Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In my inbox

This came around in one of those chain emails, so you may have seen it already. But in case you hadn't:

President "'Tard" Bush and Congress allowed each one of us to get a tax rebate.

If we spend that money at Wal-Mart, most of the money will go to China. If we spend it on gasoline, it will all go to the Arabs. If we spend it on new computers, all the money will go to India or Pakistan for tech support and none will help the American economy.

The way I see it, we need to keep that money here in America; so the only way I can see to keep that money here at home is drink beer, gamble or spend it on prostitution as those are the only businesses still in the U.S.

Got this hilarious response from someone on the email chain:

I wish we HAD gotten a tax rebate. Even though, as Althouse pointed out,
it's just like getting a present from one of your kids that you know used
your credit card to buy it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Really Obscene Songs

My first encounter with a really dirty song was at church camp of all places. The song was kind of a bar-band bash-fest (not all that good, in other words), but the end of the chorus was, "So fuck you!" The guy who brought it set it out on the porch of his cabin and cranked it up. I think it played 3 times before the counselors leapt forward and silenced it.

Then there was the close call with Get The Funk Out Ma Face, but it doesn't really count.

Next was a tape of NWA's first album, found in a parking lot by my roommate. We had no idea who it was, and since it was on an unlabeled cassette, we just assumed it was a bunch of goofballs swearing as much as they could. I was shocked to found out it was a commercial release.

Then there's the song "Crazy Bitch" by Buck Cherry. I made an expurgated version of the song because my 11-year-old was dying to hear it after seeing my reaction and my wife's. It's even funnier, because it sounds like Monty Python's "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song On The Radio".

Then, I happened across the below - need I say NSFW - on the great, can't recommend it enough, online version of Cracked magazine (meaning I'm recommending the magazine, not this song necessarily):

I doubt this one can be topped. I hope it can't.

My reason for posting this? Nothing other than an unfortunate Beavis and Butthead-like motivation - in that it makes me giggle.
Necons in a Nutshell, by Ron Paul

A must see:

And it's always good to mix in a little comedy with your tragedy; keeps ya human.
Audio NSFW - put yer headphones on.
Bill O'Reilly flipout, the Dance Remix:

Btw, the backstory to this is O'Reilly was supposed to do a lead-out at the end of the show to a Sting video. Apparently the teleprompter was blank, and he didn't understand the term "lead-out". He was so mad he couldn't tape the scripted words, so he just used his own words and did it live. I think O'Reilly's a jerk, but in this case, I do think he was in a tough spot as the clock was ticking.

IMVHO, O'Reilly's a man who could benefit greatly about having a sense of humor about himself. If he laughed at his own gaffes rather than paddle down denial, he'd have a bit more credibility. Not that I want this guy having credibility.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"I'm Listing!"

I've always loved that category name on Whisky Prajer's site, so I'm borrowing it for today's post.

Apparently listing is a spring phenom, because there's certainly been a rash of it lately on the sites I hit. (See post below, too.)

Today's lists are the 1,001 (!!!) books and movies you should see.

There's a lot to disagree with on those lists, particularly the book list because it's weighted >Dr. Cox from Scrubs Emphasis<wuh-huh-haaay>/Dr. Cox from Scrubs Emphasis< too much towards the genre of literary fiction. (I'm using M. Blowhard's conceit that literary fiction is essentially just a genre, and not this lofty alternative to the popular fiction enjoyed by the great unwashed and unlettered.)

But, that aside, here are the source lists:

- 1,001 movies to see before you die, and changes to the list (thus I've included all additions). (via
- 1,001 books to read before you go blind

I'm following Kottke's example and only listing those I've actually seen and read.
- Here's the movie list.
- Here's the book list.
(Thought I'd try to avoid a post 1,001 pages long.)

I calculated roughly how much time I've spend watching just the movies on the list (based on 1.75 hrs. avg. per movie), and it comes out to 770 hours, or 32 days (assuming non-stop viewing), or 96 8-hour work days.

SWAGing (Silly Wild Ass Guessing) at approx. 7 hours per book (assuming the shorties average out the doorstops), I've spent 581 hours reading the books, which is 24 days (non-stop), or 73 8-hour work days. And I've read a LOT more books than are on that list. Probably by a factor of 20 or more.

Out of those lists, here are the ones I would recommend:

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Airplane! (1980)
Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986)
All That Jazz (1979)
Amelie (2001)
American Beauty (1999)
American Graffiti (1973)
Annie Hall (1977)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Back to the Future (1985)
Blade Runner (1982)
Blowup (1966)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Body Heat (1981)
Brazil (1985)
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Die Hard (1988)
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
E.T.: The Extra-Terestrial (1982)
Fargo (1996)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Fight Club (1999)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forrest Gump (1994)
Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Frankenstein (1931)
Groundhog Day (1993)
Harold and Maude (1971)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Koyaanisqatsi (1983) [Stoned - if possible]
Laura (1944)
Little Big Man (1970)
M*A*S*H (1970)
Manhattan (1979)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Moonstruck (1987)
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
Planet of the Apes (1968)
Poltergeist (1982)
Psycho (1960)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Rear Window (1954)
Salvador (1986)
Star Wars (1977)
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
Terms of Endearment (1983)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Big Chill (1983)
The Big Lebowski (1998)
The Birds (1963)
The Breakfast Club (1985)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Elephant Man (1980)
The Graduate (1967)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Matrix (1999)
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Sting (1973)
The Thing (1982)
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
There's Something About Mary (1998)
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Titanic (1997)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Up in Smoke (1978)
When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Young Frankenstein (1974)

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
Contact - Carl Sagan
Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater - Kurt Vonnegut
I, Robot - Isaac Asimov
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Interview With the Vampire - Anne Rice
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Moby-Dick - Herman Melville
Neuromancer - William Gibson
One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel García Márquez
Slaughterhouse-five - Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
The Cider House Rules - John Irving
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Shining - Stephen King
The World According to Garp - John Irving
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I'll take that meme and raise you

Syaffolee offered her list. Here's mine.

FWIW, It's silly that these aren't on the list:
- "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams
- "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
- "The Shining" by Stephen King
- "The Stand" by Stephen King
- The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
- The Deptford Trilogy (Fifth Business/The Manticore/World of Wonders) by Robertson Davies

Started but never finished
Will Never Read
*Hated it.
**Loved it.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell*
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude**
Wuthering Heights**
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel**
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick**
Madame Bovary**
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies**
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked: the life and times of the wicked witch of the West*
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian: a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault's Pendulum*
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses*
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver's Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections**
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela's Ashes: a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People's History of the United States: 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything**
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon*
Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

Friday, May 09, 2008

Recent Viewings Abandonments 05.09.2008

These aren't really reviews as I have no right to review something I didn't finish. I try to strictly adhere to Alexander Pope's directive when criticizing to "Survey the Whole".

Blurbs on the PBS documentary made it look PHAT (Pretty Hot and Tempting), so I fired up the ancient VCR that's hidden away from the fray of the house (it had to churn for a week undisturbed). This week ended up with scads of open TV time as MPC1 is in a school play, so wife and MPC1 are gone all night, leaving me and MPC2 to have fun.

Documentaries are one of the best things to watch whilst you play with little ones because they're mostly talky talky and don't depend on your eyes being latched to the screen. (It even conforms to the "playing with toddlers" advice from the great Dear Prudence.) The lone exception to this is The Thin Blue Line, which you must and will remain glued to.

For the record, I loves myself some documentary. To croon along with Julie Andrews, it's one of my favorite things, even though the multisyllabic word does not slide easily into the refrains of the tune.

Carrier is an unfocused mess. Unless you're good at recognizing faces, there is no narrative thread provided. There's also nothing particularly novel or surprising shown. They don't even walk you through the mechanics of the jets taking off and landing. The big piece of info about that particular central activity of the carrier is that ... wait for it ... it's LOUD. (Hell you say!). Yes, the sound doth ring throughout the ship, and they actually have some of the crewman's quarters directly beneath the landing pad.

But, how does the breaking cable work? How does the catapult work? What are the steps to launching a jet? Etc. None of this. Perhaps in this day and age it's considered a security risk to get too detailed on that stuff. But it does exist in other docs about carriers, so that's prolly not it. Nope. Methinks the documentary crew just didn't think to cover it.

So, after 4 chapters, I announced to my poppet, who was taking her stuffed kitties on walks (drags, actually) through the house at the end of toy puppy leash, that we were going to stop with the carrier stuff already. Never one to miss an opportunity, she asked if we could put Bugs Bunny on. Bless her.

Oh, one positive note is the music selection is pretty cool. I plan to use This list and hunt around Amazon for some MP3s.

Bee Movie
Feeling that we needed to meet halfway on viewing choices during this week of opportunity while half the family was off strutting and fretting their hour, I got some little-person fare from the library, and one of those was Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie (which I'm sure he thought was an oh-so-clever double-meaning on "B" movie, and, well, it kinda is).

Quasi-SPOILER stuff ....

Bee-leave it or not (see, I got those double-meaning thangs going too), the flick culminates in a court trial. Again: a cartoon that is aimed at kids ends up being a freakin' courtroom drama. You wonder how that went in the pitch meeting.

End SPOILER stuff.

It was nearly impossible to stay focused on the movie. And, btw, let me emphasis what a big deal this is in our case.

For some reason my wife and I haven't been able to get to the bottom of, our littlest one is terrified of bees. Last summer, when she was awake, all she wanted to do was go outside. This year it's like trying to get an agoraphobic to walk to the mailbox at the end of the driveway. If she's on a trike (Word spellcheck doesn't know the word "trike"! Or "spellcheck"!) or in some other moving toy, she's fine, but you put her on her feet and she dashes for the door crying.

So, I thought watching a movie about nice bees would help. She was initially fascinated because these were cartoon avatars of the thing she so fears, but after the novelty wore off it was as if the TV wasn't even on. Sometime during the ... spoiler event above ... I found my mind had drifted so many times, I wasn't sure what they were talking about at times. About 10 minutes after that, off it went.

I've noticed something (that seems rather obvious now) in that the entertainment value of an animated film is in direct proportion to how much of the story is told visually as opposed to exposition through dialogue.

Though adults kinds dug Ratatouille, I didn't really note that much excitement from the kids. Alvin and the Chipmunks went through my daughter's school like ebola. They even had show and tell sessions where kids dressed up like the chipmunks and performed the songs.

Ratatouille was almost all talk, and over half was total Food Channel fare. Yawn. (I still haven't seen the whole thing even though someone literally gave us a copy because they didn't like it.)

So, cartoon shops: tell the story through the visuals as much as possible. If a character opens their mouth, consider that a problem. Hey - just occurred to me. See the flick by The Fifth Element director (whose common theme seems to be that a great woman can save a guy's life) Luc Besson entitled Angel-A. Nearly all the dialogue in that film is inconsequential.

Another great example is our youngest's fav film right now: Bambi. Which, visually, is a glorious moving watercolor. It's also got a lot of kid politics in it, which I hadn't noticed until the recent rash of repeated viewings. (The little ones tend to latch on to a film and watch it incessantly for a while until they've completely absorbed it.) All the dialogue centers on the kid politics angle, while the story itself is told visually.

If this section of the post were a cartoon, it'd be me (well, my web avatar (floating on the left there)) pounding this point to China.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

In Search of the Blues
by Marybeth Hamilton

Read a blurb somewhere on this tome that promised it had a different take on the origin of the blues than has been proffered so far, so had to check it out.

'Tis true. As with a lot of history, much of the story of the blues as we know it thus far is more about what the various historians want the blues to be rather than how they were received and consumed at the time. As I've aged, one of the biggest sources of amusement and dismay is how history has been distorted and shaped to fulfill someone's agenda. (For example, Ann Coulter's revisionistic take on McCarthyism. "No, really, the oppression and government terrorization of Americans who don't have the correct politics is a good thing! It's American!")

Here's the scoop: Black people really didn't like the blues (the one-guitar, one-singer type) nearly as much as they liked swing and jazz, back in the day. Yes, they bought those kinds of blues records, but lively, big-band stuff was more to their taste. It was white "historians" who put any importance on the single performer/folk sub-form, believing it to be more pure and authentic then a black jazz band, which they presumed (and were being racist by doing so) was merely mimicking of white musicians and groups.

More interesting (to moi, anyway), blacks were the first group to take to recorded music in droves.

Two excerpts:

The earliest that survives dates from August 1920, when OKeh Records released "Crazy Blues" by Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds. It was, by any measure, a landmark: the first commercial blues recording issued by an African American singer. Though sold in black areas almost exclusively and steeply priced at one dollar (by contrast, admission to the movies cost ten cents), "Crazy Blues" stunned virtually everyone by selling hundreds of thousands of copies, seventy-five thousand in its first month of release. Its success revealed the scale of a musical market that the recording industry had long refused to believe existed. That African Americans would buy phonograph records in disproportionate numbers became startlingly audible in those last weeks of summer: people said that you could hear Mamie Smith's recording playing in every black neighborhood in the United States.
- pp. 7-8.


All the more startling, then, was the sheer zeal with which America's black population embraced those recordings. Their response made a sharp contrast to the reaction of the white middle class. Though by 1900 the phonograph had become a familiar object in the middle-class parlor, to most such consumers it was little more than a diverting novelty. Playing mass-produced recordings on a machine seemed a poor substitute for hearing music live in concert halls or for displaying one's virtuoso at home on the piano.
- pp. 14

The upshot is that a lot of the recordings of one-guy-and-a-guitar type blues was done by self-appointed anthropologists who went out into the field to record "pure" black music, such as field hollers, spirituals, and single-performer blues. Meanwhile, back at the farm/apt./house, the folks were rockin' out to the latest jazz band hits.

What a surprise, eh?

If, like me, you enjoy thick, steaming slabs of musical history for the sheer hell of it, by all means thumb through a copy of In Search of the Blues. If you are not so much into it, I've provided what are probably the most interesting factoids from the book as most of the book concerns itself with identifying the exact starting point of the single-performer blues, and thus have saved you that valuable time. You're welcome.

TLD: One limitation I've noticed of the written word is the facility to describe the feeling and affect of music on a person. By that I DO NOT mean the ability to review and/or criticize music, or talk about it in a scholarly or fan-boy fashion. No, I mean when someone in fiction (or the odd non-fiction) tries to evoke how a person feels while listing to a particular song. Even Stephen King's attempt at it in the latest Duma Key fell flat. (If Uncle Steve can't do it ...) It seems to be in the same sense-category of describing the taste of something. Could you convincingly describe the taste of, say, cranberries to someone so they'd have an idea what it tastes like? Well, a depiction of someone listening to a song is seemingly as unreachable. Prove me wrong.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ephemera 5.2.200

Apologies for no posts for a bit, then just stuff like this. I hope to be back on the horse next week.

- Missing Man Found Dressed Like Doctor With Dead Deer In Stolen Ambulance
The headline sorta says it all.

- George Lucas told Harrison Ford that he wouldn't kill Han Solo because he didn't want to give up making Han Solo action figures. I speculate that George just knew a bit more about storytelling, and this was how he got Ford off of his leg. (Via

- Oh, snap!

- When I see pics like this, I think, "Yeah, that sounds pretty sweet. Better than begging for bread in Egypt, like they are now."

windmill hill graffiti
Originally uploaded by pshab

- Then someone gets all bent out of shape over a font on American money, enough to buy a domain and make a web site dedicated to it. Where do these folks come from?

- Finally, I know there are some filthy songs out there. I have recently been enjoying "Crazy Bitch" by Buckcherry, for example. Makes me laugh, it's so out there. This one however made my jaw swing like Wile E. Coyote's does when the Roadrunner blasts off down the highway. I'm still caught between bemusement and disgust. Judge for yourself. VERY NSFW. (Via
Recent viewings 05.02.2008

Summary: Miss'em all, save for maybe Gone Baby Gone.

Into the wild
Based on the heartbreaking chronicle by Jon Krakauer (haven't read a turkey from the man, yet) about an unfortunate boy who buys into the "return to the wild" bullshit that a lot of young college boys do. My persona - and not very generous - opinion (both when reading the book and watching the movie) is had the guy had some legitimate adversity in his life, he probably wouldn't have gone looking for it. (See post above for the "I am free" graffiti by someone who's clearly suffering with the same affliction of a lack of adversity.)


Gad I hate Sean Penn as a director. You can just smell his ego wafting from the screen, and it smells like Brut aftershave with a hint of musty penis, as in the Lynard Skynard song "That Smell." He labors under a particular form of maudlinism that he probably sees as realism.

And this movie didn't need to be over 2 hours. Meh.

Read the book.

Dan in Real Life
A surprisingly boring misfire that obviously was trying to be one of those charming ensemble movies, but really just ambles along until the obvious conclusion where he gets the girl (and if you think that's a spoiler, bless your heart and I'm sorry).

The mom character especially stuck out as a character of fiction. Every word that comes out of her mouth is either contrived, or mean, or both. See, Dan is a widower, and yet she sticks him in the laundry room by himself (instead of his kids) when the whole extended family gathers at the patriarchal/matriarchal homestead. No one, including the mother, says anything nice to him. They accuse him of being talentless, yet he's the only person in the family talent show who can do something. And all of their advice to him is bad.

If that's Dan's real life, I feel sorry for he poor bastard.

Gone Baby Gone
Now, Ben Affleck is going to be a good director if he keeps this up. Unlike Penn above, he keeps his dick away from the proceedings, tells the story, and tells it well. Kevin Smith has said that Affleck is one of the smartest guys in the business and that he could really do anything he wants to and succeed. I think I believe him.

The only misfire is hiring his brother as the lead. Casey just doesn't have the charisma to carry such a big role.

Any movie with a "child in peril plot" has to go a long way to win me back, btw, and this one barely did it. Folks like me who just don't enjoy that kind of a premise should just skip this one.

The Brave One
This is essentially Jodi Foster's crack at being Travis Bickel in Taxidriver. A very flat-footed and poorly thought out movie.

One especially cringe-inducing montage was in the beginning where Foster's fiance and she are attacked by thugs. They cut back and forth between the beating and the couple in bed making love. There is no clear reason ever given why this is done. It has no payoff later. And it just yanks you out the narrative to wonder, wtf?

Skip, skip, skip.