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Gay Super Bowl LXXXI

Okay, then - time for the predictions and picks. I'll start with the complete guesswork and work my way up to the headline-grabbing awards.



The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany
The Class, France
Departures, Japan
Revanche, Austria
Waltz with Bashir, Israel

Will win: Waltz with Bashir - it's Israeli.

Should win: No clue really (hence the title of this section), but I've heard good things about Departures and Waltz with Bashir - and very good things about The Class. Were all five films playing down the street, I'd probably head for The Class first.


Kung Fu Panda

Will win: WALL-E - it's Disney and Pixar.

Should win: WALL-E. Both it and Kung Fu were pretty good (neither was brilliant), but the Disney flick had that entertainingly prophetic element that I quite liked.


The Betrayal - Nerakhoon
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

Will win: Man on Wire. Trouble the Water has a pretty good chance, too, but I think WTC imagery will trump Katrina footage - though perhaps just barely.

Should win: The only one I've seen is Man on Wire, so Man on Wire.


La Maison En Petits Cubes
Ubornaya istoriya - lyubovnaya istoriya (Lavatory Lovestory)
This Way Up

Will win: Presto. While foreign animations (or, failing that, cel or stop-action animations) usually take this award, this is one of Pixar's best shorts ever, so I think they have a good chance this year.

Should win: On the basis of available clips and so on, I'd probably go with This Way Up.


Auf der Strecke (On The Line)
Manon sur le bitume (Manon on the Asphalt)
New Boy
Grisen (The Pig)
Spielzugland (Toyland)

Will win: Spielzugland. There's less information on this category than just about anything else, but I've seen Spielzugland tipped in a couple of places - including the bookies.

Should win: I have no idea.


The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness From the Balcony of Room 306

Will win: The options are Khmer Rouge, polio, cleft lips, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm guessing that the Obamanation will go with The Witness From the Balcony of Room 306.

Should win: The Conscience of Nhem En looked like the most interesting to me.

Now we enter into somewhat more familiar territory, where I've seen more than one or two of the nominess. In fact, this year, I've managed to see them all (oops - with the single exception of Defiance for score).



The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: Slumdog Millionaire. I'm guessing this will be part of the Slumdog sweep - and the cinematography was pretty impressive.

Should win: Of the nominees, Slumdog Millionaire or maybe Benjamin Button. I'd personally go with In Bruges.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: Gotta go with Slumdog Millionaire again - with The Dark Knight as a dark horse. The Academy has taken a liking to incomprehensible action sequence editing and Dark Knight is a classic of its kind.

Should win: I'd agree with Slumdog Millionaire.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Will win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button covers enough different periods (all of them pretty successfully) and, like the actors, some of the sets also "aged" during the course of the film. Plus there's all that matching of CGI to real sets and locations.

Should win: Changeling had as much CGI integration as Benjamin Button and was, I thought, had a more attractive and detailed look. Both The Dark Knight and (the un-nominated) Iron Man were pretty good, too.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Will win: The Duchess. Oscar likes its costume drama pre-20th century - and loves the 18th century.

Should win: Milk nailed seventies San Francisco - and had a nice "lived in" look that the museum pieces of Revolutionary Road utterly lacked. That said, The Duchess did have some pretty impressive wigs and frocks and it would probably get my vote if everything else about the film hadn't been so desperately horrible. But everything else was desperately horrible - and even a great collection of big hats couldn't turn Kiera Knightley into an actress (talk about lipstick on a pig!), so... Milk.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: Another trophy for Slumdog Millionaire no doubt.

Should win: Of the nominees, I'd probably go with Slumdog, as well. The best score I heard this year, though, was for The Visitor, though Changeling score was pretty effective, too. Vicky Christina Barcelona had the best soundtrack, but little original music.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

Will win: Unless Oscar goes for The Dead Guy's Joker make-up in The Dark Knight, it'll have to be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I think the voters will ultimately go with all of Benjamin Button's prosthetic wrinkles.

Should win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: The Dark Knight. The Academy likes action flicks in the sound categories and Wanted doesn't have any Dead Guys.

Should win: WALL-E or, possibly, Slumdog.


The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: The Dark Knight. The Academy likes action flicks in the sound categories and Wanted doesn't have any Dead Guys.

Should win: WALL-E or, possibly, Iron Man.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Will win: This will be one of the few awards for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Should win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or (the un-nominated) Changeling. Then again, the former did with lead actors people what all the other films mostly did with scenery - and extras.


"Down to Earth", WALL-E
"Jai Ho", Slumdog Millionaire
"O Saya", Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: "Jai Ho". More of the Slumdog sweep here, without getting too cosy with M.I.A.

Should win: "O Saya", which is the better song (though "Jai Ho" does have the better orchestration).



Josh Brolin, Milk
The Dead Guy, The Dark Knight
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Will win: The Dead Guy - 'cause he's The Dead Guy.

Should win: Of the nominess, Josh Brolin. But the Best Supporting Actor of the year was actually Eddie Alderson in Changeling - though Brendan Gleeson deserved a nomination for In Bruges - as did Haaz Sleiman for The Visitor, George Clooney for Burn After Reading, and, possibly, David Suchet for The Bank Job.


Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruise, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Marisa Tomei,The Wrestler
Taraji Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Will win: I think the Academy might actually go with Taraji Henson. She and Viola Davis are the only worthy nominees in this category and there's a chance they'll do the right thing (as well as giving Benjamin Button another award).

Should win: Of the nominees, Taraji Henson - or Viola Davis. I would have liked to have seen a few other worhty nominees in the running, though - like Hiam Abbass or Danai Jekesai Gurira for The Visitor, Frances McDormand for Burn After Reading, Thekla Reuten for In Bruges, or even Patricia Clarkson for Vicky Christina Barcelona. Lena Olin's performance was one of the few good things about The Reader (Bruno Ganz and David Kross being the others), but I wouldn't want that film to win anything.


Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Will win: I'm thinking that the Academy might just get a grip on itself and go with Sean Penn. Despite Mickey Rourke's seeming inevitability, enough people may end up opting for the better performance.

Should win: Of the nominees, I'd be happy with either Frank Langella or Richard Jenkins. I think the omission of Dev Patel (for Slumdog) was a serious oversight, as was Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino and Benicio Del Toro for Che.


Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, The Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Will win: Kate Fucking Winslet.

Should win: The only worthy nominee is Angelina Jolie. It wasn't a great year for female leads, but Frances McDormand's performance in Burn After Reading was better than Winslet's combined performances in Revolutionary Road and The Reader - as was Scarlett Johansson's in Vicky Christina Barcelona.


Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
David Hare, The Reader
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: Slumdog Millionaire. A sweep is a sweep.

Should win: Either Slumdog or Benjamin Button would be okay. Anything but The Reader would be okay.


Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Pete Docter, WALL-E

Will win: Probably Milk.

Should win: In Bruges. Absolutely.


David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: Danny Boyle.

Should win: Danny Boyle isn't the worst choice (though Slumdog is hardly his best film) - and the same would go for Gus Van Sant. Stephen Soderberg should be in there for Che (assuming its opening in the New York film festival counts as a 2008 release), but I might actually have gone with Martin McDonagh for In Bruges. Meh - Danny Boyle will work for me.


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Will win: Slumdog Millionaire

Should win: Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are the best nominees. It would've been nice to have seen Che and In Bruges and The Visitor in the running, but... Welcome to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

humour: working obsessive

2 others have so why not generate commentary

Gay Super Bowl LXXXI

Yes, it's that time of year again. For the first time in quite a few years, I have actually seen every feature film nominee in every category (excluding foreign language and documentary), so I'll know exactly how disappointed I should be by the winners (and some of the nominees).

As I haven't posted on many films (or much of anything else) recently, I thought I'd take a look at the top nominated flicks before putting forward my predictions and preferences.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (13 nominations): This is probably the most over-produced chick flick in cinema history, but it works pretty well. It is shamelessly sentimental and manipulative, but the premise of the story gives about three dozen narrative clichés a slightly different spin - better, stronger, faster manipulation. It is also extremely well-executed and its technical and design awards are no surprise. To me, a Best Picture should excel in almost every area - acting, writing, directing, editing, soundtrack, design - and Benjamin Button manages to do so. Brad Pitt doesn't stand much of a chance at taking the Best Actor award (he's not bad, but about half of his performance is computer-generated, which will probably count against him), but if Penelope Cruz doesn't win the Supporting Actress award for - wow! - speaking in her native tongue and "acting crazy", then it should go to Taraji P. Henson for Benjamin Button, who managed to out-perform her make-up (which Cate Blanchett didn't quite manage). Apart from Visual Effects, though, it will probably lose most of its technical and design nominations to Slumdog Millionaire or something idiotic like The Duchess. It'll most likely lose the Adapted Screenplay honor, as well, which it probably deserves for effectively exploiting its gimmick (and expanding the original source considerably and successfully).

Slumdog Millionaire (10 nominations): This film is pretty successful on just about every level, even if the feel-good script is a tad predictable (though making an upbeat film involving sectarian violence, torture, corruption, murder, and dire poverty is no small achievement, either). The framing device is clever enough, but otherwise it's really the direction, editing, sound, and cinematography (all of which are brilliant) that made the film. The performances are quite good as well, but they're all foreigners and only foreigners played by Brits deserve recognition by the Academy. Hollywood might be ready to give their highest honor to a film in which the protagonists are Muslim - and it has a good chance of a sweep with screenplay, directing, and a handful of technical awards. That said, I don't know if I would consider it the best film of the year - and it's certainly not Danny Boyle's best film (that would still be Trainspotting, with Millions a close second; in fact, I'd probably put Sunshine and Shallow Grave ahead of Slumdog, as well, but with the Academy, you take what you can get.)

Milk (8 nominations): I enjoyed Milk while I was watching it, but I'm afraid I've forgotten it almost in its entirety. I remember the script being pretty decent, as well as the design, but I didn't really think the actors had that much to do, all things considered. I don't know, it just struck me as being a bit bloodless: it never manages to be very engaging. I was a bit surprised to find that, by the end of the film, it hadn't moved me in the least. It certainly captures the spirit of the time (the gay movement was always a bit flightier on the west coast than in New York - I was in San Francisco for most of 1976 and in New York on either side, so I know whereof I speak), so I had a nostalgia sort of thing going on, but even that wasn't really involving. Penn and Brolin are both quite good with the undemanding script, James Franco is fetching, and I understand Emile Hersch was in it. Meh - The Times of Harvey Milk tells his story much better and, overall, is a superior piece of film-making. I won't mind if Milk wins any awards, but I'll be a bit surprised. Sean Penn's work is unquestionably superior to Mickey Rourke's in The Wrestler (though not quite as good as Frank Langella's more demanding political impersonation), but Rourke may still get the sympathy vote for having overcome Hollywood's biggest nightmare: aging badly.

The Dark Knight (8 nominations): This is quite possibly the most overrated film of the 21st century. Were it not for Heath Ledger's death, I doubt the Academy would even have remembered the film by the time nomination season rolled around - except, maybe, for Visual Effects or Sound Editing. The script is so humorlessly awestruck with itself that it appears to have been written by a middle-brow teenage Goth with delusions of significance. The sententious screenplay would be easier to overlook if the visual story-telling weren't so murky, chaotic, illogical, and trite. The cinematography and design are excellent, but too much is lost in the MTV editing and the relentless action movie soundtrack. The cast is decent, though the much-hyped Dead Guy is one of the weaker links: good enough in the quiet menace department (most of which is achieved by the make-up), but otherwise ridiculously mannered and inorganic. Give me Jack Nicholson's Joker any day.

WALL-E (6 nominations): Another Pixar triumph, if not their best. WALL-E is great visual story-telling, with very little dialogue. It's a bit obvious as cautionary environmental tales go, but I thought that its depiction of life off Earth, with its fat, over-indulged humans in a world run by a monolithic corporation-turned-government made for the most prophetic film I've seen since Idiocracy. Otherwise, it's fairly typical Disney fare, but it's apparently been enraging wigngnuts across the country (Jonah Goldberg apparently finds it another example of "liberal fascism"), so that's another plus. All in all, though, I think I had a better time watching Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Cars. I doubt it stands much chance of winning its music, sound, and screenplay nominations.

Doubt (5 nominations): I'm afraid I found this effort rather shallow and silly, though it does give new meaning to the word "melodrama". Viola Davis is quite good during her few minutes on screen. Meryl Streep, though, is hilarious. My God, can that woman chew scenery - though she often manages to do so while under-playing (though not always, by any means). Amy Adams is so unidimensionally sweet and innocent that she would make Streep's performance in Mamma Mia! look like Margaret Hamilton on meth. I've never been a Philip Seymour Hoffman fan and this film did nothing to habilitate him, in my mind. I have no idea, though, why he was nominated as a Supporting Actor. He has about as many scenes as Streep - plus three sermons.

Frost/Nixon (5 nominations): Unsurprisingly stage-bound and surprisingly flat, I blame Opie the Auteur for not allowing any of the story's potential sparks to ignite. That said, Frank Langella managed to rise above both the screenplay and the direction to deliver one of the finest performances of the year. Anyone who can make Richard Nixon seem even momentarily sympathetic, without losing the bland evil of the man deserves some kind of award. I quite like Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon - and Michael Sheen is okay - but none of them survived the treatment. Langella's nomination was no surprise, but this thing is in on screenplay and editing awards? Please.

The Reader (5 nominations): Oscar loves Nazi pictures, so I suppose it was inevitable that The Reader would appear in the Academy's shortlist. But a naked Nazi with child-bearing hips that would have astonished Rubens? Kate Winslet is a shoo-in. I was very moved by Lena Olin's performance, but the sympathetic manipulation in writing the Winslet character (and in her convincing performance) made me want to take a shower - and kick in the teeth of writers Bernhard Schlink and David Hare. SS guards in prison camps were not hapless working girls trying to eek out a decent wage in the Weimar Republic - they were die-hard party loyalists who bought into the ideology with a vengeance. Inventing such a blatantly revisionist character is both immoral and irresponsible, no matter how much pathos results. This is a film that should never have been made - never mind honored. Ah, well - at least the Winslet character has the "redeeming value" of starting an affair with a fifteen-year-old boy after her death camp career.

Changeling (3 nominations): This is a great little film, with a nice balance of character study, horror, and procedural drama - and it probably has the best ensemble cast of the year. Angelina Jolie is very good (and dominates the picture), but the supporting cast is uniformly excellent - including John Malkovich, Michael Kelly, Jeffrey Donovan, Jason Butler Harner, and a stunning performance by fourteen-year-old Eddie Alderson as the killer's unwitting accomplice (and the real Best Supporting Actor of the year). It also has great period design and visual effects, atmospheric cinematography, and one of Clint Eastwood's most evocative scores. His direction is pretty good as well (no surprise), though the pacing is little off in the last third of the film, once it appears that most of the story has been resolved.

Revolutionary Road (3 nominations): Whoa - people in the suburbs are angry and depressed - what a revelation! Ugh - what a waste of time, energy, and money this piece of shit is. The best that can be said of the film is that it has decent, if antiseptic, period detail - with a few glaring anachronisms like smoke detectors, modular phone jacks, and three-prong electrical outlets. I have no idea why it took decades to get this film made - or why anyone [i]spent[/i] decades pursuing the rights and a script. Sorry, but I'm sick to death of middle-class angst - and this thing is nothing but. Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio take turns gnawing on the furniture and after what feels like several weeks of enduring their histrionics, Winslett does us all a favor by dying. Revolutionary Road? More like Pedestrian Crosswalk.

The Duchess (2 nominations): This is like Revolutionary Road in 18th century drag - which makes it upper-class angst. No one even has the good grace to die in this pointless exercise. It tells the story of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire - up to the point when her life actually started getting interesting. [i]Huh?[/i]How that Knightley chick keeps getting work is utterly beyond me. She makes Tori Spelling look like Judi Dench. And, trust me, she's no better in a four-foot wig. Someone should please kill her now and spare motion picture history another frame of celluloid spoiled by her inconsiderable talents. I'm told that many find her beautiful and I would, therefore, recommend that she just do porn - but she's probably not even a good fuck. Oscar loves costume drama, though, and this abomination has big hair, big hats, and big hips in abundance, so it'll probably walk away with the Costume honors. Sad, sad, sad.

Frozen River (2 nominations): If Slumdog sweeps the awards, as it well may, this could be the year of poverty porn - and Frozen River would fit right in. Unlike the Danny Boyle film, though, this offering remains mired in gritty realism - almost as gritty as The Wrestler, if vastly more interesting. I must admit, though, that I'm really weary of American Realism and, apart from a glimpse of reservation life (even if it has to be through the experience of Anglo characters), this film has little else to offer. And, I'm sorry, allowing oneself to look haggard does not constitute Great Acting. Melissa Leo is fine, but there's not much to the performance. Still, it's good to see some lesser-known actresses (and independent films) getting a glimpse of the limelight, so I don't begrudge her the nomination.

Iron Man (2 nominations): This film is a thoroughly enjoyable (despite some questionable politics) and Robert Downey, Jr., is a real hoot, but it's only nominated for Sounds Editing and Visual Effects, neither of which it has a chance of winning, so who cares, right?

Wanted (2 nominations): Not quite as enjoyable as Iron Man, with James McEvoy instead of Robert Downey, Jr., and two sound nominations, so really who cares?

The Wrestler (2 nominations): Bleagh. More gritty realism serving no discernible purpose whatsoever. I thought (hoped?) this sort of thing had gone out with Clifford Odets. Touted as Mickey Rourke's "comeback film" (which I thought was Sin City - or Spun - or Buffalo 66), this thing begs the question: comeback from what? Bad career decisions? I mean, when the hell did he go away? But the "comeback" meme seems to have taken hold and was enough to garner him an undeserved Golden Globe, so it may work for Oscar, as well. He's not bad in the film, but the performance is nothing to write home about. Neither is Marisa Tomei's. And the direction is just appalling, making very little of a pretty lousy script. For some reason, Darren Aronofsky has the camera follow Rourke around for about 60% of the film (literally - the cameraman walks about four paces behind Rourke for shot after shot after shot like some deranged stalker with a bad hair fetish). We see more of the back of Rourke's straggly, bleached-blond head (which, granted, is more becoming than his face) than anything else in the movie - even Marisa Tomei's thong. It's just [i]weird[/i].

Happy-Go-Lucky (1 nomination): Mike Leigh's worst film ever was deservedly overlooked by the Academy, with the exception of - wait for it - a screenplay nomination. Um... Oscar? This is Mike Leigh we're talking about. You know, the director who has his actors improvise the characters, their dialogue, and the storyline? Who himself works out only the sketchiest scenario before work begins on the film? Meaning... there is no screenplay. Anyway, Leigh has come up with some terrific films using this process - Life Is Sweet, Naked, Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake. But Happy-Go-Lucky is not one of them. Totally not one of them. And his relentlessly optimistic Sally Hawkins is no Amélie Poulain. She is far more grating than ingratiating and is as charmless as cold sore. Being a Mike Leigh film, it does have some good performances and some effectively poignant moments (if far fewer than usual), but overall, I just found it off-putting.

In Bruges (1 nomination): Working with the best screenplay of the year, Martin McDonagh created the Best Picture of the year with several of the Best Actors of the year - notably, but not limited to, Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleason, Clémence Poésy, Ralph Fiennes, and Thekla Reuten - with gorgeous cinematography by Eigil Bryld, terrific editing by Jon Gregory, and a great score by Carter Burwell. Naturally, the Academy virtually ignored the film - apart from a single nomination for McDonagh's thoughtful, darkly comic, moving, suspenseful, and exhilarating screenplay - which probably won't win. Yay, Oscars!

Rachel Getting Married (1 nomination): Can we all chip in a buy the independent film industry a fucking tripod? If I see one more pointlessly hand-held shot in anything, I may start screaming. Yo, directing community: jerky-cam shots do not make your film edgier or more immediate or more realistic or psychologically incisive or more energetic - or more "independent"; they make it fucking hard to watch. Seriously, after Frozen River and The Wrestler, I was ready to invest in a dolly to loan, free of charge, to any independent filmmaker in dire need of a stable frame. After this excruciating film, I was ready to invest in a shotgun - to loan, free of charge, to any borderline psychotics with a fixation on independent film-makers.

But I digress. Anne Hathaway is nominated for playing the world's most irritating addict in recovery - which the actress somehow manages to overstate. Screenwriter Jenny Lumet (whose father, director Sidney Lumet, clearly sucked up all the family talent) should be drawn and quartered. Seriously. It is bad enough to sit through a wedding rehearsal, a rehearsal dinner, a wedding ceremony, and a reception in real life. Quite bad enough. It can be even worse sitting through one's home videos of the same events. It is geometrically worse to have to sit through someone else's home videos of such events - especially if the family in question is thoroughly uninteresting, mundanely unpleasant, unnecessarily shrill, and ridiculously self-involved. Rachel Getting Married is NOTHING more than what I've just described - except you have to pay money for it. (Actually, the in-laws in the film seem decent enough, but that just makes the more central characters more unbearable.) Tolstoy was probably correct in asserting that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. It's just that some unhappy families also manage to be both inconceivably annoying and unutterably boring. I kept praying that the film would end with a neutron bomb. Tragically, it doesn't.

Tropic Thunder (1 nomination): A half-step up from a Farrelly brothers movie, this sporadically entertaining flick somehow managed to attract a far better cast than it deserved - and Tom Cruise. How the Academy decided on Robert Downey, Jr.'s questionable performance in a year in which many amazing supporting roles have gone unappreciated is as baffling to me as a director casting Keira Knightley in anything (with the possible exception of zombie porn).

Vicky Christina Barcelona (1 nomination): A relatively okay film by recent Woody Allen standards, though still pretty far from his best work (Annie Hall through Husbands and Wives). The often quite good Penelope Cruz somehow got a nomination for turning in a performance that would not have looked out of place in a Telemundo serial. And she could well win. Go figure. The rest of the cast, especially the excellent Scarlett Johansson and the persistently under-appreciated Patricia Clarkson, is much better (though it must be admitted that the Cruz character suffers from the thinnest writing). The photography is quite good and the locations are stunning. It also has a terrific score by a variety of Spanish artists. The writing and direction are among Allen's best in the past fifteen years. If a win for Cruz means more people will watch his films, more power to her.

The Visitor (1 nomination): A nice, effective little drama with a fine, understated performance from Richard Jenkins and an equally compelling supporting cast (Haaz Sleiman and Hiam Abbass are terrific). It has an economic screenplay with well-drawn characters in engaging relationships and a narrative that touches on a number of social and political issues without even approaching the preachy or polemic. it's altogether excellent - and you will never hear of it again.

So that's the laundry done. I'll be back with my actual picks shortly...

humour: cranky critical

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Okay, I'm not a big fan of winter at the best of times - and this sort of thing certainly doesn't help:

Sean and I were heading out of the village to do some errands around 4:00. The mid-day snow had turned to sleet and as I was rounding a bend about half a mile from home, the car started to skid. Now, I'd been taught in driver's ed eons ago that if you're in a skid situation, you should turn the wheel in the direction of the skid and avoid slamming on the brakes. So I turned the wheel in the direction of the skid and tapped the brake lightly and released. Unfortunately, the direction of the skid was also the direction of a steep limestone embankment, which we skidded into at about 35mph - which was enough to raise the front of the car and roll us over.

Very fortunately, there don't seem to be any serious injuries. Sean escaped pretty unscathed and I had a gash on the top of my head and a few abrasions from flying glass. Even more fortunately, the village (which has a population of less than 100) has two EMTs associated with the local volunteer fire department and one of them was on hand within about two minutes of our 911 call - and the other seconds later. The emergency vehicles were there within about fifteen minutes, despite the fact that the nearest station is five miles away over icy country roads.

An ambulance arrived shortly thereafter and brought me to the nearest hospital (about thirteen miles away) where I was the not-so-happy recipient of several x-rays, a CT scan, some "wound irrigation" (like I want the wound to grow?), and a dozen staples through my scalp. Some serious chest soreness is setting in from where the seat-belt kept me from flying around the interior of the car (or worse) and I'm sure we'll both have our share of aches and pains emerging by morning, but otherwise we were pretty lucky.

I'm guessing that the car is totaled (heh, I'm not even sure where it was towed yet) and I lost my glasses somewhere during the course of the accident, but that's all relatively unimportant.

Nevertheless, this winter has been extremely irritating: ice storms, 80mph winds, heating oil running out, frozen pipes, dead truck batteries, pine trees and roadsigns blowing over, and now - yay! - a demolished car. it's about time this season came to an end.

I blame the freakin' groundhog.

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humour: sore sore

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Three articles in Haaretz indicate the first signs of real change under President Obama: U.S. fends off Israeli pressure, decides to help plan 'Durban 2', U.S. expected to pressure Israel on settlement construction, and Slow Obama stance on Iran nukes worries Israel.

The most promising news is that, if the terrorist Avigdor Lieberman gets a cabinet position in the new Israeli government, he may be denied a US visa. Or does this just mean that Obama would treble his chances of being assassinated?

humour: hopeful hopeful

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Cheeto    Cheeto

Cheeto is the new addition to the household (Code Name: Mr. Adorable). Photo evidence notwithstanding, he's actually quite active. Make that "wired". He's also pretty tiny for a cat pushing six months. He was found here in the village (along with three siblings, but no mother) a few months ago and we took him in in mid-December and I finally got around to transferring a few of his first pics.

He has also altered the balance in the cat dynamics here somewhat. The previously rather skittish and submissive Xerox has bonded with New Cat and they've developed something of an incestuously fraternal relationship.

Cheeto    Cheeto

Toyota, on the other hand (who has always got along much better with people than with other cats) remains a bit of a prima donna (and does not approve of a third cat), but is much less apt to bully Xerox. And she's even more affectionate with the humans in her territory.


Elsewhere... Friday 13th was celebrated for us by the high winds here toppling one of our sixty-foot pine trees and at least two of the cave's roadsigns, the pick-up truck battery giving up the ghost, and our heating oil running out. Yee-hee!

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humour: geeky geeky

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Betty White

humour: bouncy entertained

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I am sick to death of hearing about Barack Obama's "team of rivals". Sure, it's good for the sale of Doris Kearns Goodwin's seriously flawed account of the Lincoln presidency, but it is otherwise devoid of meaning. While pleading on behalf of Joe the Lieberman - who should have lost his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee not out of retribution for being a party traitor, but because of his rank incompetence in the position - and reaching across the aisle not to smack John McCain across the face for waging one of the dirtiest political campaigns in recent memory (worse even than Obama's primary campaign), but to embrace the aging asshole, he is apparently adding the completely imneffectual Tom Daschle to presumed Cabinet choices that already include Hillary Clinton.

Team of rivals? More like team of LOSERS. Who next? Dennis Kucinich? Michael Dukakis? Walter Mondale? George McGovern? I guess we're supposed to take comfort in the fact that the the "candidate of change" is giving us a bunch of tired old faces that have been blotting the landscape of the nation's capital for decades.

Now, when do we start bombing Iran?

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humour: disappointed disappointed

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Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

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humour: bouncy highly entertained

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From John Amato at Crooks and Liars:

Thanks for the memories, but you were all completely "Irrelevant" during the historic victory that Barack Obama achieved during 2008 Presidential election. All your smears failed to change the course of history.





















Kudos to all. Thanks to you, conservatism itself is now ... irrelevant.

Heh - if only it were true...

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humour: amused momentarily amused

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Congratulations, America - if nothing else, Florida and Ohio have redeemed themselves!

McCain's concession speech was the best thing he's done this year. Very classy. And, hopefully, that's the last we'll see of Sarah Palin for a while.

Anyway, congrats as well to all Obama supporters!

humour: content encouraged

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Sean and I got in from New York about an hour ago, voting en route. So I thought this might be a good time to post my two favorite campaign signs of the season - both posted within about five miles from the homestead here (and both posted without irony):

Damn Kids!


If you haven't, get out and vote. Vote for the corporate shill of your choice, but VOTE!

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humour: anxious anxious

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Last January, the Lord spoke to Cindy Jacobs. I'm not making this up. "Cindy," he said, "the strongman over America doesn’t live in Washington, DC – the strongman lives in New York City! Call My people to pray for the economy. October 29 was Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed, and Satan wants to do it again." According to CBN, "many intercessors began to hear from the Lord that without divine intervention, a major shaking was coming to Wall Street" - so Cindy isn't the only Christian psychotic who has their ear. In early August, God again spoke to Cindy, proving that, if nothing else, He has no taste in women:

This time, he said, "There will be no more business as usual." Reading between God's lines in the wake of the stock market's plummet on September 29, Ms. Jacobs extrapolated, "This is so severe in the economic area because we are facing judgment from the actions, not only for our stance towards Israel, but our blatant sin against Him in passing laws such as the one allowing homosexual marriages." So this demonstrates that God also has kinda fucked up priorities - though, at least, he knows what's important to CBN listeners.

Cindy did what any good Christian nutbag would do. She organized a pray-in to save western capitalism - 'cause, you know, that's what God is all about and stuff. "We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion’s Market,' or God’s control over the economic systems. While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble."

That's right: Cindy's solution to God's judgment for our worship of Mammon was... to go and pray to a Golden Calf. You can't make this shit up. Here they are:

And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, "Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him."

And Aaron said unto them, "Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me." And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."

And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation, and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD." And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

And the LORD said unto Moses, "Go, get thee down; for thy people, which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.'"

And the LORD said unto Moses, "I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation."

And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said, "LORD, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?" And the LORD said unto Moses, "Because they fucking piss me off with this kind of bullshit."

I just hope Moses comes down from Sinai soon - and smashes the Ten Commandments in these douchebags' faces.

humour: confused confused

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Apparently, having moved to bitter central Pennsylvania has taken its toll. First, Sean and I became Clinton supporters, kinda by default - which was clearly bad enough for some LJ Obamaphiles to consider us fascists. But it's only been getting worse since.

A couple of months ago, a flyer was left in our mailbox for cleaning services. We decided to hire the cleaning woman in question to come in once a week and clean the public areas of the Lodge House and the Visitor's Center at the cave. As it turns out, Cybele married a local man, but is originally from Brasilia. So we now have a Hispanic domestic: we have arrived! Unfortunately, she is a legal immigrant who became a citizen and, technically, is of Portuguese descent, but close enough for us to be considered Republican so far as I'm concerned.

But it's not all up-market Republicanism that has taken root in our lives. A few weeks ago, our clothes dryer died and we've only managed to get it as far as the front porch. Combined with the pick-up truck that has been sitting idle in the yard since it's brakes gave out, all we need is a few chickens or a hog rooting in the garden to fit right in with the reddest of necks.

So when do we get to start bonking Congressional pages?

humour: worried worried

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clipped from www.neilyoung.com
(This shocking account was written by Ana Dubey, who has a PhD in psychology and has a private practice in San Francisco. Ana's husband is currently a Managing Director of a private equity firm in the Bay Area. Ana and her husband are not political activists and don't have any personal ax to grind. In fact, in writing this account of her experience with John McCain, Ana is acting outside of her own economic self-interest as she and her husband are among the top 3-5% of our population who would benefit from the McCain tax/economic policies.)

It was just before John McCain's last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).

It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately. He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was "if he likes this so much, why hasn't he memorized any of this yet?" I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his "readings" which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people's buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn't meet up to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight. McCain's appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: "Oh, that was Cindy's idea - I didn't have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can't imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona. No, it wasn't my idea at all."

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, "If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson." Given McCain's personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII - but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn't seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn't be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, "Don't you know who I am." I looked him in the face and said, "Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met" and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain's bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story. I can't imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.
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humour: disappointed shocked, but not amazed

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All this nonsense about Obama slandering Palin by continuing to use the "lipstick on a pig" bit of his stump speech that he's been using for months now is ridiculous. What - just because Palin also used the word "lipstick" once? Puh-lease. Obama remains a hypocrite and an asshole, but trying to play this as a sexist remark on his part is an absurd, if typical ploy, on the part of the GOP. Count on the mainstream media to run with it, though.

For what it's worth, Sarah Palin is a pig - but it has nothing to do with gender.

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humour: annoyed annoyed

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humour: pessimistic pessimistic

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Browse your friends pages for five minutes and look what happens. Okay, I got tagged...

1. Put Your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
4. Put any comments in brackets after the song name.
5. Put this on your journal and tag five of your friends.

1.If someone says, "Is this okay?" you say what?

"The Good Times Are Killing Me" - Modest Mouse
(If the "this" is this meme, the response is deeply ironic)

2.How would you describe yourself?

"Squalor Victoria" - The National
(Hmmn - "I'm a professional in my beloved white shirt"? More like "I'm going down among the saints")

3.What do you like in a guy?

"All My Friends" - LCD Soundsystem
(Uh, that means I'm generous?)

4.How do you feel today?

"DARE" - The Gorillaz
(Don't quite know what to make of that)

5.What is your life's purpose?

"Chasing Cars" - Snow Patrol
(Not sure what to make of that either)

6.What is your motto?

"Golden Years" - David Bowie
("Never look back, walk tall, act fine" or "Run for the shadows"?)

7.What do your friends think of you?

"London Calling" - The Clash
(Don't know what to do with that one)

8.What do you think of your parents?

"So In Love" - k.d. lang
(That works, I guess)

9.What do you think about very often?

"Cool Waves" - Spiritualized
(Actually, no - I seldom even think of warm waves)

10.What is 2 + 2?

"This Is Not a Test" - Oppenheimer
(Ah ha ha ha ha!)

11.What do you think of your best friend?

"Everything Will Be All Right" - The Killers
(Depends on the best friend)

12.What do you think of the person you like?

"Time and Love" - Laura Nyro
(Yeah, okay)

13.What is your life story?

"Neon Bible" - Arcade Fire
("A vial of hope and a vial of pain, In the light they both looked the same" - sounds more like an Obama campaign slogan)

14.What do you want to be when you grow up?

"Independence Day - David Byrne
("We'll be lovers in the open, We'll be lovers on Independence Day")

15.What do you think of when you see the person you like?

"Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" - The Eurythmics

16.What will you dance to at your wedding?

"Every Breath You Take" - The Police
(Ha! Possessive much?)

17.What will they play at your funeral?

"It Doesn't Matter Anymore" - Hall & Oates
(That pretty much fits)

18.What is your hobby/interest?

"Square One" - Coldplay
(Board games??)

19.What is your biggest fear?

"Your Racist Friend" - They Might Be Giants
(Well, that works)

20.What is your biggest secret?

"American Tune" - Paul Simon
("I don't know a soul who's not been battered, I don't have a friend who feels at ease, I don't know a dream that's not been shattered, or driven to its knees" - not much of a secret)

21.What do you think of your friends?

"Mushaboom" - Feist
("we'll collect the moments one by one I guess that's how the future's done"

22.What will you post this as?

"From Here We Go Sublime" - The Field
(And so I have)

That's it? We couldn't go to 23 or 25 - or stop at 20? 22 is one of the dopiest numbers ever. Sorta like this meme - though some of it kinda fit (if you look beyond the titles). And, no, I'm not tagging anyone. But if you wanna do this thing, I'm not stopping you.

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humour: cranky cranky

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I've enjoyed reading Susan Faludi over the years - Stiffed was excellent and, while I found Backlash a bit less convincing, it was still pretty stimulating and well argued. To me, she is one of the best "post-feminist" writers going (and a helluva lot more credible - and readable - than a shrill, if articulate, harpy like Camille Paglia). So it was with keen interest that I read her op-ed piece on Hillary Clinton in the New York Times yesterday.

Again, I don't agree with her thesis entirely, but her argument that Clinton has gained ground among working class white males because she has overcome a number of gender stereotypes (notably through her recent pugnacity) seems to have some merit. It could be that what the powdered faces of MSNBC's talking heads find so distasteful in Clinton is exactly what many American men find appealing about the candidate. The piece is well worth a read.

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humour: thoughtful thoughtful

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So I was sitting at the computer last night - around 2am or so - and heard a loud, rattling thump. My computer sits facing the dining room over a small room divider. There's a door from the dining room onto a small, screened in back porch - and a screen door to the back yard. The noise seemed to have come from outside the porch.

Anyway, it was loud enough to arouse both cats: Toyota had been dozing on the back of my chair and Xerox was under a chair a few feet away. When there was a second thump a few seconds later, both cats started growling, ran to the dining room and began stalking the door to the porch. This was followed by more rattling and banging and what sounded like scratching. I assumed something was trying to get in through the screen door from the yard to the porch - and my first assumption was that it was some other village cat.

But the thumping (against the door?) sounded a bit heavy for a cat, so my next thought was that it might be a raccoon trying to get to the bag of rubbish that was sitting on the porch. Anyway, the noise subsided and, while Toyota remained on a windowsill overlooking the back yard, Xerox wandered back to his place under the chair.

About five minutes later, though, the rattling and scratching started up again - a bit louder. Both cats were back on the scene, growling and fluffing up their tails. Then there were a couple of loud bangs, followed by some clattering and a few more loud thumps. I repaired to the bedroom to let Sean know that I thought a bear might be trying to get to the garbage bag on the back porch. A few years ago, a bear had come into the yard fairly regularly when a large garbage can had been kept outside the house. It would periodically toss the lid aside and tear apart the garbage bag inside, scattering rubbish all over the yard.

I must admit I was a bit spooked - as I suppose we're meant to be by things that go bump in the night - and was a bit goose bumpy by the time I got back to the bedroom to wake Sean.

"What? Why do you think it's a bear? Did you see anything?"

"No, but it sounds too large for a small animal."

"What sounds large?"

"The thumping and rattling. Like bigger than a possum or a fox. It's not a person because Xerox didn't hide [he hides behind the television when people approach the house] - he's right there with Toyota making cat noises at the back door."

"So what do you want me to do?"

"I don't know."

"Come to bed, then."

"With a bear or something out there?"

"It can't get in the house, can it?"

"It could if it's a zombie."

"It's not a zombie."

"How do you know?"

"Come to bed."

"I left all the lights and stuff on out there."

"Then go turn them off."


"Oh, all right."

By the time we got back to the dining room, the noises had subsided, but the cats were still a bit agitated. We turned off the lights and went to bed. "I guess it wasn't a zombie."


"They tend to be more persistent."

This morning, I investigated. The back door to the yard had, indeed, been attacked. In fact, the screen in the top half of the door had been replaced with glass for the winter - and the glass and most of the frame had been knocked into the back porch. The door is up a step, so the top panel is about four feet from the ground. As it turns out, it was a plexiglass panel, but it had been broken into three pieces nevertheless. The frame on the door was also slightly bent.

The weird thing, though, was that there were no scratches on the door (or anything else): the lower panel and frame are aluminum, painted white, and would be easily marked. The scratching I'd heard sounded like something scratching at a screen, but the only screen on the porch at the moment is on the inside door, right outside the dining room. There was one hair on the door frame below the punched out panel - black with a gray tip, slightly wavy, and about three inches long - not very coarse.

For some reason I was reminded of the Pennsylvania Creature that had been spotted in Westmoreland County back in the seventies. It was supposed to be a Marked Hominid, a slightly smaller relative of the Sasquatch. Anyway, night has fallen. We'll see if there's a return visit. Meanwhile, any thoughts?

Was this most likely...

a powerful stray cat
a hefty, leaping racoon
a manicured bear
a marked hominid (the Pennsylvania Creature)
a zombie lacking tenacity

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humour: nervous uneasy

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It's official: Barry Obama and Jerry Wright are no longer BFFs.

I was really afraid that Obama might throw Rev. Wright under the bus, but no. All he said was that he was "outraged" and "saddened" over the "spectacle" of Wright's "performance" over the past few days, that Wright is "divisive and destructive," that he gives "comfort to those that prey on hate," and that there are now "no excuses" for the all the things Wright said prior to The Greatest Speech Tongue Has Ever Uttered (Obama's facile speech on race a few weeks ago, in case you missed the address that left Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglas, Henry Clay, Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Chief Joseph, William Jennings Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Mother Jones, Woodrow Wilson, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Clarence Darrow, Al Smith, Franklin Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, Earl Warren, Adlai Stevenson, Barbara Jordan, Ronald Reagan, Thurgood Marshall, Bill Clinton, and Elie Weisel choking in St. Obama's dust).

So, no: Obama didn't throw Wright under the bus - he shoved him in front of a fucking subway train - and an express train at that.

But what we should all be asking ourselves is why? Why now? What has Rev. Wright said in the last three days that he hadn't said previously - and perhaps continuously - over the past twenty years? Easy. He's said one new thing - and one new thing only: Barack Obama is a politician. He "says what he has to say as a politician" and "does what politicians do" - or, as Obama paraphrased him, Wright suggested that the senator's "values and beliefs" - the lifetime that he has selflessly devoted to giving speeches - was nothing more than "political posturing". Now that is an unpardonable sin.

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humour: nauseated nauseated

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