Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In fairness, Brittanya attacked that woman with a "pimp cup" BEFORE she went to Charm School

You will remember, if you watch VH1 reality shows, that Brittanya, star of "Rock of Love Bus," (where she might or might not have slept with Bret Michaels), and "I Love Money 4" (where she might or might not have slept with Chi Chi, 20 Pack, and Punisher), had to leave "Charm School with Ricki Lake" for a day to appear in court because she was facing a year in prison on an assault charge.

TMZ is reporting that the tattooed sweetie is now going to jail for six months.
One of the chicks Bret Michaels dissed on "Rock of Love Bus" has just begun a 6-month stint behind bars for unleashing a bloody attack on another woman with a pimp chalice ... TMZ has learned.

25-year-old Brittanya O'Campo checked into Ventura County Jail in California yesterday ... after pleading guilty to felony assault with a deadly weapon and misdemeanor battery for an incident back in 2008.

Law enforcement sources tell us the deadly weapon was a "pimp cup" -- à la Lil' Jon.
During Brittanya's Charm School stay, the show was cagey about what charges she was facing. They mentioned something about a smackdown, or something like that, but it must have been serious if she was sentenced to six months in jail in Southern California.

They need the space in Southern California jails. And they need the money. If you get six months, you did some real damage, and somebody is afraid of you. (Now, whether she actually serves all that time is another question.)

But six months. Yeesh.

And VH1 and 51 Minds still cast Brittanya in "I Love Money 4," even after she'd been charged.

Yeesh, again.

I refuse to believe that a woman who is this physically attractive could be capable of violence. Even though I saw her behave violently on reality shows, you know those things are edited to make the participants look worse than they really are.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What does Oprah Winfrey really think of the American public?

Recently, television talk show host Oprah Winfrey was alleged to have uttered the following statement:
I believe in the intelligence of the American public.
Not that it matters,  but she was answering a question about whether the thought of Sarah Palin running for president "scares her." The full sentence:
It does not scare me because I believe in the intelligence of the American public.
The full sentence doesn't matter, and neither does the subject. It's the last nine words that are important:
I believe in the intelligence of the American public.
Is there anyone in history who has amassed more wealth, fame, and power for herself by betting on the less intelligent instincts of the American public than Ms. Winfrey? Her record of betting against the intelligence of the American public, of appealing to the American public's more base instincts, and exploiting our collective lack of critical thinking skills is astonishing. This is a woman who had on her show a man named Eddie Compass, who was the chief of police in New Orleans, Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina hit. He told her,

He is especially disturbed by what he saw inside the Superdome. The horrors there will haunt him the rest of his life. "We had little babies in there, little babies getting raped," he says. "You know how frustrating it is to be the Chief of Police knowing inside these things are being done and you don't have enough manpower to go in there?"
Happily, that wasn't true.
By Sept. 6, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" aired interviews with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and police Chief Eddie Compass, who repeated accounts of utter depredation as fact, from which they would later backpedal. The show also featured correspondent Lisa Ling talking to unidentified evacuees who had fled to nearby Metairie, La.; they told Ling there were shootings inside the Superdome and dead bodies on the ground. "There were boys waiting in the bathroom for the children," one unidentified woman said, "and they'd have -- they raped the children, have sex with them. One of the girls they raped, then they killed her."

But according to members of the Louisiana National Guard who were present at the Superdome throughout the crisis, none of these atrocities was verified to have taken place.
Yet Mr. Compass's comments are still presented on Ms. Winfrey's website, unchallenged.

Catastrophe + despicable stories of unimaginable tragedy = ratings gold. Ms. Winfrey wasn't appealing to Americans' intelligence with this story. She was appealing to something much more base and sinister.

Ms. Winfrey also infamously publicized the urban legend "Rainbow Parties" as if they were an actual phenomenon.
The rainbow party was publicized in October 2003 on the episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show entitled "Is Your Child Leading a Double Life?", which was about the perceived trend of increasing sexual promiscuity among American youth and the lack of parental awareness of the sexual practices of their children.

One guest on the show, who claimed to be aware of teenagers' sexual habits, asserted, among other things, that many teens across the United States engage in rainbow parties. According to the same report, teenage girls are also competing to see who can have the most babies with black men in an attempt to irritate parental guardians of foster homes.
What's a rainbow party supposed to be?
A rainbow party is a supposed group sex event featured in an urban legend spread since the early 2000s. A variant of the standard sex party urban myth, the stories claim that at these events, allegedly increasingly popular among adolescents, females wearing various shades of lipstick take turns fellating males in sequence, leaving multiple colors (a "rainbow") on their penises.
Oh dear gosh our children are in trouble! It's a good thing Oprah was there to expose this trend.

Certainly, almost any sexual practice that can be imagined stands a good chance of having been tried somewhere, sometime. But many sex researchers and adolescent-health professionals say that rainbow parties are not a big part of teenage sexual behavior.

"This 'phenomenon' has all the classic hallmarks of a moral panic," said Dr. Deborah Tolman, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University. "One day we have never heard of rainbow parties and then suddenly they are everywhere, feeding on adults' fears that morally bankrupt sexuality among younger teens is rampant, despite any actual evidence, as well as evidence to the contrary."
But teenage girls + oral sex = ratings gold. Again, Ms. Winfrey isn't appealing to Americans' intelligence, is she? This is an appeal to darkness. And it's part of a pattern for Ms. Winfrey.

Regularly, she promotes pseudoscience and lies as fact on her show. She was a big proponent of an offensive fad called "The Secret," which was a philosophy that basically said that if you get cancer, you did something to deserve it.
The main idea of "The Secret" is that people need only visualize what they want in order to get it -- and the book certainly has created instant wealth, at least for Rhonda Byrne and her partners-in-con. And the marketing idea behind it -- the enlisting of that dream team, in what is essentially a massive, cross-promotional pyramid scheme -- is brilliant. But what really makes "The Secret" more than a variation on an old theme is the involvement of Oprah Winfrey, who lends the whole enterprise more prestige, and, because of that prestige, more venality, than any previous self-help scam. Oprah hasn't just endorsed "The Secret"; she's championed it, put herself at the apex of its pyramid, and helped create a symbiotic economy of New Age quacks that almost puts OPEC to shame.

Why "venality"? Because, with survivors of Auschwitz still alive, Oprah writes this about "The Secret" on her Web site, "the energy you put into the world -- both good and bad -- is exactly what comes back to you. This means you create the circumstances of your life with the choices you make every day." "Venality," because Oprah, in the age of AIDS, is advertising a book that says, "You cannot 'catch' anything unless you think you can, and thinking you can is inviting it to you with your thought." "Venality," because Oprah, from a studio within walking distance of Chicago's notorious Cabrini Green Projects, pitches a book that says, "The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts."
She also had the author of a piece of bulls hit called The Bible Code on for a full-hour commercial.

The Bible Code supposedly shows that the Bible is full of "secret" messages imparted by god in which the future is revealed. It was pretty thoroughly debunked, even before the author appeared on Ms. Winfrey's show.
The promoters of hidden-message claims say, “How could such amazing coincidences be the product of random chance?” I think the real question should be, “How could such coincidences not be the inevitable product of a huge sequence of trials on a large, essentially random database?”

Once I learned how to navigate in puzzle-space, finding “incredible” predictions became a routine affair. I found “comet,” “Hale,” and “Bopp” linked in KJV Genesis, along with “forty” and “died,” which could be interpreted as an obvious reference to Heaven’s Gate. I found “Trinity,” “Los Alamos,” “atom,” and “bomb” encoded together in Edwards, in a section containing references to “security,” “test,” and “anti-fascist.” And I found “Hitler” linked to “Nazi” dozens of times in several books. When I set out to engineer a “hidden code” link of “code” and “bogus” in KJV Genesis, I was able to produce sixty closely linked pairs. And every single one of these pairs could fit inside a reasonably sized puzzle.

The source of the mysterious “Bible code” has been revealed — it’s homo sapiens.

Now somebody go tell Oprah.
Ms. Winfrey also recently made a deal to produce a television program starring the irritating nude model and filmmaker Jenny McCarthy, who claims to know more about autism than the scientists who have dedicated their lives to its study.
McCarthy's way, however, is one that flies in the face of all credible research on what does and does not cause autism and whether it can be treated. McCarthy claims Evan was healed through a range of experimental and unproved biomedical treatments; even more controversially, she blames the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine for giving her son autism. And yet research conclusively shows that vaccines are safe for children; just last month, the U.K. scientist who had published a study linking the MMR shot to autism was found by a British medical panel to have acted unethically. McCarthy says she does not believe all vaccines are bad — though she swears she will never allow Evan to receive another — nor is she saying you shouldn't vaccinate your child. Her position is more slippery but just as heretical to prevailing medical wisdom: do everything necessary to cure your child, no matter what the doctors tell you.
Ms. McCarthy is the most famous of the anti-vaccine crusaders, whose actions have led to a direct rise in the number of preventable illnesses and death caused by parents refusing to vaccinate their children.

And she also had former "Three's Company" star Suzanne Somers on her show to tell her viewers all about her amazing vitamin and bio-identical hormone diet.
"Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo," she said. "But she just might be a pioneer." Oprah acknowledged that Somers's claims "have been met with relentless criticism" from doctors. Several times during the show she gave physicians an opportunity to dispute what Somers was saying. But it wasn't quite a fair fight. The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on. Somers sat onstage next to Oprah, who defended her from attack. "Suzanne swears by bioidenticals and refuses to keep quiet. She'll take on anyone, including any doctor who questions her."

That would be a lot of doctors. Outside Oprah's world, there isn't a raging debate about replacing hormones. Somers "is simply repackaging the old, discredited idea that menopause is some kind of hormone-deficiency disease, and that restoring them will bring back youth," says Dr. Nanette Santoro, director of reproductive endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and head of the Reproductive Medicine Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center. They just don't need as much once they get past their childbearing years. Unless a woman has significant discomfort from hot flashes—and most women don't—there is little reason to prescribe them. Most women never use them. Hormone therapy can increase a woman's risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and cancer. And despite Somers's claim that her specially made, non-FDA-approved bioidenticals are "natural" and safer, they are actually synthetic, just like conventional hormones and FDA-approved bioidenticals from pharmacies—and there are no conclusive clinical studies showing they are less risky. That's why endocrinologists advise that women take the smallest dose that alleviates symptoms, and use them only as long as they're needed.

"It completely blew me away that Oprah would go to her for advice on this topic," says Cynthia Pearson, the executive director of the nonprofit National Women's Health Network and an authority on hormone therapy. "I have to say, it diminished my respect."
Does Oprah Winfrey genuinely believe in the intelligence of the American public? Her entire career says otherwise.

Actually, she doesn't really believe in the intelligence of the American public.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Another reason to not watch professional sports

Are you excited about the Sugar Bowl, a college football "bowl" game set to be played on January 4th? You are? Well, that's how people can tell us apart. Why would I -- why would anyone? -- give their support to corrupt organizations like the NCAA, or the colleges that participate in the games?

Case in point: Ohio State football players sanctioned. Next season, five players for the Ohio State football team ("the Buckeyes"), will be forced to sit out five games for... get ready for it...

Selling things that they owned.

And. Get ready for it...

Negotiating a price for tattoos.

Five games these kids have to sit out for participating in the free market system. I am not exaggerating. That is literally what happened.
["Star quarterback" Terrelle] Pryor and four teammates were suspended Thursday by the NCAA for the first five games of next season for selling championship rings, jerseys and awards. They also received improper benefits -- from up to two years ago -- from the tattoo parlor and its owner.
They are athletes who play for the university's football team. Apparently, they do well enough to be presented with awards. These awards are their own, are they not?
Pryor even sold a sportsmanship award from the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, along with his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. More egregious to Ohio State fans, he sold a "gold pants" trinket -- an iconic charm given to players who are a part of a victory over archrival Michigan. He may not be easily forgiven by Buckeyes fans who revere such traditions. Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling the three items.

His teammates also sold Big Ten championship rings -- the Buckeyes have won the past six conference titles -- plus football jerseys, pants and shoes.
So they sold items that belonged to them. For that, they are being punished.


As for the tattoos:
[Daniel] Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.

[Devier] Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50.

[Mike] Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring. Thomas must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 gold pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.

A sixth player, freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting, who received a discount on tattoos, must sit out the first game of the 2011 season and pay $150 to a charity.
Apparently, "receiving discounted services" is a crime. But all they did was negotiate with the tattoo artists who drew on their arms. Were these artists forced to give these "discounted" tattoos? Or did they freely decide that they wanted to give these student athletes tattoos at a rate that might or might not have been the same as that which is charged to civilians?

Apparently, there are some who are upset about this -- not about the fact that it is "against the rules" for student athletes to sell items that they own, but that they weren't punished enough for it:
Thursday at Ohio State, we learned that five players -- many of them stars -- didn't know it was a no-no to sell championship rings, game gear and personal awards for cash. Why didn't they know? According to the NCAA release, the players "did not receive adequate rules education" from the school at the time of the transgressions, which occurred in 2009. That plausible (or implausible, if you prefer) deniability will allow all five to play in the Buckeyes' Allstate Sugar Bowl showdown with Arkansas on Jan. 4.

So there you have it, future NCAA rules breakers of America (and your parents). Go for the gold. When you get caught, shrug and say, "Why, I had no idea." Blame it on your dad and/or a negligent compliance staff at your university.

The NCAA dropped the hammer on the Buckeyes -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Daniel "Boom" Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas -- for 2011. They're all suspended for the first five games next year.

But the hammer only hurts if there's someone there to feel it hit. We'll see how many of the five salesmen are still Buckeyes by next season. I'll set the over/under at 1.
The NCAA has done it again, producing a ruling that defies common sense and provokes suspicions about ulterior motives. Even as the organization has taken admirable steps in terms of aggressive enforcement and attempted transparency, it still has a unique ability to leave the public baffled and skeptical.
In the open-and-shut Ohio State case, the NCAA is delaying punishment long enough for the Buckeyes to play in another game that packs a huge revenues-and-ratings payload.

The We Didn't Know defense was cited by the NCAA as one mitigating factor in this decision. Another was the fact that postseason play provides a "unique opportunity" and is "evaluated differently" when it comes to suspensions, according to an NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement policy that was enacted in 2004.
(Nice joke in there about the "over/under." How does this columnist feel about student gambling?)

This is a stupid rule. The rule shouldn't exist. Colleges like Ohio State and organizations like the NCAA make gobs of money from the performance of these athletes, who are held to such incredible standards that they're not even allowed to sell things they own, nor can they negotiate or barter with service providers for a lower price.

Football is a brutal sport. It does astonishingly terrible things to the athletes' bodies. They have only a small window during which they can play. If they are lucky they get to go pro in the NFL, but most aren't lucky. They spend a few years living with the capricious and nonsensical rules set by wealthy men who are concerned only with ensuring they get the best television deal (literally billions of dollars!). But selling a championship ring for a few thousand dollars?... that's just wrong.

Anyway, that is why I don't watch professional sports.

If you actually earned it, you can't sell it. You'll get suspended.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The tragedy of Slinky

Slinky toys are fun toys.

Someone gave me a Slinky for Christmas one year, when I was a small child. I feared it. The coils were hard and cold, and I believed, based on the commercial, that it would get away from me if it started down an incline. When I finally used it, I started it at the bottom of the stairs -- the last two steps -- because I was convinced that if I started it at the top it would build momentum and crash through the front door, and keep going down the street.

It didn't occur to me that if this could happen to my Slinky, it might happen to other Slinkies as well. There would have been an epidemic of Slinky tragedies, with literally broken homes and Slinkies crashing into cars and pedestrians.

Kids are stupid. They don't think right. I didn't think right.

Slinky toys are fun toys.

Anyway, I started the Slinky at the bottom of the stairs. It didn't get very far. "I should start it higher up the stairs," I thought. "Give it a little more of a chance to move." So I did. Slinky still didn't get very far. Finally, I started at the top of the stairs, and braced myself, in case I needed to jump out and grab Slinky before he built up too much speed and became uncontrollable.

Slinky got two steps and then toppled over on his side. I left it there, forgot about it, went outside to play. Slinky languished for awhile, until my parents went up the stairs and tripped over him, toppling down the stairs with, ironically, the same momentum I'd feared that Slinky might build in his trek down the stairs.

Slinky toys are fun toys.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Does it make sense to boycott the new Thor film because Heimdall is black?

All this controversy over this COMIC BOOK character?

 The Guardian is reporting that a group called The Council of Conservative Citizens is urging a boycott of the upcoming Thor film, not because it looks like a high-end remake of Masters of the Universe, but because the director, Kenneth Branaugh, cast a black actor, Idris Elba (of the great tv show The Wire) as one of the Norse gods, Heimdall.

From one page of the Council of Conservative Citizens's website:
This week Marvel Studios, a company already known for pushing left-wing ideology in its movies, released its trailer for Thor. The movie re-writes German mythology with a multi-cultural slant. The God Heimdall is played by a black man. An extra Chinese character is added to the pantheon for good measure as well.
There is much to be critical of in those sentences. First, I would like to know what "left-wing ideology" is being pushed in Marvel Studios movies. Their biggest success, the first Iron Man film, was a neoconservative fairy tale about a weapons manufacturer who builds himself a suit of armor and then uses it to enforce the GW Bush interventionist foreign policy agenda. Iron Man 2 was about the "privatization of world peace." So he went from neoconservative to vaguely libertarian. The Incredible Hulk was a jumbled mess about a military experiment gone wrong, or something, I couldn't quite follow it, but maybe that's what they're talking about?

The comics are another matter entirely. I've already written about Captain America's oh-so-brave stance against the Tea Party. And the infamous Spider-Man-Barack Obama fist bump.

As for the second part -- isn't mythology meant to be re-written? Myths, the stories of god(s) and heroes that were the superheroes of their time, were created to help people explain concepts that they could not yet understand. Things like death, the changing of seasons, the passing of day into night, a poor crop, etc. Today we know (well, most of us do) that the earth is round and revolves around the sun. Those old stories are now artifacts of the past that haven't nearly the hold on us that they once had.

Check out the cast for the movie Percy Jackson and the Olympians. That's a fairly diverse group of actors playing Greek gods. That's just one example.

And here's something else:

Who is that guy? Well, according to Popular Mechanics, it's what no less a figure than Jesus Christ probably looked like.
From the first time Christian children settle into Sunday school classrooms, an image of Jesus Christ is etched into their minds. In North America he is most often depicted as being taller than his disciples, lean, with long, flowing, light brown hair, fair skin and light-colored eyes. Familiar though this image may be, it is inherently flawed. A person with these features and physical bearing would have looked very different from everyone else in the region where Jesus lived and ministered. Surely the authors of the Bible would have mentioned so stark a contrast. On the contrary, according to the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion, Judas Iscariot had to indicate to the soldiers whom Jesus was because they could not tell him apart from his disciples. Further clouding the question of what Jesus looked like is the simple fact that nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus described, nor have any drawings of him ever been uncovered. There is the additional problem of having neither a skeleton nor other bodily remains to probe for DNA. In the absence of evidence, our images of Jesus have been left to the imagination of artists. The influences of the artists' cultures and traditions can be profound, observes Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, associate professor of world Christianity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. "While Western imagery is dominant, in other parts of the world he is often shown as black, Arab or Hispanic." And so the fundamental question remains: What did Jesus look like?

An answer has emerged from an exciting new field of science: forensic anthropology. Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image of the most famous face in human history.
Emphasis added because if Jesus Christ, who is still actively worshipped by billions of people all over the world can handle being portrayed as different races, surely Heimdall, a character originating in Norse mythology, can.  And Jesus Christ has been handling it for a long time.
The race of Jesus has been a subject of debate in the western world academia since at least the nineteenth century in Europe, and today in the Anglosphere. The physical appearance of Jesus of Nazareth was debated by theologians from early on in the history of Christianity, though with no explicit emphasis on race.

Different societies have depicted Jesus and most other biblical figures as their own ethnicity in their art; for example he is primarily European in the West. The current dominant opinion among historians and scientists is that he was most likely a Galilean Jew and thus would have features which resemble modern-day persons of Middle Eastern descent.
I grew up around depictions of Jesus Christ looking like this:

Yeah, that's probably not what he really looked like.

And Heimdall's not even an actual historical figure. (In fairness, there's a some question as to whether or not Jesus Christ actually existed, either.) He was the "white god" who guarded the Rainbow Bridge and, um, well, here's wikipedia:
Heimdall (Old Norse Heimdallr, modern Icelandic Heimdallur) is one of the æsir (gods) in Norse mythology, in the Edda called the "white god" (hvítastr ása "whitest of the aesir Sæm 72ª; hvíta ás "white as" Sn. 104).

Heimdall is the guardian of the Bifrost Bridge (i.e. the rainbow), and thereby the link between Midgard and Asgard. Legends foretell that he will sound the Gjallarhorn, alerting the æsir to the onset of Ragnarök where the world ends and is reborn. Heimdall was destined to be the last of the gods to perish at Ragnarök when he and Loki would slay one another.

Heimdall, as guardian, is described as being able to hear grass growing and single leaves falling, able to see to the end of the world, and so alert that he requires no sleep at all. Heimdall is described as a son of Odin, perhaps a foster son.
A foster son to the Norse god Odin, who is called the "white god," and is black-skinned. As much as it pains me to write this, that actually sounds kind of clever. Still not all that interested in seeing the movie.

DJ Heimdall.

As for the idea of re-writing German mythology, well let's just cut to the chase. These are comic book characters for crying out loud. Co-opted from Norse mythology by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby for their own purposes in 1962. Those purposes were to make money, and to sell merchandising. They are not the original Norse mythology characters. They are "superheroes." How much merchandising money is there in German mythology? Is there as much money as there is in superheroes? If so, Germans should have trademarked all their gods, including Heimdall, the way Marvel trademarked Thor. 
The real story would have been if Marvel had hired Idris Elba to portray Thor in the movie.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

TIME magazine Person of the Year: Mark Zuckerberg

Over at When Falls the Coliseum, I wrote an hilarious (if I do say so myself) parody of TIME magazine's Mark Zuckerberg "Person of the Year" essay. You know who Mark Zuckerberg is, right? He's the founder of Facebook.

And TIME chose him as their "Person of the Year." For 2010. How old is Facebook, exactly?

Anyway, here is a sample:

TIME magazine recently announced its selection of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as its “Person of the Year.” Below is the complete text from their essay on Zuckerberg and why they chose him:

Many years ago, perhaps as many as 100 years ago, a dead white person made an astute observation about human nature. That observation was vague enough that it could be applied to anything, and I am applying it, now, to TIME’s “Person of the Year” selection, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Today is a period of transition. Of evolution. Of transitionary evolution and of evolutionary transition. Take, for example, the ways in which human beings connect with one another. This, too, has evolved. Where once there were “telephones,” now you have “cell phones.” Some of those “cell phones” have “cameras” with which anyone can snap a photo to send to friends. If something happens directly in front of you, you can immediately take the picture. Snap. Just like that, with the speed of thought. Even quicker than the speed of thought, because thoughts can’t be transmitted electronically the way images can.

Or, perhaps you are in the mood to communicate with written words? Where once you might send a letter to someone, now you can send an “electronic letter,” or, if you prefer to use the vernacular of today’s youth, an “email.” If you’re in too great a hurry, if the need is too immediate to commit to the composition of a full “email,” you might send a “text  message,” or “txt.” In this way you can immediately connect with the person you have chosen to receive what it is you have to say. You can even add an “emoticon” to ensure that the receiver knows whether you are happy [;)], or sad [:(].

Then, there is “the internet.” This amazing device allows “users” (such as those who might have been referenced in the aforementioned dead white person’s observations) to “log on” and get the latest bread recipes, or catch up on the latest weather updates, read a selection from a public domain work of literature, and, if you are so inclined, watch a few minutes of a pornographic motion picture. In our must have it now culture, the internet is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because you must not necessarily wait for your gratification. It is a curse because, as an older person who remembers what it was like to have to wait for gratification, I can clearly tell that instant gratification is changing our children, and we don’t yet know if it is changing them for the better, or for the worse, or if the terms “better” and “worse” even apply anymore in the modern world. It is changing their attitudes, is the internet.

You may read the rest here, if you're so inclined.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wonder Woman XXX: The best representation of Wonder Woman since the original 1940s comics?

Recently, this page of original Wonder Woman concept art,  by the great Harry Peter, sold at auction for more than $30,000. You know why it sold for so much? Because Wonder Woman is apparently a difficult character to deal with -- so who wouldn't want a piece of her original creation?

It was announced not long ago that David E. Kelley, the guy who gave you Ally McBeal, was working on a new Wonder Woman television show.
This has to be the highest-profile effort to bring Wonder Woman to television: One of TV's best-known creators, The Practice's David E. Kelley, has come on board to write and produce a new series project about the female superhero. The project, from Warner Bros Television where Kelley is based, and Warner Bros' DC Entertainment, will be taken out to the networks shortly. Kelley, who has created several female centered shows like Ally McBeal, has wanted to tackle a contemporary take on the World War II-era Amazon. He recently met with the DC team who also have been looking for ways to launch a new Wonder Woman TV franchise.
For Wonder Woman fans (and I know they exist because I am one myself) this had to be the most exciting news they'd heard in a long time!*

But now -- um, notsofast:
Reports that David E. Kelley is working on a "Wonder Woman" television series aren't false, but there's something else to consider as well: Kelley himself isn't sure that he's the best fit for the property.

"There's no real deal in place yet, but yeah, my intent is to take a stab at it," Kelley revealed in an interview with Zap2It. "I've been working on it between scripts for 'Harry's Law.' It's a very, very different genre for me, a very tricky beast. I won't know whether I've cracked it or not until I've finished it, but it's going."
Emphasis added because while you're intending on taking a stab at it, one company has actually taken the initiative (and my own advice, if I may be so bold) and is actually making a film of Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman XXX (kinda almost sorta not safe for work). It's calling itself a "Porn Parody," but take a look at their synopsis:
The Iraqi government has once again penetrated US soil and has sent their top spy to infiltrate America's most lucrative business, the Porn Industry. Through the help of a sultry US informant, the Iraqi spy has gained access to California's biggest porn production sets in order to steal their secrets and bring them back home. There is only one person that can stop the Iraqi insurgence. There is only one person who can make a man crumble to his knees and beg for mercy, Wonder Woman. Will the Iraqi spy succeed in his mission to rip off America's beloved porn or will he succumb to the wealth and riches of the most sought after pussy on the planet. Will Wonder Woman save the day or are her powers futile against the terrorist attacks of the Iraqi infidels.
Let's leave aside for a moment the poor grammar of that synopsis (although I admit it is driving me crazy -- they can't hire someone to proofread their website for crying out loud???) and focus on the content. What's really amazing is just how closely it mirrors synopses of the original 1940s Wonder Woman comics by William Moulton Marston and Harry Peter. Just substitute "Nazis" for "Iraqis," and substitute "the milk industry," or "a department store," or "a sorority house," or "a circus," or "a dude ranch," or "a munitions factory" for "the Porn Industry," and you've got a pretty accurate description of just about every story from Wonder Woman's amazing first few years of comics.

The people behind Wonder Woman XXX clearly know the character. Just read their full press release. They "get it."  And they have a pretty clear sense of how she should be updated; the same apparently cannot be said for those in the "legitimate" film industry, people like Joss Whedon and dithering David E. Kelley, who have tried and failed to capture what the character is all about (or the people currently doing the comics, for that matter). It's really quite easy, as the makers of WW XXX have shown:

(1) Wonder Woman is an Amazon princess who believes that America is the best hope for humankind (in particular womankind) in a world in which the wars and aggressions of men are ascendant.

(2) Wonder Woman fights America's enemies by tying them up and kissing them.

You don't have to over complicate it.

My first choice for Wonder Woman would have been Velicity Von, but Tori Black is clearly not a bad choice, either.

*Not really; I was being ironic!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Why does Lindsay Lohan care what Gwyneth Paltrow thinks of her, anyway?

By any measure, Lindsay Lohan lives an enviable life. With no visible means of support, she is constantly seen as fabulous parties and social events; she enjoys the company of many exciting and famous people; she occasionally appears in television shows, sometimes in an acting capacity; she is famous. Her life is a whirlwind of fun and excitement. And, while it is true that she is in "rehab" right now, we all know that, for the famous, "rehab" is a synonym for "vacation."

Lindsay Lohan is currently taking a vacation from a life of fast-paced leisure.

Despite this, Ms. Lohan has exhibited a disconcerting tendency to "care" about what other people think of her. You will remember her shameful legal action against E-Trade, which ran a commercial featuring a "milkaholic" baby named "Lindsay." Her argument: My name is Lindsay, too, and therefore that commercial slandered me, by comparing me to a milkaholic baby. (The worst part of the story wasn't that Ms. Lohan went for the payday, but that E-Trade actually settled with her over it. I thought that big corporations were supposed to be all powerful with bottomless pockets to fight against any lawsuits?)

Anyway, now, if Ms. Lohan's mother is to be believed (and why shouldn't she be believed? she has her daughter's best interests at heart), she was apparently offended by something that her fellow thespian Gwyneth Paltrow said about her.
Lindsay Lohan is deeply hurt by Gwyneth Paltrow mocking her on national TV, Dina Lohan told in an exclusive new interview.
Why, that's terrible. Why would Ms. Paltrow take the time to "mock" Ms. Lohan on national tv, when she could be mocking US citizens, and people who don't "cleanse."

Anyway, did she do this in some kind of interview or something?
Paltrow recently appeared on Glee and played a Spanish teacher who taught a lesson that included asking the class: "Lindsay Lohan is totally crazy, right?" And, she then quizzed the class in Spanish, "How many times has Lindsay Lohan been to rehab?"
Wait -- Ms. Lohan is claiming that Ms. Paltrow mocked her, because a character that she was portraying in a television show said something about her?

Lindsay, Lindsay, Lindsay. You are an actress, so you should know that actresses recite the lines given them by the writers and directors. That was in the script. It doesn't necessarily represent the opinions of Ms. Paltrow. You can rest easy knowing that Ms. Paltrow still hasn't publicly mocked you.

And, moreover, here is a screenshot from the Glee episode in question:

What do you notice about that subtitle? It reads, "Lindsey Lohan is totally crazy, right?"

"Lindsey," not "Lindsay."

She wasn't even talking about you.

Now, please get out of rehab soon so that you can go back to your fabulous party lifestyle, and your nipple slips. The rest of us, those of us who matter, are waiting. And who cares what Gwyneth Paltrow thinks? The  best she can do is a guest starring role on Glee. You don't even have to work at all.

"Excuse me, but could you please explain why it is that Gwyneth Paltrow felt the need to insult me the way she did, when she was playing that Spanish teacher character on a fictional television program? This is genuinely confusing to me."

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Man Who Came to Dinner: The worst Christmas movie of all time

It is impossible to spoil something that is already rotten. However, this post reveals certain details of the plot of the film “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” If you don’t want your mind polluted with any knowledge of this smug, artless, hateful film, stop reading now.

There are plenty of entertaining Christmas-related films – “Die Hard,” the original “Miracle on 34th Street,” the “Stumpy Claus” films, and “A Christmas Story,” for instance. Unfortunately, those films are the exception. Most Christmas films are unentertaining junk like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” "Babes in Toyland," "Babes in Toyland," "A Christmas Carol," "A Christmas Carol," "A Christmas Carol," "A Christmas Carol: The Movie," "Scrooged," “White Christmas,” "Elf," “Santa Claus The Motion Picture,” “Prancer,” “Four Christmases,” “Home For the Holidays,” “Jack Frost,” "I'll be Home for Christmas," etc.

Bad films, all. Check out this list of Christmas films and decide for yourself. But I submit that the worst of the worst is a film that features as its protagonist a man who is so full of the curdled milk of human unkindness that he actually blackmails a man whose parents were brutally murdered and has been protecting the sister falsely accused of the crime. To cover his own crime of kidnapping.

The Man Who Came to Dinner” purports to tell the hilarious story of a supposedly clever wit called Sheridan Whiteside, the host of an inexplicably popular radio program. Upon arriving in a small town in Ohio where he has been asked and paid to give one of his supposedly intelligent lectures, he is taken (against his will), to the home of Ernest and Daisy Stanley (and oh by the way how deliciously ironic are the names of the characters!), where he promptly and stupidly (it’s winter in Ohio, what did the sophisticated and well-traveled Sheridan expect?) slips on the Stanleys’ steps and seemingly injures his hip, or his leg, or the muscle in his leg, or something.

Rather than be taken to a hospital to recuperate, as might happen in reality, The human irritant Sheridan is installed in a bed in the Stanleys’ mansion. After spending a week in bed, Sheridan is wheeled out into the main living room, where he announces that (a) he is suing the Stanleys for $150,000; (b) he is taking over the downstairs rooms and the Stanley’s servants for himself and his assistant, Miss Cutler – Ernest and Daisy and their children, Richard and June, will be confined to their bedrooms upstairs; and, (c) he is an obnoxious twit. (C) is implied.

 Obnoxious twit.

Obviously, this film makes no real sense. So if we, the audience, are to spend two hours in a fantasyland in which nothing makes any real sense, can we at least be treated decently and not treated with open hostility for daring to suspend our disbelief for two hours? No. The rest of the film is an assault on the audience’s stand-ins, the Stanleys – although that’s not entirely fair to assaults, since it is the rare assault that lasts two hours.

For some reason, Sheridan’s friends and acquaintances insist on sending him exotic gifts, ranging from live animals to, comically, more live animals. Also, for lazy plot purposes, there are ancient Egyptian artifacts. Apparently Sheridan’s friends are as openly contemptuous of those who dare to show an injured man any hospitality that they will send live penguins to a private residence in Ohio. At least the penguins only leave turds lying around.

Sheridan is supposedly a magnificently clever man. We know this because the characters keep telling us. Yet at no point are we, the audience, given any indication that he is anything other than a belligerent, pretentious boor with delusions of grandeur. Some examples of his supposed wit:

Sheridan Whiteside: Strange? She's right out of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Sheridan Whiteside: Go in and read the life of Florence Nightingale and learn how unfitted you are for your chosen profession.

Sheriden Whiteside: Will you take your clammy hand off my chair? You have the touch of a love-starved cobra.

Sheridan Whiteside: This ageing debutante, Mr. Jefferson, I retain in my employ only because she is the sole support of her two-headed brother!

Sheridan Whiteside: I simply will not sit down to dinner with midwestern barbarians, I think too highly of my digestive system.

Sheridan Whiteside: Get your fish-hooks off me!

Sheridan Whiteside: Is there a man in the world who suffers as I do from the gross inadequacies of the human race?

Nurse Preen: Mr. Whiteside, I can only be in one place at a time.
Sheridan Whiteside: That's very fortunate for this community.

Bertram H. 'Bert' Jefferson: How do you think Ohio women stack up?
Sheriden Whiteside: I've never gone in for stacking women up so I really can't say.

Ha, ha. You will note that in the last two quotes, the authors go to great pains to present Sheridan with set-ups for his witticisms. The result is somewhat like the Fantomas books – everything is tilted in the evil protagonist’s favor. Even with this help, the best he can come up with are lines that are so creaky even the arch Dorothy Parker would have been embarrassed by them. (Sheridan’s line about “stacking women” is a less funny version of Ms. Parker’s “laying Yale women end-to-end” line, which itself isn’t all that funny and might not have been her line anyway.)

It doesn’t help that Sheridan is portrayed by a shrill, irritating man called Monty Woolley. Apparently, someone told Mr. Woolley that the key to good acting is to scowl and yell and flare his nostrils. This is “The Method” he employs throughout the entire film. That said, I suppose it’s fine that his performance is one (atonal) note, since the character he portrays has no arc, learns nothing, and behaves with the same boring callousness and cruelty throughout.

Back to the tedium of the plot: The owner of the local newspaper, Bert Jefferson arrives hoping to get an interview. Bert Jefferson is completely bland – a total zero as a character played to wooden imperfection by someone called Richard Travis – and it is because either Sheridan doesn’t like being around compelling people or he is so dull himself that he cannot tell interesting people from non that he takes a liking to Bert and invites him to stay and have lunch with him and the five convicts he’s invited from the state penitentiary (more on that later).

Sheridan’s secretary, Maggie Cutler, goes on a date with the nonentity Bert, and reads the play he’s written. At no point did I ever believe that a woman who looked like Bette Davis, and acted like Bette Davis, would even work for a boorish lout like Sheridan (and for ten years!), let alone go out on a date with Bert. I kept hoping that Ms. Davis would put on a baby dress and smear some white makeup on her face and kick Sheridan Whiteside out of his wheelchair, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane style.  Alas.

The main rival for the drippy Bert's affections is a fabulous, famous actress called Lorraine Sheldon. Because she looks like Ann Sheridan, Lorraine Sheldon is astonishingly beautiful. Unfortunately, because she acts like Ann Sheridan, she appears uncomfortable and unconvincing even when she says “Hello.” Lorraine leaves Palm Springs to visit Sheridan in Ohio the day before Christmas because he called her and told her to come, because the ridiculous plot required it. Sheridan wants Lorraine to read Bert’s play (there might or might not be a part in it for her!), and then seduce him away from Maggie so that Maggie will not marry Bert and stay on as Sheridan’s secretary.

Goddam this movie sucks. But it gets worse. Oh you haven’t seen anything yet – this films sinks to almost unimaginable depths of stupidity and cruelty.

First, the stupidity: One of the many gifts that Sheridan received from his friends was a mummy case from Egypt. You might have learned about this in school: the ancient Egyptians used to mummify themselves, and place their bodies in large cases that were made of wood and had metal hinges on them, for easy and opening and closing. So that one could conveniently place people inside them, when the plots of lazily-written films required it. Anyway, Sheridan decides that Maggie, who hasn’t stopped moping since failing in her attempt to trick Lorraine into leaving (don’t ask, it’s stupid and involves describing another tedious character) is entitled to happiness with Bert after all, so he asks his friend Banjo, a man as irritating as his name (casting Jimmy Durante, the human equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard, completely doomed him) to help get rid of Lorraine. This they do by tricking her into standing inside the mummy case, closing it, and then locking it.

Lorraine does nothing to resist. She does not bang on the mummy case. She does not rock it back and forth (it is tall and flimsy). She does not cry out for help. When the case is lifted by delivery men, she makes not a peep. Banjo then kidnaps Lorraine by taking the mummy case on an airplane bound for New York or Los Angeles. Some city without Midwestern barbarians.

And the cruelty: Sheridan goes about insulting everyone around him, most especially his nurse and the Stanleys. Let’s examine his relationships with them. First, the nurse. At no point is she presented as anything other than attentive to him and concerned about his injury. And yet he constantly badgers and belittles her. As the great poet Stevie Smith wrote in “Childe Rolandine,” “It is the privilege of the rich / To waste the time of the poor,” and Sheridan certainly wastes the time of the servant charged with helping him recuperate (and by the way, there is more wit in those two lines from Ms. Smith’s poem than in the whole of this stupid film). He does this for no good reason other than he believes he is better than her. Because he is wealthy and famous and, as he is constantly reminded by fawning friends, clever.

At one point the attentive and caring nurse who has done nothing that the audience can see to merit her abuse, finally declares to Sheridan that she is quitting nursing:

Nurse Preen: I am not only walking out on this case, Mr. Whiteside, I am leaving the nursing profession. I became a nurse because all my life, ever since I was a little girl, I was filled with the idea of serving a suffering humanity. After one month with you , Mr. Whiteside, I am going to work in a munitions factory. From now on, anything I can do to help exterminate the human race will fill me with the greatest of pleasure. If Florence Nightingale had ever nursed YOU, Mr. Whiteside, she would have married Jack the Ripper instead of founding the Red Cross!

So, one rotten, spoiled, privileged elitist has soiled a woman who did more in one day as a nurse than the witty critic did in an entire lifetime of pomposity.

 The film "The Man Who Came to Dinner" was based on the play "The Man Who Came to Dinner," by George S Kaufman and Moss Hart. I have nothing to say about them, except to note that Stevie Smith's line from "Childe Rolandine" applies as much to wealthy playwrights as to wealthy bosses and politicians.

Now, the Stanleys. They are a well-to-do couple – the wife apparently is active in local arts programs and charities, while the husband owns a ball-bearing plant (wha-?). Their only crime is in not clearing the steps of their home before receiving a guest. I suppose one could argue that their allowing Sheridan to so completely take over and dominate their home makes them contemptible and ridiculous, but isn’t it just entirely possible they’re attempting to be hospitable? The writers make a few attempts at casting the Stanleys as villains – or, at least, at casting Ernest Stanley as a villain. Yet the attempts are so confused and poorly executed that we’re left unsure exactly of the intended effect. For instance, when Daisy speaks to Eleanor Roosevelt on the phone (Ms. Roosevelt is apparently one of Mr. Whiteside’s friends, which says a great deal about her), she tells her that “My husband voted for your opponent, but I voted for you.” Is it supposed to be significant that Ernest opposed The New Deal?

But the real confusion springs from the subplot in which Ernest is shown as being opposed to his daughter June marrying the young man who is attempting to unionize workers at his ball bearing plant. This is presented in such an off-hand, perfunctory way that we in the audience have no way of knowing if this young man is any good or not. So what if he’s attempting to unionize workers, and Ernest is opposing him? We don’t know anything about how Ernest treats him employees, and we don’t know anything about the union organizer. Maybe he’s a criminal using the union as a front. Maybe her father has good reason for opposing the marriage. That of course doesn’t stop Sheridan from butting in, and offering his advice – which for some reason is accepted as capital-T Truth – that the two run away and get married.

Regardless. There is strong evidence within the film itself that Ernest is a decent and kind man. That comes from his relationship with his sister. It’s here that the film rises to a distasteful level of moral retardation that earns it the title of worst Christmas film ever. Throughout the tedious proceedings, a strangely timid and shy older woman has been making occasional appearances. This woman turns out to be Ernest’s sister, Harriet. Sheridan is certain that he has seen her somewhere before, but it’s not until the last few minutes of the film that he remembers that many years before, when known as “Harriet Sedley,” she was accused of murdering her own parents with an axe.

Please bear in mind, that Harriet is Ernest’s sister. That means that Ernest’s parents were murdered. With an axe. And his own sister was accused. Yet he has allowed her to live in his home, with his wife and his children. She has been doing so while, apparently, still wanted by the police.

Got all that? Now consider that Sheridan, gleefully revealing to Ernest that he knows his secret, he taunts him with the “once popular jingle” about the case:

“Harriet Sedley took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks,
And when the job was nicely done,
She gave her father forty-one.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s based on the “once popular jingle” about the real-life “Lizzie Borden” case.

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.”

Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murder of her parents. In fact, there is evidence that she was victimized by an inept prosecution that decided early on that she was guilty, and they would do everything they could to convict her.

Lizzie Borden was innocent. The jury that acquitted her took only a little over one hour to do so. Harriet Sedley is Lizzie Borden. Ernest was attempting to shield his own sister from the misery of a trial – and if he of all people believes her to be innocent, enough so that he is willing to let her live with him and his family, then why should we doubt him?

And even if we are going to doubt him, then doesn’t Sheridan have a moral obligation to report that this possibly dangerous woman is loose, rather than keeping it a secret in exchange for Ernest’s hiring delivery men to take the mummy case to the airport, and agreeing to “let [his] children live their own lives”?

The kidnapping/blackmail is made doubly distasteful by the fact that early in the film Sheridan is shown entertaining a group of murderers from the state penitentiary, who are part of Sheridan Whiteside’s fan club. The luncheon could have been construed as one man’s attempt to reach out to a group who have been mistreated by the corrupt criminal justice system. (This theory is undermined somewhat by the casual way in which Sheridan jokes with them about their murderous crimes. But at this early stage of the film we’re still looking for some kind of redeeming quality in the odious man.)

But the brutal way in which Sheridan teases Ernest about his sister, and the way he threatens to expose them on his radio program if he doesn’t accede to his wishes, shows that the man is lacking even the merest shred of empathy. It is psychopathic the way Sheridan Whiteside views other human beings as nothing more than objects with which he can play. He spends time with murderers because he enjoys their company. The privileged psychopath gets an ego boost from the proximity to lowlifes who, under normal circumstances, would cut the obnoxious man’s throat after five minutes in his presence.

This would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact that we’re meant to approve of the character. He is supposed to be lovably “cantankerous.” His vulgarisms are meant to be “barbs.” Maggie Cutler, upon receiving Sheridan’s blessing in marrying Bert, speaks for the authors when she tells Sheridan he’s “wonderful!” In fact he is a pretentious, entitled asshole with not even one redeeming or mitigating quality, and the film in which he appears is loathsome.

TCM will be airing "The Man Who Came to Dinner" on Friday December 10 at 11:30 PM EST, and on  Friday  December 24 at 2:00 PM EST, so you have two opportunities to miss it.

UPDATE 12/22/2016: Want to read about two Christmas films that don't stink? Check out my Christmas with Barbara Stanwyck post!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

$10,000 per tweet

Last week I wrote about the smug celebrities who "killed themselves" (committed suicide?) for an AIDS charity, in an effort to raise $1 million from the hoi polloi. Things weren't going as well as they might have hoped; it was taking a long time for them to raise that magical sum. Well, the "frustrated" celebrities -- after all, they were doing this for the children -- finally got one person to pony up $500,000 to "resurrect" them.
Celebrities were so frustrated with the time it took to raise $1 million for Keep a Child Alive's "Digital Death" campaign, they persuaded a wealthy savior to give them $500,000 so they could get back on Twitter.

Brooklyn-born billionaire pharmaceutical executive Stewart Rahr donated $500,000 yesterday to meet the $1 million goal, thereby resuscitating Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Seacrest, Daphne Guinness and others on Twitter and Facebook.

But a little later in the story, there's this:
Sources said the organization expected to raise the $1 million in a week. But by yesterday, after six days, it had taken in only about $450,000. Stars including Kim Kardashian, who can earn about $10,000 a tweet, started getting itchy fingers.
Wait a second what?

$10,000 a tweet? Apparently so.
Some might question her apparent celebrity status, however Kim Kardashian certainly seems to have acquired some pulling power.

According to a report out this week, the U.S. socialite allegedly commands up to $10,000 (£6,300) for every tweet she posts on her Twitter account as part of her contract with in-stream advertising company

Kim, 29, is the highest earner on the company's books and the most popular on their roster of celebrity tweeters.
Not only that -- my old nemesis, Dr. Drew Pinsky, is apparently a paid tweeter:
The former best friend of Paris Hilton currently has over 2million followers on Twitter and have put her tweeting services up for hire alongside U.S. stars such as Lauren Conrad and Dr. Drew.
The full list of celebrities whose tweets can be bought can be found here. The top ten:

Kim Kardashian
50 Cent
Paris Hilton
Chelsea Handler
E! Online
Soulja Boy
Ashlee Simpson Wentz
Snoop Dogg
Mandy Moore
Khloe Kardashian
Nick Cannon
Dr. Drew

Actually, that's 13, but I wanted to get to Dr. Drew, because he annoys me. Actually, most of that top 13 annoys me. But, hey, if I become a member of, I can pay a fee so that those annoying people will tweet about how much they like this particular blog entry:

@ChelseaHandler: OMG this blog post is so funny, even funnier than my weird "Angelina Jolie is a b*tch" rant:

That's more than 140 characters, but I'm just spitballing. She can tinyurl it. Earn your money, Chelsea Handler.

Oh I give up.

Kim Kardashian always has her eyes on the money.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Klingon Christmas Carol: The reason for the season

I don't like "A Christmas Carol." I don't like "Star Trek." But this makes me insanely happy:
The first play ever to be produced entirely in the Klingon language, the Twin Cities phenomenon A Klingon Christmas Carol has finally come to Chicago. Scrooge has neither honor nor courage in this uproarious twist on the classic holiday tale. Can the visits of three spirits help him to become a true warrior in time to save Tiny Tim from a horrible fate? Find out in Commedia Beauregard's melding of Charles Dickens' morality tale with the language and culture of the Star Trek warrior race. Performed "in the original Klingon" (with English subtitles provided for the benefit of audience members who don't speak the language), this bizarre hit has earned itself a following of both Trek devotees and novices alike.
Everyone is different. Everyone has their own devotions, many of which I find strange. I might even consider them to be wastes of time. But we live in a world in which a group of people with highly specialized interests can come together to create something that makes themselves happy -- and other like-minded and perhaps not-so-like-minded people happy, too.

The world is going to shit. Seriously. But you know what? Things aren't really that bad when people have the time to put on a production such as this -- and others have the money to pay to see it.

Whenever I see something like this, a large group of people who are so enthusiastic about something about which I just do not care, it makes me insanely happy.* It's a nice reminder that there are all kinds of different people in the world, and the tools of their happiness are out there. Maybe things aren't quite so bad, after all.

*I'm not talking about political stuff. Whenever I see people wearing Che Guevara t-shirts, for example, I get pretty irritated.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The reason for Santa Claus

 Doofus, but that doesn't mean he's not being mistreated.

Warning: This post contains spoilers about the "holiday season."

Jon Gosselin, the father from the old television show "Jon ampersand Kate plus 8," has been getting angry  phone calls lately. Not, as you might expect, because he's a jerk and a goofball and it's fun to call jerks and goofballs and tell them that they're jerks and goofballs -- no, Mr. Gosselin is getting angry phone calls because there is no Santa Claus.
The Gosselin children have been accused of spoiling Christmas for fellow students after telling them that Santa does not exist.

"The kids don't believe in Santa Claus, and they're telling other kids at school that there is no Santa Claus," a close friend of the family told

Children as young as six were told that "your parents are lying to you," causing reality TV dad Jon to receive calls from stunned parents upset that Santa Claus was exposed as a fraud.
First, how is it "spoiling Christmas" to reveal that there is no literal Santa Claus? Are these children so weak, their parents so dull, that learning a truth about the world is going to spoil a holiday that runs for over a month and in which everyone is forced to participate, lest they be accused of being a "scrooge" (a misunderstood heroic literary figure, by the way)?

Second, good for the Gosselin children for not believing in Santa Claus. Think about this -- they've lived their entire lives in the "reality tv" fantasy land. They have every excuse to believe in fairy tales, particularly this one, as I'll soon explain. But they don't. At least, they don't believe in this one. There's hope for them.

Third -- children as young as six? Does that seem a little old to still believe in Santa Claus? I don't know, since I'm not around children very often. But would it really be damaging to a six year-old to learn there's no (literal) Santa Claus?

Fourth, if you go around telling people that there is an actual, literal person who wears a big red costume, flies around with reindeer and sneaks into your home to give rewards to children who have been deemed to have been "good" (i.e., done exactly what Mommy and Daddy told them like good little mindless robots), then you are lying to them. It's a bit disingenuous to become angry when someone calls you a liar, after you've been lying to someone.

Fifth, what the hell kind of jerk calls the parent of a child who tells their own child that there's no Santa Claus? How arrogant do you have to be to feel entitled to harass someone over something so trivial? If his child struck another child, then, yes, by all means. But to pick up the phone over a statement of fact? Kids, there is no Superman, either.

Sixth, the article states that parents were upset that "Santa Claus was exposed as a fraud." This is patently false, if the rest of the article is to be believed. It was the lying parents who were exposed as frauds. Santa Claus is a fictional character. How can a fictional character be "exposed as a fraud"?

Santa Claus was created by parents to frighten their children into "behaving." He came into existence before television, when parents needed something to get their kids to shut the hell up and stay docile while they did -- whatever it was they did. Life was hard. People had to hunt to find meat, and grow vegetables. They had to build their own homes with their own hands, on land that they themselves had to clear. Disease was rampant, and they didn't know about germs. If you got even the slightest infection, you could end up with an amputation. And this was before they had anesthetics.

Life was nasty, brutish, and short, as I believe Thomas Hobbes once wrote.

So, yes, at one time, there was a reason, a very good reason, for Santa Claus, or some similar figure.

Today, his existence is perpetuated for commercial reasons, and to give extraordinarily lazy parents one more figure of menace to lord over children. "You'd better be good for goodness' sake, because HE sees you when you're sleeping."

The Gosselin kids, who have been followed around by cameras their entire lives, have every reason to believe in such a bizarre, unsavory fictional character. They have been under constant surveillance. Good for them for  helping to spread the word that he doesn't exist.

Not literally, anyway. If these parents who are "stunned" that their lies have been exposed want to pursue the fiction, why can't they have enough sense to tell their "distraught" children, "Santa Claus isn't a literal person. He is the personification of the spirit of the holiday," or whatever Yes Virginia nonsense they want to lay on them.

How lazy are these parents that they couldn't even think to do that -- and instead called to harass the jerk Jon Gosselin?

Speaking of the spirit of the season, you can get this image on a T-shirt, or on a poster. They make a lovely gift, especially for those children who might be wavering in their belief in the Claus.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Because in the western world, "digital death" is practically the same as actual, "literal death" -- especially for famous people

Wednesday, December 1st was World AIDS Day.
Started on 1st December 1988, World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education. The World AIDS Day theme for 2010 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. World AIDS Day is important for reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done.
Try to come up with something cynical to say about those goals. I won't do it. I can't think of anything. I'm not cynical.


As part of World AIDS Day, a group of celebrities in the US and UK "suffered" "digital deaths" for something called Keep a Child Alive, which is trying to raise $1 million "to help save millions of real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India."

Wait a second -- what?
Starting December 1 - World AIDS Day - the world's most followed celebrity Tweeters are sacrificing their digital lives to help save millions of real lives affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and India.

That means no more Twitter or Facebook updates from any of them. No more knowing where they are, what they had for dinner, or what interesting things are happening in their lives. From here on out, they're dead. Kaput. Finished.
What kind of psychopath believes that going without updating your Facebook or Twitter account is in any way analogous to actually dying, or suffering from, a terrible disease that causes endless suffering and misery, particularly in countries with poor infrastructure and health care?

"I don't know what Lady GaGa found worthy of retweeting tonight -- now I know how little African children feel when their mommies die of AIDS."

But they don't have to die in vain. And they don't have to stay dead for long. Just watch their Last Tweet and Testaments, and buy their lives back.

Every single dollar helps Keep a Child Alive fight this terrible disease. And when $1,000,000 is reached, everyone will be back online and tweeting in no time.
It will be like they never really died at all (and please note that the words "die" and "dead" do not have quotation marks around them)! Whew!
You can even join the fight yourself by sacrificing your own digital life. If Khloe and Kim can live without Twitter for a few days, maybe you can too.
But wait -- if I sacrifice my own digital life, how will I be able to keep up with the AIDS-related news from around the world? And, more importantly, how will I know when the Kardashians are "back online and tweeting"?

Enough. Why oh why did anyone tell these celebrities that this "digital death" nonsense was not completely insensitive and totally misguided? (We can do something --  by doing literally nothing at all!) Don't these celebrities have publicity and/or public relations people?

I could have told them this was a poor idea. But no one asked me. Well, they should have.
It appears the organizers of a Hollywood campaign to raise money for AIDS in Africa either overestimated the popularity of the celebrities they used -- or what their fans would be willing to donate to get them back on Facebook and Twitter.

The nifty campaign by "Keep a Child Alive," launched Wednesday (World AIDS Day), declared that Hollywood would die "a digital death" until a casket full of cash is raised.
Celebrities including Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest, Serena Williams and Elijah Wood all took part in the campaign -- many posing "dead" in caskets for the cause and recording video statements before their figurative demise.

The organizers promised that when fans donate more than $1,000,000, "everyone will be back online and tweeting in no time."

As of 7:00 p.m. ET, however, just $70,000 had been donated -- meaning unless Seacrest's fans come up with $930,000, the "American Idol" host and the rest of the "dead" celebrities won't be tweeting for the foreseeable future.
$70K. Let's say they make it to $100K by the end of December 1. Say they make $100K a day. That means we'll have to do without their tweets for ten whole days. No Facebook updates! They won't be "liking" things for more than a week.

That's a lifetime in Hollywood. And I don't say that for hyperbole. Seriously, those people in Africa and India don't have 100,000 twitter followers with short attention spans who might forget that they've got a new CD "dropping," or a new fragrance coming out, or a new reality show episode, or a new radio show.

They don't know what these celebrities are sacrificing for them! Let them not have "digitally died" in vain!

 Actually, they're up past $100K as of 8:40 PM PST December 1st. But, if it's a $10 minimum donation, why are they at such an odd number -- where did the $0.03 come from?

A comic book about Maureen Dowd -- Wha--?

Last month, 82.83% of the comic books sold through Diamond Distributors (basically the distributor from which almost every comic book shop in America gets almost every one of its comic books) were either Marvel or DC. 15 other companies fought it out for the rest of the market.

Of the top 100 comics, a whopping 4 were not published by DC or Marvel. Those four were either licensed properties (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Warlord of Mars, True Blood), or have a famous television series based on them (The Walking Dead).

If you're a small publisher trying to make a splash in comics, you have an uphill battle. Get yourself an agreement with HBO. Get a development deal with AMC. Or, you create a comic book with a subject that will grab headlines.

A company called Bluewater Productions has been creating comic books based on public figures like Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Ellen DeGeneres and Meredith Vieira, and the casts of the "Twilight" movies, and the "Glee" television show.

I am waiting for the comic book tracing the lives of "Rock of Love" contestants. Now, there is a comic book waiting to happen.

But this one, the comic book about Maureen Dowd. Um.
Maureen Dowd, the famous and popular political opinion columnist, is about to write her most powerful and influential column ever!! She's come in possession of information that could topple the American government, destroy the White House and bring the Free World to its knees. Joined by the shadowy black-ops rogue agent, Shadow Wolf, can she fend off the assaults of fanatical White House officials and Hezzbollah commandos in time to write and deliver her column before deadline and still be on time for her third date with George Clooney? What's a girl to do?
This is satire, I know. But talk about bad timing -- this is the week that Interpol put Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, on their "Most Wanted" list. This was ostensibly done because police in Sweden have re-opened a "rape" case against him, but likely has much to do with the fact that certain elements in the US government are unhappy with his release of "classified" documents.

But, yeah, the comic book about the tired, hacky, and plagiarizing New York Times columnist and her "Shadow Wolf" might be just as interesting as what's happening in the "real world."

 Julian Assange actually kind of looks like a comic book character. And unlike the comic book version of Maureen Dowd, he is actually standing up to the US government and releasing "sensitive" material that the bureaucrats and politicians who run the country deem to be too important for any of us to see. So, where is his comic book?