't imagine it's a very common pastime, particularly for Wilson and Vaughn, who aren't kids anymore (thankfully, the movie references their encroaching age).

Of course, our boys end up falling for their prey, and (less than) hilarity ensues.  As the family figures out the charade, it appears the crashers may get their comeuppance. Instead, the douchey Cooper character gets his. By the end--and I doubt it's possible to spoil this for you--everything works out for our heroes, and both get to keep the girl, despite their deception.  Maybe if they'd added Paul Rudd, Michael Cera or one of those funny looking guys with a "Jew 'fro," this could have been better, but I doubt it.

The Stepfather is a movie of a whole different type. The film is a remake of an old 80s low-budget cheapie (but cult favorite), about a deranged man who is a family crasher.  He targets women who've recently been divorced or widowed, and tries to supplant the husband/father.  He's on a quest for the perfect family, and when things start to turn sour, he gets very unpleasant.  The original character was played by Terry O'Quinn (John Locke on Lost), to very creepy effect. The new version is played by Dylan Walsh (Sean MacNamara on Nip\Tuck), and he does a fine job.  I just kept noticing his acting, being so familiar with his previous character.  I also had no surprises, having seen the original a couple of times.  I knew his motivation going in, and the film hews pretty closely to the original.

Image from Ace Showbiz
The male protagonist, Penn Badgley, is the potential stepson, and he's about six years too old for the part.  His girlfriend, played by Amber Heard, has the same age issue, but is at least then age-appropriate for Penn. Anyway, both are more than capable actors--very good, actually--and very easy on the eyes. If you aren't attracted to one of them (or both?), you may need to consult a doctor.  Eye candy aside, the movie just doesn't seem to have any reason for being. It isn't scary enough to be horror, isn't bloody enough to be gore, and isn't suspenseful enough to be a thriller.  Despite all the obvious talent involved, I just can't recommend it.

UPDATE:  I've noted in several earlier reviews that when I watch seemingly any two movies, there is almost always some sort of link between the two.  In addition to the fact that both plots center on characters who insinuate themselves into people's lives, there is something else.  In both films, there is a gay subplot that serves very little purpose.  In the case of Wedding Crashers, it is the twitchy, artist brother of one of the "target" women.  He's creepy and unbalanced, and the humor derived from the subplot is sketchy and borderline homophobic. In The Stepfather, the prospective wife's sister is clearly a lesbian, with a long-term partner, though this isn't stated in dialog, really.  The subplot serves no obvious purpose, and the fact that the two women are gay is rather offhand; incidental to the story.  I have no problem with this actually, and think it is rather refreshing. After all, most families have gay members, and their sexuality is almost never relevant to the family's day-to-day lives.  So kudos to the movie makers for that.

Ellen DeGeneres Leaving American Idol

Image from source, LA Times
Well, poot.  Ellen DeGeneres was just about the only worthwhile thing in the most recent, most lackluster season of American Idol.  Sure, she's not a musician, but she's funny and had some decent opinions. But then, she's also very busy with lots of other things. I just read this on Twitter, via @RyanSeacrest:  "Spoke with ellen d tonight aka @theellenshow‬‪. I will miss her on idol. She's one of the kindest and most talented people in Hollywood!"


Ellen DeGeneres is out as 'American Idol' judge

After days of furious rumors, Fox just made it official: Ellen DeGeneres' much-criticized tenure as the fourth judge on "American Idol" has sputtered to an end after just one season, with the show in the midst of a massive overhaul. . .

Read more at: Los Angeles Times

Daily Show: Gay Reichs

I meant to post this one sooner. It's from Wednesday night's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jason Jones interviews a massive douche nozzle named Scott Lively, who states emphatically that Adolph Hitler (and apparently all the Nazis) were gay. And that is why we can't have gays in the military!  The clip is classic, Jones is terrific, and former Lt. Dan Choi makes an appearance.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gay Reichs
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The Young Turks: Is Las Vegas Dying?

We always thought that if Las Vegas ever got in deep trouble, it would be because our massive growth ran us out of water.  After 9/11, a lot of us worried that a terrorist attack at one of the big casino properties would cause an exodus.  But nobody seems to have expected a big, worldwide economic downturn. I mean nobody.  Just a few short years ago, we had huge projects on the drawing board.  It wasn't just the City Center which (thanks to Harry Reid, and thank goodness we didn't have Sharron Angle) managed to open.  There was Echelon Place, a project akin to City Center on the site of the old Stardust. It shut down when it was halfway finished, and sits there, a stillborn, half-built mess.

There were many others, one of which was called Viva, a project that Station Casinos was going to build on the west side of the I-15.  They bought the land, even bulldozed some properties.  The project was impressive, and included arterial roads, and more.  But it never got off the ground, and Station is currently in a world of hurt.  That's just the tip of the iceberg.

As Cenk Uygur mentions in the video below, we've got unemployment over 14%, foreclosures in every neighborhood (be it a poor or rich neighborhood), and a lot of sour, glum faces.  I don't believe as Cenk does, that Las Vegas is dying.  But it is very ill, and has a hacking cough.  Can somebody get me some water?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Steven Weber: Making Degrade

Photo from AOL
During the life of this blog, I've spotlighted the writings of actor Steven Weber (Wings, Studio 60) several times. I've often said that he seems to take his writings directly from my brain, but  writes with much more style and talent than I possess.  I still feel that way, and could post just about anything he writes on this blog and be in near total agreement.  The reason this post made the blog is simple: in reference to Sarah Palin and her followers, he used the word "gormless."  Gormless is one of my favorite words, and has a very simple, unmistakable definition:  lacking intelligence; stupid.  Bravo, Mr. Weber, and keep up the good work!


Making Degrade

. . .Just because it sometimes feels good to scratch a mosquito bite until it bleeds, let's take Sarah Palin, for instance. The self-styled Mama Grizzly is actually the embodiment of the current fetish for failure, a bespectacled avatar of the mediocre intelligence and misguided ambition that is the hallmark of today's American idol.

While never having been in possession of basic leadership skills, let alone insight into the classic workings of democracy and the awesome responsibility such knowledge should impart, she is instead a facade from a corporate costume shop. Strutting her secondary sexual characteristics and bleating whatever shallow Republican talking point flashes across her staff's iPads, she nonetheless continues to be a leader of the gormless mass who raise fists and rail against that black guy in office and/or anything else she tells them to. . .

Read more at: Huffington Post

DNC Ad: Tea Baggers = Republicans

Well, we knew that, but great ad.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Arizona Governor is Peeved that Immigration Law Has Been Stalled

Image from source, RawStory
You might have noticed that I haven't been commenting much in my posts. Tired, sorry. All I can think of for this particular post is that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is almost as scary/unphotogenic as Sharron Angle.  And yeah, that's kinda mean, but being a particularly unphotogenic human myself (but hopefully of the unscary variety), I think I have a leg to stand on.


Brewer: Fight over AZ law ‘far from over’

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said Wednesday she would swiftly appeal a judge's ruling blocking key parts of a new state immigration law, vowing to take it all the way to the Supreme Court.

"This fight is far from over. In fact, it is just the beginning, and at the end of what is certain to be a long legal struggle, Arizona will prevail in its right to protect our citizens," Brewer said in a statement. . .

Read more at: Raw Story

George W. Bush: "Miss Me Yet?" America: "No."

Source: Shakesville

What is the Plural of Octopus?

You think you know, and you're right. And you're also wrong. Sort of.

Photo of the Day: Jeebus is Comin' Back!

Let me check my calendar. . . Nope, I think I'll be busy. 

Source: Joe.My.God.

Bill O'Reilly Against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

Nevada's Economic Woes Harbinger for Rest of Country?

Image from HuffPost
I ain't gonna lie. Las Vegas has been hit hard by the great recession, and I've been a witness and victim to it.  I still have my job--thank goodness--but things look pretty sour here in sin city.  Several houses, including the one next door to us, are in foreclosure in my neighborhood. Our house, which was worth three times what we owed a couple of years ago is now under water.  Storefronts sit vacant. And in America's playground, nobody who lives here seems very happy.

I don't mean to bum you out, but what we're going through might just be foreshadowing to what you might see soon.  I hope not. I've always been a glass-half-full kind of guy (despite the evidence presented on this here blog thingy).  But I've also been a "hope for the best, expect the worst" kind of guy.  So plan ahead folks. Tighten the belt, pull the lap bar down, hold on for the ride, and try not to fall out.


Nevada's Economic Misery May Be America's Future

So many homes in Las Vegas have been foreclosed upon that banks rarely bother to hang a "For Sale" sign on the front lawn anymore. Instead, visitors identify bank-owned properties by the brown grass and the 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper taped to the front door or the garage. . .

Read more at: Huffington Post

Thanks to Tracy for the story idea.

Cast of Jersey Shore Rings Opening Bell on Wall Street

Image from source, TVNewser
I've never watched an episode of The Real Housewives of. . . anywhere.  I don't give a damn about Rock of. . . anything or anybody. I've caught a lot of Survivor and the odd episode of Big Brother (with only 1/4 attention out of one eye), mostly for the eye candy.  But even the promise of eye candy couldn't make me watch Jersey Shore. Who are all of these orange people with hot bodies but weird faces, and what is the premise of this thing anyway?  So far, none of the "cast members" has said or done anything that justifies this kind of attention. And I'll tell you what, anyone asked to ring the opening bell in the future should pause, and wonder what they must think of you if they let these dolts do it.


Snooki, The Situation, J-Woww and the rest Ring Opening Bell

Quite a scene on the business channels this morning as the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore" rang the opening bell. CNBC's Erin Burnett mentioned that the NYSE had run out of guest passes for access to the floor -- nieces and daughters of some of Jersey's finest traders, no doubt. Burnett's co-anchor Mark Haines mentioned the cast was not allowed to talk to anyone on the floor. And Fox Business Network anchor Stuart Varney was proud not to know the cast members by name. "Which one is Snooki?"

Source: TV Newser

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FOX "News" Doesn't Like Black People

Wait, did I type that right? Whoops. No, the headline is up there as an homage to Kanye West, and the truth of this story is that black people don't like FOX "News." And that's some good taste for you right there. But it doesn't mean that FOX does like black people, and I think you could make a strong case for my headline with 5 minutes and The Googles.


Only 1.38 percent of Fox News’ primetime viewers are African-American.

The New York Times’ Brian Stelter tweeted that, according to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News has averaged just 29,000 black viewers in primetime so far this television season (9/09-7/10). That represents just 1.38% of its 2.102 million total viewer audience.

CNN and MSNBC, meanwhile, both have far more black viewers, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of their overall audiences. . .

Read more at: Think Progress

Sen. Al Franken at Netroots, on Corporations and Net Neutrality

Good stuff.

So What's All This Fuss About JournoList?

So apparently there was this listserv called JournoList.  A bunch of liberal writers belonged to it, and would chat back and forth, help each other out with ideas, and whatnot.  Kind of a low tech, private FaceBook for the like-minded. Lots of prominent liberals belonged. And then one day, backlogs of this list were published (which is kind of sleazy, no matter how you slice it). Conservatives freaked out--and continue to do so--at this unprecedented, evil conspiracy.

Image from source, Salon
Um, okay.  Are they contending that there is no organized, brain-trusted equivalent on the right?  All of those right-wing talk shows come up with identical things to be outraged about day in and day out?  The right-wing memes that spread like a brush fire week in and week out are spontaneous?  I find that very hard to believe. Have you ever noticed that whatever the topic du jour is, you'll hear the same verbatim phrases coming out of the mouths of Sean Hannity and Lindsay Graham?  Well, maybe I was right.  One thing you can count on: if the right is getting all frothy about something, it's either totally made up, or they've done the very same thing.


On the team: The stunning hypocrisy of Journolist's critics

Nothing much can be learned from the manufactured media uproar over Journolist, except as a case study of how the right-wing propaganda machine still dominates America's daily narrative -- and how conservative journalists remain astonishingly exempt from the standards they are pretending to uphold.

Look no further than the outrage feigned by two of the nation's most prominent right-wing journalists, Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard (and Fox News) and John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, both of whom could barely contain their indignation over the revelation that a few hundred progressive writers and academics engaged in political discussion via e-mail. . .

Read more at: Salon

Monday, July 26, 2010

Joe the Plumber and the Notorious Moderates: Rove, Huckabee, Gingrich

This post from AmericaBlog just cracked me up. Only in right-wing world is Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher worthy of endorsing candidates. And only in right-wing world are Karl Rove, Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich moderates. Unbelievable.  But the point about Sharron Angle is on the money.


Joe the Plumber running ads in support of Teabagger in MO Senate race; says Newt and Rove too 'moderate'

Some people seriously don't know when their time is up. Having said that, this can't bode well for Roy Blunt.

Yes, his opponent, teabagging state Sen. Chuck Purgason, is way behind Blunt in the polls, but so was GOP nutjob Sharron Angle in Nevada. . .

Read the rest at: AmericaBlog

Tea Baggers Aren't the Only Ones With Offensive Signs

Image from source, Courage Campaign
When the NAACP sent out its tepid denunciation of the Tea Partiers' seeming condoning of racism in its ranks, it set off a firestorm that played out most notably in the Shirley Sherrod story.  FOX "News", Andrew Breitbart and others have tried to deny that racism exists among tea baggers by claiming reverse racism in the NAACP. In right-wing world, this logic flies, somehow.  But having followed the tea bagging phenomenon since it started, it doesn't convince me.  Not all the signs and ranting at the rallies is overtly racist, but some of it is. And that's all the NAACP was saying.  But it isn't only tea baggers waving highly inappropriate signs.

I've been following the National Organization for Marriage (NOM)'s "One Man, One Woman" bus tour, and mostly I've been amused.  At town after town, the tour has barely managed to scrape together enough fans to outnumber their own staff. And at almost every stop, counter-protesters have outnumbered, out organized and just outdone NOM.  Up til now, the only real noise that NOM has been able to generate is to whine about the counter-protesters, and over-inflating whatever "threat" they may pose.

I think that most of NOM's message, and most of their followers' signs are offensive in principle. But for someone familiar with the Rev. Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church, my offense meter isn't very sensitive. That said, this particular sign is particularly disgusting. Maybe ol' Fred might have himself a convert.


NOM supporter’s “solution to gay marriage”: Lynching gay couples

The National Organization for Marriage’s “One Man, One Woman” bus tour hit Indianapolis today and the LGBT community came out to greet them.

Since we’re hospitable Hoosiers, of course, our welcome wagon outnumbered the small dog and pony show put on by NOM and local religious right groups.

Over 250 LGBT and allied folks protested the rally, but only 40 fundies showed up. At least 10 of the anti-marriage equality crowd were NOM staff or local speakers; the rest of the group were older Caucasians and skewed slightly female. . .

Read more (with video) at: Courage Campaign

Kathy Griffin on Joy Behar's show on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Kudos to Kathy Griffin. She took some heat when this played out months ago, but she's making good now.

Sharron Angle's Angle Not Working?

Image from source, Weekly Seven
Sharron Angle--and the establishment GOP, who is trying to spit-polish her up into something presentable--have a daunting task ahead of them. How do you take a candidate with extremist views seem mainstream, when her previous comments are out there for the world to Google?  So far, the tack has been for her to speak mostly to "friendly" media, like FOX "News" and right-wing talk radio.  On those rare occasions when she's slipped out of her comfort zone, she hasn't come off well.

But then, she hasn't come off well in friendly venues either. She seems willing to let some of those nuttier opinions bubble forth when she's in friendly territory. Even on FOX, Neil Cavuto had trouble steering her into less choppy waters.  Could she still win? Well, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin and George W. Bush have won elections in the past, so who knows?  Personally, as a long-time Nevadan, I think we have embarrassment enough with Sen. John Ensign.  It seems difficult to imagine having a Senator that makes Captain Hairdo look like the "good" one. 


Why Talking to the 'Friendly' Media Is Hurting Sharron Angle

"Politicians have to watch out for those nasty "gotcha" journalists in the mainstream media. They will badger candidates and berate them until they say something they don't mean, and then the press will take it out of context and beat them over the head with it.

Count Sharron Angle, the Republican aiming to defeat Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in November, among the partisans on both sides who hold this view. So Angle has decided not to play that game. Besieged with interview requests since her upset primary victory, she has granted them mostly to ideologically sympathetic outlets such as conservative talk radio and Fox News. . ."

Read more at: WeeklySeven

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blast from the Past: Beer (and Malt Liquor) Ads from the Old Days

I've run several compilations of old ads and other videos from the past (though not as much lately). Last time, I reran one of my Blasts from the Pasts featuring soda pop ads of the 60s, 70s and 80s.  My good friend Stupid Monkey Planet suggested I should dig up some of the old beer and malt liquor ads. Why not?

My dad filled our rec room with countless beer signs when I was a kid in the 70s. It was only later that I found out what rotten taste in beer he had:  Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Blatz, Schlitz Malt Liquor. . .I'm burping just thinking about it. Might work up a beer fart too. . .

1. Schlitz Malt Liquor - Look out for the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull! He could show up about anywhere, even in racist ads! Stay tuned through the sorta painful first commercial for a second that will really take you back if you're of the 70s generation.

2. Pabst Blue Ribbon - Blecch.  I'll never understand how this beer got a following. I've got Pabst Blue Ribbon on my mind! So, you've got a headache?

3. Old Milwaukee - Old Milwaukee tastes as great as their name! I don't know, does Milwaukee have taste? Do they still wear giant letters on their clothes like on Laverne & Shirley?

4. Colt 45 - Before Billy Dee Williams took Colt 45 to the neighborhood, it had a distinctly different image. What image they were going for isn't clear, but it would seem to be "lounge lizard out of his element." Or something.

5. Miller High Life - It's Miller time! Miller High Life was huge with boomers, and I thought it kinda fazed out after MGD and other offshoots came out. But it's apparently made a comeback in recent years. If you've got the time, we've got the beer. . .MILLER BEER! Great jingle.

6. Lowenbrau - Here's to good friends. . .tonight is kinda special. . . This brand seemed to be catering to very early yuppies, making beer seem upscale. So, tonight, let it be Lowenbrau!

7. Budweiser - This is the coolest ad of the bunch. Budweiser is well known for its impactful commercials, but forget the frogs. Forget wazzzup! This one beats them all hands down. And just try to get that jingle out of your head. When you say Budweiser, you've said it all!

8. Lite Beer from Miller - Miller Light used to be known as "Lite."  And they may have started the trend of star-studded, themed commercials. Miller Light's has spanned decades, using celebrities like John Madden, Bubba Smith and Rodney Dangerfield. Lite Beer from Miller. . .everything you always wanted in a beer. And less.

The Evolution of the Mitsubishi Galant (Fun With PhotoShop)

Last February, I traded in my old 1998 Jeep Wrangler after nine years, for a slightly used 2009 Mitsubishi Galant.  Ever since, almost every time I spy another car like mine, it's an older model.  Something about the original version of my car's current series just strikes me as ugly.

If you know much about cars, you know that every four or six years, if a car is selling well enough, the manufacturer releases an "all new" series with the same name.  Sometimes, the new version resembles the old in some way, and usually it stays in the same size class. Other times, the car changes sizes, appearance, and might even change from a compact to a mid-size. But there's another way to change a car, without going "all new." Usually, in the lifespan of any series, the car will get a "refresh" or a "face-lift."  This usually involves changing headlamps, taillights, bumpers, and even sometimes fenders, trunks and hoods.  While essentially the same car, these new additions can drastically change the appearance of the car.

This is the case with the Mitsubishi Galant.  In 2003--as a 2004 model year--an all new Galant was introduced, moving the car from compact to mid-size.  At the time, Mitsubishi was trying to go for a "family brand"-look, putting a schnoz in the middle of the grille.  I don't think I'm alone in thinking it was a design mistake.  Take a look:

This car looks best in red, so this is the prettiest glamor shot of it I could find.  In other colors, it looks drab and kinda ugly.  Somebody at Mitsubishi must've thought so too, because in 2007, they kept the same car, but gave it a face lift.  Gone is the nose, but remnants of it remained.  The hood still had style lines that pointed to where the nose should be, and the new replacement grille still had a bulge:

Not really much of an improvement, but better for sure.  Somebody must've thought they weren't quite there yet, but there must've been enough life left in the Galant for them to try again. In 2009, they changed the hood, the grille, and the bumper.  All remnants of the schnoz are gone, though--curiously--they never changed the headlamps:

Also in 2009, they changed the whole back end, replacing pretty much everything, even making the back window larger. Here's a shot I've shown before of  my car next to an original series car:

And for comparison, here are both from the front:

While I'm really loving my car, and think it looks pretty great (even better now, with tinted windows), I still think that Mitsubishi missed a golden opportunity here.  And now that the car has gone through seven model years, there will of course not be a chance.  Mitsubishi has ceased production of the Galant, ending with the 2010 year (UPDATE 06/03/12: As of this date, they are still making Galants, with the same platform. Everything is the same, except for a silver mesh grille, and some chrome trim on the side window sills. They keep threatening to kill the Galant, but it is still--nine model years along--being produced).  It isn't surprising either. It landed on the "worst sellers" list for the last couple of years, probably due to almost nonexistent promotion. When is the last time you saw a Galant commercial?

But what Mitsubishi does sell is Outlanders. And Lancers. The sporty Lancer Evolution is a runaway hit.  It didn't hurt that they came up with a new "family look" for their other cars, featuring an aggressive grille that kinda resembles an old-school Cylon, from the original Battlestar Galactica.  I couldn't help thinking, what would my Galant look like if they'd gotten ballsy, and grafted the new look on to the last round of Galants?  Well, I'm a graphic artist, so I thought I'd find out.  Now, don't be too critical. I spent about seven minutes on this. But I'm telling you, I'd so buy this car!

DVD Review: Wrong Turn 2: Dead End

Images from Wikipedia
There have been several movies I've popped into the player, where I had high expectations, and was tremendously disappointed. The Happening was one of the worst offenders.  So, most often, I try to keep my expectations realistic, to prevent myself from disappointment.  With this weekend's selection, Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, I went in with zero expectations at all. And you know what? It was a rollicking, good time!

The first edition of Wrong Turn was your typical slice 'n' dice, starring Greenlee Gazette favorite, Eliza Dushku (of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse).  It was a fun movie, and didn't pretend to be anything more than it was.  It left enough of an impression on me that when I saw the sequel in the bargain bin for $5, I thought, "Why not?"  This one doesn't feature Dushku, but carries on the theme of the first one, namely that there is a family of mutated freaks living in backwoods West Virginia, genetically deformed by years of toxic waste from an old abandoned paper mill.

Apparently, being an ugly mutant makes you murderous too, because anyone who wanders into their woods gets brutally (and usually creatively) murdered.  The first film chronicled a bunch of nubile youngsters who made a wrong turn, and ended up in mutantland.  This one features the cast and crew of a Survivor-type reality show.  It does feature a wrong turn of sorts by the first character we meet, Kimberly Caldwell, played by. . .Kimberly Caldwell.  Kim makes an impressive entrance, as a Hollywood diva, stuck in Hooterville.  Things don't go very well for her. 

The other name star in the film is Henry Rollins, jar-headed front man of Black Flag and pop culture renegade.  He plays an ex-marine, and current reality show host.  He looks badass, he acts badass, and as corny as I'm sure it is intended to be, it works.  The rest of the cast is capable, though sometimes just barely.  It is the camera work that shines here, as well as the brilliantly nasty special effects. If you're tired of horror movies that skimp on the gore, guts and gushers, this movie will bring all that and more.  Buckets of blood. Barrels, in fact. 

There isn't much about Wrong Turn 2 that is original.  Besides being a sequel, it covers territory that we've been to before in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series, The Hills Have Eyes series, and countless others.  Most of the horror movie cliches are there, from the jump scare, to the gratuitous sex scenes, to gross outs like unintentional cannibalism.  Henry Rollins even enters Arnold Schwarzenegger territory with his little post-carnage quips.  But many of these tropes are subverted too.  The black guy doesn't die first (or even second), Caldwell's departure is unexpected and very well done (think Janet Leigh in Psycho, if George Romero directed), and you can't ever predict which characters are going to make it. I was surprised by at least three different characters being killed off that I expected to make it. 

Wrong Turn 2 won't ever be a bold-faced entry on any of these actors' resumes, but it is most certainly more enjoyable than 2/3 of the horror movies on my video shelf (of which there are dozens), and tops the original.  Sorry if I get your expectations up too high, and subvert my own premise, but for me this one is: Highly recommended (but only for its intended audience, of course)

Captain Obvious: It Does Not Matter When FOX "News" Played Tape

I'm catching up on the Sunday morning political shows on the DVR, and am presently in the middle of FOX "News" Sunday, the lowest-rated (for a network that constantly touts ratings, this is noteworthy) and lowest quality of the group.  Newt Gingrich, with his Kermit the Frog voice (seriously, look away and listen) was up first, with Howard Dean. Jesse Jackson was next, and then the famous--and ridiculously named--"Power Panel."  By far, the biggest issue was the Shirley Sherrod/Andrew Breitbart faux racism story.

Notably, the host, Chris Wallace, was very prickly about exactly when FOX "News" actually aired the notoriously out-of-context video from the NAACP.  Wallace claims that FOX never aired the clip before Sherrod resigned.  This is only partially true, and a very disingenuous point.  Bill O'Reilly, who tapes his program, The O'Reilly Factor rather than airing it live, was on the air saying that Sherrod "must resign" before the announcement was made, by bare minutes. But this means he had recorded it hours earlier. Also, had already reported on the issue, with absolutely wrong information, such as stating that Sherrod was a government employee at the time of her story (which was really 24 years ago).  FOX Nation (the extremely far right blog site) was also discussing the story in an unfavorable light.  I have no doubt that Sean Hannity's and Glenn Beck's radio shows (which air earlier than their FOX shows) were already on this issue as well.  So Wallace's "FOX never aired" the clip is a slice-and-dice of the facts, at best.

All of this points to the fact that FOX was running with this story. If Sherrod's resignation had come six hours later--or not at all--there can be no doubt that this would have been the 24/7 number one story on FOX. . .which it became anyway.  What the White House was trying to prevent--in a regrettable, stupid fashion, I'm not afraid to note--is exactly what did happen.  They wanted to squash a bad news cycle in the midst of a pretty good policy week, and they failed. Exactly when FOX aired the clip,  is a bit of false framing, as though their journalistic integrity was the reason for holding back. BULL PUCKY. Clearly, this thing was a go, and all of Wallace's protestations can't make that go away.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

EPIC FAIL: National Organization for Marriage "Bus Tour"

Image from Courage Campaign
For some reason, the National Organization for Marriage (known as NOM or freaks) has embarked upon a bus tour across the united states to spread their message that the definition of the word "marriage" must remain exactly as it is at this moment, and never, ever change.  Of course we already have legal gay marriages in some states and countries in the world, not to mention "corporate" marriages, and other uses of that sanctified word.  So they're kinda barking up a dead tree there anyway.

But they are rolling from town to town, in a resource-hogging RV, with stock photo "families" plastered on the side.  They've got an uptight, clench-jawed dude named Brian Brown (who pings my 'dar, if you catch my drift), leading this ragtag group, but he seems to be AWOL suddenly.  It seems that the NOM Summer for Marriage 2010 bus tour is a spectacular, some might say flaming disaster.  Every place they go, they gather tens of supporters, sometimes barely outnumbering the number of staff they have present.  And at each event, they are met by counter protesters who are usually equal to or even larger than the protest crowds. Friendlier, smarter and more organized too!

I have to wonder what motivates this group. What's in it for them if they are somehow successful in their mission? How does it feel to run an organization whose sole purpose is to take away or prevent people from having their rights recognized?  They claim to be religiously inspired, but that doesn't sound very Christian to me. Does it to you?


Yet another NOM TurnoutFAIL today: Is NOM imploding right before our eyes (and cameras)?

Another day, another #NOMturnoutFAIL.

And, in yet another example of how NOT to stage an event attended by as many staffers as supporters, NOM decided to hold their latest tour stop in a huge, empty grocery store parking lot in Lima, Ohio. Seriously.

Arisha Michelle Hatch and Anthony Ash, our intrepid NOM Tour Trackers following NOM from one tour stop to the next, are in Lima but experiencing spotty internet connections. Fortunately, they were able to send iPhone pictures to accompany the brief report below from Arisha (it may be awhile before more pictures or video come in. Stay tuned. . .).

Read more at: Courage Campaign

Puzzling Products: Asian Helper?

Last week, I was sent on a mission with a fistful of coupons to score some deals at the neighborhood grocery.  Not being the kind of guy who usually remembers to use coupons before they expire, I was given explicit instructions by The Other Half to get this stuff before the 3-day sale was over.  On the list was any of a selection of "Helper" products by Betty Crocker.  Now, we're usually from scratch cookers, but it is nice to have some packaged stuff on the shelf for when you're feeling kind of lazy.

When I got to the store, I noticed that the Helper products have gotten new packaging recently. As a graphic artist, I often pay attention to new packaging, observing the gradual or even drastic changes that are made to familiar products.  Sometimes they do it to update a stodgy image, sometimes they revert to a "retro" look.  The Helper line just got kinda weird.

Hamburger Helper was introduced way back in 1971, kind of the heyday of packaged, instant dinners.  Usually, the package includes a starch (dehydrated potatoes or pasta), along with a dehydrated sauce packet, and sometimes a topping packet.  "Hamburger Helper helped her hamburger help her make a great meal!" was the slogan, and the cute little four-fingered hand character helped sell it.  Eventually, Tuna Helper and Chicken Helper joined the lineup, along with other spinoffs.  But in the name, you had the basic thing the product did:  help hamburger, help chicken, help tuna become something interesting for dinner.

The new designs just sound weird to me.  For instance, one package I bought was called Wholesome Hamburger Helper Stroganoff.  "Hamburger" looks like an afterthought on the package, making it read "Wholesome Helper."  WTF?  It helps wholesomeness?  It gets worse.  The other package I picked up was called Asian Chicken Helper Chicken Fried Rice.  Which of course reads "Asian Helper."  On first glance, it sounds like Mrs. Livingston from The Courtship of Eddie's Father in a box!  Or, if your mind goes to the weird places mine does, if Hamburger Helper makes hamburger taste good, Asian helper makes ASIANS taste good!  Mmmmm, braiiiins!

I went to the website, and found out that they have all sorts of cumbersome product divisions these days, from Wholegrain Helper to Mexican Helper which probably makes John McCain and Lou Dobbs very, very nervous.  On the whole, I think I'd dub this redesign an epic fail.

Cyndi Lauper Speaks!

I can't say how much I love Cyndi Lauper.  For me, there are four popular artists of the eighties who seem to have gotten largely stuck there, unfairly (the others being Pat Benatar, George Michael and Olivia Newton-John).  All of these artists are amazing talents, and all have been shunted into nostalgia. No fair, man.

But Cyndi is the one who I really connect with.  Not only is she amazingly talented, but her political outlook matches mine to a "T."  Here is Cyndi, in her own words.

Zsa Zsa Gabor Not Doing Well

Image from source, D-Listed
Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I worked as a carny at the Los Angeles County Fair every year for a month each year. Yes, really.  And one of those years, I happened to be in Los Angeles at the same time that Zsa Zsa Gabor slapped that cop.  Now, back then, the line between entertainment and news wasn't quite as blurry as it is now.  Everybody knew about Zsa Zsa's incident, but it wasn't wall-to-wall coverage on the actual news. It was more of a People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight phenomenon.  But not in LA!  The Los Angeles Times was running practically whole sections of the paper on the incident. At the time, I wondered, "for what is this woman famous?" 

Sure, she was the sister of Eva Gabor, queen of wigs and wife on Green Acres, but what did Zsa Zsa do besides get married over and over, and being extremely wealthy?  That's a silly question in these days of The Hills, Jersey Shore, and The Real Housewives of BFE.  In a way, Zsa Zsa is the matron sainte of "famous for being famous."  Get well, dahling.


Zsa Zsa Isn't Doing So Well

93-year-old Zsa Zsa Gabor broke her hip bone a week ago when she tried to answer her phone while watching Jeopardy. Alex Trebek better have sent Zsa Zsa a dozen white flowers in a crystal vase with pink rhinestones on the bottom. It's the least he can do. Well, Zsa Zsa had her hip replaced and things were looking up-ish. But Zsa Zsa's publicist is saying today that the white feather boa is turning grey, because doctors have now listed her in critical condition. They suspect that she had a stroke during surgery. . .

Read more at: D-Listed

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sam Sedar: Race War! : That's Bulls**t!

Newsbusters Has No Sense of Humor

The people at are not known for their understanding of "dark" humor. Or humor at all. Or subtlety. Or sarcasm.  Or snark.  Stephanie Miller is a liberal talk show host, and her schtick is comedy (and if you didn't know, she's Barry Goldwater's running mate's daughter).  Comedy isn't always pretty, and yes, there are things said that can go over the line. But "bat day" at a ball park taken as a serious incitement to violence?   Loosen your girdles, and unbunchest thine panties, Newsbusters! 


Stephanie Miller Fantasizes Drunks With Baseball Bats Beating O'Reilly, Beck, Geraldo

What is it with liberals and their violent fantasies? The Journolist has given us a public radio producer imagining herself laughing with glee as Rush dies a painful death, while other members want their political enemies thrown through plate-glass windows. . .

Read more (if you can stop rolling your eyes long enough) at:

Political Rap: Alvin Greene is on the Scene!

No words. . .

Book Review (Part 2): Stephen King's Under the Dome

Image from QuarterlyConversation
This moring, I finally settled down to read the last two hundred pages or so of Stephen King's Under the Dome.  I started at about 10:00 am, after watching last week's True Blood on the DVR.  I figured I'd read for an hour or so, then get up, get dressed, and take care of some errands and chores.  After a while, I decided to push through, and just read the whole thing. Imagine my surprise when I finished--thinking it must be 12:45 or so--when I looked at the clock and saw that it was a quarter til three!

That, in a nutshell, tells you how into this book I was.  "Couldn't put it down" applies. Sure, I'd pause to get a soda, or for a bathroom break (though I just popped a squat with the book on my lap. . .think of that next time you get a book from the library!).  Before I get to my review, here's an encapsulation of what I first wrote:

[Compiled from original post, July 17, 2010]

Under the Dome (a 1074-page book) takes place in Maine (naturally), just up the road a piece from Castle Rock, a town you're intimately familiar with if you've read very much King. The small town of Chester's Mill finds itself suddenly trapped--right to the town's borders--by a transparent, seemingly indestructible barrier. This has a calamitous effect on anything actually at the border at the moment the dome came down, or for anything preparing to cross it at high speed.

If you've ever read a Stephen King novel, you know that he can be wordy, sometimes at the expense of the story. As much as I loved Misery, I found myself skipping the "Misery Chastain" romance novel portions of the book only partway in. At other times though, say with The Stand, King's wordiness can be rich and rewarding. One thing I think I can be relatively certain of is that it won't have a rushed conclusion!

This first part of the book is an outstanding, gripping, can't-put-the-book-down good time. If your idea of a good time is kinda gory. Mine is. Anyway, a large section of the book deals with the setup, introducing us to a broad section of Chester's Mill's citizenry and public servants. By the time we begin to gather some vague understanding as to what's going on--about a third of the way in--we'd have already been to the end of many books of this genre (Dean Koontz's included). I was a little leery of what the thick mid-section of this book was going to be like. For the sheer genius that was The Stand, another long King book, Duma Key while good, wasn't quite as satisfying. So far though, I'm still along for the ride. There are protagonists I'm rooting for, a couple of deaths--hey, this is King--that I've lamented, and a few deaths I'm looking forward to!

[Part 2]

The middle portion of the book chronicles life under the dome, and what that sort of scenario would do to the populace of a small town.  A slimy politician who already fancied himself king of the town, takes his role to grandly inflated places.  Our protagonist, a former soldier with a heavy consience is appointed by the President to take charge as a Colonel, and our slimy politician doesn't take well to this news.  Much of the midsection of the book is built upon this power play, and if that sounds boring, it isn't.  King has done a masterful job of bringing an entire town to life, and the ways they interact and whom they align with is kept interesting, and sometimes surprising.

From outside the dome, there are a few efforts to bust through, with the results only emboldening the Big Bad and his son, Junior Bad.  Together they spin a fanciful tale, connecting the Colonel to a series of deaths, to a riot, to a drug ring, and even to the existence of the dome itself.  The story wouldn't hold together well in ordinary times, but the rattled citizenry clings to it, and sides with Big & Junior Bad.  Fortunately, there are some brighter bulbs in this bunch, and a resistance of sorts is born.

Through all of this, the atmosphere in town is getting rank, there is barely a breeze, and no rain.  The resistance tries to discover the source of the dome, and what to do about it, while simultaneously trying to free the Colonel from the clutches of the Bads.  All of this is great, page-turning stuff.  And twin events: a town meeting called by Big Bad, and a "meet your relatives on the other side of the dome" gathering at the edge of town, send the book hurtling into the scorching home stretch.

The secret behind the existence of the dome is an interesting departure for this kind of book, one that may not satisfy everybody.  And the ultimate conclusion is rather speedy after a long homestretch, but I understood the need for this.  As the characters get more and more desperate, a fast resolution was necessary to break the tension.  It was not an eye-rolling ending, or one that let me down.  I was satisfied, and said as I closed the covers, that was a good book. 

All through the book, I could see this as a movie, or more likely, a mini-series.  If it comes to that, I have a prediction.  Some characters will be combined. Some will be deleted. The Big Bad (who had an uncomfortable, but sadly underwhelming and solitary comeuppance) will have a more satisfying demise, and will infiltrate the resistance (which does not happen in the book).  I do know that if a Hollywood adaptation is in the works, I will want to watch it.  Highly Recommended

Super-Heroes Vs. the Westboro Baptist Church

Image from source, Comics Alliance
Hahahahaha! Bra-vo! Hilariously perfect. I'm sure that the hideous Rev. Fred Phelps already fancies himself as god's own superhero on earth, but we all know he's a villain. Not a supervillain, more like one of the campy B-celebrity villains from the old Batman show from the 60s. Only less scary, and more ridiculous.  Thanks to my friend Katie for the tip, via Facebook.


Super Heroes vs. the Westboro Baptist Church

. . .Unbeknownst to the dastardly fanatics of the Westboro Baptist Church, the good folks of San Diego's Comic-Con were prepared for their arrival with their own special brand of superhuman counter protesting chanting "WHAT DO WE WANT" "GAY SEX" "WHEN DO WE WANT IT" "NOW!" while brandishing ironic (and some sincere) signs. Simply stated: The eclectic assembly of nerdom's finest stood and delivered. . .

Read more at: Comics Alliance

War of the Words: Bill O'Reilly vs. Rachel Maddow

Is a seven-post gap enough space between Rachel Maddow Show posts? It'll have to be, because there is a battle afoot between the top-rated cable news host (if you consider FOX to be "News") and the second-highest-rated non-FOX host.  This is tangentially related to my post below, about false equivalency.  See, from my admittedly biased point of view, Maddow and O'Reilly are not equals at what they do. O'Reilly is higher rated, but Maddow is by far the more principled of the two (and smartest, and funniest, etc., etc.).  O'Reilly has a scolding parent, tsk tsking, "because I said so" disposition, and Maddow has a smart alecky, smart kid (who happens to be right) demeanor.   O'Reilly is apt to blow his top.  Maddow more likely to be amused, even if she's scolding.  Just take a peek at the clip below. See if you agree.

Oh, and I really ought to stop promising a temporary moratorium on TRMS posts, because I apparently just don't have it in me. [And it's worth pointing out that this video got truncated in its trip to the internets. Maddow's last words to O'Reilly?  "Your Highness."]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

False Equivalency: Breitbart vs. Huffington Post

Image from Salon
For some time now, the mainstream press--ever leery of liberal bias charges--has treated every story like it has two equally weighted sides.  If there's a controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution, equal time will be spent talking about "intelligent design."  If there's a story about anything gay, the media will trot out some "family" organization to trash-talk.  It can get pretty ridiculous, and is especially so when you consider that the press will be called liberally biased no matter what they support, unless they are FOX "News."

This "balance" has found its way into everyday discourse.  If you express a disdain for Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, you'll be told that Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow are just as bad, the opposite side of the same coin.  Criticize FOX "News" and you'll be told that MSNBC (and CNN, ABC, CBS, NPR, NBC. . .) are just as biased in the opposite direction.  These things become "common knowledge" regardless of their veracity.  As a liberal blogger, I am deemed to be unable to argue the point objectively, and that might be true to an extent.  Do I see the world through a liberal lens, and just not see all the lefty winguttery coming out of the mainstream media?  Is there a liberal equivalent to the odious Andrew Breitbart, and I just don't recognize it?

You could try to argue that Democratic Underground is the mirror image of FreeRepublic. I would strenuously disagree.  I think any collection of partisans in a discussion board are bound to have a few (or many) rabble-rousers who can be pointed to as having crossed the line.  Anger is strong fuel in both places.  But the general tone--in my experience, mind you--on a liberal site is a desire to help people: the poor, women, gay people, people of color, and on and on.  On conservative sites, there seems to be an active desire to prevent helping anybody. A mean-spirited desire to stick it to any of those people.  Liberals: we. Conservatives: me.  Does that make them exact opposites?

But when you get to entities like The Huffington Post and Breitbart's collection of sites, there are things you can examine besides their political leanings. What are the journalistic standards? Who are the journalists?  There are objective ways to tell if these things are really the same thing from opposite sides.  In all of the examples above, I am of the perhaps biased opinion that a false equivalency is being drawn.  But in this last example, I think it is clear. They are not the same thing.


Politico editor stands by comparison of Huffington Post to Breitbart

Politico executive editor Jim VandeiHei said on the radio yesterday that the lesson of the Shirley Sherrod mess is that the "media-activist industrial complex" such as "Breitbart on the right or Huffington Post on the left" has "a huge incentive ... to engage in real tough combat, and to overreact. . ."

Read more at: Salon

Nevada Gay Republicans Not Getting Much Support?

Nevada Republican Party 2010 State Convention.
From RightPride's Facebook Page
I would have skipped this item, were it not for the fact that I have engaged Mark Ciavola (the guy in charge of RightPride, the Nevada chapter of GOProud) in discussion a few times. He's a genuinely nice guy when not in the heat of argument, always offering to get together for coffee to hash things out.  I haven't taken him up on it because I simply find no common ground with RightPride, a virulently conservative, seemingly only tangentially gay political group. 

Their chief argument seems to be that Democrats promise all sorts of things to gay people, and then deliver little.  It isn't an entirely wrong argument, but it is mostly wrong.  Democrats may deliver some weak tea when we're asking for strong coffee (there you go, Mark!), but at least they are serving something. The Republican Party often tries to take whatever we're asking for away, sometimes after we've already gotten it.  Very often, they are successful.  In Texas for instance, they're trying to make gay marriage a crime rather than just ignoring it (not to mention criminalizing sodomy, which would endanger a lot more than just the gays).  The other problem is, if you subtract "the gay" from RightPride's political agenda, you've got a FReeper.  A Palin loving, tea bagging, Obama's a commie, Nancy Pelosi is a succubus, Harry Reid is the devil, Karl Rove worshipping, Glenn Beck watching, true believer. 

Small wonder then that their message doesn't seem to be going very well.  For instance, they've had a Facebook page since October of last year, and presently they are "liked" by 327 people.  And I'm one of them!


Gay Old Party?  Republicans reach for more homosexual voters by Election Day

If Republicans hope to win big in November, they'll have to hold on to as many older, white and largely straight voters as possible -- because Nevada's minority and independent voters aren't buying the latest GOP sales pitches cocked squarely in their direction. . .

Read more at: Las Vegas City Life

Thanks to Stupid Monkey Planet for the link
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