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Wertz
User: wertz
Name: Wertz
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INNOCENTS ABROAD
Geithner assures China investors, according to the BBC (in an item that won't even appear in the American press), but on closer look:

In a speech at Beijing University at the start of his two-day visit, Mr Geithner reassured his Chinese hosts that they need not worry about the estimated $770bn (£475bn) they have invested in US treasuries, a class of US government debt.

"Chinese financial assets are very safe," he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Now, where I come from, if people laugh at your assurance, they haven't been assured. Hey, BBC, how about Geithner: Epic Fail in China?

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humour: disappointed assured

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MANIFESTO
We've been delving into the archives, trying to put our past into some sort of order. Talk about Aegean stables! Anyway, we were going through some old Horizon stuff (Horizon Production Company was the theatre company Sean and I founded in Ireland, God, twenty-five years ago?) and came across a manifesto I'd put together fairly early on - and much of it still holds up in terms of my own aesthetic and critical sensibilities. Some of it, as I recall, was appropriated, though God knows from whom (I suspect the baleful influence of a few surrealists), but here it is:


HORIZON MANIFESTO

THEATRE SHOULD BE SEEN AND NOT HEARD


I

You are there for the audience, not the other way around


IF IT AIN'T POPULIST, IT AIN'T ART


II


Dare to be pretentious

(aspire to be naive)


III

Exploit your weaknesses;
treat problems as solutions


IV
TEXT

Why do someone else's play when you can write your own?

If your own play isn't ready, look to the classics

(they are there for a reason)

Writing from one's experience is only as interesting as masturbation:
imagine



V
REHEARSAL

Warm-ups are prerequisite

Research is an indispensable tool

(without a knowledge of history, art is impossible)

Stop talking and get on your feet!

Depicting and creating are secondary to smashing them over the head


VI
PERFORMANCE

The sole and only sense of theatre is exhilaration
(think of yourself as an aerialist or a racehorse)


NEVER - EVER - FORGET:
ACTING IS A VISUAL ART


VII

If you have nothing to say or no new way of saying it,
shut up


VIII

If your ethics aren't laughable, they aren't serious enough


IX

Aim for the grotesque or the sublime

(we've quite enough of the mundane)

MELODRAMA AND FARCE ARE IDEALS


X

Do not rely on conventions,
create them



NEVER SACRIFICE THEATRE FOR REALITY



Meh - it got us through seven or eight years of pretty decent theatre.

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humour: nostalgic nostalgic

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NEITHER SNOW, NOR RAIN...
nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

So goes the postal carriers motto. Books, however, seem to be a different matter.

Over the past few weeks, Sean and I have been doing a bit of ordering from Amazon.com. Nothing outlandish - maybe three, four books a week. And twice - twice - several books have arrived on the same day. And the carrier, who usually just drives by the mailbox (which is in a short row with three or four neighbor's boxes along the roadside), actually had to drive up to our house (a distance of about forty feet), get out of his or her vehicle and leave the books on the front porch.

So on Friday, I get the following notice stuffed in with the mail:

Dear Sir:

This letter is being sent to you to request that you provide us with a larger mail box for the delivery of your mail.

The carrier is having a problem delivering your mail and packages. Your mail box is not large enough to receive all the packages that you are receiving. Mail boxes should be large enough to accommodate all your packages, with an occasional dismount by the carrier for larger packages.

We appreciate your attention to this matter. Any questions, please call...

They like the word "packages".

Anyway... sorry, postal carriers, but our mailbox is quite large enough for at least 300 or so of the 306 deliveries you might have to make each year (assuming that something arrives every day you deliver). Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you charge more postage for anything a bit more substantial than a business-sized envelope? And doesn't part of that charge actually include delivering such packages - even if it means an excruciating "dismount"? Once you start charging $.44 for the delivery of a book, I'll get a bigger mailbox into which it can get stuffed. Meanwhile, you may do so yourselves.

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humour: annoyed abashed

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GO, WANDA!
Evidently, the pundits are already characterizing Wanda Sykes' routine at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner as having "gone over the line" or some such shit and playing too much to the "liberal media" and dredging up the last administration. Yeah, and Stephen Colbert's speech in 2006 was terrible. rolleyes

President Obama's own remarks were about as transgressive as Ms. Sykes' (his best line was probably referring to Dick Cheney's memoir as "How To Shoot Friends and Interrogate People" - though telling Michael Steele that the Republican Party does not qualify for a bail-out - and that Rush Limbaugh didn't count as a troubled asset - wasn't bad, either), but about as balanced, as well (there was the usual self-deprecation - and Joe Biden, among others, came in for a bit of raillery). Sure, her jokes about Obama and the First Lady were generally good-natured and she was a bit sharper with people like Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity, but so what? People tend to like Barack and Michelle Obama - and this administration in general, compared to the last. The Obamas don't work as well as the butt of jokes. It's much easier to lampoon the corrupt, the incompetent, and the hypocritical than those with a modicum of charisma and an affably bland charm.

Besides, it's not like Sykes' targets were undeserving. And if her jokes were a bit mean-spirited, they were frequently enough hilarious. The two things that seem to have most twisted the knickers of conservative pundits were her references to Palin and Limbaugh. She mentioned that Sarah Palin had been planning to attend the dinner and pulled out at the last minute - and added, "You know, someone should really tell her that's not how you practice abstinence." Ha - fair enough, I say. And she didn't even have to mention Bristol.

Her few lines about Rush Limbaugh were a bit dodgier - and very refreshing. Okay, Limbaugh's remarks about hoping Obama would fail have been taken a bit out of context (he was referring, conditionally, to the Socialist Straw Man Obama, not the presidency in general), but Sykes suggested that his hope for Obama - and, presumably by extension, the country - to fail was tantamount to treason. Tepid start, but she had a good finish: "You know, I think he may have been the 20th hijacker, but he was just so strung out on Oxycontin that he missed his flight. ... Rush Limbaugh. 'I hope the country fails.' I hope his kidneys fail. How about that?"

She also targeted Sean Hannity and his (so far unfulfilled) offer to be water-boarded for the troops. "Talking about he can take a water-boarding. Yeah, okay - maybe from someone you know and trust. But let someone from Pakistan water-board him. Or Keith Olbermann - let Keith Olbermann water-board him. He can't take a water-boarding. I could break Sean Hannity just by giving him a middle seat in coach."

Good. These people deserve ridicule. And no one should apologize when they get it.

Tags: , ,
humour: giggly entertained

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BOTOXIC
So I saw Goldie Hawn on Hardball earlier this evening - GAH! She has finally reached the last reel of Death Becomes Her in real time. Of course, the scale of her disastrous plastic surgery immediately brought Jocelyn Wildenstein to mind.

So I thought I'd do a Google Image search on The Bride of Wildenstein to see if there were any updates on her descent into zombie cat person hell. Sadly, there didn't seem to be any images I hadn't seen. Perhaps her ongoing series of cosmetic catastrophes has just become too scary to photograph any more.

Unsurprisingly, though, there were a number of composite photos of Wildenstein with disasters like Donatella Versace, Amanda Lepore, and so on - which had me periodically going "Whoa" - Aagh! - Jesus!" And I would occasionally turn my screen toward Sean and force him to look.

"Why are you looking up Priscilla Presley, for God's sake - or Joan van Ark?"

"I'm not. I was looking for recent Wildenstein pics."

"So what - is Google like Amazon now? Customers Who Bought Joycelyn Wildenstein Also Bought Donatella Versace?"

Aaanyway, Goldie Hawn was looking pretty bad the last time I'd seen her, but now... damn. Do people who care that much about how they look eventually just become totally delusional? Do they imagine that having spent the money is the same thing as having the expenditure actually pay off?

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humour: shocked frightened

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BRILLIANT!
The British Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, has decided to publish the names of sixteen people banned from entering the UK since last October so others could better understand what sort of behavior Britain is not prepared to tolerate: "We are telling people who they are and why it is we don't want them in this country. ... If people have so clearly overstepped the mark in terms of the way not just that they are talking but the sort of attitudes that they are expressing to the extent that we think that this is likely to cause or have the potential to cause violence or inter-community tension in this country, then actually I think the right thing is not to let them into the country in the first place. Not to open the stable door then try to close it later"

The list consists of the following:

Yunis Al-Astal, Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council

Mike Guzofsky, Zionist asshole and advocate of Kahanism

Stephen Donald Black, former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and founder of Stormfront

Erich Gliebe, Neo-Nazi Chairman and CEO of the National Alliance

Artur Ryno, mass murderer and co-founder of a Russian skinhead gang

Pavel Skachevsky, mass murderer and co-founder of a Russian skinhead gang

Wadgy Abd El Hamied Mohamed Ghoneim, jihadist author and cleric

Abdullah Qadri Al Ahdal, Muslim extremist

Safwat Hijazi, Egyptian cleric

Amir Siddique, Pakistani cleric

Abdul Ali Musa (a.k.a. Clarence Reams), head of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought

Samir Al Quntar, Lebanese terrorist and member of Hezbollah

Nasr Javed, Kashmiri terror group leader


And, oh yeah...
Rev. Fred Phelps, founder of the Westboro Baptist Church and GodHatesFags.com

Shirley Phelps-Roper, Fred Phelps' mongoloid daughter

And last, but certainly not least:

Michael Savage (née Michael Weiner), radio "personality"

Hahahahahahaha! Savage apparently has his panties in a twist over his place on a list that includes "mass murderers who are in prison for killing Jewish children on buses". Makes you think, doesn't it, Michael? Eh... probably not.

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humour: ecstatic delighted

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THE SUPREMES
Since David Souter announced his resignation from the Supreme Court, speculation has been rampant about who President Obama might nominate as his replacement.

For those who might wish to discuss the potential candidates a bit more intelligently (and, really, who wouldn't?), the following are among contenders mentioned so far:

Merrick Garland (federal judge, US Court of Appeals)

Thomas Goldstein (head of the Supreme Court practice for Akin Gump and co-ounder of Scotusblog)

Elena Kagan (Solicitor General of the US)

Harold Koh (Dean of Yale Law School)

Robert A. Levy (chair of the Cato Institute)

Charles Ogletree (Harvard Law School professor and Obama advisor)

Deval Patrick (Governor of Massachusetts)

Lucas A. Powe Jr. (University of Texas law professor who doesn't even make it to wikipedia)

Leah Ward Sears (Chief Justice of the Georgia State Supreme Court)

Sonia Sotomayor (federal judge, US Court of Appeals)

Kathleen Sullivan (Stanford University law professor)

Cass Sunstein (University of Chicago law professor and Obama advisor)

Seth Waxman (former Solicitor General under President Clinton)

Diane Wood (federal judge, US Court of Appeals)

David Yalof (associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut)

Kenji Yoshino (New York University law professor)


Actually, I'd just assembled this list for a new thread at America's Debate, so I thought I might as well post the list here, as well.

The best idea so far, though has come from Michael Sean Winters at America magazine: put Al Gore on the Supreme Court.

The choice would be electrifying. ...

Ultimately, the case for a Gore appointment is simple. Conservative jurists justify their rulings by appealing to abstract principles such as "strict construction" or "original intent of the Founders" this last despite the fact that even a modicum of historical familiarity with the Founding shows that the Founders had many and varied intentions for the Constitution they crafted. Liberal jurists care about the real world effects of a law. No one has been the object of both conservative hypocrisy (whither states rights?) and a very nasty real world application of the law in the way Al Gore was in Bush v. Gore.

I suspect President Obama will have other nominations by which he can bring other perspectives to the High Court's proceedings. Mr. Gore might not even desire the appointment. But, in one stroke, Obama could avoid any intra-party grumblings and show to all the world that injustice can be rectified.

Oh, hell yeah! Can you imagine Scalia and Thomas sharing a bench with Al Gore? "Electrifying" wouldn't begin to describe it...

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humour: nerdy nerdy

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TOO MANY BOYS
So it's hiring season again here at the cave. We've decided to cut back our staff slightly, but had a few guides and so on who have gone off to college and moved out of the area, so we thought we'd need to take on a couple of new people this year.

We got a call a few weeks ago from twin brothers expressing an interest in guiding - and two email inquiries from another couple of lads who knew (or were related to) people who had worked here previously. And we got another couple of random calls. We told them all that we probably wouldn't have much to offer this season - certainly nothing full-time - but that we'd get back to them to set up interviews and so on.

Now, Sean was delighted when he got wind of the twins. I suspect he had visions of vintage gay porn dancing in his head, but I was thinking more along the lines of Tweedledee and Tweedledum, so I wasn't that bothered. As they'd been the first inquiry, we spoke to them first and set up a meeting. In the meantime, we spoke to one of the other lads, Kyle, and set up another appointment. The fourth, Neal, had kinda been left at "get back to us if you'd be interested in occasional work".

Kyle scheduled his interview last Wednesday and seemed personable enough - though he has just turned fourteen. We don't mind hiring that young (the minimum age in Pennsylvania) because it at least means they'll be in the area for a few years if they turn out to be brilliant. Plus, the tour is now divided into two parts, with Sean or I doing the intro, giving historical background and so on, and the guide just taking them through the cave proper, so it doesn't seem as though the guests are being put entirely into the hands of an adolescent. Though the fact that, by the time they start guiding, they know the cave and its history intimately and are able to answer questions pretty thoroughly on just about everything from limestone aquifers and solution caves to bat hibernacula, Algonquin artifacts, and the Iroquois Confederacy, often leaves visitors sorely impressed by so much knowledge in guides so young.

Then, yesterday, the twins turned up: Stephen and (another) Sean, both seventeen (obviously). And... Oh. My. God. Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. They are freaking gorgeous. And intelligent and articulate and interested in history - and don't mind a bit of manual labor, either. They're fraternal, rather than identical, twins (so they aren't quite the fantasy material they could have been), but they have a similar aesthetic - tallish, swimmer's build; dark, floppy hair - and both of them are going to be strikingly attractive young men. We hired them on the spot, giving the attraction an immediate spike in its Sex Appeal quotient. My Sean, of course, is all "See - I told you!"

Then I got a call this morning from Neal - and he stopped by this afternoon. He, too, is extremely personable, kinda cute, and very bright, if a bit soft-spoken. He's also "cyber-schooled" so I'd like to give him some opportunity to get out of the house and broaden his horizons a bit.

Meanwhile, a former guide, Eugenia (who worked for us the first season we took over operation of the cave and was here for a few weeks early last summer before spending a few months abroad prior to returning to college) got in touch with us expressing an interest in coming back more or less full-time this year. As she is one of the best guides we've ever had (and is very dependable in relation to punctuality, manning the register in the gift shop, taking on odd maintenance chores, and so on - plus making her own contribution to the Sex Appeal of the place) and speaks three or four languages, including Russian (her native tongue), she was guaranteed as much work a we could provide. Plus, we still have another guide, Lake, returning from last year. He isn't the best we've ever had, but he's fairly clever, very earnest, and eager for the work. And we have Sara, a part-time manager who's worked here off and on for about fifteen years, who is available and loves the work, though, as she teaches full-time during the year, she doesn't really need the job.

I guess work here is fairly attractive. We're pretty undemanding as bosses go, working in a cave is fairly unique of itself (and it's not hard work for the most part), and we pay more than minimum wage - though, as a seasonal operation, we could pay below minimum, as most other area attractions do. But, hey - the minimum wage is not a living wage and, even if many of our employees still live with their parents, a fair wage is a fair wage.

In short, though, we now have too many boys for too few jobs - and we're not sure how to weed them out. So we're going to pay all four of the new lads for training and see how they do from there. Whatever happens, though, I'm guessing we're keeping the twins. It may just be gay chauvinism, but if all else fails, we can always put them in loincloths and send them out to shopping malls to hand out brochures. If that doesn't drum up enough business to keep them on the payroll, nothing will.  :D

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humour: confused perplexed

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YUMMINESS
We're hosting the Pennsylvania Caves Association meeting tomorrow evening, which is neither here nor there, really. But, as it includes dinner, it gives us an excuse to knock ourselves out cooking. We've spent most of today - and a few hours over the past few days - prepping. So here's what's on the menu:

New England Clam Chowder or Tomato Bisque with Fresh Basil and Marjoram
Spring Greens with Raspberry Vinaigrette and Pine Nuts
Crab Cakes with Lemon Dill Sauce and Wild Rice with Shallots or
Carved Prime Rib au Jus with Horseradish, Yorkshire Pudding, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Mushroom Gravy
Asparagus Hollandaise, Baked Corn Supreme
Cheese Cake with Fresh Strawberries or Fruits of the Forest Frangelico
Selection of wines and beers or mineral water (we found a nice Frascati that should go really well with the crab)
Coffee, tea, espresso
Assortment of Cheeses (Cambozola, Port Salut, Stilton, Jarlsburg, Cheddar with Porter) and Nut-meal Crackers

The soups are made (though Sean's still dicking about with the chowder), the crab cakes are baking, the prime rib is pre-roasted, the asparagus has been parboiled, and the cheese cakes have been baked. So we just have the prime rib to finish, with its gravies and puddings, which Sean will do tomorrow, along with the mashed potatoes. The rice and asparagus need to be steamed for a bit, which will also be tomorrow. The raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are marinating in the Frangelico and I'm about to start the baked corn. Then all I have left to do is slice a few pounds of strawberries and prepare the lemon dill sauce for the crab cakes. Then I'm done - the rest will be up to Sean. Apart from whipping the cream to dress the cheesecakes and preparing the salad. We'll probably toss a coin for those chores.

Anyway, it's all looking good so far. If nothing else, Sean's crabcakes can't be topped - nor can his cheesecake - and the tomato bisque would make your toes curl (the marj and a few pints of fresh cream make a lot of difference). Mmnnn...

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humour: hungry hungry

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JACK
Damn, I just found out that Jack Wrangler died about two weeks ago - apparently of emphysema. He was 62. :(

For those unfamiliar, he was an actor (mostly in porn - gay and straight, though he started out in the former) and, later, a theatre producer and director. I knew Jack slightly during the 1970s - we, um, hooked up a couple of times early on and remained fairly friendly for several years, though we didn't see that much of each other. I saw a bit more of him in 1979, when he was working on T-Shirts by Robert Patrick, a colleague of mine at New York City News at the time, hanging out at Phoebe's after rehearsals or meeting up at the Ninth Circle for a few joints and a few beers.

We last met in 1980, shortly before Sean and I emigrated to Ireland, at the wrap party for the epic gay porno, Centurions of Rome (in which neither of us was involved - we were both just "friends of the industry"). Sean, who didn't know we were acquainted, was mildly impressed when Jack greeted me by name and with a warm hug. Oddly, I think it boosted my cred with Mr. Gay Activists Alliance. :P

Anyway, despite his cowboy-macho porn image, Jack had great boyish charm and was a real sweetheart. He was also a bit fucked up about his sexuality, but at least he was pretty upfront about it - and was, nevertheless, a damned good lover, as well as a very decent guy to know. I'll remember him fondly.

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humour: indifferent reflective

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WORST. IDEA. EVER.
Stooges logo

It looks like the Farrelly Brothers' Three Stooges movie is going ahead, despite contract complications with Warner.

That's bad enough - quite bad enough, really - but Jim Carrey has been signed to play Curly. Good God. Getting Jim Carrey to play one of the Three Stooges is like painting a dildo red.

Incredibly, Sean Penn is slated to play Larry - yes, that Sean Penn. Carrey and Penn: now there's chemistry for you.

Worse again, they're evidently trying to get - wait for it - Benicio del Toro to play Moe. I'd be hard pressed to come up with any actor whose temperament was more diametrically opposed to that of Moe Howard. What - instead of poking Larry in the eyes, he's going to brood at him?

And, oh yeah, this is not a biopic - it's the further adventures of the Three Stooges set in the 21st century. And something tells me that the Farrelly Brothers won't be attempting an incisive deconstruction of slapstick violence. In fact, they'll most likely take everything the Stooges did not have going for them - and add farts.

Do these people not have agents? Or sense?

Stooges
Ummm..... no.


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humour: distressed distressed

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AWESOMENESS
While Susan Boyle seems to be overshadowing the Tax Day Tea Parties, she also managed to out-hit "Do Re Mi" in Antwerp in the YouTube stakes. Kudos to Susan and her populist charm, but Antwerp is still more awesome. Okay, it basically rips off the T-Mobile Dance, it's still pretty freakin' hot. And gayer.

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humour: chipper chipper

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TEABAGGING
In solidarity with the Tax Day Tea Party protests, I am currently typing this while sitting on my partner's face. Seriously, though, how naive are these people? I haven't been watching cable news in a few weeks, but apparently derisive "tea-bagging" references have become part of Rachel Maddow's regular schtick (along with Ana Marie Cox - neither of whom I suspect has much first-hand experience). On Monday, David Shuster and Laurence O'Donnell got in one the act (in an item titled "Teabag Mouthpieces"):

SHUSTER: For most Americans, Wednesday, April 15th will be Tax Day. But in our fourth story tonight: It's going to be teabagging day for the right-wing and they're going nuts for it. Thousands of them whipped out the festivities early this past weekend, and while the parties are officially toothless, the teabaggers are full-throated about their goals.They want to give President Obama a strong tongue-lashing and lick government spending - spending they did not oppose when they were under presidents Bush and Reagan. They oppose Mr. Obama's tax rates - which will be lower for most of them - and they oppose the tax increases Mr. Obama is imposing on the rich, whose taxes will skyrocket to a rate about 10 percent less than it was under Reagan.

That's teabagging in a nut shell. Taking its inspiration from the Boston Tea Party when colonists tossed British tea into the sea because the tax on it had not been voted on by their own duly-elected representatives - that's exactly the opposite, of course, of today's taxes, known in some quarters as "taxation with representation". But as New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, points out today, this time, the tea bagging is not a spontaneous uprising. The people who came up with it are a familiar circle of Republicans, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, both of whom have firm support from right-wing financiers and lobbyists. As well as Washington prostitute patron, Senator David Vitter, who has issued statements in support of teabagging but is publicly tight-lipped. Then there was the media, specifically the FOX News Channel, including Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. Both are looking forward to an up close and personal taste of teabagging themselves at events this Wednesday.

But most amusing of all is Neil Cavuto, a member of the network's executive committee. Neil's online bio says he joined the network in July of 1996, three months before the FOX News Channel went on the air. Cavuto, defending his network's promotion of teabagging said, quote, "We are going to be right in middle of these teabaggers, because at FOX, we do not pick and choose these rallies and protests. We were there for the Million Man March." Can we roll that footage, the FOX News coverage of the Million Man March backing in October of '95? [video static] Of course, the Million Man March occurred, as NewsHounds.org points out, almost a year before FOX News was on the air. We can only speculate why widespread teabagging made Cavuto think of the Million Man March, unless he got them confused with Dick Armey. And in Cavuto's defense, if you are planning simultaneous teabagging all around the country, you're going to need a Dick Armey.

These people need a new metaphor. Since the protests seem to have more to do with pork barrel spending than taxation per se, why not a new slogan like "Pound the Pork"? I look forward to Glenn Beck and Neil Cavuto touting Pork-Pounding Parties. In fact, that could be just what they need...

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humour: horny evil

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SENTIMENT OF THE WEEK
From Bill in Portland Maine at DailyKos:
It seems odd that members of the Republican netroots, who act like they're the badassest badasses on the planet, would get so excited about organizing little tea parties. (Pinkies up, girls!) When I stage my tax revolt against the government it's gonna be a fuckin' Whiskey Rebellion!

In fact, he has a few mots that are pretty bon this week. Another one that I enjoyed:
If a member of Congress makes a serious accusation against the White House - as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) did when she accused the Obama administration of planning to brainwash America's kids in "re-education camps" - and the traditional media doesn't report on it, it means a) it's not worth their time to inform citizens of the potential danger to American families, or b) there's no doubt in their mind that the accuser has been sniffing glue.

Or, if indelicacy is your thing:
How does Rush Limbaugh breathe when he sits down?


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humour: amused amused

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I LOVE THESE


Aretha Hats

More! More ! More! Seriously, if you have an Aretha-hat icon (or know anyone else who does), please post it in the comments.

One of the cutest personal icons I've seen with The Hat belongs to girlyunderwear:

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humour: ecstatic ecstatic

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THEY SURROUND US
Glenn Beck is apparently peeved that Fox News is no longer setting national policy - at least, not as overtly as it used to. So he's doing something about it, goddammit. In what sounds like a prelude to Mussolini's March on Rome, he is attempting to organize the sort of ignorant saps who put George W Bush in office with a campaign unnervingly entitled "We Surround Them". It is being launched in a broadcast on Fox News tonight, accompanied by a nationwide series of meet-ups.

Here's the promo from Beck's web site:

We Surround Them FRIDAY!


We Surround Them - The Unveiling
March 13th on FOX News 5pm ET


Do you watch the direction that America is being taken in and feel too much progress is being made?

Do you believe that your voice isn't loud enough to drown out everyone else anymore?

Do you read the headlines every day and wish you knew what all the words meant?

If so, then you probably listen to Glenn Beck. The truth is that you are part of a shrinking minority. But the good news is that you and people like you are better armed. There is an us and a them - but we've got them surrounded.

So, how do we show America that we're not going down without a fight? Below are nine simple principles. If you believe in at least seven of them, then we have something in common. I urge you to read the instructions at the end for how to help make your voice heard.


The Nine Principles

1. America can do no wrong.

2. I believe in God and He hates everyone that scares me.

3. I must always try to be richer tomorrow than I was yesterday.

4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not those child welfare sons of bitches.

5. If you break the law, you deserve the death penalty. Justice is blind, except to money and race.

6. I have a right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, but no one else does unless I say so.

7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with no one. If I don't have enough, the citizens of northeastern states will subsidize me.

8. It is not unAmerican for me to pray for the assassination of Barack Hussein Obama.

9. I do not answer to the government, the government answers to me and my prejudices, at gunpoint if necessary - and it's necessary.


You Are Not Alone

If you agree with at least seven of those principles, then you are not alone. Please send a digital version of your picture to: wesurroundthem@fauxnews.com and then stay tuned to the radio and television shows over the coming weeks to see how we intend to gun down the rest of America. How do you make your voice heard? By boosting Glenn Beck's ratings. Rush ain't the only sick fuck in need of an audience.

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Lampoon aside, this "We Surround Them" thing is fucking scary.

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humour: worried uneasy

wertz
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DIDN'T SEE THAT COMING DEPT.


Levi Johnston
Levi Johnston and unidentified debutante

In the least surprising move of the year to date, Bristol "Skank" Palin has officially broken up with Levi "Class Act" Johnston, the man who allegedly sired her bastard. Appropriately, the story was broken in Star magazine:
The teen love affair that rocked last year's presidential race is over.

Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, has ditched her baby daddy, Levi Johnston!

Now's Levi's sister, Mercede is telling all exclusively to Star and the picture she paints of life in Wasilla, Alaska is not a pretty one. Bristol, 18, has virtually cut Levi out of the life of their two-month-old son Tripp.

"Levi tries to visit Tripp every single day, but Bristol makes it nearly impossible. She tells him he can't take the baby to our house because she doesn't want him around 'white trash'!" Bristol won't even allow him to watch the baby for a few hours -- unless he's babysitting!

The worst part, Mercede continues, is that the former vice presidential candidate supports Bristol's treatment of Levi, 19. "I used to love Sarah," Mercede says sadly. "But I've lost lots of respect for her."

So, wait - "Skank" doesn't want her abstinence-only brat around white trash? May we assume, then that she's putting her spawn up for adoption?

Does this mean Levi has to give back the clothes Sarah bought him out of her $150,000 wardrobe budget? Thank God, they weren't Democrats or this might actually have made news. roll eyes

no trash

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humour: indifferent unsurprised

wertz
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WATCHMEN REDUX
In response to my comments on Watchmen, rpeate raised a number of good questions. My original post can be found here. His comment was as follows (and I'd like to thank him for his reasoned response):

First, let me thank you for this reasoned review. You like the film, but you analyse it rationally, which enables me to take you seriously and to reconsider some of the bad I've heard. That said:

I have heard bad things about it, and what you post here does not assuage my concerns. Two specifics:

1. "The violence anchors the story firmly in the all-too-real world and illuminates the characters, raising questions that should be evident in any costumed vigilante film (there's a big difference between a 'POW!' graphic and a compound fracture tearing through a bad guy's forearm)."

How does what you say here differ from this criticism in the negative New York Times review?

The sex may be laughable, but the violence is another matter. The infliction of pain is rendered in intimate and precise aural and visual detail, from the noise of cracking bones and the gushers of blood and saliva to the splattery deconstruction of entire bodies. But brutality is not merely part of Mr. Snyder’s repertory of effects; it is more like a cause, a principle, an ideology. And his commitment to violence brings into relief the shallow nihilism that has always lurked beneath the intellectual pretensions of “Watchmen.” The only action that makes sense in this world — the only sure basis for ethics or politics, the only expression of love or loyalty or conviction — is killing. And the dramatic conflict revealed, at long last, in the film’s climactic arguments is between a wholesale, idealistic approach to mass death and one that is more cynical and individualistic.

What's wrong with wanting to like the good guys, to think there are good guys, guys (metaphor for "men and women") who actually behave morally? I don't want to leave a movie feeling sullied by immorality or apathy. I don't want to see a story raise big questions only to answer them negatively or not at all.

And why do I need to hear bones cracking to get a lesson? I don't. Presentation can be less violent yet instructive. My big complaint is with gratuitious violence, and everything I'm hearing says this film is chock full of it. A three-minute rape scene? No, thanks.

2. "It's just too long," a man on the radio said last week, while also saying that he thought young nerdy males would like it and everyone else would not, because it's too violent, dark, and dreary.

My own personal complaint with the storyline (as opposed to its violent execution) I read on Wikipedia is that the transition from superheroes helping society to being outlawed is not explained. Is it explained, ever? Why the turning against heroes?

Thanks again for thoughtful commentary!

Dr. Manhattan


My response, unfortunately, ran over the allotted number of characters for a comment. Hence, this new post. So... my reply:

How does what you say here differ from this criticism in the negative New York Times review?

First, I think A.O. Scott (of the Times) may have been seeing what he wanted to see. We are talking about a film (or graphic novel) that examines the genre itself. It's not so much a parody or a pastiche (or a "deconstruction", really), it is a commentary, a critique. Clearly, the costumed vigilante genre is violent - and any examination of that genre (and virtually every example of it) will necessarily incorporate violence. In a film dealing with the hypothetical of such characters in "real life", the handling of violence is one of the keys to making the fantasy realm of the superhero real. My judgment is that i was appropriate to the material and that a "less violent" treatment would have avoided some of the works main concerns. Is violence the best option, however effective? What are the consequences of acts of violence on both the "victim" and the "perpetrator"? How long can one stare into the abyss?

Rather than being gratuitous or exploitative, I see the violence in Watchmen as something of an admonition. In most superhero comics, we have a panel or two of the protagonist swinging punches, then a next panel where the bad guy is slumped in a neat bundle awaiting the paddy wagon; the violence is often bloodless, antiseptic - "acceptable".

Superheroes seldom use the threat of force to defuse a criminal situation, they use force (that's what superpowers are for). Sure, they rescue people from fires or fix collapsing bridges, but the bulk of their occupation is thwarting crime, usually forcing outlaws to submit to their self-appointed authority (using their superior strength or agility or weaponry). Watchmen (and it's hardly the first film to do so, though it was one of the first comics) makes the obvious point that, in the real world, the use of force isn't clean - and has serious, often mortal, consequences.

Does the relatively sanitized violence of other genre pictures innure us to violence? Does it make us more likely to endorse vigilantism? The only thing, really, that separates a caped crusader from an armed militia or a "lone nut" is the cape. And, even if one does condone people "taking the law into their own hands", does that mean we should also celebrate their means of exacting justice? Violence, even necessary violence, shouldn't be exhilarating; it shouldn't make one cheer, it should make one cringe. At least, that's what I got from Watchmen. Scott presumably read what he saw differently.

I'm not saying either reaction is "correct", but it should be noted that there was much less graphic violence in Watchmen than there could have been. Several violent crimes (or acts of vengeance) happen offstage - at least one of them, presumably, fairly bloody. The violence that we do see is not really dwelt on, however unnervingly realistic: the now infamous compound fracture, for example, is a very quick cut-away (probably less than 24 frames) during one of the few extended fight sequences in the film - enough for us to recognize that being brutally disarmed hurts. And I can't think of any acts of violence that don't either advance the plot or provide exposition about the characters.

The "rape scene" to which Scott refers (which is actually an "assault scene" or "attempted rape scene"), as another example, involves two of the central characters. The perpetrator, we have already seen, has no compunction about blowing away bad guys (or Vietcong) - and it's not entirely clear whether he's motivated by altruism or sadism. The assault kinda demonstrates that the character is as much about power as public spirit. His amorality is further demonstrated in another unsettling scene, which reveals as much about a bystander as the character himself. Heh - sorry for the oblique phrasing of all this, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers in the event that you should see the film - or the less likely event that someone else reads this.  :)

You may already have "got the message" that the film sends about the reality of violence and, for you, it may well be unnecessary. If you find graphic violence offensive or disturbing of itself, you may want to avoid the film. I had pretty much taken the violence argument on board well before the release of Watchmen, but I didn't find that the violence permeated the film enough to detract from other themes and issues that it was addressing.

Second (!), most examples of the masked crime-fighter genre also incorporate things like crime-fighting, vengeance, secret identities (and alter egos), fairly adolescent notions of romance, and, often, the conflicting relations between the masked vigilantes and law enforcement or the media (not to mention the public at large). Watchmen also treats these elements, as well, sometimes in conjunction with the role of violence in the vigilantes' lives. To me, Scott throws an unnecessary spotlight on the violence of the film at the expense of a lot of its other elements. He may, quite possibly (and not unjustifiably), object to depictions of violence in general and this may have colored his entire experience. As I mentioned, the use of graphic violence at all (whether it serves the objectives of the film or not), may turn some viewers off - and they should, perhaps, avoid the experience.

I disagree with his assessment that killing is the only action that makes sense in the world of Watchmen - though that is certainly the case with one of the characters. For others, it is money, fame, love, power, guilt, altruism, ruthless principle, or some combination of the above. Killing is sometimes the means, but it is seldom the end and it is certainly not the only currency in the characters' social transactions.

I don't entirely accept Scott's characterization of "shallow nihilism" (as opposed to "deep nihilism"?), either. There is one character who is decidedly nihilistic, but his is not the only voice in the story - and I don't think he's the spokesperson for the author or the director. Most of the characters are attempting to save a world that they think is worth saving, though their methods vary somewhat wildly.

What's wrong with wanting to like the good guys, to think there are good guys, guys (metaphor for "men and women") who actually behave morally?

Nothing at all - but this isn't that film. Watchmen is not a good vs. evil narrative, though it does raise a lot of questions about what constitutes good and evil. One or two of the characters do have such a Manichean worldview and are convinced that they are the good guys - and some viewers may see them as such. But the film questions what moral behavior actually is and where lines should be drawn. Watchmen is not an escapist adventure (though there are elements of such), it is a serious dissertation on right and wrong, actions and their consequences, and how moral dilemmas should be addressed. To simplify one of the central moral quandaries of the story, is it worth sacrificing a few lives to save many lives?

I don't want to leave a movie feeling sullied by immorality or apathy. I don't want to see a story raise big questions only to answer them negatively or not at all.

I don't think Watchmen embraces either immorality or apathy - though it does, as I mentioned, question what exactly constitutes morality (or which choices are more "moral"). The story does raise a number of questions - and answers several of them (though, the answers can vary from character to character). It is left to the audience to decide which choices are "correct" or which characters make the better decisions. Depending on one's point of view, some of the answers may well be negative - but that judgment is left to the viewer (or the reader).

I don't actually mind fiction raising questions and leaving the answers somewhat open, though. I'm more or less wqith Tom Stoppard on this one when he cites Turgenev's "I'm not a pure spirit, but I'm not society's keeper either." As he says in The Coast of Utopia:
People complain about me having no attitude in my stories. They're puzzled. Do I agree or disagree?Do I want the reader to agree with this man or the other man? ... Where does the author stand? Why doesn't he come clean with us? Well, maybe I'm wrong, but how would that make me a better writer?

Some works of art draw clear conclusions - or provide an instructive "lesson" (with which, granted, one may agree or disagree). Others raise questions to stimulate thought or debate or address issues for which there is no definitive answer, no clear right or wrong. Watchmen definitely falls into the latter category.

My own personal complaint with the storyline (as opposed to its violent execution) I read on Wikipedia is that the transition from superheroes helping society to being outlawed is not explained. Is it explained, ever? Why the turning against heroes?

Whew - at least this one is easy.  :)  As is the case with films as varied as The Dark Knight and The Incredibles, public opinion turns against vigilantism and the "heroes" are eventually seen as being just as lawless as the outlaws they are "bringing to justice". In Watchmen, what finally prompts the Keene Act (which makes such amateur justice illegal) is a police strike protesting the unofficial "law enforcement" by masked crime-fighters. Essentially, superheroes are seen as scabs.

I would not recommend the film without reservations. I have no doubt that some may find it too violent (or the violence too gratuitous). Personally, I didn't find the violence overwhelming and, given the length of the film it is relatively sparse. Nor did I find it particularly exploitative. There was one sequence which I found a bit excessive - and which didn't exactly appear in the original graphic novel - though it did demonstrate the extremity of one character's vengeance. As this character was one of the only real criminals that figured in the story, I was willing to let the director get away with making him look more extreme than what we'd seen from some of the "heroes".

But it is a very dark and often bleak story, with moments that are very uncomfortable and moral questions that very challenging (I guess that's the "intellectual pretensions" to which Scott refers), but I did not find the film cynical, nihilistic, apathetic, or immoral. I wouldn't call it uplifting by any means, but the story ends with a tenuous world peace, albeit at some cost to the central characters and to humanity itself. And even the most detached, misanthropic character ultimately feels that life is worth preserving.

For me, some of the visuals alone were worth the price of admission. Seeing the hypothetical of superheroes impacting real events in the real world played out was also pretty fascinating - and stimulating. You may find that other elements of the film or the story itself overshadow any of its positives and you could well see some of your reservations borne out. So, while I do recommend the film, it is with certain caveats. It would be difficult for me to predict whether anyone will love it or hate it, be excited or be bored by it. The only thing I can predict with any certainty is that opinion will remain very divided.

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wertz
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WATCHMEN
Sean and I and a couple of friends caught Watchmen last night. If it hadn't been the last screening of the day, I would have been very tempted to have turned around, bought a second ticket, and watched it again. In my opinion, it is the best comic-book/graphic novel/pulp fiction/superhero adaptation that has ever reached the screen. Period. It makes The Dark Knight look like the adolescent wank-fest that it is.

That said, the film is clearly not for everyone - and I won't be surprised if a lot of people hate it. In case you've been living in your own alternate universe, the premise of the story is fairly simple: What if masked crime fighters existed in the real world? Had "superheroes" been around since their advent in comics, how might they have altered history? How might they have affected our notions of heroism itself? Alan Moore, who wrote the work on which the film is based, provides answers to those questions that are often bleak and pessimistic. The fact that much of his revisionist take on "superheroism" ("deconstruction" might be a bit too generous for fairly obvious points about vigilantism) remains intact is bound to turn some people off completely.

The film, like its source, also has its share of graphic violence and less graphic sex, which will not be to everyone's taste, either (having full-frontal male nudity - even if it's computer-generated - will no doubt be enough to make some people cringe). And those who are expecting a thriller with lots of incomprehensible action sequences à la Dark Knight or Quantum of Solace will also be in for a bit of a disappointment. For a superhero movie, there are remarkably few fight or chase sequences - and those that it does have are actually choreographed with a clarity that has otherwise vanished from recent action films.

Worst of all, though, Watchmen has a complex narrative and a complex narrative structure. There are at least half a dozen threads running through the story and there are frequent digressions and flashbacks. If that weren't bad enough, many of the themes that are dealt with are geared toward *gasp* grown-ups. Despite the non-linear structure, though, the story is easier to follow than I expected a (necessarily) truncated version of Watchmen would be. I saw the film with three people who have not read the original and two who knew next to nothing about the story at all. No one had difficult "following it". In fact, the one complaint that Sean had was that he wished we had got more of the characters' back stories - that it wasn't quite digressive enough.

Minutemen

As to the "adult themes" (a phrase I hesitate to use since all I really mean is intelligence) of the film, they may be a bit challenging for those accustomed to the typical good vs. evil fare of most superhero flicks. The costumed vigilantes themselves are not simply the vaguely neurotic Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker types; these "heroes" are variously sadistic, ineffectual, egotistical, frustrated, sociopathic, and nihilistic. And there are no supervillains: the villainy here consists of global politics, business, and war - i.e., they are us. I suspect there are some who will find the lack of a Manichean worldview vexatious and confusing.

I read the graphic novel several years ago and quite enjoyed it, though I wouldn't put myself in the fanboy category by any means. Alan Moore is a great story-teller with flashes of conceptual brilliance, but I don't quite stand in reverential awe of his talents - and I certainly don't consider his stories to be perfect and untouchable works of art. Nor, contrary to the previously running meme, would I have thought of Watchmen as being "unfilmable" (it's written in the form of a storyboard, for God's sake), though before seeing Zack Snyder's film I would have thought that it might have required a mini-series rather than a feature-length film to do it justice. In short, though, I would not have been dismayed if Snyder or the screenwriters (David Hayter and Alex Tse) had taken a few liberties with the novel (which they have - if very few). Ardent devotees of the graphic novel will no doubt have their complaints - and will be blogging about them for months.

To me, however, all of these "disadvantages" are what made the film work. The few liberties taken with the story, including a somewhat altered ending, are ***FANBOY HERESY ALERT*** improvements on the original (seriously, does anyone think that a genetically engineered creature with an exploding brain would be a more credible threat than nuclear war?). The "grown-up" concerns of the story are a welcome change in the genre. The fractured narrative gives the film much of its energy and intensity. The violence anchors the story firmly in the all-too-real world and illuminates the characters, raising questions that should be evident in any costumed vigilante film (there's a big difference between a "POW!" graphic and a compound fracture tearing through a bad guy's forearm). And the questions which the film does raise are not only challenging, they are extremely pertinent - perhaps more pertinent now than when the story was first drafted twenty-odd years ago.

As to one's ability to watch an action sequence and actually know what's going on - unlike the incomprehensible messes made by films like The Dark Knight and The Bourne Supremacy - this speaks to one of the film's greatest strengths. Film, like the graphic novel, is a visual medium. And Watchmen is visually stunning on almost every level. I can't say that I cared very much for Zack Snyder's last effort, 300 - though its greatest strength was also in its visual story-telling. He uses a few of the same techniques here (like the slow-motion/rapid-advance fight choreography), but much more sparingly. It is the combination of the design, the cinematography, the editing, and the staging that works so very well in bringing the story to the screen. The color scheme of the film also relies heavily on John Higgins' original comic-book palette - the dark reds and purples, the searing cyans, and (of course) the black on bright yellow of the emblematic smiley. Snyder sensibly relies on a lot of the frames from the graphic novel itself and there are numerous individual shots and sequences that are breath-taking, expanding the often workmanlike graphics of Dave Gibbons. Snyder animates the original artwork with an immediacy and attention to detail that brings the story to devastating life. And the capsule history that runs under the opening credits is one of the best visual sequences ever committed to film. (An online copy can be found here - at the moment, anyway - though I'd definitely recommend seeing it in the cinema first, ideally in IMAX.)

Crimebusters

The film does have a few flaws, but none that are overwhelming. I expect there will be complaints about a couple of the performances (though I rather appreciated the fact that there are no star turns and that the telling of the story overshadows the individual characters to an extent) and the central love triangle drags slightly (just as it did in the original), though not enough to make the film feel long - which, at 163 minutes, it could easily have done. But a few of the performances are quite good - particularly Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan (even though the character was largely CGI), and especially Jackie Earle Haley (who seemed to be channeling Clint Eastwood) as Rorschach. Some of the music (much of which is drawn from references in the original novel) seems a little heavy-handed, particularly the My Chemical Romance cover of Dylan's "Desolation Row" that plays - jarringly and unnecessarily - over the closing credits (and which should be cut from the film immediately, if not sooner). But most of the soundtrack is quite effective - and effectively ironic.

The only problem I had with the adaptation was the severe editing of a number of secondary characters: Bernard and Bernie (the newsagent and comics kid), Detectives Fine and Bourquin, Dr. Long (Rorschach's psychiatrist), and so on. Obviously, developing such characters would have added considerably to the running time (and none of them are that interesting of themselves), but they gave the novel something that the film ultimately lacks: a human element. Our sole focus in the film is on the "heroes" (and a few public figures like Nixon and Kissinger), not on any "ordinary" citizens. This removes a certain amount of sympathy for the bulk of humankind, which is under threat from nuclear annihilation, and renders the countdown to Doomsday a little less immediate, weakening the story's sense of urgency.

Moore himself has said, "What Nixon does and what Dr. Manhattan does and what Veidt does - it effects the people on the street corner but only peripherally, indirectly... And yet, in some ways, those people on the street corner, it's their story. They're the people we're concerned about." And they are the people who are missing from the film.

The overriding impression, though, is that of the writer's vision being fiercely realized by an intensely visual director. It had my party sitting in the cinema discussing the film after the final credits finished rolling until the staff had to throw us out - then continuing to discuss it for an hour or so in the parking lot. I expect we'll continue talking about it for weeks to come.

I guess you could say I recommend it. smiley

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wertz
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WHAT A STIFF!
Barack Obama's Faux State of the Union Address was pretty so-so. Remarkable mainly because the rhetoric seemed to appeal equally to Republicans and Democrats. But Bobby Jindal - ! Jesus.

I thought the Boy Governor of Louisiana was supposed to be the GOP's Golden Boy, some sort of Conservative Savior who could walk on water even as it breached levees and lead the Republican Party out of darkness and back into winning elections. Heh - maybe in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Seriously: all he needed was a cardigan. Then again, Jindal's delivery made Fred Rogers look as animated as Tom Cruise on Oprah. Maybe the GOP can get him to do late night infomercials. "(chuckle)" says the teleprompter. "Heh. Heh." says the Boy Governor. Good God.

Bobby

And what was that story about the sheriff and bureaucracy and boats? Has anyone heard that before? I seriously doubt its provenance. If volunteers had turned up with boats to rescue people from the rooftops of flooded New Orleans and had been turned away due to insurance regulations or whatever, don't you think the Republican Party would have made hay of such incidents before now? In any event, Jindal should probably stick to amateur theatrics - if any self-respecting community theater would even hire someone so completely wooden and unspontaneous...


ON EDIT (6:00 am): Ha! And WHAT A LIAR! Didn't see that coming...   roll eyes

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