Archive for the ‘Obsessive Listmaking’ Category

My 42 Definitions of a Strong Society

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Yes, once again it is time to dig into the obsessive-compulsive-list-making “what’s been ripening in the innards of the smartphone” file. And nobody disagrees with me about any of it.

At least, when talking-out-loud most people don’t disagree with much of it. Being a liberal, lately, seems to involve saying something to the effect of “Oh in a perfect world I wish (insert some of what follows here)…BUT…we have all these problems, so therefore we must ‘invest’ in my program.” And being a “moderate” liberal versus an “extreme” liberal, seems more than anything else to have to do with how quickly the liberal gets to that “but.”

Regarding what makes a society free, strong and healthy, there does not appear to be a lot of disagreement. Except for craven disagreement, the disagreement that must cower out of sight, hiding behind red herrings.

Some of these things can be measured, in service of producing an actual number. Where that is possible, and the number is found to be in a decline, that place is coming off the rails. So you can probably form a guess about my thoughts regarding the direction our country has been heading for the last year.

1. Taboo versus Law. There is a vast, yawning gap between laws that are written down, and unenforced cultural taboos that are universally observed as a sign of respect the individual pays to the sensibilities of the community. There is an abundance of little things that are frowned-upon, and because they are frowned-upon they are very seldom done. They carry absolutely no penalty whatsoever. In fact, making any kind of “hard” law against some of these things, is one of the taboos.
2. Stigma is firm but soft. Rule #1 notwithstanding, nobody ever has to profess a false belief, or keep their silence about a genuine belief, to keep from losing their property, their business, their kids, their spouse, their house, their job, their stature in the community, or anything else. Hey let’s face it: If thinking a certain thing is evidence that you’re a wonderful person, and then you get penalized for thinking something else, then thinking that thing is no longer evidence of your wonderfulness, now is it?
3. Men do things. Able-bodied men, of all ages, are knights. They defend women, children, old and handicapped people, from trifling inconvenience as well as danger and bodily harm. They never, ever remain sitting when a lady approaches.
4. Failure. Universally available, and free. No person, enterprise or industry is “Too Big To Fail” — ever. Failure is regarded as something that is always possible, to be avoided at all costs, but never to be ignored or sidestepped once it is earned. Depriving a man of the failure he has justly earned, is rightfully seen as just as deplorable as depriving him of wages he has justly earned.
5. The high wall. Coarse humor and other material are kept away from children, as well as adults who might not prefer it. The girly mags kept behind the clerk, rather than at knee height out front; the blogger who takes the effort to write “not safe work work language in this video”; the curtain in front of that special room in the back, at your video store; South Park scheduled on the cable teevee for 10pm or later. These are fundamental building blocks of any civilized society. The spicy stuff is freely available, but walled off.
6. Promote strength and not weakness. If an individual falls short of a physical or mental challenge, he is encouraged to try again, and discouraged from developing the one-time failure into a lasting disability.
7. Keeping and bearing arms. There really isn’t any telling who does & doesn’t have a gun, but it’s probably not too far from the truth to suppose everyone is carrying something.
8. Egalitarianism. A penalty for a crime is constant, regardless of the class, economic status or birthright of the convict.
9. Take your place. Children wait for grown-ups; grown-ups make sure the women go first; the women see to it that, among them, the elderly and infirm go first.
Nucular10. Say it. At work, rest or play, nobody ever mumbles; misspellings are exceedingly rare; if an idea is worth expressing, it’s worth expressing properly.
11. Earn your pay. The employee sees his employer as a partner in the business — nobody ever does half-ass work, or less work, to avoid making his co-workers look bad. He does what the boss says, not what the union boss says.
12. Non-Discrimination is a taboo and not a law. Opportunities are not awarded to, or withheld from, people because of their religion, race or gender (unless applicable).
13. Getting rich by watching the rich. People don’t pay greater attention to indigents and ask “Who is at fault?” They pay attention to those who are better off, and ask “What wise things did he do that put him in this position?”
14. Independent thinking. It starts early on. Teachers teach and grade children to produce a good outcome, not to follow a certain sequence of steps.
15. Children wait. Children are afraid to interrupt adults. When they play or are otherwise too distracted to move out of the way of someone else, they do their playing in low-traffic areas, where they aren’t likely to obstruct.
16. Faceless kingmakers. There are no anonymous panels of experts artificially creating other experts. When men carry great respect and authority, the people who show them this respect are ready to list the wonderful things those men have done, not the titles, awards and other gimmicks bestowed on them by anonymous commissions or third-parties.
17. Faceless kingmakers, continued. With regard to #16, nobody can earn respect, authority, titles, awards or other gimmicks by talking a certain way; they have to accomplish something, and it has to be something measurable.
18. Rehabilitation and Recidivism. If a man continues to prove himself unable to live safely among others, he is ultimately put to death.
19. Ownership. People ask “Is it my place to pass judgment?” before asking “Would I have done it the way he did it?”
20. Individuality vs. Groupthink. Groups just aren’t very important. The individual is the de facto master of any given task, challenge or situation. Very few things in life are decided by a vote anywhere, or for that matter by passages out of some kind of rulebook. Committees, where they exist, exist only for brief periods of time and decide practically nothing at all.
21. Mind-altering substances. No one ever uses hallucinogenic drugs. They see their fortunes in life as being linked to their ability to think things out capably, so they just don’t want to mess with that.
22. Nobility of labor. People spend time doing their own manual chores; many of them possess an abundance of tools that they have designed and constructed themselves. It is impossible to do any of this when you engage in the sloppy ramshackle thinking I see of late; and, I suppose, it is perhaps not possible to avoid the sloppy ramshackle thinking I see of late, if you haven’t done something like this in awhile.
23. Keeping up with the Joneses. Nobody ever wants to buy something just because someone else they know bought the same thing.
24. Headwear. Men and boys never wear hats indoors. Ever. Headgear above…or a roof…never, ever both. Simply not done.
25. Strong and silent. The more powerful the leader is, the shorter his speeches are, the greater the passage of time before he gives one, and the less likely it is that he’s ever heard to blame his predecessor for anything.
26. Family first. Nobody who lives in a household ever tolerates disparaging comments about anybody else who lives in that household.
27. As the ladies go, so goes civilization. Girls give their attention to boys who are serious about what they’re trying to do, and show some drive when they’re trying to do it; not to whoever “makes me laugh.”
28. School. In school, when one child picks on another child and the other child tolerates it, the officials see to it the weaker child “mans up” and that the stronger child is punished — BOTH of those, not one or the other. The lazy school official who turns a blind eye, or enforces discipline only upon children who’ve shown the intelligence and civility to respond positively to it, and in so doing allows this adolescent boy-coming-of-age juice to pickle, like improperly-fermented homemade beer — he is universally regarded as the lowest and most detestable form of bureaucrat, something toxic to natural human development, inimical toward manhood. And that goes double for erring in the opposite direction…handing down some ill-thought-out “hard rule” (see #1) trying to make bullying into a relic from the past. Not gonna happen. Bullying is not something to be expurgated, it is something to be handled.
29. School, continued. With regard to #28, children who can communicate with other children but not do the work, are seen as needing improvement; children who can do the work but who lack “communication skills,” are seen as successful and worthy of emulation.
30. Husbands. Women and men mate for life; all of her children are biologically his.
31. Charity. When any member of the community is enduring urgent need, nobody is condemned with such disdain as the other member who could help and refuses to — except for whoever else wants to force him to. Nobody seeks to make himself, or anybody else, “better” by passing some obligatory law requiring charity. (Again, refer back to #1.)
32. Charity, continued. With regard to #31, to receive such charity and then gripe about it in quality or quantity, is regarded as one of the lowest possible transgressions.
33. World travel. The most respected community members are the ones who have traveled to other countries. But before they traveled they personally worked to earn the solvency needed for their traveling. Traveling is not used as a bully pulpit to promote some sick vision of hyper-internationalism, or to promote materialism and extravagance as if luxuries should be prioritized as staples of life.
34. Central, unifying language. There is one and only one dominant spoken and written language, and whoever isn’t functional in it, does the best they can to learn that one before any other.
35. Immigrants speak the language of the community. With regard to #34, whoever immigrates to this place, speaks that one dominant language before their mother tongue — even at home.
36. Children speak the language of the community. With regard to #34 and #35, children of immigrants are taught to speak the language of the community before their mother tongue — at home.
37. Parents don’t raise boys and girls, they raise men and women. Parenting is seen as a process of making kids capable first, and “safe” second. A parent who delivers a child to adulthood, happy healthy and whole but not capable, is seen as a failure at parenting (see #4).
38. Taxes pay for things, where they are unavoidable. Taxes are never levied, increased or exempted to reward or punish classes of people. Social experimentation by tax code is an unknown thing. Taxes are collected for the purpose of funding vital government activities, and for no other reason.
39. There is a(n unwritten) Hays Code. The fiction that people enjoy, has heroic characters who do good things, villainous characters who do bad things, and nobody ends up prosperous at the end by avoiding honest work or by breaking the law.
40. People acknowledge each other. The everyday greeting is not only desirable, not only obligatory, but sacred. Men who once fought over a woman, take the time to do it with each other, friendly or not. Very few tasks justify withholding a handshake, eye contact and a decent Hello. And for this reason, people don’t spend much time at all with their “personal tunes.”
41. Weaknesses are not coveted. Nobody ever brags about, or connects an identity to, an inability to do something other people can do. People do not greet new acquaintances with that most odious of self-introductions, “I don’t know anything about computers.” People don’t form relationships around weakness. People don’t say “That’s my friend Carol, she doesn’t know how to cook.” They say “That’s my friend Carol, she’s the best interior designer around.”
42. Armageddon is not breathlessly anticipated. Very rarely does anyone talk about the entire world ending, for any reason.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

What I Don’t Want to See in Movies

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I wish Netflix had a feature to block this stuff, or at least warn about it.

1. A man and a woman getting in an argument about whether she’s coming with him or not.
2. A decent-hearted guy committing crimes with a great excuse for committing them, like for example his daughter is being held captive by some super-duper bad guy who wants him to commit the crimes.
3. A Doofus Dad smacking himself in the forehead at the end of the movie and confessing that he’s been working too much, or that he hasn’t spent enough time with his kids, or breaks his promises too often, or expects too much out of his kids.
4. Any scene with “Matrix” style slow-mo.
5. Any scene with John Woo pigeons.
6. Any movie ending in which the momma and the daughter live happily-ever-after when her daddy dies at the end.
7. The “Juno Effect,” in which some fresh-faced smartass pixie girl spews out nonsensical, clumsy, awkward, but oh-so-original cliches that, in real life, she would be asked to repeat a second time assuming anyone had the slightest bit of interest in what she was saying.
8. Supernatural movies in which someone opens a medicine cabinet, with a mirror on the door, as if we don’t know what’s coming.
9. Vampire movies that spend odious amounts of time exploring the emotional angst of the vampires.
10. Slasher movies in which someone wanders through the dark murmuring “Is that you? It’s not funny anymore!”
11. This is really huge for me: Once you’ve defined that a character is brave, or intelligent, or charming, or angst-ridden, or a badass — I don’t ever again want to see time spent defining that the character is brave, intelligent, charming, angst-ridden or badass. Build your story, please!
12. If two guys are going to be screwing the same woman, or simply getting into a fight over her, I don’t want them to have the same haircut, body build or skull shape. There’s no reason for it. If one’s clean cut, the other one can look like a gorilla. If one’s 6’2″, the other one can be 5’8″. If one’s got a runner’s body physique, the other can look like the Michelin Man. I can’t follow the story if I can’t tell these guys apart.
13. Get rid of this “clean break” in which Mister Sexy can drive or fly any vehicle, civilian or military, ever invented; he knows all the martial arts moves; he can operate gadgets that peek into windows and unlock safes. But when the time comes to crack a password in computer software, he “offloads” this to some geeky overweight guy with poor skin hygiene in a lab somewhere who overdoses all day long on doughnut holes and energy drinks. Let’s face it, cracking a safe has a lot more to do with cracking a password than with a flying-scissor-kick.
14. “Masculine” stars whose faces have been selected, shaved, made-up, and tweezed to appear non-threatening to twelve-year-old girls.
15. The “Nicholas Cage Effect” in which the same character finds, and figures out, each and every single clue while everybody else watches.
16. Helicopter performs some daring rescue that benefits the good guys…because it’s being flown by a bad guy…who is being held at gunpoint by another good guy. Stop this insanity. Stop it now. Stop it for good.
17. Plucky sidekicks. I don’t understand how or why this ever got started.
18. “Han Solo Ewok” effect. There are adorable muppet-like creatures straight out of Jim Henson’s shop. There are badass, hard-drinking pirates who spend all their spare time in wretched hives of scum and villainy. These two should never come in contact with each other no matter what.
19. The “Humans Are Bastards” trope.
20. The worn-out, threadbare “La Femme Nikita” plotline in which some badass is “recruited” to work for a super-secret government agency in atonement for some kind of crime that I’m supposed to think was somehow undeserving of the punishment that was handed down but is now being suspended.
21. The President of the United States getting in a fist fight with a terrorist, or piloting a jet fighter.
22. Really hot women figuring out where a ghost came from, throughout an entire movie, remaining fully clothed.
23. 1) Man and woman in a committed relationship 2) Woman sleeps with another guy 3) Something else happens 4) Man ends up apologizing to slutty woman and begging her forgiveness. I don’t care what happens in #3, it’s all bullshit. We’re not buying. Stop it.
24. The “Fried Green Tomatoes Effect” in which the wife decides they’re going to adopt a child…or raise a puppy…or knock down a wall…or sell their house and move to the country…and the husband says “oh, okay, alright.”
25. The momma laying a guilt trip on the daddy because junior’s heart was broken that he didn’t show up to the big soccer game, or was late to it.
26. A young girl or woman who has been killing people, receiving her come-uppins at the end by way of some moment of social awkwardness and/or humiliation. Humiliation is not on the same level as homicide, sorry. I don’t want to see anymore of this.
27. Smartass kids foiling an alien invasion or solving a murder case, while their parents are completely absent and/or clueless about everything that’s going on.
28. Husbands cheating on wives, who are gorgeous enough to model lingerie and achieve supermodel-goddess stature doing so, with mistresses who are relatively homely and ordinary-looking. Maybe that’s reflective of what happens in real life, I don’t care. It makes it really hard to follow what’s going on in the movie.
29. “Crouching Tiger Hidden Warrior Princess” wire work. And, while we’re at it, the Quantum-of-Delerium-Tremens shaky-camera gimmick. Who likes this?
30. Southern accents being used as a dramatic manifestation of ignorance, pig-headedness or arrogance. I have no further patience for this. I can’t speak for the experience of everyone who happens to live in Hollywood, but the southerners I’ve met have been pretty nice.

Update 12/20/09:
Holy crap has this post ever hit a nerve. Welcome to The Other McCain readers, and thanks Smitty again for the link. Welcome also to fans of Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler. Misha, you are da bomb. Just because we don’t comment over there much doesn’t mean we don’t read you and love ya all to pieces.

Readers are being directly questioned for their additions to this list, and some of the offerings are more than adequate for consideration. We especially loved Comment #2.

I could do without every GI or ex-GI being a ticking time bomb. As the Emperor said, if we were really that way you would already be dead.

I hate where the GIs go rogue and the kindly Professor is the only calm one. The EXACT FUCKING REVERSE OF REAL LIFE!

I will stop with that!

Yeah well, I kinda wish you didn’t.

It’s a funny thing about creativity. People get into the business of providing it, and the first thing they want to do is skimp on it. It’s a weak corollary trying to connect software applications development to Hollyweird…but I think it works, and if it does work, then I’ve seen more than my share of this.

It’s sad watching people throw everything away to chase off after a livelihood, and then betray that livelihood. People, generally, sacrifice an awful lot to stay un-creative.

Update 12/22/09: The thread under Misha’s linky-love just grows and grows, 63 comments now, do check ’em out. New ideas I get from this are as follows:

31. Just in general, lack of respect for guns and what they are. Someone offered up the issue with silencers on revolvers. Another one mentioned 99 bullets coming out of a 9-shot with no reloading.
32. Lack of respect for what guns do. Depiction of gun owners as being wild-eyed, crazed zealots who don’t bathe. Lack of respect for how a gun changes the dynamics of a situation. Laws-of-physics regarding guns. Hiding behind a car door to make oneself practically invulnerable to antagonistic gunfire, particularly large-caliber gunfire.
33. This one I’ve been bitching about for a long time, I can’t believe I forgot to add it. Impact to the face…culminating in any injury that falls short of what this impact would leave behind in real life. It is very hard to give someone a whack in the face, during a real fight, that doesn’t leave permanent damage. If someone absorbs a kick from a steel-toed boot to the nose, and then another, and then another, and kinda shakes his head back & forth to get his bearings back so he can get ready to throw the next punch, I’m offended. No, a trickle of blood is not what I have in mind here. Yes, Rocky Balboa gets an exemption from this rule for dramatic purposes.
34. The opposite of #33. Good guy’s prison cell is being guarded by a mook, so he sneaks up behind the mook and gives him — a KARATE CHOP BETWEEN THE SHOULDER BLADES! Mook instantly collapses and starts snoozing. This is intolerable. Crowbar to the face makes a guy slightly startled, karate chop gets him a six-hour nap. Wise up.
35. Lack of motive for the bad guy. Zorg from The Fifth Element, I’m looking at you. Also, mega-industrialists from Captain Planet cartoons because dumping toxic sludge into rivers does not make you an overnight zillionaire all by itself. Motivation doesn’t have to be a complex thing. In the original Star Wars movie it was a single line: “Fear will keep the local systems in line.” But you have to have it. Just making the guy 45 years old or more, dressing him in a nice suit with a silk tie late at night, thus giving me a signal he’s a “businessman” — will not suffice. Make him bad. Have him do bad stuff. Explain what he is trying to do. Noah Cross. Old Man Potter. Wicked Witch of the West. Jerry Lundegaard. Khan Noonien Singh. Virgil Sollozzo. Every single James Bond villain, and for that matter, every single villain from Monk. Make ’em like that. Not hard. Capiche?

Environmental Movement Slogans

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

I’m offering the following twenty humbly…

1. Gutting the scientific method like a fish, for the sake of our environment.
2. Lying to people…for a cause we think is wonderful.
3. The greatest scam of all time…so we can feel good about ourselves.
4. Robbing from the producers…to give to the usual suspects.
5. Destroying technology on purpose…because let’s be real, what the heck has it ever done for any of us?
6. Tailoring the evidence to fit our preconceived notions.
7. The science is settled: Everyone who agrees with us, agrees with us! (Blogger friend Phil said this somewhere.)
8. Scaring kids, for a cleaner planet.
9. Saving plants and trees, by reducing the levels of carbon dioxide…which is precisely what they need to survive.
10. Making people feel bad about driving their cars…while we fly around in our private jets.
11. Doing really petty and insignificant things, like unplugging our coffee pots and cell phones…together.
12. If you build things that other people find useful in their daily lives and get paid for it…you better believe we’re out to get you.
13. Making poor, hungry people poorer and hungrier…for our pet projects, which are good for the planet because we say so. Trust us!
14. Because enriching yourself is an evil thing to do, unless we’re the ones doing it.
15. Bears can crap in the creek all day long as far as we’re concerned, but the stuff you exhale is toxic!
16. Four legs good, two legs bad!
17. The science is settled: Nature, minus man, equals the adorable talking woodland creatures you see in Disney movies.
18. Let’s just cut the crap: The world will burn out by 2050 unless your taxes are raised. It comes down to that.
19. The science is settled, and science is what we say it is.
20. Hide the decline!

Week Ending June 12, 2009

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Do you realize what an incredible week this has been? I’m ready to go ahead and call it right now: In the months and years ahead, when Republicans and democrats try to figure out when the national scene all turned around, there will be bipartisan agreement that the fickle wheel of fortune did its spinning in the week ending June 12, 2009. That is when the Republicans really returned to power; when the democrats really fell out of it. When mainstream America figured out the Obama experiment was, in all the ways that mattered, a complete failure. Time to absorb the lessons of reality and let the tender bloated easily-bruised ego receive the punishment that had been coming.

There is, I confess, some wishful thinking involved in that. But that’s not really a bad thing. Every triumph against the odds, in human history, has started with that. And there certainly have been some. I’ll presume, for the thinking reader, no listmaking is necessary to bolster that point.

Let us instead fixate our list-making obsession on the week just departed. And in doing that, let us start with the big kahuna:

David Letterman’s sad, pathetic, stupid joke. Does Letterman have a Republican plant on his writing staff? The damage done here was incalculable. The joke delved down deep into what everybody knew, in their dark subconciousnesses, and brought it bubbling up into the light where it all had to be consciously acknowledged: How humor itself has been re-defined in the early part of the twenty-first century. Blue-blood super-liberal Manhattan comedian makes a conservative look like a buffoon, and the rest of us give a courtesy laugh. Even though it’s NOT FUNNY. This has been a seriously powerful weapon in the liberal arsenal, because if you respond to this the way a reasonable person does — roll your eyes — in our modern, twisted culture, you’re a die-hard lunatic extremist. In a more reasonable environment it is acknowledged that it takes a die-hard lunatic extremist to do the laughing.

The punchline simply didn’t pack any humor. Nobody’s waltzing into a bar and saying “Hey, didja hear the one about Alex Rodriguez and Sarah Palin’s daughter?”

What Letterman did, was wake up the “mainstream” Americans who don’t give a rip about conservatives or liberals — but who could’ve easily been suckered into voting liberal with some well-placed signals that Republicans are subhuman, beneath contempt, it’s okay to abuse ’em so it certainly should be alright to vote against ’em without bothering to study up on the issues. Well from here on out, maybe that will still work, but I think America will have a little bit better idea of what’s being done to it now. And that can’t be good for the plan.

Elsewhere on the Manhattan-lib fashion-plate front, Katie Couric’s ratings plummeted some more, and fellow fashion-plate blue-blood Manhattan-lib Jon Stewart actually had the balls to made fun of her about it.

Paul Krugman, seldom correct but never in doubt, tried to lead a charge against right-wing hate by fastening the identity of the Holocaust Memorial shooter to the conservative movement. And everly ambitious, he thought as long as he was at it he’d try to revive some credibility for that discredited Homeland Security report. He failed on both counts; as is usual for Mr. Krugman, his point failed when it was discovered the facts simply weren’t on his side. Hating George Bush, hating John McCain, being a registered Maryland democrat…these are not traits that typically apply to conservative-movement agitators. But they applied to this nutburger who’s supposed to be our new icon for conservative hate. Swing and a miss.

By now, there had arisen an urgent need to prove what was supposed to have already been proven seven months ago: that the democrats were innately nice folks, and there was something about human nature that made Republicans inherently mean. Typically, democrats like to pursue this with an objective of purity: Everything anybody does that is nice was inspired by a progressive movement somewhere, and every anecdote about man’s inhumanity to man has some conservatism in it somewhere. The Letterman joke all by itself was plenty enough to upset that applecart, so now the effort was to recover the sentiment through saturation. President Obama’s former Pastor and spiritual advisor Jeremiah Wright demonstrated his impeccable timing by choosing this as the week for his comments about talking to his former spiritual pupil: “Them Jews aren’t going to let me speak to him.” Good one! That guy we elected President to start our new Hopenchange good-time rock-n-roll chapter in history, who’d inspire us all to do better and love each other — he received spiritual counsel from this bigot for two solid decades. Republicans tried to warn ya. Ya didn’t listen. It was, and is, a reality. Yet another reminder.

And the week was still young.

Ah, but our country certainly knew what it was doing. We had a skeptical, energetic and free press filling us in on what was going on, and letting us come to our own decision about who would get our vote. Right? Well…hope you didn’t put too much faith in that. If you did, it might have come as a bit of a shock when Evan Thomas went on record to say President Obama “is sort of God.” Chris Matthews agreed. Yup. Real balanced and objective, there, gentlemen. I don’t understand why anyone ever doubted you. They must have been a bunch of unreasonable, lying, irrational, bitter angry conservatives.

Perhaps this is why — also this last week — a San Francisco Chronicle editor said “Obama and the fawning press need to get a room.”

After all that, the solid meat is still just ahead of us. Remember back in January when, if the world went to war and caught fire, you’d never have heard a single thing about it because the news was all filled up with stories about Michelle Obama’s gowns, Barack Obama’s ten balls (!), and hope was in the air? About how much the economy sucked but it was all going to get more better because we had our hopey changey iPresident now and He was going to fix everything? Nowadays the hardcore liberals, the mildly liberals, and the main-street guys who don’t care or say they don’t care — still defend that because hey, it’s only been five months since then. Give Him a chance! He’s trying His best! It’s too early, and He inherited all this! Well…sit down for this one…now, according to Rasmussen, by a six-point margin Republicans are more trusted than democrats on economic issues. Yup, that’s from this week too.

Now how’d that happen? I see a link between that story, and the one about the study from Ohio that found conservatives are more open to opposing arguments than liberals. Call me Pollyanna, but I think even the Main Street folks who don’t give a crap about any of this, intuitively understand that you can’t make good decisions in life if you already have your mind made up about something before you gather the facts. What I’m trying to say is that people want to follow a good leader, they know in their guts what a good leader looks like, and they don’t want to see someone locked into a mindset and with that mindset, a narrow field of options from which to choose for any given situation. Which, ironically, is what the democrats keep saying, citing reasons why conservatives can’t be trusted. But it turns out, in reality as well as in public opinion, liberals are the narrow-minded ones. This was aptly demonstrated when the study hit the innerwebs, and some cloistered communities of liberals aired their reactions to it. It typically looked something like this.

It’s not news to anyone who’s really been paying attention. But liberals are not open-minded, they’re not receptive to all points of view, they’re not willing to listen to new ideas, and they damn sure aren’t tolerant of anything called “diversity” unless, by diversity, you’re referring to monochrome concentrations of dark skin.

President Obama also thought He would demonstrate His impeccable political timing. Now that the country He was supposed to be leading was showing its reservations about investing in Him all this godlike power, He thought He’d appoint a czar to limit executive compensation at private firms. Now, He may have found it politically expedient to limit the effects of this to corporations accepting taxpayer funds in the form of bailout programs…and He may want to promote that…but you just can’t get around that it raises serious questions about the relationship between government and the private sector. And how long would such a policy remain limited to bailout firms? We’ll have to wait a few weeks for the polls to come out, I think. But my gut says most people are on my side on this thing, or at least, are similarly concerned. This is an alteration of the fundamental relationship between our government and the people it purports to govern. The party hacks get to decide if I’m making too much money, and cut me off at the knees if they think I’m getting as big as they are? What country is this again?

The point is, I thought it was Obama’s predecessor who was supposed to be making us ask that question.

Affirmative Action was in the news this week. You know what that is, right? That’s where, if your racial makeup is caucasian and you try to make something of yourself, you are artificially injured to help make up for the abuse that was heaped on persons of darker skin in times past. It’s a tit-for-tat thing. No wait…it isn’t…supposedly, it’s an effort to help the disenfranchised and underprivileged, and it’s entirely color-blind, any thoughts muttered to the contrary are purely hardcore right-wing agitprop. It’s long been my impression that a bare majority of the country does support Affirmative Action, but because and only because they believe that last summation. In other words, by a bare majority, we are on board with helping the underprivileged but we do not want special race-based privileges to apply. So it was further damaging when it came out that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayer ‘fessed up that she is an “Affirmative Action baby” in comments released by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Affirmative Action baby…as in…her test scores were not comparable to her classmates’ test scores. She leapfrogged ahead in line because of her racial background. Her statement that says that.

Is America on board with that kind of Affirmative Action program? An outcome-based one that confers the same prestigious position — Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in this case! — upon members of beneficiary-groups with mediocre achievements, as it would upon a boring-old-white-guy who can offer spectacular achievements? Don’t forget, across all racial classifications, mediocre people vastly outnumber spectacular people. So what are the ultimate consequences of this? More to the point, could the country possibly become worried about such consequences? Want to have your next brain surgery done by someone who’d never been called on to truly distinguish himself, except by his or her race? Does Main Street USA’s support for Affirmative Action extend that far? Maybe we’re about to find out.

Congressman Barney Frank…whom nobody thinks is a Republican…demonstrated that much-lauded progressive-liberal patience and tolerance for diverse points of view during a live television interview. Wonder if they factored this in to that above-mentioned study.

And then we had that progressive-liberal respect for the rule of law demonstrated by our Climate Queen — yeah, that’s another matter, our liberals-in-charge want to control our weather. Climate czar Carol Browner apparently violated the Presidential Records Act.

So the picture’s pretty complete — as it has been for awhile, but in this damaging, damaging week, it was pencilled in, painted in, tinted, shaded, and framed to perfection in such a way that the apathetic mainstream centrist voters can understand it. And understand it well. These people are in power, uncontested, out of control, as closed-minded as any Republican has ever been, hateful, intolerant, impetuous, as pissy and resentful as any loser of elections has ever been. They are as dim and incurious as George W. Bush has ever been. They cannot get along with anyone else, even their own. They cannot deal with important decisions because they cannot deal with facts. They just want to have power over everybody else, and that’s all. Well, that and accumulate magnitudes of personal wealth as lofty and imposing as what they would deny to others.

The only thing missing from this week…and this may have happened too, if I missed it…was the usual, regularly “scheduled” embarrassing gaffe from Vice President Joe Biden. Other than that one cherry on top, everything else was there this week.

Small wonder that Biden’s old contender for the #2 spot, apparently felt so justified in saying I told you so.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News.

Things That Aren’t As Much Fun As You Thought

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

We just put this list together during lunch at work. I think there are two guys who could claim credit for the idea, and no single one of us could claim credit for all of the contents.

The theme has to do with all these things in life that seem fun when you’re not doing them YET. And after you start, you’re all like, “What was I thinking? This blows big chunks.”

1. Riding a horse
2. Taking a vacation in a car with your family
3. Opening your sun roof on a sunny spring/summer day
4. Making your own beer/wine (until you get out of the n00bie stage)
5. Paddleboats
6. Camping…in a month that has the letter “R” in it
7. Inviting the neighborhood kids over to your home for your kid’s birthday
8. Volunteering as a club president/secretary/treasurer
9. Shopping in the mall with your wife

There’s more, but we forgot to nominate a secretary so nobody wrote it down.

Thank a Liberal

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

As I’ve said before, I disapprove of the practice that has come to be known as “fisking.” I think it gives the appearance of fostering a positive atmosphere for productive deliberation and debate, while in actuality accomplishing exactly the opposite. And it’s time-consuming to read, with a modest payoff, to say nothing of the time-expense involved in putting it together.

Some things are just built to be fisked, though. Like this…which out on FARK, even the liberals are referencing in less-than-flattering ways.

If you have ever breathed clean air or drank clean water, thank a liberal.
If you’ve ever driven on an interstate highway, thank a liberal.
If your workplace is safe and you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights without being lynched, thank a liberal.
If your children go to school instead of working in coal mines, thank a liberal.

If someone else wants to take a crack at fisking it, I wouldn’t mind poring through that for a chuckle or two. I think the fisking would practically write itself.

I will take on this one myself though, because it made me do a double-take:

If you are glad that the Nazis don’t control half the world (conservatives opposed joining World War 2 until it was forced on them) thank a liberal.

I’m not in a good position to chastise someone else for having an obsessive-compulsive list-making complex, but Good Lord. If ever there was an example of this habit getting someone into some real intellectual trouble. Granting the utterly simplistic notion that liberals were in favor of joining the War in Europe and conservatives were opposed until Pearl Harbor — just skip over the logical step where we argue that, and give it to ’em — stop and think what this means.

Liberals insist in 1939 we have got to do something to stop that madman. We should have listened to them. We also should have listened to them in late 2002 and early 2003, when they were asserting precisely the opposite. And so throughout the generations madmen will pop up, and our liberals will tell us to go after some and not others. Sometimes they’re isolationists, sometimes they’re not, but through it all they have the answer that will be “correct.”

In 2007, the “wrong” answer has something to do with servicemen dying. Our liberals have pontificated at length about what exactly is wrong with the war in Iraq, and it seems a primary singularity has emerged from all the answers given, something to do with troop deaths. From 1941 to 1945, we had troop deaths, did we not? Alright, so what makes something wrong in the 21st century, fails to make something wrong in the 20th.

The correct answer changes. What makes it correct, likewise, changes. The position of the liberal changes. Only the marriage between liberals, and correctness, endures. Are our liberals magical oracles into what is correct, or is correctness redefined according to expediency?

The reader may form his or her own opinion about the answer to that. I’ve formed mine.

This Is Good XL

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

Some other fellow who shares my obsessive-compulsive disorder for making lists, has jotted down what he hates about the innernets and he did an outstanding job.

I know this is a good list, because I agree with everything on it.

Especially these three:

2. Europeans
Especially the ones who blame all of the world’s problems on America and thus all Americans as well. You people know who you are. You’re just lucky there was no internet during WWII. Enough said there.
7. Advertisements with sound
…Whoever the mastermind was behind these advertisements should be hunted down and killed like the animal he or she is. Preferably tortured first. For a long time. A very long time.
9. LoL
Everyone knows you aren’t laughing, so why feel the need to lie about it?

The Doofus Dad List

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Father’s Day is coming, and it’s time to take note again of the Doofus Dad movie craze.

Very often in polite company, I’ll be compelled to share my distaste for “Doofus Dad” movies with the uninitiated, when I’d much rather not. It usually happens when a new movie comes up in conversation and inquiries are made as to whether or not I’m planning to go. When you’re a parent, that happens a lot.

I maintain that’s one of the reasons we make so many movies for kids in general. A trailer comes on the boob-tube, for a grown-up movie — it’s obviously a cheap production, and there’s little to no sign anybody’s put much creativity or thought into it. So we won’t talk about that. But if it’s a kids’ movie, that all changes. It becomes not an “if” but a “when”…When are you gonna go? After all, it’s a “fun” movie, and what monstrous parent would dare to deprive his little crumb-catchers from having fun?

But I digress. There is a subclass among these moppet-movies that disturbs me in particular. It can be defined by these criteria:

1. There is a father figure
2. He is a source of drama because of his proclivity for doing things the protagonist(s), his child(ren), don’t want him to do.
3. He’s motivated by incongruous values, or else he’s stupid, or a social embarrassment, or some combination of those three.
4. Fifteen minutes before the closing credits he has an “OMIGOD!” moment and resolves to mend his ways.
5. He and his family enjoy a newly-strengthened relationship, reinforced partly by his improved behavior, and partly by his family’s lowered expectations for him.

It’s human nature to object when other people notice something first. YOu know what they say about the frog in the pot of water. It seems when another frog points out “Hey, it’s getting a little warm in here,” denial is always the first chapter in the adventure of education. But of course that doesn’t last long. The examples are incredibly numerous, and not only that, but a casual observer will notice they’ve been produced at an exponential rate lately.

1. About Schmidt (2002)
2. Adam’s Rib (1949)
3. Big Daddy (1999)
4. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the new one) (2005)
5. Cheaper by the Dozen II (2005)
6. Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
7. Cops and Robbersons (1994)
8. Daddy Daycare (2003)
9. Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood (2002)
10. Dolores Claiborne (1995)
11. Elf (2003)
12. Fargo (1996)
13. Father of the Bride: Old one (1950), new one (1991) and sequel (1995)
14. The First Wives Club (1996)
15. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
16. Getting Even with Dad (1994)
17. The Godfather, Part III (1991)
18. The Graduate (1967)
19. The Great Santini (1979)
20. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
21. The Haunted Mansion (2003)
22. Honey I Shrunk the Kids (1989)
23. Hook (1991)
24. House Arrest (1996)
25. The House of the Spirits (1993)
26. The Incredibles (2004)
27. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
28. Jack Frost (1998)
29. Jingle All the Way (1996)
30. Kicking and Screaming (2005)
31. The Little Mermaid (1989)
32. Man of the House (1995)
33. Meet the Parents (2000)
34. Mr. Mom (1983)
35. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
36. My Father, The Hero (1994)
37. Multiplicity (1996)
38. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
39. One Hour Photo (2002)
40. Overboard (1987)
41. Papa’s Delicate Condition (1963)
42. Parenthood (1989)
43. Rebound (2005)
44. Robots (2005)
45. The Santa Clause (1994)
46. Say Anything (1989)
47. She’s Out of Control (1989)
48. Shrek II (spoiler) (2004)
49. The Shining (1980)
50. Sky High (2005)
51. Signs (2002)
52. The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (2004)
53. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
54. The Stupids (1996)
55. Superdad (1973)
56. Take Her She’s Mine (1963)
57. Thelma and Louise (1991)
58. True Lies (1994)
59. War of the Words (the new one) (2005)
60. The World According to Garp (1982)

So the most common question I get about it is — I guess this is Chapter Two — “What’s wrong with that?”

Apathy after ignorance, I guess. Well, I have an answer; three, actually.

Before I get into those, however, I should take just a second to point out exactly what is happening here. It has lately become fashionable, I notice, to do what’s called “bashing the corporations.” This is an ancient international pastime that waxes and wanes in American culture as the years roll by. You point out someone who’s trying to make a buck, who already has quite a few bucks, and then you bash them. Usually, you’ll end up bashing a “corporation,” because a corporation is a legally-recognized entity that exists for the purpose of turning a profit.

This makes it rather silly to bellyache when you see them making money, since that is what they are supposed to do. But for people who are too slope-headed to get that, it makes the examples far more numerous.

But anyway, the way that connects back to the main point, is this: Hollywood traditionally escapes this leisure sport. It’s an industry like any other. I say “Hollywood,” and I’m not describing just a bunch of people and businesses in the Los Angeles area, I’m describing the Entertainment industry wherever it may be found. Nobody seems to have harsh words against our television and movie industries for trying to make a buck, even as they denounce oil companies for doing exactly that. I never got that. Tinseltown shows you a movie; Exxon gives you the fuel to go where the movie is playing, so you can see it. Practically, if you’re looking for someone to bash, there’s no difference between the two.

But somehow we turn a blind eye when Hollywood makes money. Which means we tune out when it does morally questionable things to make that money.

All of which means, even though it should be obvious what’s going on here, it still bears pointing out.

Hollywood is financially invested in destroying — not just fatherhood — but authority in general. It turns out that children in a dysfunctional society will be available to watch movies much more often; they will have more cash to spend on those movies. If you’re a kid, and you have a healthy relationship with your parents, the movie theatre will just be one notch on a whole merry-go-round of things you can do together. But if there’s intergenerational discomfort in the household — it seems it’s another weekend, another movie or two.

Well if you were Hollywood, what would you want to have happen? Every time you give the green light on something it’s another couple hundred million bucks, and you don’t know if you’ll make it back or not. So Hollywood wants a dysfunctional society. It needs one. You’ll notice this about Doofus Dad movies if you see enough of them: A lot of the time, one of the big issues the family has with Dad, is he’s promoting competition and self-improvement. The Doofus Dad movie comes along, and illuminates this not only as a pain-in-the-ass, but as something with some vague, poorly-defined capacity for causing lasting psychological issues and emotional distress. By closing credits, the family becomes close-knit again when people lower their expectations not only of their patriarch, but of themselves as well. The whole point to life is to simply…be. And be happy.

Once you invest our entertainment industry with the authority to tell us what life’s all about — what other answer would you expect it to give?

And so we have the Doofus Dad movies. Now, what’s written above doesn’t bother me too much, even with the deleterious social ramifications as our society is lowered into an abyss of anarchy. We’re not supposed to be a buckle-shoe puritan society, after all, and there’s a fine line between the glorious tossing of tea into Boston Harbor, and the complete demolition of all things civilized until we live in a “Lord of the Flies” environment. Those two scenarios are close cousins. There’s a limit to how much good authority is going to do us — this is, after all, a nation started by a tax revolt. I get all that.

But there are three big problems with what is rapidly becoming a tradition of Dad-bashing.

1. It turns friendly, healthy and mature kids into buttholes.
Many among us put vast reserves of energy into being the best dads we can be, but are condemned to lord our benevolent patriarchal energies over divided households. Kids, as any parent knows or will learn quickly, are “wired” to do certain things. They have programming. One of the programs they have, has the function of “cementing” their blood parents into the roles those parents are supposed to have. Kids, it turns out, understand that divorce is a bad thing and have an instinct for wanting to reverse it.

This causes things like — my son, who by nature is very well-mannered, sometimes shuts my girlfriend out when she’s trying to talk to him, and I’m told he’s a complete dickhole to his stepfather sometimes. A quick survey of other children of broken homes will reveal this isn’t entirely conscious behavior. It’s too consistent. Kids are dicks to step-parents; it’s their way. They’re supposed to be that way.

This creates difficulties for all concerned. We have to be committed to our households, but those households are built on the foundations of other households that came before. This is an engineering flaw. We can triumph over it, of course, and the flaw is of our making, not Hollywood’s.

But we need all the help we can get. And it doesn’t help when our kids are taught to regard respect for parental authority as chaos, and rebellion as some perverted kind of order. Not when the purpose of a given outing, on their own or with the parents, is to be entertained.

Towards the end of a childhood, the child becomes a teenager. If peevishness is to be precious, we’re about to get all we can handle. We don’t need more.

2. It preaches an entirely false notion of humility.
I think this is most treacherous. Since Biblical times, storytellers have told stories about people who thought they knew what was going on and what to do, and were benevolently counseled by ongoing events not to take themselves too seriously.

The “Doofus Dad” takes that tradition and sends it ’round a questionable corner: The character who learns not to take himself too seriously, is enshrined in a familial position designed to keep audience members from relating to him too closely. Because of this, it seems we’ve been worshipping humility at the same time as we’ve been rejecting it.

Think on this example: What if you were to greenlight a movie about a “Doofus Mom” or a “Doofus Kid”? That would not turn out well of course…and why not? Because movies are made for women and kids now. You would be asking the audience to consider the lessons of humility in an old-school way — directed toward themselves. That’s what humility used to be. We seem to have watered it down a bit…humility is something for outside parties to practice now.

I perceive that if the art of storytelling were to revert to it’s old ways, and re-inject the “I’m talking to YOU” aspect of humility-stories, our modern generation would find it a little too thick and sour. We’re on guard against taking “oursevles” too seriously, but not as individuals. The ability to laugh at yourself and see your imperfections, it appears, is something the other fellow is supposed to have.

I think that’s exceedingly dangerous. We get to congratulate outselves on being humble, without knowing what that really is.

But I take this last one most personally:

3. It wastes my money.
Because I’m a cheapass. When I drop some good coin for the purpose of being entertained, dammit, that’s what I expect I’m getting.

Especially on Father’s Day!

Womens’ Characters That Should Be Models For Others

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Jessica AlbaJessica Alba doesn’t understand what she’s doing to herself. Gorgeous body…irritating mannerisms, displayed deliberately, ostensibly to portray someone who can get along without anyone else’s approval…but beneath the surface, craving it. Does this have some staying power? Well, whatever happened to Dark Angel?

Despite a strong fan base (and a second season finale directed by James Cameron), Dark Angel was cancelled in 2002 after just two seasons due to budget costs and low second season ratings.

Not hard to see coming. I predicted it the very first time I heard Alba open her mouth and deliver a line. Being a smartass before the bad guy is really dead. Mistake. Building a television series around it. Bigger mistake. Letting five-times-married misogynist James Cameron have something to do with something about strong female characters: Huge mistake, done over and over again.

Alba, I’m convinced, is a walking reflection of that funny birthday card. The one with a gorgeous woman with a perfect body sunbathing on the beach in a bikini resembling two band-aids and a cork — and the caption is “No matter how hot she is, someone somewhere is tired of her shit.” Would you like to start shacking up with Jessica Alba? Not just sleep with her whenever you want…not just brag to you buddies about shagging Jessica Alba…but listen to her smack wise at you all day, ever day, for months.

People don’t have an apetite for it. Even if they share the agenda of building a generation of female smartasses, you hunger for this stuff only so long. Otherwise, Dark Angel would have had a third season.

Her smartass mouth betrays the problem:

Jessica Alba – ranked No. 2 on this year’s “Hot 100” list by Maxim magazine – has a rebellious side. “I love challenging authority,” the 26-year-old actress tells InStyle in its June issue, on newsstands Friday. “It probably wasn’t easy being my parents. The second somebody says ‘no’ to me is the second I’m going to jump up and say ‘yes!'”
She’s finally “getting to play characters and dive into things and not just be sort of this version of ‘this girl,'” says Alba, who found she was typecast as “some kind of little tart.”

“Because obviously, if you have a womanly figure, you’re not allowed to have a brain or any idea of the world whatsoever. You just have to be hot and use your body to get ahead.”

Doing it to yourself, sweetie. Doing it to yourself. Speaking for myself…and trust me, I’m labelled as a male chauvinist pig about as often as the next guy, not that I find these accusations to be well-thought-out or anything…I would go so much further out of my way to see what Scarlett Johansson is doing in a new movie, than Ms. Alba. And that’s not a good thing if you are Jessica Alba. Scarlett has a pretty nice body too, and she seems to be a sweet girl. I think if Scarlett and I were the last two people on the planet, I’d stay sane for awhile. I can’t say the same about Alba.

Scarlett JohanssonFear of strong women? Some people would say so. Johansson, however, doesn’t impress me as being submissive or weak. Just like the “Alba Zen” of developing a sudden taste for Coke, when you see I want a Pepsi, is not exactly the definition of strength.

But while Alba’s comments are intellectually vacant, to say nothing of repititious, the question that is opened by her observations is well worth pondering. Mankind has been working on incorporating female characters into drama, for — well, all of recorded history, it turns out. As a science, this remains hit-or-miss. People who have devoted their entire lives to figuring out how to do it, overseeing the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into it, often know nothing significant beyond what can be observed by someone watching a movie or reading a book for the very first time.

But we do have some patterns. If anyone takes a minute or two to jot them down. So I thought I would.

First, women have a specific role to play in books and movies, and it’s a role men don’t support quite as well. Regardless of our sexual preferences or the agenda we have in mind for women, it seems we all identify with the ladies when they learn things. This is why the most intriguing female characters are never in James Bond films. It isn’t because of chauvinism from a bygone Cold-War era; it’s that in spy movies, the all-important task of figuring out what’s going on is supposed to be done by, well, the spy. Even in situations like those, where men step into the female role of detective, it’s done differently. James Bond steps into a hotel room and the audience expects him to get on a phone and meet his local contact. Instead, he searches for bugs. He finds some. Aha! I didn’t know there would be bugs in the room…James Bond did. He’s one step ahead of the audience. He knew something, the audience did not.

No matter how feminized some of us are, we just don’t tolerate this in female characters for some reason. We learn what they learn…as they learn it.

And it’s okay for the audience to know things the female character does not yet know. It just can’t work the other way.

That’s not to say, however, we want our film ladies to be quivering wallflowers. We do want them to be resourceful in their own way. They should be captured by the bad guy, and usually, if they try to escape, their attempt at escape should fail. You need a hero to escape. Is that sexism? It could be…it might be defended, however, as constructing a strong story. A villain isn’t threatening if he can’t perform the simple task of keeping a captured woman captured. But also, while a woman is captured, she can help develop her own character as well as the character of the villains in proximity. When this communication is coed, it’s more interesting than two guys talking smack at each other. We would rather see boy-girl. So captured the damsel shall remain.

But the best female characters, while in captivity, outsmart the villain in some way. This is a matter of balance. The villain has already done some outsmarting in his own way; she’s his captive, no? So without escaping, she can turn the tables on him. Trick him into revealing something. The result is we’re forced to keep watching, because we don’t know who’s going to “win.” Good drama.

Female characters question the hero’s loyalty, but never his competence. We are programmed to think that if a woman regards a man as weak or ineffectual, she must be right — and if that’s the case, this isn’t a very intriguing hero. We end up looking forward to the end of any scene that flaccid hero is in, so from then on, when the hero is at center stage the audience is being bored. So she views the hero as a maelstrom of unlimited power. Her issues with him, while she has some, have to do with where that power is being applied.

She has an emotional hold on the hero. This is important. If he doesn’t care what she’s doing, what she thinks, what happens to her, how she’s feeling, then she can’t motivate him. The best heroines provide a sense of purpose to a mission that, otherwise, would be without purpose. They define a hero who is motivated out of love, and we are more captivated with that hero than with any other.

Also, she should place pressure on the hero. She should be good at what she does, and in this way impose a necessity on him to prove things. She should offer him friendly competition. In short — she should use a number of tools to make him better than what he would otherwise be.

We are somewhat more intrigued by a female rebel breaking rules, and producing results that would have been unrealized had protocol been followed — than masculine figures doing the same thing. This is why the “cop movie” was mostly a fad of the 1980’s. You know the one. A rebel cop, or duo of black-cop-white-cop, breaks all the rules, ends up suspended, after being constantly yelled at by his “Lieutenant,” who in turn was almost always portly and black. Started with Dirty Harry, ended with Lethal Weapon. The Byronic hero, who subjects himself to endless torment because he just can’t stay within the lines, begins to bore us after awhile. Not so with the ladies who do the same thing. There is the additional angle that they can use their feminine charms to get out of trouble, and we never know how well this will work for them. A guy breaks a rule, we expect he’ll get his come-uppins…through someone yelling, at least. Gets boring after awhile.

And of course, no primary character should do what is expected of them all the time. So a female character should break some rules.

We are always fascinated, I suspect, when a female knows how to do things spectacularly well. It’s often a big help when the hero knows what to do, how to do it, and his plan involves about thirty steps…and before he can get started, the heroine comes along and gets it all wrapped up in one or two.

There are quite a few things a woman should not do. There is, for example, the slasher-film tango, the big bundle of physical things a woman does right before she is snuffed. Taking long sultry showers, walking backwards, closing medicine cabinet doors and moaning “Is that you?” and “It’s not funny anymore!” In 2007, this is all beyond tiresome. And of course she should never, ever, have arguments with the hero about whether she’s coming with him or not.

Being hysterical, assuming there was ever an audience for this, I’d say has just about run its course. Elegant storytelling means the audience knows what to feel. Do that job right, and we won’t need a walking cue card.

I’ve personally never cared for women being brainwashed. Someone somewhere must have been endlessly fascinated with this, perhaps sexually. Most recently we had Dark Phoenix in X-Men III, and the trend started…sometime in the sixties. The Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk had to smack one of his female Lieutenants across the face, knocking her out instantly of course, so that she’d stop being hysterical and they could all leave the doomed planet before it exploded…or the monster…or whatever. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in whch Blofeld sought to destroy the entire world’s agricultural products through an army of hypnotized, brainwashed women. Somehow, the women lose control of their intellectual faculties. This has strong appeal for someone somewhere. Not for me.

The women who have captured our attention, have never limited themselves to sitting around waiting to be rescued. Victims are boring.

Compelling female characters do not cheat. It compromises the hero’s character. They may cheat on the villain, but even that diminishes the woman’s character. They aren’t remembered later. Look at poor Diane Lane; everybody knows her name, but nobody can remember the name of any character she played. Her characters are almost always married, and straying outside. People find this titillating, but they don’t respect it.

The female characters who have spoken loudest, to me…

1. Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

What a stroke of brilliance it was to give her a “super power,” which was the endless capacity for imbibing alcohol without getting tanked. It starts out as a seemingly useless skill, and she ends up working it into an escape plan. Perfect. She respected her hero, didn’t entirely trust him, overcame a broken heart but still carried herself with confidence. Easily the greatest female movie character of all time.

2. ElastiGirl (Holly Hunter) in The Incredibles (2004)

The movie is divided cleanly into two segments, in the first of which Mrs. Incredible has to find out what Mr. Incredible is doing, and after that they unite in a common cause. She loses a point for arguing with her leading man about whether she’s coming with him or not. Other than that, everything a strong female should be. Not sure about what’s going on — until she is — and then she quickly re-solidifies the union with her husband and helps to save the day. And what a stunning rear end. In the right mood, I’d rather stare at her than Lara Croft.

3. Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged (Book) (1957)

Probably the best execution of “heroine trying to figure out what’s going on” in literary history. She’s interested in things other women find vulgar, bored by things that are supposed to define the whole world for other women, and she’s not the least bit concerned about any of it. Confidence personified.

4. Helen Tasker (Jamie Lee Curtis) in True Lies (1994)

Her issues with trusting her husband, after finding out he’s been a spy since two years before marrying her without telling her, define the central storyline for the entire movie. She looks amazing in her undies. This is metaphorical; just as even Jamie Lee Curtis’ fans were surprised about how she still looked and what she could do, this reflected Harry Tasker’s surprise at what his wife could do. A metaphor involving the actress herself, what an amazing achievement and how difficult it must have been. And it’s the brainchild of the guy who did Dark Angel. James, why can you do it some of the time but not all of the time?

5. Mary MacGregor (Jessica Lange) in Rob Roy (1995)

She was responsible for starting the chain reaction that would lead to good finally winning out over evil. She loses a point for doing it by going blubbering to a big powerful man, but it’s a very small point she lost. This was all the power a woman of her station would have in the young British Union. But she gets it back again by never, ever arguing with her husband about whether she was coming with him. She argued, instead, about whether he was going at all. Best of all, she agreed with him about his principles, admired him for having them, and simply disagreed about how far he would take them because she didn’t want him to die.

Simply put, the perfect movie wife. Perfectly capable of managing day-to-day without her spouse — but decidedly incomplete.

6. Holly Gennero McLane (Bonnie Bedelia) in Die Hard (1988)

Holly McLane has all of the ingredients. She’s in love with her husband, she respects him as a potent, powerful fighting force, she doesn’t trust him entirely, she doesn’t think highly of the way he does things, she finds him frustrating and irritating. She gets kidnapped. She outsmarts the bad guys, in her own way. She figures out what’s going on and the audience figures it out with her. The only thing she takes a pass on is getting in on some of the action. But she covers that, too, in the last couple of minutes in the movie by slugging that reporter.

7. Caroline “Ma” Ingalls (Karen Grassle) in Little House on the Prairie (TV) (1974-83)

She thinks for herself. But she’s motivated by exactly the same goals as her husband. If she thinks she has a need to stop what she’s doing and question him, she will.

8. Kay Adams (Dianne Keaton) in The Godfather (1972)

Tragically, here we have a woman with some good reason to question what her man was doing. But she knew Michael was lying. He really did intend to make the Corleone family legitimate, but he was doomed to fail. She probably knew this better than he did. She’s a critical pillar in the story, and she makes it work.

9. Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) in Fargo (1996)

What a woman! She faces down the bad guy as he is feeding his partner’s body into a woodchipper. Sees to it that justice is done, in her third trimester, without breaking her water. Comes home, snuggles up to her husband, and points out that his three-cent postage stamp is going to be just as important as any other. That is just so touching in it’s own way.

10. Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis) in Trading Places (1983)

Another one played by Curtis, how interesting. She’s easy on the eyes whether she’s from Austria, or Sweden, or just plain doesn’t know herself. She’s got a plan for making it, with or without Dan Akroyd. Akroyd’s character isn’t nearly as resourceful. But she goes with his plan, and in the end they both end up far wealthier than either of them would have been alone. Well, with Eddie Murphy’s help, but the formula is there. And best of all, in the very last scene of the movie, all the guys are fully clothed and the women are wearing next to nothing, as the Good Lord intended.

11. Evelyn Cross Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) in Chinatown (1974)

The only one on my list who knows something the audience doesn’t. Thanks to Faye Dunaway’s talents, we just can’t stop watching her, and we’re constantly wondering what will happen next until the very end of the movie.

12. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien (1979)

She’s not there to yell at people or to act tough, she’s there to solve a puzzle. There’s the magic formula again: What she knows, the audience knows, what remains a mystery to us, is a mystery to her too. If she was a man, it wouldn’t work nearly as well. Well, I suppose Roy Scheider did the same thing when he faced off against the mechanical shark. This could be thought of as Ridley Scott’s answer to that. It works. The feminine mystique adds more depth than the outer space setting and the unseen enemy from another planet.

13. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in X-Files (TV) (1993-2002)

The bitch is always wrong, and in ten seasons she never learns to shut her mouth. “But Muuuuuulllder!!! I can’t believe you think these cows were eviscerated by beings from another planet, there’s no eeeevvvvvviiiiidence!!!” Ugh. He’s Mulder. He read the script. Just go with it.

But give her a lot of credit. It was much more fun to watch these two, than Jack Webb and Harry Morgan. And it wasn’t because of the glowing creature emerging at midnight from the swamp, or the government conspiracies. It was because she was a beautiful, intriguing, intelligent, complex woman.

14. Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs (1991)

There we go again. A woman applies some critical-thinking skills to the problem at hand, and we feel compelled to watch her do it. Sexual preference doesn’t matter, everyone likes to watch a woman solve a puzzle. We feel what she feels. A man can’t pull it off as well. But Clarice is no ordinary woman. She’s got scars from her past, she’s bright, energetic, capable, independent, married to her job. She’s a whole new character. Dented and flawed. The Byronic hero in female form. Somehow, it works.

15. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in Terminator (1984)

The movie starts, she has no clue what is going on. The weird stuff starts happening, she has no clue who she can trust. After building the pipe bombs with Kyle Reese, she’s still somewhat clueless about what she’s fighting. But she learns to be resourceful, and figures out how to lower the press on the evil crawling metal skeleton. She is the best embodiment of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

16. Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in 300 (2007)

Now, this was interesting. She saw Leonidas off to war, bidding him to come back home again carrying his shield, or on it. It was up to him to fight the physical battle, and face down Xerxes himself, but back at home she was left to confront an enemy her husband was spared: The Fifth Column. In this way, the masculine energies were leveraged against Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, while the feminine mystique was positioned opposite Harry Reid and Howard Dean. A story for our times.

17. Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire) in Rocky (1976)

Okay, she is made great through a single line, and for that the bell gets most of the credit. But you aren’t human if you don’t get chills when she says, simply, “win.” That’s the job: He is transformed into something far greater than what he would be without her.

18. Charlotte Seccombe (Lynn Redgrave) in Centennial (TV) (1978-79)

She knows how to get her man away from the filthy clutches of Clemma Zendt. And it’s a delicious scene, which would have failed to blossom with the talents of a lesser actress — like Jessica Alba for example. You don’t want to mess around with Charlotte.

Those are all the ones I can think of for now. But you see, the point is this is something much more complicated than saying “yes” when someone else says “no.” And perhaps it’s an unfair burden that the male characters don’t have to share; the females have to define what they’re all about, at the same time as they do the same for other characters.

I think the gals have the long end of the stick on this one, though. It takes much more talented writing in order to use what they have to offer, properly. And once this is done, you have a kick-ass story. All those other staples, like dizzying photography or spellbinding music, you can pitch back if you want.

Now, try this. Go through a list of cream-of-the-crop movies. The innernets are covered with lists like these…Star Wars and Godfather and Shawshank Redemption always at the top. You will find — there are a whole bunch of movies that have no women. War movies. And some others…

This is not to say female character make a movie bad. They make the movie more challenging to make. Those best-of-the-best, that have no women in them as primary characters, they simply sidestepped the challenge. And you’re going to find the photography in those movies is breathtaking. Because it has to be. The music is original. And it just blows you away. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be seeing the movie on a top-one-hundred list.

Characters can contribute enough to make that expandable. Coed, not male-only. If the female characters are complex, and walk that fine balance between dependence and independence. Ditzy wallflowers don’t get the job done. And neither do smartass attention-whore rebels. For this, you need works of art, not tiresome tropes.

And I’m afraid, due to vapid sentiments given voice by Ms. Alba, this is an art that is gradually being lost. Too many more “Gotta Make A Boat Payment” movies, with cookie-cutter female characters, and the females are going to be lowered into yet another cultural malaise.

And we all know what happens then. Ho hum…BLAME THE MEN…must be rampant sexism out there.

Well, I’m not on board with any of that, so don’t send any of the blame my way when the time comes. And I hope it doesn’t get that far, because now that movie tickets are north of the ten dollar mark, I haven’t got much patience for crappy movies anymore.

This Is Good XXXIX

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

Ten Reasons I Didn’t Start a MySpace Account.

Yes, I have a blog, and I like to make fun of people who hate blogs, and at the same time I like to make fun of people with MySpace accounts.

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of simple minds. I notice the simple minds tend to whine a lot, why don’t you cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it. I think the blog is an idea whose time has come…for those of us who don’t want to be told what to think. I don’t like MySpace. That’s just things the way they are.

And I gotta say, #7 just really speaks to me.

Part of the beauty of most web pages lies in the fact that you can be listening to some of your own music while you consume them. This is not the case with MySpace profiles–no, you’re the victim of whatever whims of shitty music the user has chosen for you. Sure, you can turn it off, but that’s after the ten minute load time.

Amen, sing it.

Other things that are good:

You know the fellas have had too much to say about the wedding…when…well, take a look.

Calvin has a thought that makes more sense to us grown-ups than it should…

And, in response to one of my favorite movie jingles, Brian Boitano responds.

Q9: It’s brought to your attention that “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone are really evil overlords from a distant planet posing as irreverent cartoonists. What do you do?

BRIAN BOITANO: Ask them to take me to their planet.

Next up, IT Jargon You Love To Hate:

“Unique, first of its kind, leading provider of, infinitely scalable, aligning business with IT, revolutionary, breakthrough and any use of the word leverage,” says Don Jennings, a PR professional with Lois Paul and Partners in Boston, who chimed in with some of his favorite jargon that vendors should never use in a press release.

Damn straight.

Whedon’s Rules

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

A few months back I had expressed some of my regrets about picking on poor Joss Whedon. Whedon has accomplished some amazing things, and it’s a mystery to me why I don’t genuinely like any of them. I know I probably should. He’s got this cool post-apocalyptic world going on full of dusty old used-junk spaceships, interesting characters…I just can’t watch it. Ten minutes of it bores me to tears. And I don’t know why. This is true of all of Whedon’s work that has been brought to my attention. There’s something about it that just puts me in a coma. If I don’t know something came from him, I can figure it out pretty quick, and I don’t consciously know what tips me off.

So I went to Gamestop and grabbed a bunch of three-for-price-of-two used movies, and made sure Serenity was in there. I had heard nothing but good things about it, after all. And it is good, in it’s own way.

But it puts me to sleep. Quickly.

And I think I know why. Whedon, it turns out, has some rules that he observes very carefully. Whether they are good rules or bad rules depends on the viewpoint of the person watching. But in my book, they’re bad rules. And I can’t help but get the feeling that if every carbon-based life form on this planet agreed with me, And Whedon came to figure this out, he’d still want to keep all of them.

As near as I can figure, the rules are these…and I should disclaim, a lot of them are absolutes and I don’t know if they have been observed absolutely because I’m a damn sight far away from an exhaustive scholar of Whedon material. But this lock-step observation of these twelve rules, seems to cause me a lot of boredom very quickly, like in ten minutes or less. So they don’t have to be observed very tightly at all in order to sabotage everything. It’s sad, in a way, when George Lucas can tell a story better than you even with that crappy Lucas dialog, but let’s face facts: First time I saw any given chapter of the Star Wars saga, I had no idea what was going to happen next and it made the film a pure delight. With Serenity, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen next, even though I know far less about what’s going on, and don’t particularly care what’s going to happen to these carefully-developed characters. It’s just plain bad story-telling.

1. Character over story. It’s okay to chew up massive amounts of footage defining the characters, and nothing else. Heroes hold meetings to figure out what to do, but what is done cannot be the result of new ideas, compromise or negotiation; it is always the unaltered, undiluted, uncompromised vision of whoever “won.” Nobody ever, ever, ever yields half-way because that would be confusing.
2. It’s far more important for a line to be clever than for it to be convincing.
3. The audience should have no uncertainty whatsoever about who’s right and who’s wrong. It is preferable that the designated antagonist do some stuttering to remove all doubt. This is an attribute of the character. Whoever is wrong about something, can’t be right about something else later. That would be confusing.
4. When men and women share a scene, any revelations meaningful to the story must be delivered by the woman.
5. Men must not be too threatening. The largest man must be no bigger than 5’10” and 170 pounds. Facial hair is for bad guys, and even on them it must be immaculately groomed. A five o’clock shadow is a metaphor for some deep, serious character flaw. This, too, is an attribute of the character. Whoever is clean-shaven at one time can’t be grizzled later, and vice-versa.
6. The telling-off is an all-important ceremony. At no time can fifteen minutes pass by without someone telling someone off. Women can tell women off, men can tell men off, women can tell men off, but it is never, ever, ever appropriate for men to tell women off. Women may implore men to calm down, men may not implore women to calm down because that might be threatening. See Rule #5. Calming-down is just as important as telling-off. Nobody is allowed to tell anyone else to calm down, without extending the right hand, opening it broadly, pointing the palm down to the floor, and shaking it while the left hand rests on the left hip.
7. Fight scenes can have action, but no suspense. There should be a designated victor. The victor sustains no blows, not even a scratch, unless he or she possesses some mystical power that makes physical injury impossible or trivial. The victor may be damaged, wounded, bleeding at the end of the fight — in fact, he/she must show some damage somewhere — but it is prohibited for this to have actually come from anywhere. Think of Chris Penn’s demise in Reservoir Dogs. If the story calls for the other guy to throw the first punch and start the fight, which is usually the case, this first punch must miss.
8. Amnesia, truth serum, alternative realities, brainwashing, and other forms of loss of mental control are indispensible story-building tools. Because they might be considered “abuse,” they are always inflicted on women, never on men. But refer back to Rule #6 — if a woman who cannot trust her own senses is in an argument with a man who can trust his, the man must yield.
9. Character flaws are reserved for men. Women do not have flaws; they have tragedies that took place from which they are continually trying to recover. They are never quite finished with this.
10. Nothing may happen quickly. All scenes, save for cut-scenes, must last two minutes or more. Three minutes is even better.
11. When the script calls for someone to interrupt someone else, it should be completely obvious. Whoever got interrupted, should yield immediately even if the line used to do the interrupting, meanders laboriously and awkwardly.
12. Whatever looks like a good idea at one point in the story, has to stay that way. The heroes cannot be deceived or betrayed, unless mannerisms and speech inflections are used to clue the audience in from the get-go that this is what is about to happen.

What I Learned From Casino Royale

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Casino RoyaleFor this weekend, my son’s obsession was Casino Royale which, after the very first viewing at the real-live theater, he had previously condemned as “kind of boring for a Bond movie.” Having skimmed through a sampling of the previous twenty installments, he seems to have come to the conclusion that this rebooted Bond is far more interesting and substantial. After repeat viewings, the story begins to make sense and kind of grows on you. I agree.

There is a reason why it’s taken over half a century to put this on the movie screen properly, so all the excitement of stealing money from bad guys in a card game can be captured in full. It’s got to be a very tough thing to do.

I consider myself to be an authority now — when ten-year-old boys like something, they don’t want to see it just once. With the weekend now gone, I could probably recite every line in the movie, and here is what I learned from watching it. Warning, some could be considered spoilers:

1. If it’s a place you need to film with a surveillance camera, don’t store propane there.
2. If the bitch is good-lookin’, she’s ALWAYS got a boyfriend.
3. The CIA doesn’t need the money.
4. Keep track of the metal suitcase.
5. If M thinks you’re bent, she’ll send a double-oh after you. You just might be the second kill.
6. If the first step of your interrogation is the removal of testicular support, just stop everything right there and tell him what he wants to know.
7. Don’t bet against the market.
8. Double-oh agents dress appropriately for action adventures, until they get betrayed by their girlfriends. After that they wear suits and silk ties all the time.
9. Money isn’t as important as knowing who to trust.
10. Trust no one (which is somehow reconciliable with the above?).
11. Land Rovers suck. Drive Ford.
12. Don’t get grouchy with your wife just because you lost your car and all your money in a game.
13. Send text messages through a network that DOESN’T track your GPS location. And if you fall for this once, don’t do it again or you might lose a kneecap.
14. Don’t let anyone know where you keep your gun.
15. When your new girlfriend’s cell phone is ringing constantly, find out why.
16. Don’t leave your drink unattended when you’re playing for millions of dollars.
17. Don’t hide from a man with a gun, in a building that’s being kept afloat by pressurized air pontoons.
18. Shoot the camera first. They don’t care what you do, they care what you’re filmed doing.
19. Double-oh operatives don’t have to breathe hard after sprinting, even endlessly. But their life expectancies are very, very short.
20. Don’t break into the boss’ house.
21. Don’t gamble in the futures market when your customer demands “complete security,” because a hundred millions dollars buys a really, really big knife.
22. Just because she’s guilty, doesn’t mean he’s innocent.
23. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But don’t forget to watch the friends.
24. Double-check the account number before the funds are transferred.
25. Just because he’s younger and thinner than you doesn’t mean he’s a valet.

As a Movie Character

Sunday, April 29th, 2007

As a movie character, I promise to…

1. Reject any assigned phone number for my house or cell phone that does not begin with 555.
2. Leave the keys in the ignition of whatever I own. All the time, no matter what.
3. If the lights go out and I try to figure out why, I will always walk backwards. If female and good-looking, I will first take a long slow shower.
4. I will not be slowed down by a punch to the nose, or even by a kick in the face. I will keep swinging, virtually begging for more. Even if precariously balancing on a thin girder a thousand feet above the sidewalk.
5. However, if someone gives me a good karate chop to the back or the neck, I faint immediately and stay asleep for hours.
6. As a man, I will scold my female colleague to go home. As a woman, I will insist on tagging along with those four timeless magic words, “I’m going with you!”
7. I will meet all my work obligations instead of flaking out to go to my kid’s baseball game or school play, but later confess to being a big jerk and resolving to be much flakier from now on, while tear-jerking music plays softly in the background.
8. If my wife sleeps with someone else, I will begin a vigorous soul-searching session to figure out what I did to make her want to.
9. Listen unquestioningly to the words of self-appointed amateur psychologists who know nothing about me, as they describe my most intimate personal problems and what to do about them, especially if they’re half my age and good-looking.
10. Use incredibly lame passwords on my computer, and keep obvious visual clues to said passwords within line-of-sight.

The FARKLibs were generous enough to help tack on the following…
11. I promise to get a parking spot in front of whatever building I need to be in, regardless of time or day or how busy the area is.
12. I promise never to actually pay for anything.
13. I promise to talk to my children about my sexual antics as casually as my friends.
14. I will keep my gun holstered while checking to see if my nemesis is dead.
15. I will spend an inordinate amount of time explaining the happenings of the last two hours to my victim before I kill him.
16. I won’t say hello, when I begin telephone conversations, and I won’t say goodbye when they’re over.
17. I promise to leave the headlights on when I get out of car.
18. I promise to wear my tightest and most revealing clothes at all times, regardless of how practical or impractical they may be for the task at hand
19. I will also never wear the same outfit twice, unless it’s a uniform, in which case I will wear it nonstop
20. Also, should my clothing ever be torn or ripped, it will tear or rip in such a way as to bare nothing but my toned midriff, shoulders, or thighs.
21. If a friend goes missing, I will insist that everyone split up to look for them.
22. If in a gun fight, I will insist on a perfect headshot rather than targeting any body part in view. If there is a car between us, I will peek over the top rather than looking underneath and shooting my opponent in the ankle.
23. I promise to win the big game on some crazy, hare-brained, million-to-one play rather than skill.

Ugly Liberal Women

Friday, April 27th, 2007

It’s been called to our attention that Wednesday’s post was an example of poor marketing in the blogosophere. We believe this is true, and furthermore that we commit this sin quite regularly, which is one of many reasons why we call ourselves The Blog That Nobody Reads. The subject of the post in question was Michelle Malkin making fun of the Democrats by pretending to cheer them on, with white flags instead of pom-poms. But from reading our comments, you wouldn’t have figured that out…you had to go to Malkin’s web site and watch the video clip. Only then would you see what’s going on…


That, right up there, is how we would have played it up if we were true web-traffic-whores. Which we are somewhat — only to such an extent as we’ve developed as unhealthy an addiction to Sitemeter as any other blogger. Ooh, twenty hits in the last hour instead of ten. What did I do? From where did they come? It’s an intriguing question. But apart from a mouse-click or two of poking around, nothing is done about it. Life goes on.

When it comes to implementing all these tried-and-true techniques for boosting traffic, we rank below the folks who suck at it. We’re just not trying. Malkin herself is dancing around in a cheerleader costume, and we’re playing it up by analyzing the intellectual/sociopolitical merits of what she’s saying, and not even bothering to scrape any pictures. One can almost envision Malkin herself reviewing the finished product, wondering why we didn’t take the bait. Come on, I even had pigtails.

It’s in keeping with our mission. As we’ve pointed out before: Say things to get attention, pretty soon you’re saying things that make no sense, save for your objective of getting attention. And then you’re saying stupid crappy things like “there is no terrorirst threat” or “Bush went to Iraq to prove to his daddy he’s tough.” We’d rather stick to things we know to be true or genuinely believe to be true. That is the priority. Don’t be snookered — say things that, if you read them a year later, you won’t think to yourself “man, I really got fooled.” Let others troll for attention…and the web traffic will do whatever it will do.

Liberal WomenBut the timing was pretty good. We managed to link ourselves to a FARK thread in the moment as it was greenlit. This caused something of a spike. Maybe we’ll meet some interesting new folks because of that.

Anyway. We already have a new thought to ponder…although it is not completely an unblazed trail. FARK user juiceman_eyebrows would like to know…

Why are conservative women pundits so much prettier than than the Liberals? Seriously, what is it? Is it because they shave their legs? Wear deodorant? Keep the armpit hair to a minimum? Im just curious.

Well, I’d like to try to tackle this one. (Credit Six Meat Buffet for the picture.)

First of all, there are some exceptions. The left does have Alyssa Milano. But by-and-large, the trend does seem to hold true. Liberal women, now forty years into a movement of trying to find something unfair in society, and in the opportunities it offers them, so they can do some screeching…they don’t seem to want to be attractive.

At no time was this more evident than in the administration of Bill Clinton. Clinton was held up as the key to doors long bolted and sealed shut, imposing with a stuffy cobwebbed Victorian authority between strong, resourceful women and the opportunities that righfully should have been available to them. A messianic figure out to save women from oblivion in an unfair, patriarchal society that, but for him, would have relegated the best and brightest among our sisters and daughters to obscurity. And in the women came. Reno. Shalala. Albright. Bader-Ginsburg. And so on.

Did the message really stop at “you shouldn’t deny women opportunities just because they’re women?” It seems impossible to opine so. None among the gruesome foursome even remotely resemble the lovely Alyssa.

Oh yes, I understand — just as you shouldn’t promote someone just because he’s a man, you shouldn’t promote women just because they’re pretty. That argument would make a lot of sense — if two among the previously-named four resembled other-worldly creatures. But this was four-for-four. Women, by their nature, are beautiful. The average-looking woman looks a damn sight different from the average Clinton female appointee. No one’s ever bothered to explain this. Not to my knowledge.

So let’s face facts: Juiceman is on to something here. Something’s going on. You do not need to bribe me with booze and money to get me to sleep with Condoleeza Rice. Or Linda Chavez. Or Bo Derek or the lovely Michelle, or Peggy Noonan or Laura Ingraham. These women all have currency. Regarding their counterparts, especially the ones who achieved prominence in the Clinton cabinet — if you don’t mind, I think I’d rather just skip that part of the exercise.

Perhaps, among female persons who embraced the principles Clinton was trying to sell us, Janet Reno happened to be the best qualified to run the Justice Department. And given that, perhaps, Albright was best qualified to run the Department of State. But four-for-four, fugly-for-fugly?

Shenanigans, I say. There was another message there. There had to be. The Alyssa Milanos, you will note, remain safely confined to their Hollywood gigs. Our liberal politicians don’t even promote them to so much as spokeswoman-for-a-day in some fundraiser, political junket, million-whatever-march, or anything of the like. The pattern is clear: A genuinely gorgeous woman would cloud the message. The limelight is for…others.

Even in our movies, when we’re supposed to be appreciating women for being beautiful, our liberals still don’t think women should be appreciated for the gifts they naturally have. When the business at hand is to be “sexy,” their answer to it is Julia Roberts — a woman straight men don’t find sexy. Not in the way we find Ms. Milano sexy.

There seems to be something wrong with appealing to us, or being caught trying to. Clearly, there is some pipeline of support in the liberal community, and that pipeline is available to women who want to become famous — provided said women are not good-looking.

I Support MalkinAnd there’s something else going on, too. The subject-at-hand is Michelle Malkin: funny; smart; beautiful; enchanting; conservative; Asian. Just as I can stump even the most seasoned politics-watcher by asking “Quick! Who’s the sexiest female political appointee or spokeswoman for the left wing?” — I can achieve the same results by asking, in the same urgent manner, who is the most prominent female minority among the left wing. Now, why is that? Our liberals are supposed to be all about diversity. Opportunity for the under-privileged members of designated minority groups. The non-WASPy, non-caucasian, non-euro-centric. Stickin’ it to Whiitey, if you want to think of it that way. And, at times, that last one does seem to be the most accurate description of what they want done…

…so where is the spokesgal? I’ve noticed a favorite leitmotif of the left is that Malkin lacks talent — she’s not as smart as people give her credit for, and she’s just plain mean. Some of them say this as if in a concentrated effort to convince themselves. Others behave as if they’re already convinced. Okay, if there’s nothing extraordinary to Malkin, then where is the left-wing counterpart? One would have to expect, if Malkin is so extraordinary in her mediocrity, it shouldn’t take long to answer this at all. Just find any ol’ liberal Asian chick, and mission accomplished. Give her something to do, maybe debate the real Michelle somewhere. Should be easy. So why hasn’t it been done?

How come these female-persons whom The Left would wish could demand more of my attention, are not only butt-ugly, but so consistently white?

I’ve been repeatedly instructed to believe that Rush Limbaugh was “mean” when he said the purpose of feminism was to make sure ugly women can get dates. Just going on the evidence that has come to my attention over the years — it was mean. He should have said it was to make sure ugly white women can get dates.

Hot Women Not WantedI’m sure that sets off lots of righteous indignation…but if anyone can get over it and catch their breath for a second or two, I’d really like an answer. It seems a fair question, and I have to think if it causes any offense in anyone, it can only do this until some quality thought is applied to it. The point of it is, after all, someone wants to get a message out and thus far, has only managed to get out a piece of it. How offensive can it be, to figure out there is more to be added? Our liberals have a beef with being too closely associated with women that straight men find pleasing, in face, body and mind. They’ve been encouraged to say a lot of things — some of it outlandish, some of it petty, almost all of it in some way hostile. On this matter, they’ve not yet fully opined. There’s something here that arouses shame in the shameless. PLEASE, liberals. Don’t keep your silence any further on my account. My curiosity is like an itch beneath a cast, with not one coathanger or chopstick in sight.

And there’s the matter of opportunity…still unaddressed. There are only so many ugly white women in the world. And I have to believe, if I were to start a company and staff it with ugly white liberal women with such remarkable consistency, with all the charter positions as well as the positions that become available from time to time, I’d eventually get busted for it. Because of some federal law that our liberals insisted we put on the books and keep in the books. To put it simply, I can’t do as a private citizen what these left-wing power brokers appear to have done for quite a long time with our taxpayer-supported advocacy positions and our positions of public trust. With nary a soul, outside of the conservative talk show hosts and bloggers, batting an eyelash about it.

No, I run a company with my own money…a liberal bystander who can’t show me two nickels he has to lose, in any decision I make, detects a lack of “diversity” and he can bring the whole operation to a screeching halt. Said lack of diversity is supposed to be compelling evidence of something awful and ugly. Well, I’ve noticed the same thing in the things our liberals like to do. I’m pretty far from the first guy to notice it. And hey, gorgeous women have to eat too.

So is it really all about equal opportunity?

Or is being liberal all about exchanging one form of prejudice, for a different one? It is possible for a woman to be charming, sexy and smart. I know this for a fact. Our liberals appear to be convinced it is not so.

What I Learned From Porn

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Nerd Crushes

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Nerd CrushThis seems to be one of Maxim Magazine’s better lists. I agree with just about all the ladies in it, even the cartoon ones…just about. And the ones I don’t like, I can certainly see how someone else would.

Raquel Welch’s daughter from Coccoon isn’t in there anywhere though…neither is Princess Ardala. Other than that and a few Star Trek guest stars, maybe a Bond babe or two, it looks pretty complete. Oh…and it’s also missing Daisy Duke. And Velma Dinkley.

Gee now that I think about it some more, it’s got more holes than swiss cheese. Hey — does this mean I’m cool?

I’m Not In It

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

You just keep your opinion to yourself now.

Ten Things I Did Not See In The Imus Debacle

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

…but before I get to that — a few words from someone with absolutely no sympathy for Imus whatsoever. His identity is unimportant because I think he speaks for many.

Yes, Blame Imus, but Spare Me Sharpton
John W. Mashek

For starters, I am not a fan of Don Imus.

I never watch his TV show except when visiting friends who do. His trademark of making fun of people is galling. He ought to look in the mirror now and then. Too many politicians and journalists are willing to give legitimacy to his program with their appearances.

At the same time, his main tormentors–Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson–are hardly shining lights of virtue. After all, we all have our demons to deal with.

But both Sharpton and Jackson are politicians as well as ministers. They have both run for president and so should recognize they are fair game as public figures.

For example, Sharpton refuses to apologize for his role in the Tawana Brawley phony charge of rape some 20 years ago. He pointedly refused to apologize when reporters gave him the opportunity in the presidential race four years ago. Not exactly a profile in accountability by Sharpton, who demands it from others.

Now then, here are my ten. And let me add — if one or two out of these ten escaped my notice, something would already be smelling mighty fishy. Three would be rancid. Four would be asphyxiating.

All ten are missing, and the powers-that-be are instructing me to believe that justice has prevailed and everything’s fine. I can go back to worrying about minding my P’s and Q’s, and purchasing offsets against my “carbon footprint.”


1. I did not see Sharpton demonstrate any regard for the feelings of the girls on the Rutgers team, which is odd since this is supposed to have been all about that. And Imus, his chosen target, has done exactly that plenty of times.

2. I did not see any groundswell of popular support for taking down Imus, or taking down “shock jocks” like him. It is necessary here to distinguish between a frenzied blood-lust, and an eyeball-rolling fatigue. I’m looking for the former and not the latter. I’ve been able to divine no energetic popular consensus, or anything coming close to it, that the shock-jock industry has worn out some kind of welcome. Or, for that matter, that Reverend Al, and his “industry,” has not.

3. I did not see any of the girls on the Rutgers team say they were offended. Their coach said all the right things repeatedly; she’s clearly angry and outraged. But Imus didn’t insult her, did he? What do the girls have to say?

4. I did not see anyone — anywhere — disagree with the statement “Don Imus is a dumbass.” I get the impression some folks think he said a dumbass thing, and wasn’t one before, and has only lately become one — but this distinction is utterly without meaning and falls far short of justifying the breath needed to argue it.

5. I did not see anyone express the faintest whiff of confidence in Al Sharpton’s ability to discern right from wrong — even though, if you listen to his comments carefully, you’ll see they all have to do with decisions he unilaterally made according to his own moral compass. Can it be argued by any rational person that this is off-topic because his private desires have been without effect, or have been tempered with the wisdom of others who are more reliable or wise? My memory fails to provide me with a precedent for such a clear winner arising, Venus-like, from such a tempest; what he didn’t get out of this, he didn’t want.

6. I did not see anyone even pretend to have known Imus said something stupid, before Sharpton started making noises that there should be a problem with it. The appearance is that Imus’ comments became boneheaded the moment Sharpton said that’s what they were.

7. I did not see anyone in a position of power, even begin to try to reassure the rest of us that Al Sharpton isn’t writing all the rules and won’t be writing all the rules. And that’s strange. Shouldn’t this be obligatory? Like I said above, what he didn’t get out of this he didn’t want. Had all 535 members of Congress wanted to produce such results, how long would it take, and how far would they get? How many kings, emperors, satraps and caliphs from yesteryear have retired to the world beyond, never having tasted this kind of unfettered, dictatorial power?

8. A lot of liberals have been known in years past to produce some bastardization of the apocryphal one-liner from Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Clearly, if Imus had this right before, he no longer does, nor does anyone else in his former line of work. I don’t know of any of those liberals having expired in the last week or so, due to natural causes, or injuries related to such a noble gambit. If there’s anyone I missed, I apologize for the oversight, honor the sacrifice and extend my sympathy to the family. When’s the funeral?

9. I did not see anyone advance an argument that anyone else, anywhere, should care about what Al Sharpton finds offensive, or even — as far as that goes — tell me who he is. Or, while we’re on the subject of introductions, whether or not he’s really a Reverend, and/or when/where he was ordained. Now that he’s basically running things, shouldn’t such a credential be common knowledge?

10. As Mr. Mashek pointed out above, I did not see an apology from “Rev.” Sharpton for the Tawana Brawley mess, or for the Crown Heights riot. Not even so much as a finger-waggling lecture to people like me on why we’re committing a grievous offense against some nebulous principle for paying it some attention. Not even that. Nothing. As far as I know, he hasn’t been burdened with the minimal necessity of ignoring someone’s inconvenient question about those things.

Things Computers Can Do in Movies

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Quite a few things, actually.

14. You may bypass “PERMISSION DENIED” message by using the “OVERRIDE” function. (See “Demolition Man”.)
20. Computers can interface with any other computer regardless of the manufacturer or galaxy where it originated. (See “Independence Day”.)
27. Searches on the internet will always return what you are looking for no matter how vague your keywords are. (See “Mission Impossible”, Tom Cruise searches with keywords like “file” and “computer” and 3 results are returned.)

They should have said something about the people. If you are a bad guy with plans for world domination, or are just super-secretive and suspicious by nature, or are hiding a deep dark terrible secret, your home computer password is always…one word. Someone’s given name. And whoever belongs to that name, you’ve got a picture of them on the desk right next to the computer, or a momento of that person hanging prominently on the wall.

And if you’ve been working with computers for awhile, you can “crack a 128-bit encryption envelope” by thinking really hard. Also, if you’re that clever with the computers, you can only engage in competent hand-to-hand combat, pistol marksmanship, and look really sexy if you are female. If you’re a dude you have to look like you haven’t showered since the sixth grade, you must wear glasses, and you leave that cool athletic stuff to some other dude who in turn gets to sleep with all the women. Oh and Mister Gorgeous, wherever the computer is not concerned, always knows exactly what to do. He just needs you to get that envelope cracked.

Fifteen Strange Products

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Check out this list, within which the “Girlfriend’s Lap Pillow” is Number Eleven…
Girlfriend's Lap

This rather unique pillow, known as the Girlfriend’s Lap Pillow, is supposed to let us chaps feel at ease by snuggling up to it when our partners are not at home.

And, whilst by no means a substitute for the real thing, I can see a number of bonuses – namely that it has a flat top on which you can place a cold beer (which a big plus point in my book) and that it is highly unlikely that it will ask if you love her every five seconds followed by a not so subtle hint that the dishes need doing or the floor need vacuuming (and that it’s your turn).

That said, I cannot help but wonder what your mother would think if she found one of these stuffed at the back of a cupboard.

Secrets They Don’t Tell Their Husbands

Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

I think #4 on this list should be obvious to any man who’s learned how to pay attention to things. Ditto for #7.

50 Mistakes Women Make

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Okay, you can get a list like this out of any one of those glossy magazines that stare you in the face when you’re paying for your groceries.

What sets this one apart, is that it’s for women…about how to please men…written by a woman…who practices what she preaches. And no, I don’t know that from personal experience, it’s just an assumption I’m making. A fairly solid one. And, when she uses vulgarities, there is a point to her doing so. She’s not out to prove much of anything.

50 Mistakes Women Make When Having Sex.

1. Assuming he can get a raging hard on when it suits you. Contrary to popular belief, men can’t just flip a switch and get it up because you decided to stop being a frigid bitch. Getting it hard is your job. I suggest you figure it out.

2. Thinking that kissing needs to be this sweet romantic thing all the time. Sometimes pressing your lips against your partners mouth while you get off is the hot. It depends on the situation.

3. Leaving him responsible for your orgasm. You know what gets you off. Tell him. If you don’t, it’s your own fault when he’s snoozing and you’re all wound up.

4. Expecting him to cuddle. Men and women are wired differently. Sex makes most women want to talk and bond and all that shit. It makes men pass out. It’s a biological thing. Stop fighting it, and stop holding it over his head, it’s not his fault.

5. Expecting him to fall asleep with you in his arms. That shit is uncomfortable after awhile. A little snuggling isn’t unreasonable, but when it’s time to actually sleep? An arm draped over you should suffice.

There are certain other things floating around out there that give me cause to think the lady should be joining the American Psychological Association. She’s probably just what they need.

Morgan No Function Either Beer Well Without

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Via Boortz, we trip across this list of 50 particularly stupid Homer Simpson quotes.

On Dagny

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

The Atlas Shrugged page has a lot of interesting detail lately.

The screenplay is nearly complete, and production is scheduled to begin this year (2007).

Angelina’s name is on it, Brad’s is not. They’re both talented people, but on balance I think this is a good thing. Because if ever there was a “gotta make a boat payment” movie, this was it. In fact, I don’t think Angelina’s right.

Dagny hasn’t had sex since she was seventeen. Now yes, she’s gorgeous…which means she doesn’t look like Ms. Rand…and her celibacy is supposed to inspire a sort of “what the hell is going on here?” kinda thing. Jolie does fit that. But there’s a reason why Dagny hasn’t been having any fun — she hasn’t been settling. She’s hungry for men of ability, outside of the bedroom, and within. She will not settle for anything less, and if that means there are some dry times then so be it.

I just don’t see it in Ms. Jolie. She’s talented enough to be whatever she wants to be. But…surely we can do better.

KreukIn order of my preferences, here are the alternatives I’d consider if the decision was mine to make.

1. Kristin Kreuk
2. Lucy Liu
3. Brooke Burke
4. Leann Tweeden
5. Kelly Brook
6. Kari Wuhrer
7. Nell McAndrew
8. Vanessa Marcil
9. Maria Bello
10. Kelly Hu

Hair colored jet-black, if need be, and tied up into a bun right up until Henry Rearden’s anniversary party. She despises television, reads books every night while listening to Richard Halley’s concerto, and wears eyeglasses everywhere she goes. Conspicuous ones. Stylish, but plain, and conspicuous.

She’s not a “hottie.” She could be one if she tried to be one, but she’s not trying.

Non-Intimidating Movie Villains

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

Another movie-related post. Another self-explanatory title.

Meat located here. Summary in case the link goes away:

1. Nuclear Man here
2. The Nothing here
3. Anakin Skywalker here and here
4. Jareth here
5. Daleks here
6. Chucky here
7. John Kreese here
8. Madison Lee here
9. Megatron here
10. Mr. Glass here
11. This guy in pretty much anything
Honorable Mention: General Zod here

To this, I would add:
1. Zorg here
2. Serleena here
3. The Mayor here
4. All the bad guys here, here and here — yes, Michelle too
5. Mola Ram here
6. Sleestaks here
7. Renard here

BelloqNot sure this belongs here, but it’s an interesting observation and it does have a relationship to the subject at hand. I was watching this for the first time in something like twenty years and it suddenly occurred to me…do you realize what a fabulous villain Rene Belloq is? He holds the whole movie together and in so doing, so much of his work is done on a subconscious level you don’t realize what he’s doing. In fact, it would be an accurate assessment to say being the “bad guy” is simply a side gig for this character.

As the impassioned protagonist, he holds only temporary authority in the dig, and none whatsoever in the Nazi command structure. So he persuades others to do his bidding by arguing with them. He neither lowers himself to a mutual exchange of ideas, nor imposes his will on this antagonist. He simply asks rhetorical questions.

Now as he is doing this, he reveals to the audience in a wonderfully subtle way a) he is Belloq, super-genius; b) the situation in which the other person has has been placed within the overall story, and c) that other person’s overriding phobias, doubts or both. What an ingenious way to keep the audience invested in the story, and keep said story moving along. The machine guns have stopped firing for a minute or two…and yet, you want to keep watching. And you’re learning something about the characters in the best way possible: without your consciously realizing this is taking place. Consciously, you think you’re just being reminded that Belloq is smart, and creepy, and has a weird-ass accent.

There is another angle to this too: His professional rivalry with Dr. Jones aside, Belloq’s misdeeds rise no higher than an attempt to place a holy superweapon under the control of the Nazi regime, for money. Okay, yeah that’s pretty bad. But mundane in the world of villains. He’s a mercenary, a punchclock-badass, in it for the money. Nothing personal. Nothing to give the character an inherent creepiness…

…except one thing. He is using psychology to peel the other characters apart, like bananas. He can see right through ’em. This taps into the audience’s phobia that someone can see through them.

Yet another element in a Spielberg movie, that would lose much of its appeal if displayed to a race of beings that were somehow perfect in every way. We are flawed; this movie character depends on our flaws to survive. Without this phobia we all have, the character is reduced to just being a guy who does bad things for money. Hell’s bells, every fight scene in Ultraviolet has at least fifty of those. No, he reads people. Accurately. And he knows he’s reading them accurately…and he’s got a big mouth.

To some folks, that is more frightening than, a shark, or some voodoo priest who can set your ass on fire without bothering to figure out where you are first. Spielberg’s a genius, or at least he is when he tries to be.

On Doofus Dads

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Not sure where that celebrated piece of Americana, the Doofus Dad, is going from here. Sitcoms are always going to need dads, and their audiences are for the foreseeable future going to remain about 80% female. The audience for “fun family comedy movies,” almost by definition, will always be a hodge-podge…but our ladies have more to say about what fun flick to catch at the box office, than the gentlemen, so those efforts sink or swim based on their appeal to feminine sensibilities.

But I think the pandering to feminine whim, being synonymous with making Dad look like a putz, may be temporary. Juvenile resentment and hostility, even when simmering away beneath a thin disguise of humor, just isn’t funny. And ever since Archie Bunker the Doofus Dad has been subject to far more demand from those who offer him, than by those who consume him. He always needed some kind of a boost, because the audiences never found him inherently funny. It started with a laugh track, then other devices were used to lend the Doofus Dad device some support.

That’s good for the short term. But the Doofus Dad has lasted a generation or two by now. His staying power seems to be derived not from comedic value, but from the avoidance of taboo. As if the wrong people would be highly offended if a masculine character were portrayed in any way other than unreliable and/or incompetent. And yet, by itself how long would this sustain this tiresome, threadbare cliche? The Doofus Dad is thirty-six years old, give or take. Cartoons, summer comedies, family drama — these are environments that give rise to creativity and fresh ideas, perspectives and angles never attempted before. And the environment rewards ingenuity whenever & wherever it pops up. It’s certainly not friendly to stale ideas. Why such never-ending hospitality to this one?

John Tierney’s column in the New York Times from two summers ago offered a veritable bouquet of ideas:

Ward Cleaver has been replaced by a stock character known in the trade as Doofus Dad. Explaining this change isn’t easy, but if Ward were still around, he could puff his pipe and offer several theories.

The most obvious is that the television audience has splintered along gender lines, and sitcoms are now a female domain. Four out of five viewers of network sitcoms are women, and they apparently like to see Mom smarter than Dad.

Another explanation is the rising number of mothers with paying jobs. Now that they have their own paychecks, the old bread-earning patriarch is less essential and therefore more mockable. And TV writers no longer have an easy stereotype of Mom to work with. Jokes about daffy middle-class housewives like Lucy Ricardo and Edith Bunker seem dated now that so many women work outside the home.

Fathers are still the same old targets, and they’re even more tempting now that they’ve gotten a new image as shirkers thanks to widely reported findings about who does what at home. Even though more mothers have outside jobs, women still do about four more hours of child care and four more hours of housework per week, according to studies by the social scientists John Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey.

Ezra Klein offered yet another theory having to do with selective tolerance:

It is, after all, a pretty interesting TV phenomenon. If the majority of shows presented other demographics the way they present fathers, they wouldn’t survive a day. Ignorant blacks? Bitchy, materialistic moms? Moronic, accident-prone dads? The whole set fits, but only the last is widely allowable.

Odd. Maybe white males, as the dominant majority, are secure enough in their power and public image not to mind? Maybe they’re the last demographic group safe to infantilize because, as of yet, they haven’t protested their portrayals? And is it white males, or do the black-acted sitcoms work off the same format?

This last one is not only persuasive, it is provable: Men can withstand humor at their expense, and even laugh at it sincerely themselves. Since the days of Vaudeville, no pratfall is funnier than a swift kick in the balls. That timeless joke about the three guys on the deserted island finding the genie in the lamp — you can tell that to a room full of fellas, and draw a good-natured chuckle or two. Anyone want to go to the “Sex in the City” viewing party, stand in front of the television during a commercial break, and tell the assembled foursome that howler about the bitch with two black eyes? It won’t be quite so funny. Yeah, you’ll bring down the house, just not in a way that you’ll like.

Well, this straight white male can bend and flex like any other, and perhaps he’s even more deserving of humor at his own expense than most other straight white males. I just wish, in the twenty-first century, family comedies were a bit more creative. They are supposed to be, after all; and as the guy who ends up paying for them, I’d like to see a few things I’ve not yet seen before. The Doofus Dad schtick lately has taken on a proclivity for covering everything wall-to-wall. The tedious trope starts while the opening credits are still onscreen, and at the final shot it’s just hit it’s stride, with everything in between just oozing out more of the same. And this is where I start to want my money back. It’s not about outrage or personal offense, it’s about paying good money for creativity and not getting it.

Even the bang-for-buck issue ceases to be worthy of concern once one steps outside my household. It’s just my own wallet, and the wallets and purses of other parents who are paying for witty fresh humor, and receiving paint-by-numbers products in return. Society is impacted only the theme of anti-competition, which because of this is disturbing on a wholely different level. Dad stops whacking himself in the forehead with a rubber chicken long enough to announce his desire that junior do his best. Dad thinks his boy has what it takes to win the ball game, ipso facto, he wants him to win.

As if we were in some religious ceremony, it is compulsory that this simple patriarchal desire stand revealed in the Act Two as something odious, destructive…cancerous. Dad doesn’t even have to insist on superlatives for the ritual to be thrown into high gear — comparatives will get things going just fine. Junior brought home a B- in the same class where he got a C last year. Mom is thrilled, Dad thinks Junior could get a B+ if he tried harder. That’s all it takes; off we go. Angst. Tears. Yelling. Suitcases packed, locks changed, a final monologue chock-full of righteous indignation by a wise “Neighbor Earl” sage character, or perhaps from the Mom. And the all-but-guaranteed “deer in the headlights” look from the errant Dad, straight into the camera lens with the whites all the way ’round the eyes, as he realizes what a raging dumbshit he is. This is all part of the package. None of it brings out genuine surprise in anyone, nor has any of it for the last twenty years or more.

But we treat it as something creative and fresh, because we’re told we should.

That’s a direct assault on the timeless human desire to do things well — a desire required for everything good that anybody enjoys in the world today. It is also, as I see it, an effort to replace fathers as role models. Since the first father ever became one, an instrinsic part of the fathering process has been to propagate ones’ values and prejudices in addition to his genetic fabric. This process is certainly subject to flaw, and much evil has been done through it. From where I sit, Hollywood’s solution is to banish it from human existence, by replacing the life-experiences and prejudices of fathers, with Hollywood’s own sensibilities. If that’s the case, the very best you could say about this is that it’s an attack on something demonstrated here & there to be somewhat harmful — but concentrated on the leafy part of the weed.

But I don’t accept it as something good. Hollywood is Hollywood; I’m a Dad. While my son remains impressionable, and thus required to take on someone else’s set of values and prejudices…he might as well take on mine. So we laugh at Doofus Dad movies. At them…not with them.

Well, he’s nine. Teenagerhood awaits, and then Hollywood can take another crack at ‘im. Some form of father-son conflict, with other parties jumping into the chasm where the wedge was driven…that’s a matter of when, not if. So I wish Hollywood the best of luck in their future conflicts with me. In this initial engagement, they’ve failed.

Cross-posted at RightLinx

Movie Scenes I Really Hate

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

I may be entirely alone in all this. I don’t care. But, come to think of it, if you’re in the movie business and have something to say about this stuff, you should care. The older I get — the more irritated I get by these things. And I have to confess I’ve noticed it affects the decisions I make about movies. Not really consciously. I start to take mental notes about who made what, how much I enjoyed it, and what they’re making next time.

So think about skipping these, maybe?

1. The protagonist sits down in front of a personal computer that doesn’t belong to him, and tries to guess the password. I don’t care how. I don’t care if he succeeds or not. It’s just a dumb scene to put in. Actually, if you want to get realistic about it, you should have him fish around for some hidden post-it notes, maybe trip across the password scribbled in felt pen. I’d be fine with that. Never seen anything like it.

2. Where you’re supposed to pick out the bad guy really easily because…
a. He’s over 45 when nobody else is over 25
b. He speaks with a southern accent
c. He wears suits, with neckties tightened all the way to the collar, at inappropriate times — like, for example, late at night
d. He’s an intellectual
e. He speaks with an English accent
f. He has a really, really, really cool house and/or home-office and/or fortress-of-solitude

3. When a healthy person talks to a person in a coma, and muses out loud about whether people in comas can hear what’s going on around them (complicated personal story here, you shouldn’t ask).

4. Where the heroine says some kind of variant of this line, and it’s supposed to be like something original: “I’m going with you!” Hero tries to talk her out of it; fails; it turns out to be a bad idea.

5. Where the President of the United States does something that makes you wonder why the REAL President doesn’t do the same thing; when, in fact, if the real President were to do such a thing, we would have separation-of–powers scandals from here to Tripoli and back again. Like, drawing lots to see who gets to live in a cave when a meteor hits. Directing the government to end poverty and make sure everyone has a job. Stupid bullshit like that.

6. When three- and four-star generals have full heads of hair and, “generally,” look a lot more like Hollywood actors pretending to be generals, than real generals. Something about that just gets under my skin.

7. When two guys are fighting over the same woman…and, because they both have facials, haircuts, beard-trimming patterns, manicures, pancake-makeup jobs that are oh so “chique,” you can’t tell the motherfuckers apart from each other. Hey, you’ve got the same woman screwing both of these guys. First this one, then that one. The scenes are darkly-lit, assholes. Problem!

8. When a “good guy” — not necessarily the hero of the adventures, but someone who’s already been defined as a leading character — yells at some nameless faceless bystanders to “Call 911!” Um…if everybody who is known to us on a first-name basis is a kick-ass action hero…what’s the point??

9. This is the opposite of #8. When the kick-ass action hero is incredibly suave and handsome — but doesn’t know dick about computers. The guy who knows something about computers, is dateless, ugly, comical, stupid in non-computer areas, and you get the idea he smells like ass. I’ve noticed this is a guy thing. Women are allowed to be computer savvy and sexy, for reasons I’m not sure I entirely understand. Guys have to pick.

10. When a “sidekick” makes a reference to alimentary dysfunction in his pants due to intolerable adrenaline rush. If we’re paying $10 a head plus over-inflated prices for popcorn and soda, and it’s going toward comedy one-liners — this doesn’t quite cut it.

11. (Does not include James Bond movies) Where the villain is tricked into describing his nefarious plan in exquisite detail because he believes his selected audience is about to come to an inglorious end, which subsequent events reveal not to be the case at all. If this is not a 007 installment, it’s a case of copyright infringement. If it is…well, I get a little ticked if the scene is not there. Can’t have a Bond movie without the bad guy revealing his plans. It’s just not right.

12. The “dad” is dysfunctional, boring, clumsy, comedic, stupid, uncoordinated, disorganized, oblivious to his surroundings, disruptive to the natural/social activities of his spouse/spawn, overly competitive, overly zealous, overly opinionated, unreliable…did I already mention stupid? IT HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE BEFORE. If your stupid new-movie relies on this too much, maybe it was a mistake to green-light it. You make a mistake, and don’t admit it, you’ve made two mistakes.

13. The point is made on a philosophical level — that dissent is not necessarily unpatriotic. **BARF** Has any point been made on a philosophical level, and re-made, and re-made again, more often than this?

14. When the good guy commandeers a vehicle using police power, or by turning the conveniently left-behind key in the ignition (especially in a city where you would never, ever do this, like in LA).

15. When an ugly girl is made-over into a hot chick.

16. When people are punched or kicked in the face REPEATEDLY and keep fighting with no visible damage.

17. Opposite of #16. When a well-placed karate chop between the shoulder blades knocks an unsuspecting victim unconscious.

18. When the hero figures out the only way he can protect some priceless artifact or protected secret, is to steal it.

19. When the pain-in-the-ass maverick, or convicted felon, is recruited for something only he can do…and that something turns out to be just a lot of fighting. That’s just stupid.

20. Any trash-talkin’ between the good guy and the bad guy that includes the line, “I don’t think so.” By either one of them. It comes off like the little sticky-note with “substitute this with a decent line when you get a chance” fell out of the script.