Monday, December 26, 2011

Explaining the enduring popularity of those "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" books and movies

Although it is impossible to ruin that which is already AWESOME, this post does contain information about the plots to the three Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" films. So if you don't want to know what happens in those films, don't read this.

This past weekend at the American box office, the number one and number two films each featured stars of the famous Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" films in major roles. And one of the top five films was the American version of the adaptation of the first book in the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series of novels, which were written by a Swedish author called Steig Larsson. These novels are a worldwide sensation. Their movies and the stars of those movies are literally taking over the box office. So for those reasons I thought I would examine the phenomenon of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," just like it's already been examined about a million times already.

First of all, I should admit that I have not read any of the books. I tried to read one of them, but I got bored and distracted so I stopped. I then watched all of the first, most of the second, and some of the third of the Swedish film adaptations of the novels. They were tawdry and ludicrous, which are the two things that will always make your work popular if you're thinking of trying to make it as an international bestseller author writer. Anyway, now that I know all about them, here is my examination of them.

FIRST OF ALL, WHO IS "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO"?

"The girl with the dragon tattoo" is one of the main characters in the three books about "the girl with the dragon tattoo." Her name is Lisbeth Salander, and she is in her late teens or early twenties, or maybe her thirties or forties, I couldn't always tell. She is a rebellious punk hacker who plays by her own rules, which is why she is a ward of the state, and keeps getting stuck with these foster fathers who keep raping her. In Sweden, if you get sentenced to spend time in psychiatric wards, they let you out and you have to live with a rapist until you're 30 or 40 or something. The reason why Lisbeth got sentenced to live with rapists is because she threw gasoline (or, "petrol," as they call it in Sweden) on her abusive father, and then lit the petrol on fire and burned him up. You don't learn this until the second movie, I think. Anyway, her father it turns out was a big shot from Russia or something, and he defected to Sweden and started doing a bunch of bad stuff, like human trafficking or something, but a secret organization inside the Swedish government was protecting him because he brought a bunch of stuff from Russia, or something, which is why whenever he beat on Lisbeth's mother they never did anything to him. It's sort of like that group of people in the US government who assassinated Osama bin Laden, except instead of being grateful to them for helping keep the citizens of Sweden safe, we're supposed to think of them as villains just because they put Lisbeth in a mental hospital when she was a little kid. But if they were so bad, why did they let her out and put her with all those rapists? Also, Lisbeth sometimes sleeps with women.

WHAT IS "THE DRAGON TATTOO"? WHAT IS IT'S SIGNIFICANCE?

The dragon tattoo is a big tattoo of a dragon on Lisbeth's back. It is supposed to symbolize that she is a rebellious punk hacker who plays by her own rules. Also, she sometimes sleeps with women.

WHO IS THE OLD GUY THAT LISBETH HANGS OUT WITH?

There is an old journalist called Michael Blomkvist, or something like, who is so European that he sits down to pee at a urinal. He smokes cigarettes and drives from one action scene to another in a hybrid, or on a vespa. At the end of the first movie, he doesn't want to kill the Nazi guy who has been raping and murdering young women for about twenty years, because that would make too much sense, which is why Lisbeth has to do it. He is such a careful journalist that when he studies important documents, such as Lisbeth's government file that proves that she was unfairly sent to the mental hospital and to live with rapists by the secret cabal within the government, and that her father is this big Russian guy or something, he just leaves them lying around his apartment so that when someone breaks in to steal the documents, they're laying right there on his desk, out in the open. At the start of the first movie he's been set up by this big businessman, and he publishes a story in his magazine, Millennium, that turns out to be based on information that is no longer available, or something. He goes to prison for libel, or whatever it is they have in Sweden. But he's still a virtuous, strong, virile Swedish journalist, which is why Lisbeth can't help herself, even though she's about twenty years younger than him, she still climbs on top of him for some rub-and-bump (that's what it's called in Sweden) when they're out at that farm investigating the Nazi family that rapes and kills young women. I don't know what is the Swedish equivalent of a "Mary Sue," but that is what Blomkvist is: Lisbeth gets raped a couple of times, has sex with Blomkvist, and has sex with a couple of women. In the movies, at least, her encounter with Blomkvist is her only consensual heterosexual encounter. Unless I  missed something

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" BOOKS?

I don't know for sure. I haven't read them.

WHAT HAPPENS IN THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" MOVIES?

That I do know, kind of. Lisbeth's first foster father has a heart attack or something, so she gets a new foster father who rapes her. Lisbeth makes a video of one of the rapes, and then ties the guy up and tattoos something like "I am a rapist pig" on his stomach, and then uses the video to blackmail him into giving her the money that she makes in her job as a hacker or something. Some people hired the company where she works (actually I don't think she works there very much, because I can't remember seeing her work there ever again after the start of the first movie) to investigate Michael Blomkvist, so she hacks into his computer all the time and looks at the stuff on his hard drive. He gets sent to prison on trumped up charges, and when he gets out this wealthy man from a family of Nazis who own a big corporation hires him to investigate the disappearance of his sister or cousin or something, about forty years before. It turns out that this guy's brother or cousin or something was raping his cousin or sister or whatever, and the cousin or sister changed places with the other cousin or something, and then ran away and didn't tell the police or anyone that her cousin or brother was raping and killing young women for forty years. She got away and moved to Australia and worked for a charity or something. Anyway, Lisbeth steals a bunch of money from somebody and goes to the Caribbean, then for some reason she comes back and a bunch of people start dying, and it turns out they're being killed by her half brother, who is this big giant blond guy who can't feel pain because he doesn't have nerves, or something. One of the people who gets killed is the guy who raped Lisbeth on video. She ends up fighting her father and half brother at a farm out in the middle of nowhere, and they kill her and bury her body in the back yard. Only she isn't dead; she digs her way out of the hole and then attacks them. Her father gets an ax in the head and her half brother runs away. Finally, after he's had a good nap and stopped for a few smoke breaks, Michael Blomkvist shows up after everything is already over, and Lisbeth's been shot a bunch of times and smacked around. She goes to the hospital and then the guy who kept her in the mental hospital when she was a child shows up and wants to take her back and put her back in the mental hospital. But he can't be too bad or too smart because why did they let her out in the first place, and why didn't they just kill her long before, if they were so evil and smart and wanted to ensure all these secrets didn't get out? Then this other secret government organization contacts Michael Blomkvist, and they enlist him to help them find out about this other secret government organization, the one that was protecting Lisbeth's father. Lisbeth's father, by the way, gets shot by one of the secret government guys, because they're tired of protecting him, so this guy, after all these years of trying to keep everything so secret and quiet, goes to the hospital with a gun and shoots the guy, then tries to shoot Lisbeth because that won't draw any attention, and then when he can't get to Lisbeth, he shoots himself in the head in the hospital hallway. This is apparently par for the course in Sweden, because hardly anyone bats an eye over this and I don't think it was ever mentioned again. Anyway, Lisbeth ends up being put on trial for I think killing the foster father who raped her, although I can't remember, so they play the video that she made of herself getting raped by the guy and then the guy who runs the mental institution turned out to have written his "I think we should commit Lisbeth to my hospital for life" report BEFORE he'd even officially spoken to her, because he kept that in a word document or something on his hard drive and it had a date stamp. Oh, and he also had a bunch of child pornography on his hard drive. So Lisbeth gets out of prison and she doesn't have to have any more foster fathers.

THERE SURE IS A LOT RAPING GOING ON IN THESE BOOKS, ISN'T THERE?

Like I said, I don't know about the books. But in the movies, yes.

SO, WHY ARE THESE BOOKS SO POPULAR?

Your previous question answers this one, don't you think? From cave drawings to the book of Judges to Moll Flanders to Maggie: A Girl of the Streets to random episodes of CSI to The Time Traveler's Wife to Precious to Winter's Bone, people love to see women get punished for, oh, you know, whatever.

ARE YOU SAYING THAT STEIG LARSSON TAPPED INTO SOME KIND OF PRIMAL INSTINCT THAT HAS EXISTED IN HUMAN BEINGS SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME?

Yep. He was kind of a genius. Also, I'm not sure if I remembered to mention this or not, but, Lisbeth sometimes sleeps with women.

SO, WHAT OTHER INSIGHTS DO YOU HAVE INTO THE "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO" PHENOMENON?

I think I'm done. I have done a brilliant job of examining this worldwide cultural phenomenon, for which you are quite grateful.

She's so fierce.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Briefly Noted with Poodle Bitch: Should Poodle Bitch start listening to P!nk?; the power of Craigslist; Newt Gingrich's magnanimity; infernal cats

Poodle Bitch was deeply touched to read of the generosity displayed by the musical performer P!nk, who paid $5,000 to provide surgery and other medical care to a shockingly mistreated canine.
Sources tell TMZ ... P!nk was surfing the Internet recently, when she stumbled upon a story about a puppy that had been thrown off an L.A. overpass ... and suffered 3 broken legs when it landed in the L.A. river.

We're told the dog was in bad shape ... and required major surgery FAST ... or else.

That's when P!nk sprung into action -- contacting the Ace of Hearts animal rescue organization and offering to pay for any medical expense it took to save the dog's life.

In fact, Poodle Bitch was made dizzy by the whiplash between bizarre, unwarranted cruelty and kindness and decency contained within those few hundred words on TMZ's site. Perhaps it was this dizziness that explains her stumbling upon the following music video by Ms. P!nk:



"So raise your glass if you are wrong in all the right ways."

Poodle Bitch at first thought that this was a song about "just being yourself, no matter what," the type of lesson that used to come from Afterschool Specials so many human years ago. But, a careful examination of the lyrics reveals that in fact this is a paean to P!nk herself, in the guise of a fan recruitment anthem. As long as you are "wrong," in a manner deemed acceptable to P!nk, you may join her. Those of you who are not "wrong" in the "right ways," which is to say, "correct," well, then, P!nk is passing judgment against you.

She, P!nk, makes the judgment for or against you. And if you make the cut, then you are one of her underdogs. And as for those underdogs, they,
will never be, never be anything but loud
And nitty gritty, dirty little freaks

Which obviously leaves out Poodle Bitch. She thinks it is fair to say that she will never be a nitty gritty, dirty little freak. She has, however, been known to get a bit "loud," especially when a certain Deutscher Schäferhund goes strutting down the sidewalk past her home. Poodle Bitch wonders if that would be enough to pass muster with P!nk. She rather hopes not; while she willingly raises a glass in honor of the musical performer's generosity toward a dog in need, she fears she has already heard more than enough of her music.

Poodle Bitch is happy to note that it isn't just composers of self aggrandizing dance music who are capable to showing compassion to canines. A human school teacher in San Antonio, Texas was able to buy a few more days of life for a blind dog named Stevie Oedipus Wonder -- and in that time, his human companion was found:
On Dec. 11, Stevie showed up at Animal Care Services. A collar and tag kept him alive for five days, Jeanne Saadi, the agency's live release coordinator, said. But with outdated information, the agency failed to find his owners and prepared to euthanize him.

That's when Brooke Orr, a high school teacher, saw the agency's ad seeking a home for the blind dog. She agreed to care for Stevie over the holidays, buying him a few more days.
...
"I thought that he must belong to someone. So I went to Craigslist and went to lost and found and I put in 'blind dog,' and there he was," she said.

Poodle Bitch will admit to some confusion after reading the entire story. Firstly, who would mistreat any animal, most especially a dog born without eyes? Poodle Bitch can't imagine what it must be like to be unable to watch certain reality television programs, view great works of art, and to have to rely solely on her sense of hearing and smell to know when a certain Deutscher Schäferhund happens to be walking past. And, of course, she loves to see the faces of her human companions. Such animals should be treated with extra care.

Secondly, why did Ms. Gutierrez's landlord tell her that Mr. Oedipus Wonder was deceased?

Thirdly, why wasn't the information on Mr. Oedipus Wonder's tag correct?



Regardless, Poodle Bitch is gratified that Mr. Oedipus Wonder has been reunited with a family that loves him. And, if she could, Poodle Bitch would sit through at least one of Ms. Orr's classes -- she apparently teaches English as a second language; English is in fact Poodle Bitch's second language.

Poodle Bitch does not follow human politics, for what she believes are reasons so obvious that she will not elucidate them here. Yet it happened that she came across an item about one particular candidate for human president of the United States, a man with the rather bestial-sounding name "Newt." Apparently, this human claims to have softhearted feelings toward animals.
The campaign said today that it will soon launch a “Pets With Newt” site aimed at Gingrich’s love for animals, intended to show a “lighter side” of the candidate. “As speaker I made it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets in 1988. I love pets so we’re going to have an entire project,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich doesn’t have any pets at this time, but he told ABC News today he and his wife Callista want a dog in the White House, and it’s a friendly disagreement between the couple over what kind and size of dog. Callista wants a small dog and Newt wants a large dog, though he says dogs like a Great Dane are a little too large.

Poodle Bitch appreciates the obvious magnanimity that Mr. Gingrich displayed in making it possible for people in public housing to keep their pets. Obviously, such power should be wielded only by the most benignant. Perhaps that is why so many "pets" seem to be "with Newt," at least if the website is to believed. Poodle Bitch wonders if any of those animals knew that, when their companions were taking their photos, they'd end up as campaign propaganda for this human:



Poodle Bitch was reminded of the canine companion-related antics of another presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Apparently, Mr. Romney once put an animal crate on top of his car and drove some great distance. Poodle Bitch is unclear about the details, but at least one New York Times columnist has the story down, and mentions it at every opportunity:
Gail Collins loves telling the story of how Mitt Romney drove his family to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car -- and telling it, and telling it, and telling it.

The liberal New York Times columnist has mentioned the incident in print 19 times, by our count. She devoted a column to the incident in 2007 when Romney first ran for president. In another column, she suggested John McCain pick Romney for his running mate "so I can repeatedly revisit the time Mitt drove to Canada with the family dog on the station-wagon roof." And when Sarah Palin was picked instead, and Collins opined that "unlike Mitt Romney, she has never gone on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car."

Poodle Bitch has met plenty of dogs with a "sense of adventure" who might enjoy riding along on the roof of a car. That in itself does not particularly shock or disturb Poodle Bitch-- most especially considering that the alternative to the roof ride is to spend time in a motor vehicle with a politician. However, Poodle Bitch notes that dogs have nonverbal ways of communicating their distress with a situation. Apparently, Mr. Romney's dog did so:
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.

Poodle Bitch notes that, at best, Seamus required more bathroom breaks than he was being allowed. At worst, he was so nervous about his traveling situation that he could not control his bowels. But at least Mr. Romney got a chance to show his "emotion-free crisis management;" while the animal actually experiencing the crisis got to... ride on the roof the rest of the way to Canada. And then, presumably, back to Boston.

And what does Mr. Romney have to say about this?



"Shrug."

And now Poodle Bitch will go back to ignoring politics. However, she finds it impossible to ignore cats. She has often wondered at the humans who willingly keep these passive aggressive manipulators in their homes, and now she has even more evidence that the creatures are not entirely to be trusted.
Tempted by the playful antics of that adorable kitten in the pet shop? If you've never had a cat before you may want to think again, especially if you have other allergies, researchers warn.

And if you do acquire a feline, keep it out of your bedroom.

While having a cat as a child may protect against future allergies, getting one in adulthood nearly doubles the chances of developing an immune reaction to it -- the first step towards wheezing, sneezing and itchy eyes, a European study found.

The same study, which covered thousands of adults and was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that people with other allergies were at extra high risk of reacting to a new feline in the house.

Poodle Bitch notes that adult humans who are considering getting a cat should instead consider the delightful poodle. She is willing to concede, however, that the reader might consider her to be biased. So instead she will quote from a Mr. Malcolm Dupris at barkbytes.com, who states:
One advantage of the Poodle's coat is it is so dense that hair and dander do not easily fall off of the dog, therefore people with allergies are not as afflicted around Poodles as they would be around some other breeds.

But Poodle Bitch would be doing a disservice to the reader if she did not offer more from Mr. Dupris:
All Poodles are quick learners, are energetic, can be comical, and are natural born performers. Their intelligence is quite remarkable, some owners swear their Poodles are capable of reasoning, and they are very attuned to mood in their environment. The Poodle is also very versatile. This breed of dog has been used for hunting, retrieving, they have performed in circus' and as a war dog.

Poodle Bitch wonders why all humans don't have at least one poodle companion, given their remarkable intelligence. She also believes that "War Dog" is a fine title for a Steven Spielberg film. Or, perhaps, "War Bitch."

Stevie Oedipus Wonder picture source.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Poodle Bitch presents her new Christmas poem: The Merry Caniche de Noël



The Merry Caniche de Noël

She travels for peace and goodwill's sake,
Leaving chicken breast and tomato slices in her wake.
All good boys and girls know so well
That beloved and sweet Caniche de Noël.

One Christmas Eve night I filled up with eggnog,
And attained a warm glowing feeling, my senses agog.
I stumbled out of the pub and into the snow,
With no care for direction, for I'd nowhere to go.
There met my vision so hazy and blurry,
That Merry Caniche de Noël, in her red-fringed surry.

Said I, "What brings you to this questionable boulevard,
Where shamble human detritus who find living so hard?"
At least, I believe that is what I mumbled,
For years of hard drinking had left my head jumbled,
And cold winter wind was biting through my clothes,
So I might have said nothing, for all anyone knows.

Yet the Merry Caniche de Noël understood what I meant,
For she laughed at the earnestness behind my lament.
Then she licked at herself, and shamelessly so,
As my fingers fumbled with a bottle of two week-old bordeaux.
Offended, I shouted, "How dare you come here,
Especially now -- at this awful time of year!"

After one more long draught, my tirade resumed:
"My silly species is wrecked! We're all doomed!
Yet for one too-long night we're forced to pretend
That this one's an ally-- that that one's a friend!
And all the while he keeps hidden from view
The stiletto with which he seeks to skewer you!"

I know not from whence sprang such corny indignation;
When I'm in my cups I am prone to high sensation.
Another human might have seen it as skylarking,
Yet the Merry Caniche de Noël responded by barking.
Although her manner seemed disconcertingly aloof,
Each word that she spoke was a gentle "Woof, woof."

"Every snowflake that falls is a reflection in the air,
Of the human compassion present everywhere.
It's simply so common that most choose not to see
All of the good contained within humanity.
It is possible that you've all been led astray
By the monster you've created in this holiday

"For only a species so simple and abstruse
Would use a yearly celebration as an excuse
To create yet another commercial event
That contradicts its own original intent.
Within you all, even you who stand before me,
Resides great promise and generosity!

"So listen hard," (she concluded), "to my gentle doggerel,
And heed now the message of the Caniche de Noël."
With that, the sweet poodle was off and away,
And I heard another voice from somewhere else say,
"My friend, you've clearly had one to many,
A public street's no place for a drunk to spend a penny."

The policeman was quite rough as he took me to jail,
But I just had to laugh, despite my travail,
For the words of the Caniche still rang in my ears,
And in my fraying old pockets found I two souvenirs:
Fresh tomato slices and pieces of chicken breast
Which I ate on that night I spent as the city's guest.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The politics of Bane's unintelligible dialogue in the upcoming Batman film

A new trailer for the upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," has just been released to much fanfare and excitement. You thought that was just anticipation over the "holiday season," that you were feeling, but no-- it was the trailer hitting the web on Monday:



That's a bunch of stuff happening in there. Including, apparently, some political stuff. According to a headline in the Los Angeles Times, the film "dons an Occupy costume." You might not have realized this, but a film can wear a costume. An "Occupy costume," which is a reference to Occupy Wall Street. I admit I was unaware that there was an "Occupy costume." Were those people doing the occupying wearing costumes? Anyway, from the Times:
Over a haunting rendition of a child singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" (lest there be any doubt about his national themes), Nolan offers us a peek at his haves-and-have-nots preoccupation when he has Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle whisper in the ear of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne a message from the 99%.

“You think this can last?" she says. "There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. And you and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us.”
The Times (which is preparing to hide its material behind a paywall) has apparently been able to discern that Christopher Nolan has a "haves-and-have-nots preoccupation," based on this two minute trailer, and the Selina Kyle character is Mr. Nolan's Mary Sue.

And the "Star Spangled Banner," that irritating ode to war -- its use in the trailer is an alert that Mr. Nolan is making a grand political statement about the state of our nation. Then again, because the "Star Spangled Banner" is an irritating ode to war, he might be using it to set up some kind of violent action scene. Without having seen the actual film itself, I can't say. I don't have the same insight into Mr. Nolan's mind that the Times seems to have.

The Wrap has a bit of a roundup of more trailer reactions:
In particular, Catwoman’s (Anne Hathaway) warning to Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale)... struck some as evidence of distinct Occupy undertones.

“Even if Nolan decided against filming at Zuccotti Park, it seems he may in fact depict Batman as the 1 percent,” Slate's David Haglund wrote.

Asked Entertainment Weekly's Jeff Jensen : "Team Nolan has made it clear that 'The Dark Knight Rises' won't be going gently into the good night of franchise retirement-rebootment. But are you intrigued or alienated by the prospect of a potentially politically charged superhero epic, one that arrives July 20 -- about a month ahead of the Republican and Democratic national conventions?"

Mr. Nolan's previous Batman film, "The Dark Knight," was seen by some commentators as a "War on Terror" allegory:
In 2008, Nolan’s blockbuster and unqualified masterpiece, ”The Dark Knight,” was openly embraced by conservatives who saw the film as a thinly veiled, intelligent, and very welcome allegory sympathetic towards America’s and George W. Bush’s role in the War on Terror.
This of course was not how I saw it. In fact, I saw it as exactly the opposite-- a repudiation of Mr. Bush's -- and the US government's -- role in the "War on Terror."
Toward the end of “The Dark Knight,” it’s revealed that Batman/Bruce Wayne has been working on a secret project that basically turns everyone’s cell phone into sonar images. He can spy on everyone in Gotham City. I’m not sure exactly how it works, but it’s both ultra cool and scary as hell. Batman realizes that one person shouldn’t have this power- he rationalizes using it because he needs to track the Joker, who is undeniably worse than Batman.

This same Batman who, in “Batman Begins,” brought down the entire League of Shadows to save the life of one murderer doesn’t trust himself to only use the spying device once. That’s why he gives Lucius Fox, the head of Wayne Enterprises’ Applied Science Division, the power to destroy it at any time. And he does just that, once Batman has found Joker.

There are a few decent people in the government, but even those decent people can be corrupted, as happened to poor Harvey Dent. A recurring theme throughout the film is that Commissioner Gordon doesn’t know who on the police force he can trust.
Unlike Lucius Fox, the former Constitutional law lecturer, Nobel peace prize winner, and current president of the United States Barack Obama has not destroyed the machinery that Mr. Bush erected in his "War on Terror." In fact, he has done just the opposite, starting more wars, killing thousands of people in Pakistan, and claiming new (super) powers for himself -- including the power to assassinate American citizens without trial.

The repudiation of the government's assumed powers in its "War on Terror" was magnified by the scene in which the convicts throw away the detonator that would have allowed them to blow up the other ferry, therefore saving their own lives (sorry -- um, spoiler alert!). The citizens have the power to handle the situation on their own, making a deeply moral and righteous decision, even if it means risking death. This optimism about humanity is clearly not shared by the political class -- those who make the laws under which they prosecute their "War on Terror." That's why the government considers anyone who travels to be a suspicious character who must be frisked and/or x-rayed before getting on an airplane. Not even gun-shaped purse designs are safe from their purview.

So, it is my contention that "The Dark Knight" was expressing a sentiment that was in fact totally opposed to the official government "War on Terror" line. Obviously, some people didn't see it that way. But art is open to interpretation, so I'm not going to say that my interpretation is the only one, or even the best one, even though clearly my interpretation is both the only and the best one. And I'm certainly not going to speculate about the politics of an upcoming work of art based on a two minute advertisement.

Besides, the whole "Occupy costume" thing isn't even the biggest controversy awaiting this film. The movie might actually have a bit of a Bane problem.
...Warner Bros. is running into an unexpected problem, one which is causing some handwringing among executives and others who are working on the movie.

Some audience members are grumbling that they can’t understand what Bane, the main villain in the final installment of the Christopher Nolan-helmed trilogy, is saying. Bane is a bad guy whose super-strength comes from a drug that he continuously inhales. In the prologue, the character, played by British actor Tom Hardy, is seen with a mask that covers his nose and mouth; his speech is garbled and muffled.
...
Sources close to the movie say Warner Bros. is very aware of the sound issue. One source working on the film says he is “scared to death” about “the Bane problem.”
I for one think that a villain who is slightly unintelligible is even more menacing than one whose thoughts and plans are articulated with crystal clarity. How many times have you found yourself in a situation in which you're speaking to someone you can't completely hear or understand, and you've wanted to ask them to repeat themselves, but you've been afraid to because you felt awkward, or you didn't want to offend the other person?

Now imagine the person you can't quite understand has super strength and could break your back if he wanted to. You wanna ask him to repeat himself? Or are you just gonna nod your head to whatever it was he just said, and hope that he didn't say something like, "Do you mind if I break your back now? Just nod your head if you don't mind."

That is genuinely scary.

Or, perhaps Mr. Nolan is making a political statement with Bane's alleged unintelligibility? Something about misunderstanding the root causes of the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Or something?

I won't speculate until I actually see the movie. I'm not the LA Times.

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Stumpy Claus film "Play With Me!" available online. The greatest Christmas film of all time? Or the greatest holiday film of all time? It's both!

I have finished a new animated short, just in time for the holiday season. "Play With Me!" features the mysterious and heroic Stumpy Claus in a tale of child selling, cruelty, fear, and healing regression. It also has two songs I wrote. It is the perfect salve for what ails you during this troubling time of year.

Stumpy Claus in Play with Me from Ricky Sprague on Vimeo.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The best Christmas movies ever? You're kidding, right?

Someone at Forbes called Mark Hughes (who writes "about films, especially superhero films, & Hollywood") has produced a list of the "Top Ten Best Christmas Movies of All Time," which based on that tautological headline might be hyperbolic, or possibly tongue in cheek; or maybe the author had nothing to do with the headline and the person who wrote the headline became enthusiastic and wanted to try and ensure that the readers understood that these were in fact the top ten best Christmas movies, and not merely the top ten Christmas movies, or the ten best Christmas movies.

Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about "top best" lists. If you're interested, you can read my post on the top best comic book-based movies here. I have neither the time nor inclination to do the same thing for Christmas movies, so instead I'll repost Mr. Hughes's list:

(10) A Christmas Carol (1951 version)
(9) Miracle on 34th Street (1947 version)
(8) Gremlins
(7) Elf
(6) The Bishop's Wife (1947 version)
(5) A Christmas Story
(4) 1941
(3) The Nightmare Before Christmas
(2) Brazil
(1) Die Hard

It's hard to argue with a list that calls itself the "top ten best," so I won't really, except to note that A Christmas Carol is a terrible story that has been made into several terrible films, I didn't once even crack a smile when I sat through Elf, The Bishop's Wife is dull, 1941 is about twenty minutes too long, and I never made it past the first fifteen minutes or so of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Die Hard is a pretty decent choice for number one. And this list gets credit for not including It's a Wonderful Life, a seriously flawed movie that is almost completely redeemed by James Stewart's amazing performance.

I would add Remember the Night, with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, directed by Preston Sturges. It is the top best film that any of those three people made.

Also missing from this list are the following Christmas classics, directed by the "celebrated" auteur Ricky Sprague (the first one might be a little not safe for work):








I'm currently working on yet another Christmas-themed film, which I hope to have posted by Monday, which will no doubt make it onto my own top best Christmas list, should I ever choose to actually make one.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Disturbing google image search of the day: Paula Deen nude

On Tuesday, someone found my blog by doing a google image search for Food Network celebrity Paula Deen nude. I was so scandalized, I took a screenshot of it from my statcounter:


My blog is about many and varied subjects, so it's not unusual for people to stumble upon it while looking for shall we say esoteric things. But Paula Deen nude?

Of course I am more than happy to give people what they're looking for. To that end, I present the following doctored image of Paula Deen nude:


I hope google is paying attention -- this should get me lots and lots of visitors!

(The image above consists of pieces that can be found here and here. The quote was taken from a video that can be found here.)

Bonus: You can read my Food Network and Hunger Games belittling ebook, The Hungry Game, here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Poodle Bitch is sad to note the passing of Pusuke

Yesterday, Pusuke, described in the Mail Online as a "male cross breed," passed away. Pusuke's passing is notable because the authoritative collector of human "records," the Guinness Book, last December certified him as the oldest living dog on the planet.

Here is how the Mail Online story begins:
The world's oldest living dog has died in Japan at the age of 26 - the equivalent to more than 125 human years.
Poodle Bitch wonders why it is that a canine's age must always be presented so. Are humans so unable to comprehend that 26 is an extraordinarily ripe old age for a dog that they must have it spelled out that the "human equivalent" is, well, a ripe old age for a human?

Poodle Bitch would like for everyone, human and canine alike, to finally once and for all acknowledge that human and canine bodies age differently. Canines mature faster. While human babies are still making (pardon Poodle Bitch's language) "poo" in their diapers, most dogs have already learned to patiently sit by the door and wait for a human to let them out. And very few humans ever learn that the only proper, dignified spot in which to leave one's (again, pardon Poodle Bitch's language) "poo" is outside in a nice, shady spot, far away from the structure in which one dwells.

Poodle Bitch very much appreciates this reporting on the story, at something with the cutesy-poo name "Animal Tracks," in which Pusuke's passing is noted not in human terms, but canine:
Pusuke, who was listed as the oldest living dog in Guinness World Records, died on Dec. 5, 2011 in Sakura, Japan. He reached the ripe old age of 26 years and 9 months.
Unfortunately, the story is three paragraphs in length. The first paragraph, Poodle Bitch has pasted in full above. The second paragraph consists of two sentences noting the previous record holder was an American Beagle who passed away in 2003. The third paragraph is a single sentence containing a link to a "slideshow of the biggest, fastest, longest, weirdest and wackiest record breakers from the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records."

Hardly a dignified notice of the passing of a dedicated companion of more than 26 and a half years. Especially given what Poodle Bitch learned from an article which appeared in Business Insider (Poodle Bitch wonders if Pusuke was involved in business in some way?) back in July 2011:
But Pusuke came close to losing out on the prestigious Guinness title.

In 2008, the dog was run over by a car and several of his organs were crushed during the accident.
Leaving aside for a moment the casual indifference with which this information is presented, Poodle Bitch has to admit she gasped upon reading those words. Pusuke's organs were crushed when he was run over by a car three years ago. Appropriately, a website called A Place to Love Dogs has more:
The spry elder canine still enjoys his role as guard dog, but nearly lost his shot at the Guinness record when he was struck by a car in 2008, rupturing a number of internal organs. Emergency surgery saved the 28 pound wonder dog.
Poodle Bitch concedes that's not much more, but it does tell the reader that Pusuke had surgery. Also, Poodle Bitch can't help but note that while Business Insider (the place for canine-related news?) says that Pusuke's organs were "crushed," which sounds like something humans occasionally do to the delicious tomatoes that Poodle Bitch so loves before placing them in jars, A Place to Love Dogs reveals that Pusuke's organs "ruptured," which sounds much more like a medical term.

But which was it -- were Pusuke's organs "ruptured," or "crushed"?

Poodle Bitch also notes that Ms. Nagai is described by the website as Pusuke's "owner." Perhaps they should call themselves "A Place to Own Dogs"? Regardless, A Place to Love Dogs claims that Pusuke's human companion, Shigeo Nagai, gives him vitamins twice daily, but does not share exactly what vitamins he takes. This is information Poodle Bitch might like to have.

Perhaps the vitamins twice a day lifestyle is the norm in Japan. Poodle Bitch notes that the average human life expectancy in Japan is 82.9 years, which is apparently the longest in the world. Poodle Bitch is curious as to the average life expectancy of dogs worldwide, but was only able to find canine life expectancy information broken down by breed, not nation. So she has no way of knowing for sure if Japanese dogs live longer.

Still, Poodle Bitch has long maintained that is the quality of the years, not the quantity, that most matter to her. She is happy to have found companions in whose presence she feels safe and protected, and she is happy to have gotten plenty of satisfying chicken breast and tomato slices. And a nice place outside the house in which to (one last time, Poodle Bitch apologizes for her language) poo. She hopes that Pusuke could say the same.

She hopes that all dogs can say the same.

Pusuke and his human companion, Shigeo Nagai. Two very lucky individuals.