Sunday, April 30, 2006


When I went to college the word was that our university's endowment was equal to the interest on Harvard's endowment. That meant that Harvard never, ever had to dip into their principal -- they could thrive off the interest.

The endowment of the United States of America includes its National Parks, the gold in Fort Knox, and the huge collection of documents covering the history of our great nation in the Smithsonian Institution.

These archives in the Smithsonian have been used as a central resource for many a great documentary, only now that practice may come to an end. At least, if you're not making your documentary for Showtime.

As this Washington Post article reveals, the Bush Administration is now selling an exclusive license to the material in the Smithsonian, that's the archives paid for by your and my tax dollars, to a single pay-television network. Goodbye Ken Burns, goodbye PBS. And who knows what will eventually be revealed in terms of kickback or political favoritism once all is revealed.

I had read about this naked sell-off, but what got me writing this post was actual feedback from a regular Nettertainment reader. To quote:
I have been enjoying your kooky-ranting-pinko blog. You must address the Smithsonian sale of public domain material to Showtime! Should the Dept. of Interior sell Yosemite to Trump? Should the Govt. sell the original Constitution to Harper Collins? Why don't we sell the Library of Congress to Amazon?
Just wondering**

Gentle reader, you didn't have to flatter me to get me to address this issue; but it helps.

Wonder no longer. I could not agree more -- after all, aren't National Park names merely intellectual property assets primed to be sold off as powerful marketing tools for major corporations/GOP donors? Would it really spoil the awesome majesty of Yosemite National Park were it to be named AT&T National Park?

Or the tranquility of Denali in Alaska, since BushCheneyCo wants oil drilling in that state anyway, would your tranquility be greatly disturbed were all the signs to be trademarked, Exxon National Park?

It would just be a license, after all, for who knows maybe five, ten, fifty years. That's good license fees to be had.

Oh, shit, this exactly what the Bush Administration is starting to do.

I mean, isn't that like The Vatican licensing out the Holy Mother? This church service brought to you by Fiat's Virgin Mary.

Here's where some notable documentarians are at least trying to protest the Smithsonian deal from going through. As for you, it's time to call/email/write your Senator or Congressperson again. The two minutes it takes could make a difference.

Now, considering their "free market" anti-government bent (and I use quotation marks since the industry Bush and Cheney come from is one heavily subsidized by the government, with all sorts of regulations that help keep their monopolies in place) it's possible that these shady types would be selling off our precious public assets no matter the Federal Budget situation.

However, with this ruinous War on top of massive tax giveaways to the wealthy and lobbyist-catering pork barrel spending, those national resources that most enrich the lives of all us average Americans are being starved and slashed like nobody's business.

That's what happens, I guess, when you get an entitled rich kid who never had to actually succeed in business on his own, who could make like a thief with a company he helped ruin, who spends like the wastel son of proverb. This is what happens when you have an Administration that acts recklessly with no check on their power, only more Congressional cronies feeding at the trough.

What happens is, you eat into the endowment.

So who's the real conservative (as in, to conserve precious resources)...and who's the kook?

Saturday, April 29, 2006


It's time to give it up for Stephen Colbert, who's doing the trickiest high-wire act on U.S. television four nights a week. While Jon Stewart's Daily Show may be more essential for getting one's viewpoint straight, by parodying Bill O'Reilly and his ilk in his no-daylight manner, Colbert busts open all of the rightwing media hypocrisy like nobody else alive.

Tonight, he blew the doors wide open.

Colbert was the featured speaker at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. It's supposedly that time when the lion lays down with the lamb, i.e. the Administration shows up for some comedic tweaking by the press or their stand-up surrogates, usually with a sense of ultimate fraternity behind it all.

Previous event controversies have included the video made by the White House of Bush searching high and low for WMDs in his office (some thought it inappropriate considering how many U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens have died for that lie, but maybe those dead & wounded and their families just don't know how to take a joke) and Don Imus saying something off-color.

Big whoop.

Colbert brought his rightwing demigod to the podium and didn't soften any of the blows. The room was noticeably tense and silent for the most part, and George & Laura seemed unsmiling at the end and eager to get away.

Crooks and Liars has the second half of the C-SPAN feed, but here are some choice lines:
The greatest thing about this man is that he is steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday - no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change, this man's beliefs never will.

Guys like us - we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that people are thinking in 'reality'. And 'reality' has a well known liberal bias.

Fox News gives you both sides of every story, the President's side and the Vice President's side.

Mayor Nagin is here from New Orleans, the Chocolate City... Mayor Nagin, I'd like to welcome you to Washington D.C., the Chocolate City with a marshmallow center... and a graham cracker crust of corruption.

The government that governs best is the government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.

This Administration is not sinking. This Administration is soaring. If anything they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.

There's a list of most of the scandals Colbert referenced here in TrueBlueMajority's diary on Daily Kos.

As Colbert would say while in character on his show: that man has "muchos huevos grandes", laying down the sharpest satire imaginable just five feet away from George Bush, right in the outlaw President's face.

Hail to the Chief.

As of tonight, the Chief is Colbert.

Friday, April 28, 2006

It's on.

This morning I opened the paper and read about Karenna Gore Schiff's new book, Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America.
That Schiff succeeds so well has much to do with the liveliness of writing and personal passion she brings to this well-researched work. She also weighs in frequently, explaining what she finds endearing, astonishing or moving about each woman.

To her credit, the author doesn't gloss over these women's faults or liabilities: She makes clear instead that each faced day-to-day struggles that often took a severe toll on their private lives and families. In fact, these struggles are what Schiff seems to find most inspiring, as she develops the underlying idea that biography itself can become a form of social action, with the power to motivate and transform.

Take that, Rodham.

On the GOP side, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, son of House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, is now under FBI investigation. Yes, another entry into the Party of Corruption ledger. Makes the non-partisan side of me nostalgic for the Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (I) days.

Then there's this assessment from The Gallup Review:
President Bush's job approval rating is at the low point of his administration -- 36%.

If Bush's job approval rating remains in the 30% range this fall, it would be the lowest presidential job rating in any midterm election since Harry S. Truman in 1950. Richard Nixon had lower ratings in the summer of 1974, but he resigned in August of that year.

Generally speaking, lower presidential job approval ratings are associated with higher seat losses for the party of the president.

Americans' expressed satisfaction with the way things are going in the country, now at 27%, is the lowest it has been in more than a decade. Satisfaction has dropped a total of 17 percentage points from just before Bush's re-election in 2004.

Satisfaction is usually an important predictor of midterm election outcomes. The current level of satisfaction is similar to what Gallup measured in 1992, when the elder George Bush was denied a second presidential term, and in 1994, when Republicans took control of Congress in Bill Clinton's first presidential term.

They list a load of caveats including turnout and Iraq, although no mention of Diebold or other vote-rigging. For those reasons alone, I'll be shocked if the Dems win one let alone both houses of Congress this fall, but from Gallup's keyboard to God's Inbox, I say.

Here's the glowing ray of media hope, courtesy of geisha at Daily Kos. She quotes copiously from two new Newsweek articles, one an Al Gore interview with Eleanor Clift, the other Clift's web-only commentary on the film and his potential plans. Money quote:
By not playing the overt political game, Gore may be putting in place the first issue-driven campaign of the 21st century, one that is premised on a big moral challenge that is becoming more real with soaring gas prices and uncertain oil supplies. A senior Democrat who once ran for the White House himself but harbors no illusions the party will turn to him in 2008 looks at Gore and marvels, "This guy is running the best campaign I"ve seen for president."

(I'm thinking Sen. Joe Biden for the non-attribution.)

If it's true, then Al is running on exactly that thing the Dems have been kicking themselves about for two years: values. He's going for a values campaign, but unlike his hapless fellow Dems, isn't confusing it with a religious campaign. Because if it's straight religion, GOP win.

The interesting thing is, Al's even wishfully positive about Bush:
But you know the temptation to reject the truth and try to manufacture your own reality is what got us into Iraq;it's what got us into these deficits. At some point, reality has its day. I hope they'll change. I think there is a chance they'll change. You know Winston Churchill once said that the American people generally do the right thing after first exhausting every other alternative. And maybe after exhausting every other alternative, Bush will do the right thing on this. I'm not going to hold my breath, but I do think that there's a chance.

Guess he's not shrill...hmm...what else will Fox and Its Friends try to hit him with? Or has all this shit exhausted even them?

I urge you to check out the ending of geisha's article, a Gore-positive but intriguingly credible prediction of what could happen in 2008. It would be unfair for me to reprint the whole thing, but here's a taste of the climax:
Three months before the primary, Al Gore decides to run for president with no money in the bank.

One month before the primary, Al Gore has collected a huge amount of cash from small donors. Hillary Clinton still has had the most cash on hand and is still leading in the poll.

IA: Hillary: 30, Al Gore: 25 Mark Warner: 10, Edward: 8, Kerry: 5 ...
NH: Al Gore: 40, Hillary: 35, Mark Warner: 10, Kerry: 1 ...

Tick tick tick.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


I'm beginning to think the most dangerous man in America, for the moment, is U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS).

He's the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman, the man between the unprecedented Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush manipulation of intellence to obscure the truth to the American public about this horrific War in Iraq and sunlight.

I guess the vampires must be scared.

Pat's just trying to close down any investigation. He appears to have the power to do so unilaterally. This is what Harry Reid led the Democrats on forcing the closed door Rule XXI session back in November and got Roberts to at least promise to pick up the ball again.

The big question is whether Roberts can hold off all the nightmare revelations and re-revelations before this upcoming November, which will likely be the fiercest mid-term election in the history of U.S. politics.

Is this where I'm supposed to write, bring it on, bitch!?

Not me, babe. I take nothing for granted anymore.
It's going to be very, very tight in November. There may be a surprise attack on Iraq by our country or Israel. Think Orange to Red.

Sen. Roberts has divided the investigation into two before, like wise King Solomon in The Bible, and now he's trying for a repeat:
A report on these three areas would be made separately from the most controversial aspects of the inquiry. Left unfinished would be a report on whether public statements and testimony about Iraq by senior U.S. government officials were substantiated by available intelligence information. Roberts also would leave unfinished another report on what Democrats have called possibly illegal activity in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, formerly headed by Douglas Feith, who is believed to have played an important role in persuading the president to invade Iraq.

The committee may review statements by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

The usual suspects. Maybe Roberts can keep cutting the investigation in two, never releasing a second report instead always subdiving, ad infinitum. At a functional level, a term for someone like Roberts would be watercarrier or apparatchik but probably not co-conspirator. Unless he knows more than he's letting on, Senator Roberts merely another employee.

If Karl Rove gets indicted soon by Patrick Fitzgerald, all bets are off. I'm sure this new White House Press Secretary from Fox, Tony Snow, is hoping that will be his greatest performance, certainly set the tone for the next nine hundred-odd days to go. And the worst of it for BushCheneyCo may be an oil company class war they're practically asking for. People are, to translate for the Washington Post, pissed the hell off.

But the core of our democracy is being able to trust those government systems that are most responsible for protecting us. Whether it's reliable beef inspection or working fire departments, we need to know they work and have the ability to find out the truth of how they're operating.

Instead, the CIA is being politically purged by Bush appointee Director Porter Goss, while his fellow Stalinist Pat Roberts is trying to bring all the various and sometimes competing U.S. intelligence agencies under the hand of a single Intelligence czar, total budget control, all the levers.

Hey, I'm all for keeping secrets to protect America. I'm for not blowing CIA agent covers. Even if you're the President. But in the end, I don't care if you're Republican like Richard Clarke or bi-partisan like Joe Wilson.

I just want you to be a trained, responsible, honest professional. And I firmly believe that most of those federal employees in the so-called permanent government, like the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, are as patriotic and devoted as it gets.

But now purges?

Didn't we defeat the Soviet Union back in the 1980's?

Is someone supposed to spin this so it makes us feel safer, or are we just supposed to avert our eyes?


Wired announces The Resurrection of Al Gore.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


I never thought I was a Dixie Chicks fan. My sister swore by them, and I never had anything specifically against them. Then, in April 2003, responding to the Iraq War and Administration lies leading America into it, lead singer Natalie Maines told an audience in London, from the stage:
Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.

So in response to outraged country music listeners, all these country music stations across our great nation (the one founded on Free Speech) pulled their songs off the air.

The Chicks got death threats galore but didn't back down, appearing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly magazine naked but with words and phrases -- some pro, some anti-Chick -- written across their bodies.

As further evidence that they stand by their beliefs, a lesson some D.C. Democrats could use, the first single they have chosen to release off their new record is the staunchly unapologetic, "Not Ready to Make Nice."

The video version is available on YouTube (big thanks to Mr. Looky Touchy for emailing me the link), and while it's shot in the most stylish of current music video production fashion, it's pretty hard-assed. The song has a great hook so it's pretty catch. Knowing the backstory, I actually found it quite moving by the end. Check it out here:

Hard-Ass Dixie Chicks

While other parts of the song can be read as a lover's quarrel, they make it crystal clear in this verse:
I made my bed and I sleep like a baby,
With no regrets, and I don't mind sayin':
It's a sad sad story when a mother will teach her,
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger.
And how in the world can the words that I said,
Send somebody so over the edge,
That they'd write me a letter sayin' that I better,
Shut up an' sing or my life will be over?

Nice job again, America.

All cynicism aside, okay some cynicism aside, this kind of principled defiance will probably end up increasing their audience, i.e. folks like me. And most of all, this is what real stars do, not manufactured mediocre talents or weakies, not a factory-controlled American idol. When the dust clears, and I think much of it has already, Natalie and her band will be examples to emulate rather than ridicule. Or threaten.

Someday, I wish someone would apologize to all those Hollywood actors and other entertainers who came out against the War before the invasion. All the things they warned have, to one degree or another, come true, including some sort of civil war. Meanwhile nothing that the GOP leaders predicted have -- no greeting with flowers, no cheap oil, no Iraq rebuilt on oil money, no safety and peace in Iraq, no WMDs.

So I'm with Natalie. I've spent some time in the great state of Texas, the only state in our nation that was once its own country, and while I don't expect to see eye-to-eye politically with everyone there, we call agree that ol' Salt Lick has terrific barbecue. So I'm ashamed as well. In fact, I can't think of a state I wouldn't be ashamed to know he was from.

As the women sing so tunefully:
I'm not ready to make nice;
I'm not ready to back down.
I'm still mad as hell,
An' I don't have time,
To go round and round and round.
It's too late to make it right;
I prob'ly wouldn't if I could.
'Cause I'm mad as hell:
Can't bring myself,
To do what it is you think I should.

Free speech is only free when you use it.


Ah, a highly intelligent writer has written about well-loved, low-selling, classic computer game, The Last Express. Thank you, Nick Bousfield.

You may wonder why I have such a high opinion of this game?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Just a shoutout to our Nettertainment visitors from different parts of the world. We've had page views from as far away as Finland, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., and regular visitors from Australia and New Zealand, not to mention Mexico and Canada.

In the U.S. our highest concentrations are in California (more southern but some northern) and the Boston area, with regular visits from NYC, D.C., Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois (Chicago primarily), Arizona, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, Oregon, Colorado and Georgia.

Not bad for a blog that only started on March 16th.

Much thanks for all the support, and I'll try to keep two promises to you:

#1 is to have at least one new posting for you every day.

#2 is to respond in the Comments section to each and every comment, unless or until we reach some less manageable figure, i.e. 25 reader comments to a single post. And in that case I'll at least try to do a group response.

Sound fair?

Monday, April 24, 2006


I work in the field of entertainment advertising and marketing, so occasionally I see something out there that is actually kind of cool. Not just cool in a graphic way, but definitely with a graphic sense, some different feeling. Preferably with humor.

I have to say, and maybe I'm sympathetic because they have a blog, that this ad agency Hill Holliday has done a killer job. The blog is written by Baba Shetty agency brain. It's nice and conversational, but the thing is that the work is pretty cool, and best of all you can watch all five TV spots there.

The spots feature songs by They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh & John Linnell big shout out to the The Mundanes). Fine pop tunes that never have to mention any product or corporate name, Dunkin' Donuts, nothing to sully it up.

"Doing things" (long-version) is the jaw-dropping one, a very clever extended reveal that's coordinated like Busby Berkeley into the hugest suburban scene ever packed into an ad spot.

But my personal fave is Pleasure, the one in the cars by the beach.

As the song goes,
The backs of my legs!
Sticking to the pleather
Hey Hey Hey Heyyyyyyy

Sunday, April 23, 2006


Welly, well, well the Los Angeles Times just today became the first major newspaper to not just call for the replacement of Defense Secretary "Henny Penny" Rumsfeld, but to also call for the resignation of Vice President Richard "Lon" Cheney.

Their argument is methodical and serious. I wouldn't exactly call it cautious, but more generally, aren't newspapers supposed to tell us things we don't already know?

In any case, it's the correct call, but it's never going to connect. I've come believe there are just four (4) real partners in this Administration, the core "Deciders": Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Karl Rove.

Donald is Dick's man and Karl is George's, but they're all four cornerstones: Foreign Policy i.e. Energy (Cheney), Civilian Military Control and Black Ops (Rumsfeld), Media Control (Bush), Party Patronage (Rove).

Everyone else is just an employee. Secretaries of State Rice and Powell, Scooter Libby, GOP head Ken Mehlman, former Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Attorney Generals Gonzales and (to a lesser degree) Ashcroft, Treasury Secr'y Snow -- they may have occasional influence, but does anyone actually think they control anything?

Another thing I've finally figured out (dense, I know) is that when the LA Times writes something like:
Unlike most vice presidents, Cheney does not aspire to be president, and he is the consummate Bush loyalist.

All I can think is, that's because he already is President, and the Bush loyalty is just a tool to retain that office.

Hell, would you be surprised to see Bush go before Cheney?

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Back in the early 1970's, before it became a brand vehicle solely for Chevy Chase comebacks, National Lampoon was a legit satirical magazine, a Mad magazine for adults. Okay, maybe for adolescents who wanted to be adults. Certainly there were enough nude breasts and semi-pornographic stories to capture that only-just-post-pubescent male readership. That said, there was still a stretch of time in the early 1970's when the work was terrific.

I've stumbled upon a couple sites worth wasting your time, the gateway being this no-frills resource, National Lampoon Covers: 1970-1998. You can tell from a look through when the glory years end -- it's the year when almost every month's cover features a sexualized young woman.

Here's my faves:

May 1970 - Greed Issue: Flawless Peter Max parody cover, as "Peter Money"

August 1970 - Paranoia: First Gahan Wilson cover

March 1971 - Leonardo daVinci's Undiscovered Notebook: Mona Lisa gorilla (first cover to get famous, reprinted)

April 1971 - Adventure: First Frazetta

August 1971 - What, My Lai?: Probably their most political ever, scandalized Vietnam massacre figure Lieutenant William Calley crossed with Alfred E. Newman, by Kelly Freas

January 1972 - Is Nothing Sacred?: Goes the distance -- Che Guevara hit with a cream pie

March 1972 - Escape!: Hitler in hiding with an umbrella drink

October 1972 - Remember Those Fabulous Sixties?: Smoking Banana (also got reprinted)

January 1973 - If You Don't Buy This Magazine, We'll Kill This Dog: The high-water mark, #7 in the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME, I'm not kidding that is their acronym) Top 40 Magazine Covers of the Last 40 Years list.

A second site, really well done, is (no relation, thanks for asking) Mark's Very Large National Lampoon Site. Among other wonderfully plunderable resources, he covers Staff & Contributors. We're talking a wealth of very smart, talented, twisted folks.

Key among them, in the lore of the Harvard Lampoon graduates who came in to start the magazine, is founding Executive Editor Henry Beard. He came into the job already famous for writing the dead-on Tolkien parody, Bored of the Rings.

There were a number of reasons why the magazine was so hot right from the start and why it couldn't maintain that quality forever. Beard always seemed the most mysterious but kind of the dean:
Beard was the calm center of the magazine, according to known sources, and was (still is) a master at parody. One of his favorite techniques was the reversed premise (for example: a "news" item about a vat of mercury tainted by tuna).

The man who seems to have taken ownership of the magazine editorially and cemented the tone was Editor-in-Chief Doug Kenney, and his section has this tasty info:
Beard, Kenney, and Hoffmann had a 5-year buyout clause in their contract with NatLamp's publisher, 21st Century Communications. The three exercised the option when the time came in 1974, to the tune of $7-million divided among them. Beard left as soon as the contract was settled; Hoffmann had left 1971 to finish graduate school. Kenney stayed on until 1977, when he wrote the screenplay for Animal House (with Chris Miller and Harold Ramis), the highest box-office comedy ever made.

Beard basically went offline until 1981 and in 1980 Kenney died in an ambiguous fall from a cliff in Hawaii. Freaky, right?

The other guy I adored as that post-pube hornyboy was Contributing Editor Chris Miller, he of the masterful hip sci-fi softcore satire, knowing just what notes to hit. And,
In 1974, Miller began a series of stories based on his fraternity days, beginning with "The Night of the Seven Fires." Later, these stories would form the core of National Lampoon's first and most successful movie, Animal House, which Miller co-wrote with Doug Kenney and Harold Ramis.

Needless to say, Animal House revolutionized movie comedy from the moment it was released in 1978. Saturday Night Live sprang from the National Lampoon Lemmings. I even saw Meatloaf about six years before Bat Out of Hell just unbelievably funny in the National Lampoon Radio Hour touring version when it stopped in Albany.

I guess the main mission of National Lampoon is somehow being handled today by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Horny Ed Helms doing a serious investigative piece in a tropical hottub surrounded by bikini girls and pretending he's getting interference on his cellphone.

Maybe it was a few months less immediate, but what those early issues of NatLamp had going for them was an even riskier transgressiveness. They were not only doing it for the first time, they were doing it in the heart of the Nixon years, when repression was back at a fever pitch. It was pre-media, or maybe early mass-media, only 3 or 4 channels on the TV. Less self-referential. Really bringing a side of the world into print for the first time. Super smart sixties kids who went to Harvard and came out bold, satiric, seasoned, young writers.

My interest terminated in 1979, but the magazine really started to slide in 1975, probably about the time the SNL stuff was hitting and the smart vets were looking for more lucrative writing jobs. Or maybe they had just hit the creative peak, with their 1964 High School Yearbook Parody.

Harvard Lampoon was famous for doing unannounced, prank-like, dead-on magazine and newspaper parodies, ones so good you might accidentally pick one up at the newsstand thinking it was the real Cosmopolitan or Wall Street Journal. The Yearbook has the same psycho-integrity about attention to detail. It was crossed with the Chris Miller college frat satires to make Animal House.

You're actually reading Larry Kroger's personal copy of the yearbook, replete with hilarious end-of-high school signatures from his 1964 classmates. Larry then became the main character of the feature, only now as a college freshman, advancing his story starting a few months after the yearbook.

As some reviewer called "Ethan and Sam's Dad" says on Amazon,
One of the funniest things in the English language.

If you've never read it, definitely worth picking up.


I finally figured out what rubs me so the wrong way, and a lot of other people judging by the ridicule on late night monologues, about Bush saying, "I'm the decider."

He's built up to it from (I) "make good, crisp decisions," and "I stick by my decisions." For some reason, "I'm the decider" sounds, well,

like royalty.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Okay, last mini-post today, I promise!

Just couldn't let these pass -- if anyone ever wants to buy a little giftie for Nettertainment, make it a Mimobot!

Too Cute USB Flash Drive

I'm partial to Isadore, Galaxor and Magma, not necessarily in that order.

Why did it take someone so long to think of this?


Another great link -- clothing and game designer Marc Ecko just tagged Air Force One (yes, Air Force One!) with the phrase "Still Free".

Click to see the video of his tagging and a great explanation of why he did it:

Wild Freedom

Ecko has a great take on what's made America great -- the free and entrepreneurial exchange of ideas. No fear, baby, just celebrate the fact that we're still free.

While his message is geared more towards graffiti rights, there's something resonant here, to be sure.

And one last question: if it was so easy for him to tag Air Force One, how hard would it then be to equip it with a bomb?

That's George Bush's Homeland Security Agency for you, doing what it does best.


Okay, so it's got that touch of amateur, but it's in keeping with my previous post and I have to say I love Billion Dollar Cheney.

Especially Ben Franklin on bass.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Holy fucking shit, check out this headline from Juan Cole tonight: Cost of War Heading toward One Trillion Dollars!

And Bush/Cheney still keep it off the books!

Cole gets into it about lowballing, makes comparisons with unscrupulous auto salesmen, the kind who might, say, quote you a war for $50,000,000,000. But once you've got it in your mind that this is a great bargain and mentally driven it home, all-in-all he ends up taking you for $1,000,000,000,000.

When you think about it, that's only 20 times $50 BILLION DOLLARS.

The esteemed Professor backs it up with the ABC News report.

Well, let's look on the bright side. At least the invasion of Iraq has brought down the price of gasoline.

Oops, my bad.

For an answer on that, you might have to ask Lee Raymond, retiring Chairman and CEO of Exxon. His $400 million compensation package must mean that he did a great job in the public trust. And that's on top of the $686 million he was paid by Exxon for the years 1993-2005. A mere $144,573 a day.

Remind me again, what happened the last time the nation's oil interests captured the Presidency with a Republican of their own?


Did anyone watching this week's episode of The Sopranos get the same buzz out of hearing matter-of-factly from Carmela's lips that she voted for Bush in the last Presidential election?

Shades of Kitty Kelley's book on the Bush family, where she compared them to Tony's.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


As a break from the Orwellian politics of USA 2006, here's a way to waste more time than reading blogs, with a lot less content to gum up your grain.

I've been a big fan of Corn Nuts in their original incarnation ("Ranch" flavored anything? Are you kidding me?) and enjoy their satisfying crunch. In keeping with the addictiveness of the snack brand, here's a puzzle they are running on their web site:

Ultra Block

I've linked to the Hedonista version because it was larger on my screen, hence more playable than the one that exists on the company's site, but I'm sure they have other fine games at Corn Nuts as well.

As with the Stronghold 2 mini-game I posted on a month ago, this is a very simple, very wasteful, very fun game. I've managed to reach Level 17, although it took awhile to get there. Think Tetris meets Minesweeper, and you've got the idea.

Looking forward to your cursing me out, but that's what the comments section is for, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


You heard it here first, right?

Well, I'm not going to say that Al Gore is in the race for 2008 yet, but he's doing some kind of campaign prep, per the NY Daily News "getting the band back together" with the hiring of presidential politics vet Roy Neel. Maybe it's just for his new movie and book, maybe it's just for a win in the marketplace of ideas. But the buzz is rising.

Check out this powerful movie trailer, and you'll find Al does something for the environment that the GOP do for terrorism: he hits the fear button. For some reason, his case seems so much more airtight than, say, WMDs in Iraq. As I said before, he's got ownership of a Big Vision Issue. Tie it in with igniting a countrywide alternative energy program to get off the oil, you've got a national security policy as well.

I'm looking forward to the Fox News smears against the picture, the phony scientists they'll trot out to "debate" the idea of global warming, the reheated Internet invention jokes. I just think Al's got a thicker skin now. He's been through the worst -- how could he care what they say?

Per my earlier argument, it's the New Nixon model, the New Gore. Just read non-Dem Roger Stone:
Mr. Gore must again borrow from the Nixon playbook and reinvent himself. The "“New Gore"” is more relaxed: He'’s had time to think and reflect on the great challenges facing America. In his wilderness years, he has found himself. He is more self-effacing, funnier, cooler, easier-going, yet articulate and firm. The Al Gore who appeared on Jay Leno'’s show after the 2004 Presidential election is the Al Gore that voters could find attractive, just as the "“New Nixon"” who emerged on Jack Paar after the 1960 election was far more palatable than the pale, sweaty, shifty-eyed Nixon of the Nixon-Kennedy debates.

Longtime political consultant Dick Morris lays out the historical precedent:
History indicates that candidates who won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College have all come back to win revenge in subsequent elections. Andrew Jackson, cheated in 1824, won in 1828. Grover Cleveland, cheated in 1888, triumphed in 1892. Samuel Tilden, who won the popular vote in 1876, never ran again, but he dealt away the White House in a deal for the withdrawal for federal troops from the South, allowing the Ku Klux Klan to take over.

I hear more negs on Gore from friends on the left than more on the right. They see a loser...until they watch the trailer for An Inconvenient Truth. Then they remember that it is in the realm of possibility, lo and behold, to have a nation's leader who can put complex ideas into normal sentences and communicate something real and important, even if the manner is a little more stilted than we all might like.

How about a President who's good at more than just breaking things?

My guess is that Gore has plenty of time now -- at least until after the mid-term elections -- to keep promoting his movie/book combo, test the waters, see if he generates buzz and if it sticks. That way, if his public reputation isn't salvaged, he can just keep on campaigning to save the planet as a private citizen, no harm/no foul.

As Dick Morris closes out:
But Gore has three things going for him: A perception that he was robbed of the White House and Hillary'’s possible stubbornness in continuing to back the war.

The third thing? The weather. As the evidence of global climate change impresses everyone who doesn'’t work at the White House, Gore looks more and more like a man whose time may have come.

Run, Al, run.

Monday, April 17, 2006


Anyone who thinks Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is going to be chased out of office by a load of retired U.S. generals, thousands of errors, or dense assholishness is sadly mistaken. Not only does he have acting Presidente Bush's renown loyalty to count on, he's got actual President Cheney's -- after all, it's Rummy who gave then Congressman Cheney his first White House gig, back with Tricky Dick Nixon's administration. And we all know how well that turned out.

But the main reason Rummy stays is our upcoming Executive War with Iran. Like a sequence out of Groundhog Day, we're reliving the same build-up to a "preemptive" war with Iran as we did with Iraq, only this time the consequences are likely to blowback on us bigtime. Expect the same level of sensitivity to real world costs this time around.

The whole point is that this gang has the levers of power and they are not about to give them up. They plan on using them. They plan on using the strategies they have been developing in detail for the attack, to fire off those guns, missles and maybe even nuclear bombs they've bought, to use it all before they lose it.

If you haven't read it yet, get your gutcheck with Seymour Hersh in his recent New Yorker article. Most chilling (or chillin', depending on your political bent) passage:
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb"” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "“what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,"” and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."”

Let's party.

If you think you have any redress short of beaming high-powered microwaves into Dick Cheney's office and hoping for a pacemaker short, check out the huge layers of secrecy with which he surrounds himself. You, the tax-paying American, the one who pay's his salary and is supposedly, along with the rest of the country, his boss, you can even know who actually works for him.
His press people seem shocked that a reporter would even ask for an interview with the staff. The blanket answer is no -- nobody is available. Amazingly, the vice president'’s office flatly refuses to even disclose who works there, or what their titles are. "“We just don'’t give out that kind of information," says Jennifer Mayfield, another of Cheney'’s "“angels."” She won'’t say who is on staff, or what they do? No, she insists. "“It'’s just not something we talk about."” The notoriously silent OVP staff rebuffs not just pesky reporters but even innocuous database researchers from companies like Carroll Publishing, which puts out the quarterly Federal Directory.

Is it hyperbole to ask, "Is this fascism?"

To wit:
Benito Mussolini, the modern father of fascism, wrote that it "should be properly called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power" adding that "Fascism .. believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism .. . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it."

Hey, don't listen to me; take it from Benito.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


The only reality show currently on my playlist is The Apprentice. I think this show gets way too little cred, maybe because Trump rubs certain folks the wrong way.

The only reality contest show that I think has a comparable reveal of character is American Idol, and I haven't been able to bring myself to watch it this season. I've lived through three seasons and it's enough for now. I had high hopes for Bo, but after that roller coaster I'm thinking no one will ever be a cooler Idol than Fantasia. She still has yet to make that awesomely legit post-Idol album, but she's got the uniqueness and raw talent to make good on the promise. "Get out there and get ugly," she advised when asked by the Idol finalists last year, right after getting out on the floor and getting uglier than Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, and Janis Joplin combined. Right on, Fantasia, Idol's 1st single mom champion.

What keeps me coming back to The Apprentice is that there's a legitimate business lesson a week, acted out as morality play. Other folks I know in business, I mean any kind of business, often find it appealing the same way.

What's given the show legs is that supposedly The Donald took a more active hand in the selection process after the third season (almost all losers) and starting last season the 18-person candidate pool has overall been much better. They still throw in the time-bomb characters, but there appear to be 4 or 5 hirable contestants this year, more and more likeable as well.

I believe Season 1 pioneer Apprentice Bill Rancic will always be the topdog. Of any candidate I've seen, even in retrospect Bill seems the most all-together, and he's being heavily featured this season subbing for George as advisor. Bill had one or two guest advisor shots last season, but he evidently passed his screen test and is increasingly vocal; very, very tough in the boardroom and even during the tasks. He and Caroline are now like advance dogs for Donald, an elegant, attractive, sadistic duo out of a really excellent Fassbinder film, maybe Chinese Roulette.

The truly astonishing thing about Bill, and you know the producers see it because they shoot him in profile all the time, is how much he resembles Montgomery Clift.

After the first commercial on every show there's a title card with the business lesson of the week, then Trump addressing the camera on the topic intercut with stagy bits of him supposedly acting out the theme in real-life business. Often the business lesson you really learn is either off of the stated theme (which will then act as a kind of "B" theme) or it's much more compelling than you'd think from that introductory sequence. In any case, it's for real, because there is always a losing team and someone on that team is always fired. Sometimes more than one -- we've seen up to four at once (last season -- very funny squished into the exit cab together at the ep's end).

There's a lot of ritual to the show's format, and it gets especially juicy once the boardroom begins, the dramatic clock-tick music, the meeting at night, the jeopardy. As the cast shrinks we're heavy with the survivors, the ones we've taken a kinder to, the ones we're looking to fall. The falls now, when they come, can be epic. Thanks to the improved casting, our rooting interest is much higher than in, say, the first season, where it ended up being so much about Omarossa, happily playing the villain.

To anyone following or ready to jump in for this season, I'm liking Allie (a lot), Sean (and those two are looking like an item), Roxanne (if she proves it with another win as Project Manager), and am okay with Andrea if she stops being a Harryhausen blue eye-beam stone creature come to marauding life.

As for The Donald, he's blow-dried and self-important, but he's also a Mogul of the People. He's not afraid to say what he thinks New York style, he looks comfortable and genuine when he kisses the little African-American girl dying of cancer, he emphasizes corporate citizen charity over many episodes, and he makes fun of his own hair.

Most of all, he's made a show that, especially as the season hones down, is probably more made-for-adults as any competitive reality series on the air. The Ohio Players sing "Money" over the opening title and we read, "It's just business."

Yep. That's why I dig it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


I've managed to keep up with a post each day while being on vacation this past week. While they may not be the longer/deeper pieces, I'm happy to have kept up the string started early last month.

Part of what has made it hard to post is that for the past few days I've been in Brooklyn, NY, where the evenings are usually spent playing perhaps the world's greatest board game, Risk, with my two nephews. They're vicious, and love to gang up on lil' ol' me, and our dealmaking is serpentine all along the way (although each of us does stand by his word -- no welching).

In honor of this fine game, I offer something to those who don't really know the game as well as for those who do.

For those who don't know the game, here's the Wikipedia page, which opens its entry with this broad description:
Risk is a commercial turn-based strategy board game produced by Parker Brothers, a division of Hasbro. It was invented in the early 1950s by the French movie director Albert Lamorisse. Risk shares many characteristics with wargames, yet relative to other war games, it is simple and abstract. It makes little attempt to accurately simulate military strategy, the size of the world, the logistics of long campaigns or real-world luck.

There's a weird movie connection in that Lamorisse directed the oft-viewed 1956 short, The Red Balloon (Le Ballon rouge). That's two nifty accomplishments for the guy -- a classic internationally successful short and the best mass-market board game since chess.

For the Risk fans, here's some interesting links:

A brief Risk history

A more personal yet more comprehensive evolutionary history of Risk

Several online clones -- can't tell you if these are considered copyright infringements on not, but they are available so one can only assume Hasbro can't cut them down -- some free, some free demos:

Lux Deluxe


Final Conquest



I haven't checked them out so if anyone does and can vouch for quality, give us the word.

And remember, no matter how tense your game may be, it's like a relaxing vacation compared to the current high-stakes game of global domination unfolding in the real world right now...

Friday, April 14, 2006


I've turn a few friends onto this site, so excuse me if it's a rerun for you, but if you really want to waste some excellent time, check out Overheard in New York.

It's all reportage, purporting to be actual conversation snippets from the streets of America's greatest city (and arguably that of the world as well). Each quote comes with a snarky headline a la Esquire magazine's annual Dubious Achievement Awards (i.e. wiseguy editorial punchline comes first).

Here's a sample:
We Never Snorted Candy at Stuyvesant
Bronx Science boy: I have pixie sticks.
Bronx Science girl: I love pixie sticks. Have you ever tried to snort them?
Bronx Science boy: Yeah, once I snorted a lot because I wanted to get high and my nose started gushing blood.
--1/9 train
Overheard by: chella

And that's from last year.

Strangely enough, site editor/co-founder Michael Malice is now the subject of an American Splendor graphic novel written by Harvey Pekar. In it, according to reviews, Malice comes across as a know-it-all jerk until the last part of the book, when the humanity comes through.

How New York City of him!

Thursday, April 13, 2006


One of my favorite blogs from the comic book works is Dial B for Blog, which is a play on the title of DC Silver Age comic, Dial H for Hero, about a normal boy with a magical rotary phone dialer that could turn him into any hero appropriate for that issue's situation, i.e. villain. It was a great device for opening the imagination -- a different hero each month!

This week this Silver Age-oriented blog (mid-1950's to early 1970's) covers one of the most significant advances in the history of comic books, when certain comics creators broke from the strictures of the Comics Code Authority and at last started dealing with contemporary social problems. One of the first and best to do this was the celebrated writer/artist team of Dennis "Denny" O'Neil and Neal Adams (sometimes called Denny O'Neal Adams) and their remarkable Green Lantern/Green Arrow run. Check it out:

Great Art and Bold Storytelling

The focus here is on the last in their 12-issue run of relevant stories, which dealt with racism, heroin abuse, Native American rights -- all previously out-of-bounds due to comics industry strictures initiated in response to the Congressional horror comics hearings of the mid-1950's.

This final story in their run concerns a latter-day Jesus Christ who puts his life on the line to stop pollution. I don't want to steal any thunder from blogger "Robby Reed" (his nom de web the same as the boy hero of the Dial H comic). But let's just say they ended with a bang, and while I can't find that last page reprinted anywhere on the web, it's worth seeking out. Best last line of any comic I've ever read: "Send me the bill."

(If there's interest, I'll explain in comments.)

Theirs was a uniquely powerful writer/artist team, and their work included some of the best Batman stories, including the creation of Ra's Al Ghul, immortalized on the silver screen in last year's Batman Begins feature film.

Denny O'Neil was a big step up in comic book writer/editors, a man of his time who took the medium seriously. In Neal Adams, he had the perfect collaborator.

Adams brought a new graphic realism to the comic world, drawings that seemed more real than anything before and most of what has come after, adult in layout and use of line, nothing kiddie about it but still very easy to follow and appreciate.

If there's a cinematic equivalent of Neal Adams right now it might be George Clooney's work as director of Good Night & Good Luck and producer/star of Syriana. Both artists have created images that are sharp and clear yet with a certain stylishness all their own. Maybe that style is immediacy. Others may disagree, but I've found that in each case there's never too great an imbalance between pictorial values and social relevance.

I like being entertained where it's assumed I'm an adult. In no small part, such possibilities opened up for me way back in 1970 thanks to Mr. O'Neil and Mr. Adams, with their real life-meets-superhero breakthroughs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Okay, so while I'm dying to get back to the entertainment, there's just too much riding on the Bush response to Iran right now that I have to get some last licks in.

First off, don't believe the hype about "Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, U.S. Says" disseminating out of Bloomberg News. It's coming straight from the man who gave us the Niger bamboozlement that's led to the White House's Valerie Plame revenge outing, per Talking Points Memo. That means the very same Administration liars are at it again.

Second, Bush is just taking advantage of what the President of Iran, asshole Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using to try and bolster that country's hard-line government's 15% approval rating. Right now, Iran can't make nuclear weapons.

So you have two hard-line leaders trying to shore up their pitiful numbers by fomenting war. Why do we have to play this game when Iran is asking for high-level talks?

If you think I've answered that question, think for a moment about George Bush and those hardcore followers of his who believe in the End Times. Last month in Cleveland he wouldn't even denying believing in The Apocalypse.

If nothing else, the informed public should just remember the deliberate lies that got us into the current Iraq debacle. Even Colin Powell does.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


With a deja-vu Iran debacle on our doorsteps (not an eminent threat, Bush Administration refusing entreaties for one-on-one talks), here's some more evidence that those who think had best speak loud and clear before it's too late:

Another Retired General who was Against the War

I just wonder why these clowns think that threats of war are actually going to deter any nuclear steps in Iran if there's absurdly blatant displays like this.

Doesn't that make one think some leaders over there want the U.S. to attack? How better to turn the most pro-U.S. country (that's the populace) against America than by igniting strident nationalism?

(In case you're looking for a sign, if you read about a bunch of U.S. Generals retiring in one short time period, that means George & Dick's WWIII is on.)

Fool me once, shame on you. "Fool me — you can't get fooled again."


Haven't seen this yet, but the trailer looks great and all critical word is excellent:

Duck Season

I'm thinking, is the title along with the black & white photographed comedy some sort of reference to the Marx Brothers?

Looking at an extraordinary 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes as well. Seems almost everyone loves it, save some A-hole in the Village Voice...go figure.

If anyone sees it before me, drop a comment on what you think.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


In case you're one of those blue-staters who wonders if the rest of the country is even aware of all the facts that seems so self-evident and mind-blowingly awful to even the least informed in your current events world, here's a visual rundown of how under siege our current Executive leadership is this particular moment in U.S. history:

Reckless Administration Headlines

I wish I could tell you with certainty this all this is going to lead to some sort of comment sense judgment day where GWB and cronies are called to task or at least neutralized before igniting WWIII, but I put too much stock in the smug vindictiveness at the top. Expect the Iran attacks to begin, Congressional authority (rubber stamp) or not, if Bush-Cheney-Rove & Co. think it will swing the mid-term elections their way in November.

I believe there's a point coming, not too long from now, where you will be called to speak out, louder than before we fomented war with Iraq, when the drums of war will be playing.

Get ready to make your stand or live -- or die -- with the consequences.


The Writers Guild of America has just come out with their list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, a.k.a. the 101 Greastest Hollywood Screenplays, or something like that. Except for The Third Man, 8 1/2, La Grande get the picture. In any case the main value of such a list is some fun exploration for film nerds like me and maybe you, hours of enjoyment.

Each entry on the list has a link to "Facts About the Film" so you can spend a lot of time learning some details you might not know about the making of these esteemed screenplays/flicks. Then there's a last layer of drilldown where you can "Read a Page from the Screenplay of" that particular movie. Annie Hall's is particularly funny.

There's the usual problems with a list like this. Taking Annie Hall for example. It's been widely documently that the movie was made in the editing room, with Allen completely restructuring what he wrote and shot, going out to shoot more material, creating a success that could not have come strictly from writing but required, uh, filmmaking.

There's most of the Hitchcock movies down near the bottom of the list. (Notorious at #101? Below When Harry Met Sally, Moonstruck, Thelma & Louise? No Vertigo??) There's injustices galore in the ordering and omissions, all good fun to rage over.

Yet there's one thing about the list that's a surefire insurance policy against total dismissal.

It's tough to argue that Casablanca doesn't deserve that #1 spot.

Friday, April 07, 2006


Should the President of the United States, whoever he is, by nature of being elected to a four year term by the people, be able to eavesdrop on the telephone calls of any American citizen he so chooses? Should it only be when he suspects they are somehow connected to terrorist activity?

What if he's the only one who believes it, or says he does. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. If he doesn't, if it's all an act for some other purpose, if his motives are impure, should those under him be required to follow his orders no matter what?

Should he be able to detain any American citizen that he avers, in public or private, to be a terrorist or aiding and abetting terrorists (Islamic? Northern Irish?) without any extra-Presidential, extra-Party oversight or accountability? Should he be able to order that American citizen taken from his or her home and flown to a hidden detention facility in another country? Does that chain of events automatically make it okay (and legal) to torture that citizen?

Should any elected or unelected (succession) U.S. President be able to, whenever he or she finds it politically expedient, blow the cover of an American citizen who has given their life in undercover service to their country, taken great risks to serve a government institution purported to protect our liberty?

Should such a President be able to do, like, electricity and pass that authority to anyone he or she wants? And should that person be somehow "vested" with the authority to have a third person blow the cover of that American citizen civil servant? Is that a Constitutional power of, say, a Vice President, that second leg of electricity?

Should our United States of America President, him or her, have the authority to personally shoot or kill anyone they want if they say that they believe this person is a terrorist? Does that have to be in time of war? Can the President declare wartime, kinda trumping the United States Congress' Constitutional authority just by saying so?

Should the President be able to sign anything he/she wants into law regardless of it being passed by Congress? Can he rule by decree, like in wartime? Should he?

Should the President be able to tell the guy next to him, maybe the Vice President, "Hey, shoot that guy right now, he's a terrorist," and the Vice President can shoot the guy or tell his underling to do it? And there's no punishment if they're wrong?

Is it true, as Richard Nixon said on the way to resigning amidst the biggest Presidential scandal in U.S. history, that "if the President does it, it's legal?"

Like a king?

Should it be?

If the President is out walking around downtown with his Secret Service detail and decides he or she just wants to take a leak on someone, maybe saying they're terrorist trash or are helping terrorists or hurting our chances of going to war, maybe the President is drunk or coked or mentally ill, maybe the President just likes being a son of a bitch, should this President be allowed to lay a long steaming yellow stream on that U.S. citizen?

Maybe a foreigner? Especially if it's a time of war or President He/She says it is?

Should that be legal?

Is it already?

Is that breaking the law?

Thursday, April 06, 2006


... he started telling us how he was never ashamed, when he was in some kind of trouble or something, to get right down on his knees and pray to God. He told us we should always pray to God - talk to Him and all - whenever we were. He told us we ought to think of Jesus as our buddy and all. He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving in his car. That killed me. I can just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs.
- J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Two notable events today: a decent citizen excoriates President George Bush during one of his typically canned public snake oil events, and it is revealed that Scooter Libby, indicted for revealing the secret identity of a CIA agent, is claiming in court papers that Bush not only knew all about the leak, he fucking authorized it.

Let's start with Mr. Harry Taylor, looking as honest as a classically American Norman Rockwell figure. Somehow he made his way into the event, and stands up to say to Bush's face that:
“I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration. And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself.”

Bush's response:
I'’m not your favorite guy.

Take a look at the video here, courtesy of Crooks & Liars.

Bush doesn't even answer his question directly, instead heading for the usual lies about wanting to do his NSA wiretaps constitutionally, that his lawyers told him it was constitutional, that he consulted with members of both parties in Congress on it.

It's easy to call Bush a liar, ever since his infamous 16 words claiming Saddam Hussain had sought uranium from Niger in his 2003 State of the Union address, the year he started the Iraq War, because he's never made amends for it. What's clear from watching the video of this Truman-esque Harry vs. Bush is that he's too phony to ever do anything of the kind.

Bush looks eager to answer, as if he's prepped with talking points for this kind of question, from this kind of mild-mannered citizen. It's a bit of a bully move from his bully pulpit, but most of what comes across is how insufferably smug El Presidente is. See how much pleasure he's getting in standing strong by his illegal activity, his power to drag America into war and not be held accountable, so perverse considering how much blood -- American and innocent Iraqi -- has been spilt.

This is a guy who enjoys being an asshole. Is it any surprise that away from the cameras he curses like a sailor? People think of him as a Texas boy, but he's a preppie, a smug, self-congratulatory, insular prep school kid who has an empathy deficiency.

As Holden Caufield says of his own prep school elsewhere in The Catcher in the Rye:
Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding.

Low on empathy, high on smug. Why did Cindy Sheehan protest the President? It was a reaction to being invited to the White House in an event supposedly honoring 15 dead soldiers. Her experience:
"He wouldn't look at the pictures of [my son] Casey. He didn't even know Casey's name. He came in the room and the very first thing he said is, 'So who are we honoring here?' He didn't even know Casey's name. He didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to hear anything about Casey. He wouldn't even call him 'him' or 'he.' He called him 'your loved one.' Every time we tried to talk about Casey and how much we missed him, he would change the subject. And he acted like it was a party."

Now, the other incredible news today goes right back to that great big State of the Union lie. The Joe Wilson story has been covered well elsewhere, particularly by Juan Cole, and if you need the background I urge you to read it. But again, that phony-baloney Bush said, when the news of the leak first broke,
There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. If there's leaks out of my administration, I want to know who it is, and if the person has violated the law, the person will be taken care of.

Now, in the Bush Administration, "being taken care of" might mean being commendated for dereliction of duty or subversion of the public trust. However, he did later clarify that that if anyone on his staff committed a crime in the CIA leak case, that person will "no longer work in my administration."

So, if Libby is telling the truth and Bush somehow authorized Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney to authorize I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby to leak the name of a CIA agent to a reporter, putting that agent and anyone she ever associated with while undercover in foreign countries in grave danger, does this mean Bush will fire himself?

Ahh, the real Bush. Bush the vindictive. Bush the hypocrite.

I'm betting he'll give himself a medal.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


For much of the past few years my favorite writer on film, the one who gives me the most pleasure to read, is Chris Dashiell. I watched him getting into the movie opinion mix on the Cinema-L mailing list starting in the late '90's (remember them?) and was fortunate enough to occasionally contribute to Cinescene during his fecund period as editor.

Since those early days Chris has developed into a the in-house film critic for KXCI radio in Tucson, Arizona, where he has the FLICKS on-line and podcast review series. For a guy who lives where he does, he sees a hell of a lot of really excellent movies. He's able to see a lot of them projected as well, although the DVDs augment his diet, which goes heavy on independent, foreign, classics and forgotten classics.

Chris refers to himself as The Film Snob and while his standards are relatively rigorous, he writes in an easily communicative style, one which tends to lay enough background to educate while giving a thorough, sharply observed, eminently readable opinion.

Here's Chris' Signs and Wonders: A Film Snob's Favorites of '05, published on Cinescene where he still contributes. I've seen three of his top ten and of six the "B-sides":
1. The Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martel)
2. 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
3. Kings and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin)
4. Last Days (Gus Van Sant)
5. Turtles Can Fly (Bahman Gohbadi)
6. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki)
7. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
8. Occupation: Dreamland (Garrett Scott & Ian Olds)
9. The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach)
10. Born Into Brothels (Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman)

And now for the B-sides:

11. Nobody Knows (Hirokazu Koreeda)
12. Capote (Bennett Miller)
13. No Direction Home (Martin Scorsese)
14. Notre Musique (Jean-Luc Godard)
15. Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog)
16. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Nick Park & Steve Box)
17. Look At Me (Agnes Jaoui)
18. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
19. Moolaade (Ousmane Sembene)
20. Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki)

There's a great archive of Chris' Cinescene Flicks series , some amazing pictures covered going back to the silents and all around the world, and it's possible to dig around the Dashiell archives there for more contemporary reviews by title and the index to his brilliant features, like his Katherine Hepburn piece, right after her death, 3,800 extremely well-chosen words covering her entire career.

But the writing that made the biggest impression on me and still does is a brilliantly researched 4-part piece on revolutionary Soviet directing genius Sergei Eisenstein's failed Que Viva Mexico. It's a great work of film history.

Eisenstein came to Hollywood in 1930, was feted by all the great filmmakers in town, couldn't make it work with the studios and eventually tried to make a movie in Mexico. Much of it was shot but not all or not enough, and he never edited it himself. In 1979 his assistant director from that time guided a "reconstruction".

Dashiell's piece interweaves scene-by-scene description of this reconstruction with the timeline of Eisenstein's history and analysis of his filmmaking practice, a very politically charged one due to the state-sponsored film system of post-revolutionary Russia. At a certain point under Joseph Stalin, Sergei was only allowed to teach filmmaking. At various points, Stalin sat next to him in the editing room.

And the final thing I like about Chris is his last name. I'm a big fan of the pioneering noir writer, Dashiell Hammett. I figure anyone with the same first name as Hammett has got to be cool.

So imagine how cool it must be to have Dashiell as your last name.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


The two themes of this blog are entertainment and politics, and how better to bring that combustible concoction back to the lab than how the fall from Congress of Tom Delay reminds me of my favorite film from 2005, the German picture, Downfall.

Downfall (Der Untergang)
tells the story of Hitler's final days in the bunker, and those around him. We follow three somewhat "good" characters, in the sense that we can identify with them more than the bastard at the center of the drama, Adolf himself. The movie bore some criticism in Germany when released for depicting Hitler (played by world class genius actor Bruno Ganz) as a human being rather than metatextual monster, but that seems to me exactly the point.

Evil is not something out of literature, evil is a collection of choices in everyday life. Hitler's were those of a major league asshole. Those around Hitler choose various degrees of evil. Joseph Goebbels gets a strong second place, with his wife, Magda. I won't spoil it for anyone, but these two really provide the heart of darkness for this picture.

It's the empathetic characters that draw us in, Hitler's secretary (upon whose real life story much of the picture is based), architect Albert Speer who later did twenty years in Spandau and renounced his Nazism (writing the bestselling memoirs Inside the Third Reich), and a doctor who from my research seems the most fictionalized.

What's interesting and what relates to the story of Delay and Bushism is that when I watched Downfall, I felt the pull towards these characters due to abstract qualities all of us hold dear, most importantly that of loyalty.

I was driving around listening to Warren Olney's Which Way L.A.? radio talk show tonight, and there was some friend of Tom Delay's on the air. He was obviously loyal to Delay, and cited his work ethic as an example of his wonderful attributes.

Now, I can't agree more that hard work is a foundation ethic, and admire anyone who devotes themselves to a job, gets in early and leaves late, is thorough and dependable, makes things happen. But when I say it is an abstract quality, that's because the next question we should never forget to answer is, he worked hard for what?

If that hard work is to push us into an unnecessary war, deplete our national treasury to the point where government as we know it cannot function, and subvert the democratic process, then I'd rather he were lazy.

And so it is in Downfall. As the idealistic fantasy world of Hitler collapses, the Russians reaching the Berlin Gates on his birthday, Reichsfuhrer-SS Himmler scrambling in vain to make a deal with the Americans, officers sitting around his bunker shoving pistols into their own mouths, we find the "center of good" if there is one to be the secretary, who's innocent loyalty to Hitler is in sharp contrast to the high level rats deserting his sinking ship.

I saw the movie as a metaphor for any evil system into which otherwise decent people have put their faith and allegiance. The fact is that in this world there are leaders and there are followers, and sometimes the leaders are just plain bad. So the "abstract" notion of loyalty isn't enough, it's only the first level of goodness.

What's important is, what or who are you loyal to?

As Ernest Borgnine put it in Sam Peckinpah's epochal film The Wild Bunch, it's not just that you gave your word, "It's who you give it to!"

Now, I'm not saying that Bush and Co. are putting Jews in concentration camps. But they are authoritarian, impunity-free lawbreakers, who hold themselves accountable to basically no one. Given my political bent, I saw Downfall as a potent metaphor for what I hope might happen to this whole power-hungry Administration, and all the Congressional sycophants and other cronies who have hitched their wagon to the charismatic star of this particular President.

Senator Robert Byrd was the first politician I recall to note that our current radical Republican hegemony will not last forever. His floor speeches in the Senate showed the conviction of a man with basic, decent, core values which could no longer be breached by the popularity of a current movement or those in positions of great power.

Nothing lasts forever, and the harder they come, the harder they fall. We'll see how it all plays out, but until then, check out Downfall, and tell me if I'm right; tell me if it resonates.


The invaluable Crooks and Liars has the video of Senator Russell Feingold in the lion's den, i.e. being interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News.

This is what I like to see -- a straight-talking, unflappable, responsible U.S. Senator laying out a reasonable, common sense case for censure of Presidente Bush.

Click here for Straight-Talkin' Russ.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Sad news: Rep. Tom Delay has decided not to seek re-election, even though he won the GOP Primary in his district. What good is it to gerrymander a district if you don't end up running in it?

I say "sad" because I relished the idea of running against Tom. Not just in his district, but nationwide. As long as he was running, every Democrat in any House race anywhere could run against the threat of Tom coming back with a Republican majority. How sad not to have that chance.

Tom says, "This had become a referendum on me. So it's better for me to step aside and let it be a referendum on ideas, Republican values and what's important for this district."

Could this new revelation that his alleged bribery conspiracy goes back several years before previously thought be the real reason?

I'm sad that he had to change his address from his house in the 22nd Texas district to his condo in Arlington, Virginia as an excuse to step down.

I'm sad that the GOP can pretend they've cleaned house and maybe win that district with a "fresh" face.

Mainly, I'm sad that Tom can now be free of office to create mayhem through the private sector and maybe even become the type of lobbyist from whom he used to take money, further poisoning the Federal well.

Unless, of course, he goes to jail.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


I've had one request to write something about this new season of The Sopranos and I've had a subsequent request to avoid any spoilers. So I'm just going to give a short observation on theme and try to avoid spoiling anything, but caveat emptor, dude, I'm only human.

This season is all about The Different Man, specifically Tony's deep desire to be someone other than who he is. The very first episode lays out plain the impossibility of any mobster ever turning over a new leaf, no matter how sincere their effort. There's no retiring, there's only a box on the way out, with a sole exception.

From the very first season, the biggest danger to Tony has always been a successful government informer. But to be successful at it you have to go into Federal Witness Protection, which means you (and your family, if you have one) taking on an entirely new identity in an entirely different part of the country. You can't contact anyone from your old life, even non-mobsters, if you don't want to blow your cover.

In Soprano World, that's the only way to become a different person, and you can bet you'll still be the same underneath the new identity. Thinking ahead to the series wrap-up, which will be some sort of 8 episode mini-season after these 13 have aired and gone, you have to wonder what will happen to Tony.

Assassination or other homicide, always possible. Suicide unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility (history of depression, code of ancient Romans). Execution legal in New Jersey (although none since reinstated in 1982, last was 1976). Quitting impossible.

So the only thing left is for Tony to do just what he's murdered other people for, including some closest to him. It would be in keeping with the show's general irony. Maybe he'll be wrestling with that choice by the end of the season? An offer if he flips on the New York City bosses?

Tony's extended fantasy made this "different man" theme liminal, but I finally got it when Tony was given Watergate co-conspirator Chuck Colson's autobiography and told Chuck gave himself over to God while in prison to come out "a different man."

Tony's problem has always been that Tony has a conscience. It's more than vestigial but obviously way underdeveloped, hooded even. Within his gangster world, it doesn't pay to follow it, but ever since starting treatment with Dr. Melfy (MILFy?) he's been grappling with it. There's a possibility that Tony receives some sort of heavenly grace, maybe if he renounces his evil ways as a lead up to taking a bullet.

I can see the moral relativism (Tony's conscience, candor and cunning are why he comes off better than everyone else) but I think the show invites you to take a moral absolutist view more than it lets on. Tony is the devil; everything he and his families touch turns to shit.

No matter how much we identify with his suburban family trials and middle class capitalist tribulations, this is a guy for whom death is too good a punishment. And he is the best of the lot.

Maybe Tony's ultimate punishment will be to become that different person, in the Program. Like Ray Liotta at the end of the show's big inspiration, Goodfellas, how about Tony in his bathrobe picking up his newspaper, only this time it's on the front stoop of his brand new Arizona home?

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Finally got to see V for Vendetta tonight. Phew.

As expected, Natalie Portman did a terrific job carrying the movie, the emotional core. At 25 years old I can't imagine a better actress of her generation, although we'll see who comes along in the next, say, 5 to 15 years. I don't want to go into a full analysis of the film and its style and politics just now, want to let some of it sink in, talk to friends, decide if it's even worth writing about, but I am itching to print some headlines.

The big news is that it's a hard rockin' rock & roll movie, the first good one in a long time, the first good Hollywood one since, unless someone can remind me otherwise, Fight Club. Don't start hammering that they're not in the same league, because I might just agree with you, but they both have a genuine anarchist sensibility in that the film artists give you a big anti-establishment ideological thrust but either stop short or blow past actually telling you what to think.

It's kickass spectacle with punk rock politics, even referencing the Sex Pistols with a doctored "God Save the Queen" poster. It is the most Brechtian Joel Silver movie imaginable. Although the plot is insane, it holds together with more narrative intention than any Wachowski Brothers script since The Matrix.

Since I am unfamiliar with the Alan Moore/David Lloyd comic I can't say how true it is to Mr. Moore's creator's vision, for all I know it's a travesty. On the other hand, who am I to rely on Mr. Moore's condemnation. He had his credit pulled early in production reportedly due to some lie Producer Silver said in public (how else would he expect Silver to stay in the guild?) and has made it clear that he's never going to see it.

As a movie, it's invigorating, unless you're the type of viewer who would find it irresponsible, that it will automatically inspire a bunch of kids to go terrorist and blow up the Capitol. If you believe this movie could cause that to happen, you may find yourself invigorated in a way perhaps contrary to how I felt.

V for Vendetta is a worthy big screen experience, evidently a hit with the kids in IMAX. Right from the beginning the images are complex and beguiling, lots of detail moving very quickly, that striking 1984 post-pop production design. The theater gets quite a buzz, and there were some confused patrons applauding as Rolling Stones "Street Fighting Man" kicked in over the end credits. If, like them, I had mistakenly thought I was at a stage play, I would have joined in.

In my book, all that spells entertainment.

Anyone else out there who's seen it feel strongly about this flick, one way or the other?