Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Why Do We Even Bother?

Oscar nominations. Get yer fresh, steaming Oscar nominations.

Sooooo. Shall we do a pool this year? Have a party, maybe? See if we can actually find any of the nominated documentaries on video? Shall we base our predictions on idealism or cynicism?
1:58 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Goodbye Rights, Goodbye Liberties

The Idiocracy is solidifying their hold on power. I can only hope the culture war finally begins in earnest -- they've got Jeebus on their side, but we've got all the rational, educated, creative motherfuckers on ours. I'll take the motherfuckers any day.

First proposition on the block: Doctors and other medical professionals don't have to treat you if they think you're a sinner. That goes for slatternly women, sodomites, and anyone else we decide later on. Maybe the ER doc you see during your child's asthma attack or your heart attack will be a Christian Scientist... his prescription? "Pray, asshole. Pray like your life depends on it. I know we've got all these fancy machines and drugs, but your suffocating chest pain is a punishment from Jeebus for some impurity in your soul. If you live, we'll know you're forgiven."

(But surely someone who believes the practice of medicine is wrong would be ill-suited to be a doctor? Well, yes, but firing them for not providing medical services to patients is a violation of their "rights."* Or so our newly-pro-theocracy Supreme Court will doubtless say when asked their opinion.)

If you sincerely believe that Jeebus equates the morning-after pill with infanticide, fine. But no more modern medicine for you -- you only get "faith-based" doctors. They're different because they don't actually have to pass any hard science classes or study comparative anatomy or go to medical school. They don't have to understand chemistry or physiology or know the names of all the bones in your hands. God tells em what to do, and that's good enough, right? 'Cause God knows everything.

From now on, Fundies (and their non-Fundie Republican enablers) only get witch-doctors. Let's see how dedicated you really are to this concept.

By the way, Tennessee is one of the states on the block:

Bill Number: TN H 1383
Summary: Allows pharmacists and related professionals to refuse to provide or dispense contraceptives in all or most circumstances.
Sponsor: Casada (R)
Introduced: 02/09/2005
Last Action: Carried Over
Last Action Date: 01/06/2006

Bill Number: TN S 76
Summary: Allows individuals or entities to refuse to provide or dispense contraceptives in all or most circumstances.
Sponsor: Finney
Introduced: 01/13/2005
Last Action: Carried Over
Last Action Date: 01/06/2006


Good luck getting your birth control prescription filled in Germantown, suckers.

Next: the Amish Electronic Engineers Association refuses to use transistors on the basis that they're the work of Satan.

*If someone is forced to suffer for another person's religious beliefs, whose first-amendment rights are actually being violated?
1:17 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Monday, January 30, 2006
So C-L-E-A-N

I often wonder why women seem to be so gosh-darn flinchy about their bodies. And then I read stuff like this, and it all falls into place.

A modern woman realizes how important hygiene is to health, married happiness, after her periods, and to combat an offensive odor even greater than bad breath and body odor -- an odor she herself may not detect but is so apparent to people around her.

Short version: your husband doesn't love you because your cunt stinks. So squirt some fuckin' Pine-Sol up that capacious maw, you filthy whore. The sting is God's punishment for having been born a woman.

And get a goddamn copy editor while you're at it... haven't you ever heard of parallel structure? Stupid cooze.

PS: I'm not sure where this new style is coming from either. I'm just feeling deeply inspired to be as vulgar as possible lately. Sorry Mom. It could actually be a lot worse.

PPS: Consider it a gift, Nelson.

PPPS: I'll probably regret having posted this in the morning.
11:03 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

And We Feed Off The Audience's Rage

Having found myself with a whole lot of extra money (because last night nobody let me pay for anything after the screening -- I mean, christ, what's a girl gotta do to be able to do something nice for someone around here?), I took a small part of it yesterday and finally fulfilled a wish I've had for nearly a year:

I went out and got myself a copy of The Aristocrats.

You know how long I've wanted this. You know what happened when I tried to go see it in the theater. The road has been a long and winding one, and it would be well-nigh impossible for any film to live up to the compacted anticipation that this one had to live up to. So it shouldn't be any surprise that the whole thing was a bit, shall we say, anti-climactic. The worst part was waiting anxiously for Gilbert Gottfried's purportedly legendary telling of the titular joke, only to find that wasn't anything all that special. Seems to me it had more to do with the context than the actual performance -- one of those "you had to be there" things.

Or maybe it's my particular sense of humor. Chanting "sucking and fucking, sucking and fucking" isn't a comedic strategy that'll normally get a big laugh from me (well, maybe, but you'd have to do it way more times than Gottfried did -- that line would demand crossing the line into absurdism to be really funny.) I tend to be more attuned to detail and nuance: just saying "fuck the dog/my daughter/my grandmother/my dad's bleeding anus" isn't enough to win my sympathy. Yes, I'm that jaded -- single-mindedly scraping to the filthiest depths of narrative depravity isn't enough for me; I want a little existential angst thrown in while we're at it. I want to feel the hopelessness -- I'm sort of Canadian that way.

Shockingly, my favorite versions were told by the people I'd have least expected -- Doug Stanhope's was especially good, telling his >1-year-old son how "... it's finally a whole prolapsed rectum, it's like an ulcerated sea snake -- remember when I took you to Sea World? Yeah." Maybe I should be paying more attention to Mr. Stanhope -- here I've always judged him by his Man Show/GGW credentials, but then again, he's also on Bill Hicks' label, so maybe there's more there than I'd assumed. (Okay, it's actually Kevin Booth's label -- speaking of which, Joe Rogan was on it, too. Kinda makes you wonder whether, had he survived, Bill would've ended up hosting the Man Show himself... and if he had, would I have watched it?)

The film felt conflicted to me, though -- it's a film about the inner-workings of comedy, but since it's being pitched to an audience that (the producers assume) only wants dick jokes, it never allows itself to think too deeply. And that's a shame, because comparing different versions of one canonical joke would be an excellent way to gain insight into the process of comedy itself -- the comedians could've given us some invaluable insight, but the viewers are, as always, just left to hunt through the haystack on their own.

In related news, I also ccouldn't help but notice that Kevin Booth has just published a new bio of Bill Hicks, Agent of Evolution. I'll be buying a copy, obviously. But I won't be reading it without trepidation -- biographies written by people close to the person being portrayed are never the best ones. There's always that promise of special insight, but too often it ends up being about the person doing the writing instead of the person being written about. (Bob Zmuda's biography of Andy Kaufman was particularly disappointing in that respect.) Booth might be better able to avoid that pitfall than most, but I'll believe it when I see it.
12:17 AM ::
Amy :: permalink

Saturday, January 28, 2006
La Nausée

Tonight is the private-ish screening of the film (henceforth known as "the film," until some other film assumes the crown) I'm doing for the people who worked on it /helped with it. I should be nervous, I guess -- normally I would be -- but tonight even if I had butterflies I don't think I'd know the difference because I feel, frankly, like crap.

I do actually think I know what the problem is, and there isn't a goddamn thing I can do about it except try to be still and not let it get to me. It's not a bad-fish type thing; it's more of a my-30s-have-come-to-claim-their-due kind of thing. It isn't dangerous, just intermittently uncomfortable. Like, really uncomfortable. But I'll be fine.

Assuming, that is, I can keep a happy face on tonight. And it's a shame, because I've really been looking forward to this -- not just for whatever faint praise might come my way (insert quiet scoff here), but because there will be people there whom I want very much to see. And it sucks that I might not be feeling well enough to completely enjoy it. The good news is, I feel better now than I did this morning, and this morning I felt better than I did last night. I just don't feel, y'know, completely well. And it only take a little nausea to ruin your evening.

Oh well, fuck it.
4:15 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, January 26, 2006
Living Tomorrow's Film History Today

I need to learn to stop paying attention to the Sundance Film Festival. It's just too disheartening, and it puts me in a surly mood.

Documentaries are the big thing this year, apparently. They kinda were last year, too, but that was the leading edge that nobody saw coming -- this year, it's all about the bandwagon. Doubtless there are a couple of worthy films in the lineup, and doubtless a couple of long-ignored, long-suffering, deserving filmmakers are finally getting a modicum of sweet, fleeting validation. Happy, lucky them.

I was talking docs eight years ago. I was talking docs again three years ago. I still love documentary film; I remain a devoted admirer of the genre. I'm just sayin' -- I was here back when the self-serving assholes who make up the majority of Sundance attendees were still denouncing the form as hopelessly uncommercial.

And this isn't the first time this has happened -- I think I can claim a degree of prescience throughout my creative life. In the heady days of 1995, I affirmed the enormous potential of the antipodean film industry -- that was before the Matrix shot in Sydney, before Star Wars followed them south, before anybody outside New Zealand but a geeky few had ever heard of Peter Jackson. Was I right? Fuck yes I was right. Admittedly, the fulfillment on one half of the prediction -- that the industry was ripe for a boom -- apparently destroyed any chance of the other, more important half of the prediction being likewise fulfilled -- that an interesting regional cinema would emerge more robustly than it had existed in the past. Australian film in particular is strange and fascinating -- being so removed from the rest of the world has led to unusual evolution in more than just the flora and fauna. But now all they care about is being a coarse pastiche of Hollywood.

In another life, I'd be raking in cash hand-over-fist; I can smell a turkey from a mile away, and I've got a good eye for seeing things coming before others do, even if only in this one little corner of the culture. Instead I'm hanging out here, making my sad little predictions to people in ones and twos, and feeling put out when five or ten years down the line, we all sit down and nod, "yep, turns out you were right after all."

But this is anecdotal evidence. Shall we try something a little more concrete? I'll make a fresh prediction, and five to ten years from today, we can revist and see if I was right; twenty years hence, we can really find out. Somebody make a note.

Ready? Ahem...

"Independent film" is over, dead, floating in its bowl. It's actually been gone for a few years now, but nobody would admit it because we all preferred to Believe the Dream. Time having passed, however, the smell of stagnation and putrifaction is becoming undeniable. Within a year or two, even the slowest among us will realize that the indie's day has come and gone.

Which is not to say that filmmaking will not still take place independently of the industry -- indeed, that will become immensely more common; so common, in fact, that it ceases to bear mentioning. There will then follow a period of aimless drifting -- Hollywood grasping frantically to any passing crap that floats within reach, and the culture at large moving on to some other medium -- a solid video game-based zeitgeist seems likely. Whatever it is, all the preening dilettantes and would-be Tarantinos will drop filmmaking like a lump of lukewarm dogshit and run towards whatever fresh steaming pile they see first. In the film world, deep-seated malaise will set in.

Underneath, however, things will be afoot. Relieved of the burden of a million talentless hacks who were looking for notoriety and money more than an artform, the rest of us will get back to work. From the wreckage of the Oughts (riddled as they were with cloying patriotism, intolerance, corruption, violence, and all-purpose stupidity) a taste will develop for Truth and Meaning and Insight. There'll be a new vogue for the Old Masters of cinema -- people will rent Dovzhenko and Dreyer films in unprecedented numbers. The typical film-enthusiast's understanding will deepen sufficiently to allow for innovative, challenging work to find a degree of admiration; people will increasingly dig genuine complexity, and will learn the difference between it and the condescension of cheap gimmicks and "quirkiness." Artisanal filmmakers will emerge, fostered by the complete re-evolution of the economic and social foundation of film that has taken place in the meantime. (Think: studios floundering while digital technology helps individuals learn how to get by with less.) By the time we hit, oh, say 2025, things'll really be cooking again. It'll be like France in the 50s, and we'll finally get some truly cool American movies on our screens.

Corollary predictions:

1. We'll see a surge in third-world filmmaking. Africa will begin producing some of the most interesting new filmmakers; directors from India will rock our worlds.

2. The antipodean film industry will founder, and subsequently will miraculously re-discover its cinematic roots.

3. Canadian film will become as respected as British television.

4. Short films will become hugely popular in their own right.

5. Abstraction will finally get some respect.

So, just my bitter/hopeful fantasy? Or the Way of the Future?

I guess we'll find out, huh?
7:13 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My friend Ben has made Screenhead for the second time. (I'm not sure if I'm still not allowed to link to the site that got him on the first time, but if I'm not, I should be, so fuck it.)

I myself am a staunch supporter of Ben's work, and will defend his honor to the metaphorical death -- the boy's a fuckin' genius. This particular entry is sorta frustrating, though, because I've actually never seen this film, but I can't watch it now because I haven't got the bandwidth for it. (I do, however, have the Mfer song on my hard drive, handed down from generation to generation. It's catchy; I find myself singing it in traffic a lot.)
12:24 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, January 24, 2006
She's Just Jealous

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I've had three different conversations on the subject of gay marriage. Two of them were mutually pro-equal rights, and the third was with someone who is ostensibly liberal/progressive but subjectively uncomfortable with the idea -- they threw out the same "marriage is for procreation" bullshit I hear from anti-rights people. Which is reasonable proof that leftiness is no miracle cure for bigotry.

But it's interesting, isn't it, how often the conversation really comes down to a question of what marriage is. And that question invariably leads me to brush up against my own ingrained attitudes. Here's my big admission (which a couple of you have already heard): there's a significant part of me that really wants civil unions.

And my instant follow-up qualifier: ...which is not to say that I don't also want completely equal marriage rights for my gay and lesbian sistren and brethren. I want both. My attitude has always been that GLBT folks should be as free to fuck up their lives as straight people. It's just that I also really want civil unions for myself. (What, you thought that if civil union legislation was enacted, it would only be for gay people? But that would be discriminatory!)

As should be obvious to anyone who knows me, I really, really don't trust the concept of marriage. We could sit around and analyze the roots of my attitude -- growing up in a multiply-broken home might have something to do with it, but I know plenty of other people who grew up similarly and embraced marriage (maybe even over-embraced it.) Or maybe it has to do with my own history: I've had brushes with marriage -- have even been right on the cusp of doing it -- and I backed away from the edge of the abyss at the last moment. Furthermore, in retrospect it's undeniably clear to me that it would have been a lamentable mistake to go through with it in any of those cases. (And the one time when I desperately wanted to marry would've been the worst mistake of all -- I can guarantee that at this point, had I done it, I'd be either divorced and full of regret, or still married and miserable.) Or maybe it's just the age. I'm at that point in life where lots of my friends have married, and almost as many are now or have recently been in the process of divorcing. I watch people I love get turned into emotional hamburger by their marriages, and it starts to look like a no-win situation.

In the end, though, I suspect I'm just not the marrying type. As a little girl, I think I spent all of ten minutes fantasizing about a fairy-princess wedding... and then I got back to the important business of doing things to Barbie that would give any concerned parent pause (and thanks, Mom, for bringing that up.) I can't even relate to the fetishization of weddings, or the idealization of something that is, at the end of the day, essentially a business contract. Which isn't to say that I never, ever would get married myself -- but there would have to be some damn compelling practical reason to do it. Most of those practical reasons, of course, could also be met (without the attendant baggage of the M-word) through civil union. And at least then the concept of a legally-binding contract is explicit in the experience, and not a source of disillusionment a few years down the road.

But hey, maybe I've just developed a jaundiced view. It's kinda silly, I know, to feel okay with a concept by one name and not by another (which is essentially what I'm saying here -- that a marriage by a different name might feel less oppressive.) But I don't know... there's an old feminist adage that claims marriage was only ever designed for one and a half people, and that feels at least mostly true to me. And while marriage is (or should be) something that can develop in response to the needs of a society and culture, does it ever completely lose its previous connotations? For example, my biggest problem with marriage is the underlying attitude of ownership; one party owns the other (or in the case of modern marriage, both people own each other equally.) For myself, I feel no desire to own anyone, and I sure as fuck don't want to be owned, even on a strictly 1:1 basis. I know this will sound horribly new-agey, but why can't people just be together for as long as they want to be together, and then, when they're done being together, leave? (Because sometimes, no matter how good a thing once was, you're just done.) What's the point of codifying it in the form of a legal arrangement? "Darling, our love is so pure and so eternal, let's make it contractually binding." How romantic! At least a real legal contract, without a mass of unspoken assumptions and social expectations hanging off of it, could be tailored to a given couple, altered when necessary, and broken cleanly when it was no longer serving the interests of those involved. Just the word "wedlock" makes me take a few metaphorical steps back -- how much more like a prison sentence could they make it sound?

So, no, I don't get it. I'm not against it as such -- people can do whatever people want, and just because old-school marriage is something that fills me with anxiety and makes me want to flee doesn't mean it isn't ideal for someone else. I'm not looking to stop anyone from having their fairy-princess wedding if that's what they want. I'm just looking for some other options, y'know? I'm all for committment, I'm all for devotion, and I'm all for responsibility --especially to children; a parent's relationship to their child is, as far as I'm concerned, the one truly inviolable human bond. But -- and I say this from a great deal of first-hand experience -- the parent-child relationship really doesn't have all that much to do with the relationship between parents. Either can flourish or wither independent of the other, which is why I tend to discount that issue in this kind of conversation. The average proponent of so-called "traditional marriage" would obviously disagree, but then, the average proponent of so-called "traditional marriage" would rather be "right" (read: self-righteous) than happy.

Still, if any of you married suckers want to enlighten me, I am actually quite open to having my irrational prejudices challenged. Why'd you do it? What do you get out of it? What does marriage get you that would be impossible otherwise? (And I mean wholly and exclusively inherent to marriage, ie, not stuff that would be equally well-served by some decent civil union legislation.) There are obviously a lot of important issues I haven't even touched on here, but which matter to most married people (if not so much to me personally at this point in my life.) I'm not the right person to bring them up, but maybe you are. (That's what comments are for, you lazy bastards.)
2:50 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Saturday, January 21, 2006
Meme Me

Shaw sez tag.

"The Rules: The first player of this game starts with the topic "five weird habits" and people who get tagged need to write an entry about their five weird habits as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose the next five people to be tagged and link to their web journals(only if you want to). Don't forget to leave a comment in their blog or journal that says "You have been tagged" (assuming they take comments) and tell them to read yours."

Okay, fine -- My Five Weirdest Habits:

1. I'm perfectly capable of sitting in meditative silence, but as soon as the television comes on, I've got to be doing something. I always keep a book or magazine open when I'm watching television. Also, when I'm sitting at the computer, I have a habit of making stuff out of whatever office supplies are at hand -- little sculptures of tape, sticky notes, paper clips, pencils, staples,string/floss, plastic straws, printer paper, correction fluid... whatever. I really should take up knitting or something.

2. I'm really laid back and philosophical about big things that go wrong, but little annoyances are always greeted with obscenities. Frustrating, fiddly manual tasks often turn into prolonged muttered rants made up mostly of the word "cocksucker." Whenever I'm irritated with something (but never someone), it invariably becomes a cocksucker. I almost never use this word otherwise. Weirder still, I'm never actually angry when I do this -- it's more like a little chant to convince whatever object I'm having trouble with to do what I want it to do.

3. If I'm sitting idly -- watching TV, at the computer, or just waiting for something to happen -- and I have nothing else to fiddle with, I'll always start messing with my hair. I just can't fucking keep my hands out of my hair.

4. When I can remember, I generally carry a yo-yo around with me to keep me from doing all of the above. The yo-yo is my path to happiness -- except that if anybody sees me with one, they instantly assume I'm a complete doofus. Which isn't necessarily untrue, it just seems like an unfair assumption to make.

5. In spite of all of this, I persist in my strongly-held belief that I'm really a very calm person.

Who I'm tagging: hell no, I ain't tagging any of you grouchy bastards. People get too bent out of shape about memes -- except for Shaw, and obviously he's already done this one. (Although I bet he's got at least five more, even weirder habits that he just doesn't want any of us to know about.)

If anybody wants to participate, they can do so on a voluntary basis, either on their own blogs or in the comments. And if anybody wants to remind me of other weird habits of mine that I've neglected to mention, feel free to do that in the comments, too.
7:31 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

A Complete Waste Of My Day

I meant to, like, do something useful with my day, but noooooo... I got all distracted by Cubeoban instead. I'm up to level 30 so far, and now everything I see looks like Cubeoban. Not good.

So, I went looking for news online, and ended up getting distracted again by this weird little so-called MENSA test. I'm up to 21 -- enough to claim my "genius" bona fides, even if it did take me half an hour to get there. But there are at least four more that I'm this close to figuring out.

God damn it all to hell.

PS: Haha! Up to 24 now. Bask in my brilliance!

If anyone can figure out the answers to #s 8,11,14,15,17,20,28,30, or 31, let me know.

PPS: Turns out there are only 30 levels in Cubeoban. Yay on me!
5:48 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, January 19, 2006
Recommendations, Part III

I'm committed to turning out at least one more of these before I'm done this week. Then, next week, back to the bitching -- and I've got a couple of good ones saved up!


Chris Ware

Poor Chris Ware, I've been pimping him out to everyone lately. And I'm not sure why I've undertaken this sudden flurry of promotion -- the guy's not new to me, I've been following him for several years, and while he recently had a new collection out, I haven't had the money to buy it, so I can't recommend it specifically.

Furthermore, I'm not a comics kind of person. I've indulged in the occasional Sandman or Transmetropolitan graphic novel, and I think I even have an early Preacher graphic novel around somewhere; I also admit to owning a copy of Maus and one of In The Shadow of No Towers. But those are really more about the zeitgeist than about comics per se. (And, okay, I also love Robert Crumb. But who doesn't?)

But Ware is in a whole other category. This, again, isn't about comics per se, it's about art, plain and simple. If Ware were just a great comic-book artist, he'd have my respect, but not my money. But he's not just a comic-book artist -- the man is a fucking genius.

I've included a couple of full-page scans (edit: I haven't been able to include them yet, because they're really hard to scan in well. But if anyone around Memphis wants to see, ask me, and we can arrange a book loan.) but they hardly do justice to Ware's talents. The thing is, while his short strips can contain immense pathos, he's one of those artists whose work really has to be taken as a whole to be fully appreciated. Okay, so "Quimby the Mouse" (the despair of the average suburban mouse) lacks narrative ties to "Rusty Brown" (the despair of the social misfit) or "Dick Public" (the emptiness of a shallow life) or "Tales of Tomorrow" (yet more despair in the emptiness of a shallow, average, suburban misfit's life) or "Jimmy Corrigan" (all of the above, taking place over generations). The bleakness still compounds through every storyline's association with every other. In a single page, a character can peek into a frame, and in a series of convoluted (but beautiful) frames, Ware will detail their entire origin: sperm, egg, birth, rejection, adoption, a conflicted growing-up, and here we are. And all without a word of exposition. That takes some doing.

His more recent works have featured a heavy line on fatherhood and the pitfalls thereof -- apparently he had a baby, and now he's obsessing over the apparent impossibility of raising a functional human being. It's a dark ride he's on, but not one without love, not without a desire to find something beautiful and meaningful. Just not counting on it, either.

And as if all that weren't enough, he has to go and make his work graphically stunning, too. The books of his work are incredibly -- even absurdly -- well-designed: every single surface of the book is covered with stuff to look at. The spine, the endpapers, the underside of the band of paper attached to the cover (in such a way that you can't actually read the strip printed thereon without damaging the book, a favorite Ware prank). There's even a strip printed on the edges of the cover -- a man's conception, infancy, blissful childhood, sexual awakening, first romance, marriage, the birth of a child, his working life, the death of his mother, the departure of the child, more years of meaningless work, retirement, old age, and death... all drawn in 110 tiny frames on the edges of the cover. Jesus fucking Christ.

And then there's the text. I won't even go into the text. I spent a whole day reading it -- and I'm obligated to say that it was some of the funniest, darkest stuff I've read -- but I feel like I barely made a dent in it. And I won't go into the subject of the bizarre little paper-construction toys always included in the books, based on the comics -- again, you can't make them without destroying the book, but I'm willing to bet that if you did, they'd actually work. This is the work of a brilliant obsessive.

Anyway, I suggest starting with the Acme Novelty Library, or if you're ambitious with Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth. It was Jimmy Corrigan that sold me (but I'd spring for the hardback copy if you can find one; the paperback just doesn't quite hold the full measure of Ware's genius, somehow.)
2:23 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Recommendations, Part II

Today, after a few days' delay, I caught a matinee showing of Brokeback Mountain. And I'm not going to repeat the same obligatory points that have been made in every single review written on the film. They're all true: it is indeed a film about two guys in love with each other that is not overtly "gay," and that's very interesting and will no doubt stand as a pivot point in the history of gay cinema. We all know that by now, so I'll say no more about it.

What I personally found much more interesting is the image of masculinity invoked in the film -- particularly as it pertains to love and romantic/sexual affection. In spite of both characters being ostensibly "queer" (or not, according to their protestations), this film is positively dripping with testosterone -- these are cowboys, for fuck's sake, and not the cliche, Village People kind. That scenario makes for a very loaded story working around some tricky questions: what's the nature of masculinity? What assumptions lie at the core of homosexual identity, and male identity, and both together? So, yeah, the "point" of the film is that this love story between two men is just a love story like any other -- but even without the influence of gay culture, that's a hell of a big statement, and one that reaches to the core of our social assumptions. How do two men go about loving each other? And I'm not being facetious or rhetorical in asking that -- seriously, how do two men go about loving each other? Stripped of all the trappings of being out and proud, removed from queer identity, reduced to its basic essence, in and of itself, what's that relationship like? How does it work? And why haven't I ever asked that question before?

I'm waiting impatiently for more men I know to see it, because I want to know how true these characters are. And I don't just want to hear from the gay guys, but the straight ones too. The men I've gotten closest to are often surprised to hear me say this (which I don't understand, because it seems so obvious), but men are spectacularly mysterious creatures to me, and an eternal source of fascination. Putting two of them together where they inhabit some emotional space beyond feminine influence drives me absolutely mad with curiosity, and this is case in point. It's been criticized in some circles for not having "heart" (that bullshit word film critics use when they can't actually explain or describe the emotional effect something's had on them), and I can sort of understand what they mean -- the initial sex scene is abrupt, rough bordering on violent, utterly de-romanticized, and purely lust-driven -- in other words, everything we're not used to seeing in a cinematic love story. I admit, I found the setup and eventual payoff surprising and possibly a little empty, and that might just be down to a directorial problem, but I suspect not, at least where artistic intention is concerned. I know enough about men and sex to know that abrupt, rough, and unromantic are perfectly likely adjectives; put two men together and I would imagine the chances of their cropping up increase exponentially. So maybe what we really mean when we say it was abrupt or rough or unromantic is that it would never have happened that way in a "normal" sex scene involving a man and a woman. Which, of course, is the rub (no pun intended): there's no woman involved. Huh.

The point is underlined by comparisons with these two men in their corresponding encounters with women. Homoerotic horseplay (with a big, tough cowboy) is a completely different thing from hetero-erotic horseplay (with a delicate, non-threatening little flower of womanhood), and frankly, I know which one looks like more fun (albeit more dangerous... but that's where the fascination lies, no?) Subsequent scenes between the guys are more romanticized, but not by much -- there's more kissing, but still a lot of restrained struggle for dominance. And that's fucking hot.

Or maybe that's just wishful thinking on my part. We see what we want to see, right?

Also, the point I cannot set aside: Heath Ledger is the most beautiful man alive. And I don't even dig blondes -- that's how stunning this man is. (And that pouty little mouth of his... sweet Jesus.)

PS: And (perhaps sadly) there's not a bit of pudding involved, so I don't want to hear about it being an "art" film. It's not.

PPS: Suck it, John Wayne.
11:36 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

So, I was just sitting here, idly reading the inter-campus forum from my recent alma-mater, thinking, "gee, I sure am glad I don't have to cope with snow anymore."

And then, ten minutes later, I glance out the window... snow.

The weather... it mocks me.
4:37 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Sunday, January 15, 2006
Recommendations, Part I

There are at least a dozen posts I've been meaning to write here, mostly about wonderful things I've found over the last few months that others might also find wonderful. But I just never get around to it. Still, since I promised to write something happy, it seems like a good excuse to put the Sister Novena seal of approval on a few of these items. None of them are new, but I think they're all interesting and worth your time if you're curious. I'll be posting about them over the course of the week, starting with:


It sounds like an obscure Norwegian black metal band, and that's closer to the truth than I'd like. But it is, in fact, a seminal 1922 Swedish silent film, and there's a gorgeous Criterion DVD available, so you've got no excuse not to watch it.

This isn't one of those dry silent "masterpieces" that's only tolerable to those of us propped up by years of conditioning to sit through even the most mind-numbing canonical films. This one's actually entertaining. In a nutshell: it's a kind of proto-documentary about witchcraft through history, and it goes into great, dramatic detail on the subject of witch trials and all of the unpleasant superstition surrounding them. It's a beautiful film, all masterful chiaroscuro and high-contrast design. It's also unfortunately capped off with a weak section comparing medieval "witches" to modern hysterics (which doubtless made more sense in 1922); how much better the film would be if the interpretation had been left open-ended. Eventually even the director acknowledged it was a mistake, but left the section in the film out of respect for his original vision -- so we can give him credit for integrity, anyway.

But what's in it for you? Well, the image of Satan, tongue incessantly flicking, madly churning butter in the general direction of an impressionable old crone is worth the price of admission by itself. It also contains the best nun scene I've seen in any film, ever... and I know my nuns. And it was huge in French surrealist circles, apparently.

But wait, there's more! The film was "re-done" in 1968 -- that is to say, a bunch of ex-beatniks found it and dubbed a whole new soundtrack for it. The intertitles are mostly gone, and in their place is an intermittent, semi-accurate narration by William S. Burroughs. Then underneath, there's a credible jazz score with Jean-Luc Ponty on violin. So what's not to love? Of course, it's a completely different film experience, and to be honest, the "re-working" is a trainwreck. Burroughs is always worth the time, but here he's wasted as a straight-up narrator. (Seems like someone there might've been creative enough to conceive of a full-scale Beat rewrite, but maybe that's only obvious in a post-What's Up, Tiger Lily? world.) The jazz works okay during the devil/demon sequences, but the rest of the time I was wincing -- the score misses all the important parts and never feels cohesive, just slapped-on. Even so, the re-make is a motherlode of subcultural joy, for the sheer absurdity of it if nothing else.

I picked it up because it was an early favorite at Cinema 16, and I've been trying to watch as many of Amos Vogel's picks as I can find. Most of them are fascinating but challenging to watch. Imagine my delight at finding one that I could love right out of the box. If you're feeling ambitious, I recommend following it up with Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc (also available in a Criterion edition that finally renders it watchable.) And that one has a slapped-on "score" that's actually worth having.
3:16 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Saturday, January 14, 2006
Looking For A New Forum

Sorry, Nelson, but it has to be done.

As a few of my readers -- well, one of you, anyway -- might be aware, for the last year and a half I've been privileged to serve as a moderator on the forum of a lefty-political radio dude on a national network that I shall leave unidentified. That forum, however, has seen better days, and I'm not getting much out of it anymore. Internet fora are a tricky business at the best of times, and often hardly worth the effort. And compared to real-life, face-to-face interaction, they're always a poor substitute. Still, I've met enough interesting people and had enough good conversations that I know a better forum is possible.

The thing is, a blog is necessarily mostly a one-way street; and socially, I'm not likely to have satisfying conversations with more than a few new people every year. I need more than that. I need to exchange ideas, I need to be challenged now and then, and I need to meet people who are completely different from me. The internet forum is an excellent (if flawed) tool for that.

So I'm looking for recommendations. Anybody know anyplace where people are generally cool and the topics of conversation are varied? It doesn't have to be political -- in fact, I'd really prefer it wasn't overtly political (although an inclination towards liberalism is a good thing.)

Any suggestions, anyone?
9:16 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, January 13, 2006
I Do Believe My Sides Have Split

Best. Blonde joke. EVAR.

Be sure to read until the end.

You especially, Mom... you'll love it!
12:35 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, January 12, 2006

What's my fucking problem, you ask?

Well, what's your fucking problem?!

There are times when that time of your life coincides with that time of the month (or more precisely in my case, 7 - 10 days prior to that time of the month*) in such a way that one is rendered unfit for social interaction. At least if one has hopes of retaining all of one's friends.

(Unenlightened men may wish to avert their eyes at this point.)

I've spent the last few days hip-deep in a particularly rough bout of PMS, which is the reason behind the relative quiet around here... there's a good deal of whining inherent to blogging, but I try to be one of those who knows when to let it out and when to suffer in isolation. (Though honestly, you could see it coming in that last post.) It took me a bit by surprise, because while a day or so of somewhat-increased aversion to humanity isn't unusual (though also not inevitable), this three-day journey through low-estrogen hell was rather unprecedented. I got through it without hurting anyone's feelings, I think, but perhaps only because I sequestered myself so completely. I'm still feeling a little sensitive as I write this. For me, that usually means a tendency towards irritation, a tendency to more readily take offense at perceived insults, and a general, all-pervasive sense of frustration and discontent. My personal version of PMS seems to be of the aggressive variety; thank god, I was spared weepiness.

You've been there, you know what I'm talking about.

As it's often noted (by women), it's odd that this phenomenon occurs to half the human population on a monthly basis for more half their lives, and yet short of sharing a bathroom with one of us, you'd never know it.

Anyway, the thing that I wish more men understood (hell, I wish more women understood it, too) is that the stuff that bugs us when we're hormone-addled is the same stuff that bothers us all the rest of the time, too. It's just that for a window of a day or two every month, we get the opportunity to be really in touch with how much it bothers us. Estrogen is a friendly chemical that forces us to be nice to people (depending on personality, YMMV) no matter how aggravating they are. But once it all drains away, our natural buffer is gone and we're left with a month's worth of annoyance to cope with. Me, I'm pretty good-natured and laid-back anyway, so generally this isn't any big deal. But this last month has been a challenging one, and presently I'm working my way through some deferred anxiety about coming home again (which, as is also often noted, you cannot do.)

I really hate this part of things. Coming back and trying to fit back into a social group that has been continuing to change and evolve while you were away is like trying to join into a complex conversation already in progress -- first you have to catch up with everyone else, and then you have to find a new way to fit yourself in. At the moment I'm just feeling alienated and frustrated, though I'm trying to remind myself that this will eventually pass. At least, it did last summer. By the time I had to leave, I was finally starting to feel at home again. I've also got a little professional-jealousy thing going on, in not one but several directions -- all of which are completely meaningless, but still. And I hate that I feel that way, because it's unfair and unproductive, but it comes unbidden.

Taken all together, it left me feeling especially raw this time around -- although compared to a lot of people, I was probably still a model of calm and patience.I guess that's the positive side of this natural reserve -- it takes a lot to get me genuinely upset, and I have yet to find the provocation sufficient to draw out any potential for abusiveness or nastiness (and I've been heavily provoked, I assure you.) Ironically, the one thing guaranteed to produce a reaction is any suggestion that my irritability is connected to my hormones -- that one's dangerous to attempt even in jest. Especially when I'm hormonal. Seriously, don't try it, it will end in tears. And I already pointed out that I'm not weepy, so you know I'm not talking about my own.

Anyway, in other business, I've got a friend about whom I'm rather worried. This guy is young, and he's a sweet, likeable, friendly guy who's got a hard enough history that I find myself feeling almost protective of him, and yet who's also cheerful enough that you can tell he's made it through his difficult life intact. I think. I hope.

The thing is, he seems to be becoming awfully attached to his recreational chemicals. Or that's how it seems to me -- pointing out, of course, that I can be flinchy where drugs and alcohol are concerned. So maybe it's my problem and not his... and to be honest, it's none of my fucking business anyway. And I'm a staunch believer in minding my own business, so I take that part of the equation seriously.

I could probably stand to state a few key tenets at this point:

1) I've got nothing against drinking or drug use; I'm wholeheartedly liberal when it comes to mind-altering substances. People can make their own decisions and live with their own consequences (which I happily acknowledge also include things like enhanced creativity, enhanced awareness, and numerous kinds of pleasure, and not just the unlikely, dark scenarios spouted by egg-frying PSAs.) I am fully aware that, just as not everyone who takes a drink inevitably becomes the screeching wino squatting in the alleyway, not everyone who pops the occasional pill or snorts the occasional line will eventually find themselves squatting in the next alley over from the wino, using a dirty needle to shoot heroin into the veins behind their eyeballs. Drug use and responsibility can indeed coexist peacefully in the same person. And that's cool with me.

2) The other side of the story for me, though, is that during my teenage years my life was ripped to tiny pieces by someone who was heavily dependent on both alcohol and drugs, and in a very destructive way (to the point that he literally destroyed himself, and very nearly destroyed all that remains of my close family.) So there's definitely an element of irrational, reflexive dread at play. So while I have nothing against substance use, I do have a tendency to quietly, politely excuse myself from a room when a certain kind of drunkeness or fucked-up-ness presents itself. I can't quite explain how one kind of drunkeness differs from another, except to say that I know it when I see it.

3) And as for me, I'm essentially a teetotaler (barring a seasonal happy, tequila-fuelled buzz), but I think I would've been anyway. I've just never felt any attraction to the sensation of being under the influence of anything; in fact, I'm more inclined to feel unnerved or even panicky at the feeling of having my consciousness altered. When it comes to my mind, I'm a minor control freak, and thus probably a guaranteed bad trip.. or, on the other hand, maybe I could use to have some control temporarily wrested from my grip. Regardless, I am not experienced.

The point is, I've got my own issues about this, so maybe I'm not fit to even have an opinion on anyone else's drug and alcohol use. And even if I did have the right to an opinion, it's not like I'm going to do anything about it... except fret over the poor boy.

I mean, he drinks, and he drinks quite a bit. But then, young adults do drink a lot, so he's not unusual in that regard. It's more his eagerness that bothers me -- not only the eagerness to take advantage of any drinking opportunity that comes up, but also to make opportunities to drink. His drinking is still social, but I worry that it's only because he can always find someone to drink with him. And then, the thing that really set off the alarms in my mind: last time I saw him, the boy was flying several hundred feet above the surface of the earth. He could refocus sufficiently to respond to questions, but he'd fade out again before he finished his answers. But mostly it was the expression on his face. The slack, unfocused, zombie expression -- the junkie face. I shuddered inwardly.

But really, it's none of my fucking business. He's a grown man, and I'm not his mommy. All I can do is hope that he comes out okay in the end.

Tomorrow: I pledge to talk about something happy.**

* Myself, I'm partial to Communist-themed euphamisms: hence, "I've fallen to the Communists;" "the Bolshevik Army is storming my Winter Palace;" "Chairman Mao has set up party headquarters in my southern provinces."

It's pretty hard to think up one for Cuba, though.

** Pointing out that by "tomorrow," I really mean "by Monday, hopefully."
12:59 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Sunday, January 08, 2006
Neither Here Nor There

I'm feeling restless tonight. I want to go out and do something with somebody, but I can't think of who to ask, or where we'd go if I got anyone to agree. I really felt like going and sitting by the pond at Audubon Park today, reading or writing or just shooting the breeze. Instead, I took a drive in the morning; then I came home, opened the window in my room to admit some air and light, and spent the afternoon reading and snoozing. But I couldn't relax completely, because what I really wanted was to be out doing something, with somebody. Frustrating.

I was in an odd mood last night, too. I had a sort of emotional flashback to London, which left me feeling wistful. A long time ago, I used to sit up at night and listen to a webstream of music from a London radio station; I'd listen to songs by bands that nobody in the US had ever heard of, presented by people with peculiar variants on the only English accent I knew then. And I'd try to wrap my mind around the idea that what I was hearing was happening at almost that exact moment (and yet hours later), far away, in a place I'd never been to. I would feel remote from the world, adrift in a life I'd never experienced.

A few years later, the same thing would happen in reverse: I'd sit in my room in one of the flats I lived in (Tooting, or Mile End, or the Isle of Dogs) and try to visualize how far from home I was. I'd try to remember what home was like, to feel it viscerally as though I were there. I'd lay in bed and imagine the arrangement of my room in Memphis, feel it around me; then I'd open my eyes and enjoy the surprise of not finding it there.

After a while, though, I couldn't really remember what life in America was like. For a couple of years, at least, I was thoroughly a Londoner; I remember in 2000 going to the embassy and being struck by how much it seemed designed as an oasis of American-ness in the middle of Mayfair. I remember looking at quarters and dollar bills and seeing them as foreign money -- my eyes were accustomed to the relative softness of the Queen's face and to the elaborate curlicues of calligraphic script. Suddenly stars and eagles looked blunt and militaristic. It was money with no subtlety, just like the culture it came from.

And yet I've never felt as "American" as I did in London. Living abroad, you finally get an opportunity to learn what that actually means. Not the "land of the free, home of the brave" cliche, but the actual place of America and Americans in the world: our simplicity, our gift for self-contradiction, our potential for both transcendence and delusion. I could go on about this for a long time -- suffice to say, living abroad was one of the defining events of my life; few things in life have altered me as profoundly and those three years did. Visiting another country is one thing; living abroad is something else completely.

Anyway, last night... I was lying in bed, and semi-consciously ran through my old exercise in reverse: trying to imagine my last room in London in the place of my room here. Trying to feel the distance between here and there. Remembering the sound of the Docklands Light Rail in the distance. Mapping in my mind the oxbow in the Thames that curled around the district in which I lived. Recalling the route I used to walk from the school, through the Tudor alleyway of Covent Garden, down to the Embankment, across the train bridge (with the best night-time view of St. Paul's), past the Royal Festival Hall, under Victorian arches to Waterloo station. And having projected myself that far, the act of opening my eyes and finding myself in Mississippi was almost vertigonous.

But you've done that, too, I'm sure.
7:34 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Friday, January 06, 2006
Poking Holes To Let In Some Light

Sometimes my mother starts feeling her oats and challenges my politics via one of those Republican viral emails. What follows is her original email (in italics) and my responses.

Things that make you think a little:

I doubt it, but I'm willing to give it a try.

There were 39 combat related killings in Iraq in January.

According to whom? By what count? And in which January?

If we're talking about American troops, the number is blatantly false. According to the DOD's own count, in January of 2004, 47 American soldiers died; in January of 2005, 108 died; in January of 2006 (of which, obviously, only a week has passed) we're already up to twelve.

If we're talking about American troops plus coalition and Iraqi forces, the number is undoubtedly much higher. If we're talking about American troops, coalition and Iraqi forces, plus insurgents, it's much, much higher. And if we're talking about American troops, coalition and Iraqi forces, insurgents and innocent civilians -- then we have no idea how high the numbers are. But I'd be willing to bet that they're a fucking hell of a lot higher than 39.

In the fair city of Detroit there were 35 murders in the
month of January. That's just one American city,
about as deadly as the entire war-torn country of Iraq

Sorry, untrue.

Putting aside that, again, we don't know which January we're talking about here, and pointing out that the actual number of murders in Detroit during any given month is a number that's essentially impossible to prove unless you have access to police records (which is probably why the number "35" is presented without sourcing of any kind), we can confidently say this much: Detroit has an average annual murder rate of roughly 40 per 100,000 citizens. This is certainly very high, one of the highest in the nation. Now, given that Detroit has a population of approximately 950,000 people, that means that the average number of murders annually would run about 380, or just over 30 per month.

Since the war began, 2193 American troops have died over the course of 33.75 months. That's roughly 65 deaths per month. Which means, of course, that if we are indeed talking about troop deaths, Iraq is nearly twice as deadly as Detroit.

Of course, that's hardly a reasonable comparison, since Detroit is made up of a total population, while the American troop death figures encompass merely a slim portion of the total population of Iraq. So what we really need to do is compare total deaths to total deaths. Since the DOD takes no formal count of civilian deaths, that's an almost impossible figure to calculate. Luckily, though, your own preferred authority -- George W. Bush himself -- recently gave us his estimate of combat-related civilian deaths: 30,000. That number is generally assumed to be a low-ball, but for the purposes of argument, we'll accept it for now.

So, 30,000 civilians plus 2193 troops = 32,193 total deaths, divided by 33.75 months = holy crap...

That's almost 954 deaths per month, and that's a modest estimate. It's also, you've no doubt noticed, rather higher than the typical monthly murder rate in Detroit. By a factor of 30. So the violence in Iraq is like Detroit, squared.

When some claim that President Bush shouldn't
have started this war, state the following:

a. FDR led us into World War II.

True enough.

b. Germany never attacked us; Japan did.
>From 1941-1945, 450,000 lives were lost .
an average of 112,500 per! year.

Of course, Japan and Germany (and Italy, don't forget Mussolini) were explicit allies in WWII. Furthermore, by the time the US entered the War -- two years after it began -- the Germans had already toppled several other nations and were busily pounding the living shit out of England. (Remember, before "shock and awe" there was "blitzkrieg".) Which, I think you'll agree, is a far cry from Hussein, who in 2001 was an ally to nobody and hadn't attacked anyone at all in nearly a decade. And that's not even taking into account that whole "holocaust" thing.

And 24 million people died in World War II, not 450,000. Just FYI.

c. Truman finished that war and started one in Korea.
North Korea never attacked us.

And you know what? Had I been alive at the time (I wouldn't be born for another 22 years) I might have opposed that war, too.

>From 1950-1953, 55,000 lives were lost ...
an average of 18,334 per year.

Actually, the total casualty figures are 2.5 million. It's important to be accurate, you know.

d John F. Kennedy started the Vietnam conflict in 1962.
Vietnam never attacked us.

e. Johnson turned Vietnam into a quagmire.
>From 1965-1975, 58,000 lives were lost .
an average of 5,800 per year.

Again, this is all true. And again, had I been alive at the time, I'd have opposed that war.

It's worth pointing out, of course, that the Vietnam war didn't end under Johnson. The Republican Nixon kept it rolling along for another four years ('68-'73), during which time the weekly death rate among troops skyrocketed. He also instigated that messy little incident in Cambodia.

f. Clinton went to war in Bosnia without UN or French consent.
Bosnia never attacked us.

Uhmm... the UN was involved in Bosnia from the very beginning of the war; NATO joined in later as well. In fact, Clinton was involved in Bosnia because of the UN/NATO ties -- the Dayton accords that ended the conflict were a NATO function.

PS: Chirac was there, too.

He was offered Osama bin Laden's head on a platter three
times by Sudan and did nothing. Osama has attacked us on
multiple occasions.

And where's Bin Laden now?

(I also seem to remember something about a memo titled, "Bin Laden determined to strike inside the US"...)

g. In the years since terrorists attacked us , President Bush
has liberated two countries,

Which two?

crushed the Taliban,

You know the Taliban is still active in Afghanistan, right?


And all thirty of Bin Laden's #2 men.

put nuclear inspectors in Libya, Iran, and North
Korea without firing a shot,

With a good deal of UN assistance in each case.

and captured a terrorist who
slaughtered 300,000 of his own people.

And only killed 30,000 - 100,000 more people in the process.

The Democrats are complaining
about how long the war is taking.
But ..
It took less time to take Iraq than it took Janet Reno
to t ake the Branch Davidian compound.
That was a 51-day operation.

I hate to be pedantic, but the Iraq war has so far taken exactly 985 days (probably more like 988 by the time you read this.) And we haven't "taken" Iraq yet. We were told we would by now -- the words "cakewalk" and "flowers and candy" spring to mind. But if we had, ironically enough, we wouldn't be having this conversation now.

We've been looking for evidence for chemical weapons
in Iraq for less time than it took Hillary Clinton to find
the Rose Law Firm billing records.

Yes, but 1) we knew those records actually existed; and 2) I don't think anybody died in the process.

It took less time for the 3rd Infantry Division and the
Marines to destroy the Medina Republican Guard
than it took Ted Kennedy to call the police after his
Oldsmobile sank at Chappaquiddick

Also considerably less time than it's taken for George W. to produce his complete National Guard record.

It took less time to take Iraq than it took
to count the votes in Florida!!!!

Even less time than black people had to stand in line to vote in Ohio! Even less time than other black people had to wait on their roofs to be resuced after Katrina! This is fun!

Our Commander-In-Chief is doing a GREAT JOB!

A heckuva job!

The Military Morale is high!

Tell that to these guys.

The biased media hopes we are too ignorantto realize the facts

Funnily enough, I think exactly the same thing every time you turn on FOX News.

But Wait there's more!

My bladder is positively bursting in anticipation.

Mon, 26 Jan 2004 11:13

You do realize that John Glenn is a Democrat, right?

Some people still don't understand why military personnel
do what they do for a living. This exchange between
Senators John Glenn and Senator Howard Metzenbaum
is worth reading. Not only is it a pretty impressive
impromptu speech, but it's also a good example of one
man's explanation of why men and women in the armed
services do what they do for a living.

This IS a typical, though sad, example of what
some who have never served think of the military.

A few other people who have never served in the military:

Dick Cheney
Paul Wolfowitz
Donald Rumsfeld
Condoleezza Rice
Rush Limbaugh
Bill O'Reilly
Sean Hannity
Ann Coulter

And one person who deserted during wartime:

George W. Bush

Anyway, back to the blah-blah-blah...

Senator Metzenbaum (speaking to Senator Glenn):
"How can you run for Senate
when you've never held a real job?"

Senator Glenn (D-Ohio):
"I served 23 years in the United States Marine Corps.
I served through two wars. I flew 149 missions.
My plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire on 12 different
occasions. I was in the space program. It wasn't my
checkbook, Howard; it was my life on the line. It was
not a nine-to-five job, where I took time off to take the
daily cash receipts to the bank."

"I ask you to go with me ... as I went the other day...
to a veteran's hospital and look those men
with their mangled bodies .. in the eye, and tell THEM
they didn't hold a job!

You go with me to the Space Program at NASA
and go, as I have gone, to the widows and Orphans
of Ed White, Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee...
and you look those kids in the eye and tell them
that their DADS didn't hold a job.

You go with me on Memorial Day and you stand in
Arlington National Cemetery, where I have more friends
buried than I'd like to remember, and you watch< waving>

I admit, I don't really understand where you're going with this. I mean, apart from Outer Wingnuttia, city of Fantasyland.

You stand there, and you think about this nation,
and you tell ME that those people didn't have a job?

What about you?"

What about me? I never said anything of the sort.

For those who don't remember .
During W.W.II, Howard Metzenbaum was an attorney
repres! enting the Communist Party in the USA.

Now he's a Senator!

Y'know, the Constitution says that everybody gets a lawyer. Even Communists.

Why do you hate the Constitution?

(Update: This passage continued to bother me after I posted this response. A little research revealed that John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum were both Democrats, and were both from the same home districts in Ohio. Why, I wondered, would a Democrat attack another Democrat on the floor of the Senate? And if they're from the same district, how did they both come to be in the Senate simultaneously? Especially considering the exchange above is noted as having taken place on January 26, 2004 -- five years after Glenn left the Senate and nine years after Metzenbaum did? Something didn't smell right.

Turns out, the story isn't entirely true.

Glenn and Metzenbaum ran against each other several times in Ohio. The speech transcribed above, while reasonably accurate, was actually made at the Cleveland City Club during the 1974 Democratic primary race for Ohio senator. And while Glenn said all of the above (or at least something very close to it), it turns out that Metzenbaum never accused Glenn of never having "held a job." He actually said that Glenn had never "made a payroll," which is a very differently-intended kind of statement.

Additionally, there's no evidence at all that Metzenbaum ever represented the Communist Party at any time during his career. I point that out not to relieve him of some perceived "guilt" in doing something both appropriate and legitimate, but simply to demonstrate that the core assumptions of this passaround email are incredibly flawed.)

If you can read this, thank a teacher.
If you are reading it in English thank a Veteran.

And if you're reading it in a nice office with decent working hours, paid holidays, health coverage, non-descrimination laws, and safe conditions... thank a liberal!

Well, that was fun. Better luck next time, mom.
5:13 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

If You Haven't Done Anything Wrong, You Don't Have Anything To Worry About

But you still might not be able to fly on an airplane.
5:03 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

A Special Message To Pat Robertson

Dear Pat,

I'm not one to wish bad things on people, truly. I make a special effort to consciously wish good things even for my most irritating enemies (of which there are blissfully few.) I believe that while some people are less successful at it than others, all of us are individually doing our best to get through this confusing life, and I try to give everyone the benefit of the doubt as far as I'm able.

So, in saying what I'm about to say, I acknowledge that I'm giving in to the less admirable aspects of my nature.

You, Mr. Robertson, at nearly 76 years old, are an elderly man. Even under the best circumstances, the end of your life is approaching. One day -- probably one none too distant -- some major illness or catastrophic injury will befall you, bringing you within scything range of the reaper.

And when that day comes, Mr. Robertson, providing God has not already harshly punished me for living my own life as I thought best, I will laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Sister Novena

PS: Why does it seem like the top half of your head has suddenly become so much larger than the bottom half? I could swear it didn't used to be like that.

Look for yourself:

Pat Robertson, then

Pat Robertson, now
12:32 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Thursday, January 05, 2006
On Your Knees, Sinner!

Wow, what a surprise... (yawn)

An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, police said.

Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon.

Latham, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said.

When he left jail, he said:

"I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police."

"Yeah, that's it... I was pastoring to police! So naturally I went up to some guy who didn't even look like a cop and offered to blow him." Because if they come in your mouth, that's how you know they're a sinner.

And bear in mind, this guy wasn't just some run-of-the-mill Okie Baptist preacher; he's on the Southern Baptist Convention executive committee. So he's a really important Okie Baptist preacher.

A fundamentalist hypocrite? Surely not!

PS: Over at Pharyngula, an interesting point is made: what exactly was Latham arrested for? Did the proposition include payment? If so, that makes the arrest even more amusing. And if it didn't... was he just arrested for hitting on a man? That's just wrong, even if the guy who did it is a flaming fundie hypocrite who deserves every ounce of humiliation he gets.

Maybe we should work to make Rev. Latham's case a cause célèbre for gay rights in Oklahoma, eh?
12:50 PM ::
Amy :: permalink


Okay, so here's the honest truth.

When I said this:

Go ahead, tape bug parts to a strip of 16mm and run it through the projector, Stan; I'll get the popcorn.

... I was actually sort of, you know, full of shit. The reality is that I had never seen Mothlight (Stan Brakhage's 4-minute 1963 experiment using bug parts and plant matter arranged between two layers of tape) when I said that. And I felt a little guilty about it. So I went out, found it, rented it, brought it home, and watched it.

It was good. If you like that sort of thing. I definitely preferred it to Duchamp's circles. It was helpful to have Brakhage's commentary on the film, explaining what he was doing and where the film came from... I won't spoil it for you, but it involved his grief in his inability to feed his children properly because of the expense of making all those damn films. So full points for using what you had to hand on this one, Stan.

I could also mention that Brakhage, it turns out, was a film professor in Colorado for many years, and taught (among many others, I'm sure) Matt Stone and Trey Parker... which means that in some twisted joke of the cosmos, without the sublime abstraction of Mothlight, we might never have had the pleasure of watching Martha Stewart stuff a whole turkey up her ass. I say this somewhat warily, but I think that must be indicative of some lamentable degredation of the state of film art. But who am I to judge?
12:26 PM ::
Amy :: permalink

Tuesday, January 03, 2006
The Next Small Thing

The holidays are over, and life is returning to normal. So... what next? I'm not even sure where to begin.

Intellectually and creatively, I feel like a high-strung dog in a field full of people carrying sticks, frisbees, and tennis balls. For the love of God, I whimper, somebody throw something! A few weeks off have left me completely re-energized (for the first time in years, I think), and I'm desperate for somebody to come play with me. So far, though, all those tantalizing projectiles are still hanging at everyone's sides.

Luckily, I've got my own stash of chew toys. In fact I've got so many I'm having to divide my weeks up between them -- yesterday I spent several hours working through an introductory lesson on CGI. My first accomplishment was modest to the point of being a bit pitiful: I made a little stick figure dude wearing an ugly hat. But -- and this is the point -- he was a three-dimensional stick figure dude wearing an ugly hat. And one of these days I'll make him dance. My interest obviously isn't in Pixar-style computer animation; to be honest, I've never been all that excited by animation of any kind. And I'm not particularly interested in flashy special effects... no spaceships or photo-realistic giant gorillas for me. I'm just in it for its cinematic applications (which is to say, non-flashy special effects.) It would be incredibly useful to know how to use a green screen effectively, or to use DV footage as a texture map, or to alter lighting or manipulate images on a level that isn't possible in Final Cut Pro. It's becoming one of those skills that any independent film artist should be familiar with, and I don't want to be beholden to anyone else to do the work for me. That would defeat the purpose of being independent, y'know?

Then this afternoon, I'm working on page layouts for my Secret Project. Which is only Secret because I haven't told anyone about it yet... or, at least, nobody in Memphis. And not because I'm hiding it, just because nobody's asked. Which is fine, since it's not ready yet anyway. Tomorrow might be a coffee shop day -- over the last year I've come to the conclusion that there are certain kinds of work I do better in public. I've got two screenplays to work on: one for another short film, and the other for a feature-length project. I feel odd about that second one -- it's not even close to time to think about features yet, and I think I'd want to have a good 5-10 solid shorts behind me before I began to contemplate that massive an undertaking. But the story's here, and while I'm not ready to shoot it I'm perfectly ready to start writing it, and hell, there's no time like the present. Inbetween all of this, my stack of reading is piling up, and we won't even discuss the amount of catch-up film-watching I want to do after a year of limited access.

I'm still trying to find my place in this town in creative terms. I'm well-connected to one reasonably significant film group in town, and socially I'm right at home there, but... creatively, not so much. My nascent style is quite different from the one that seems dominant there, less free-form and more intellectualized, more self-conscious, yet somehow, I think, less "stylish," less haute-cinema. To be perfectly honest, I'm feeling a bit bored with high style, even while I can see its value. Maybe that's sour grapes. However much I might admire it, for me it's always been a case of being outside looking in -- my own work just isn't like that. But seriously, how many species of "quirky" and "off-beat" can we digest before we're all bored stupid with it?

On the other hand, you could argue that I'm aiming for a style even more haute than that. I've spent a year soaking in art film of the wankiest sort, and it has left its mark on me. Pffft, who needs narrative? Not me. Go ahead, tape bug parts to a strip of 16mm and run it through the projector, Stan; I'll get the popcorn. I'm also interested in looking into the possibilities of projection -- extra-dimensional art of a less cinematic, more abstract kind. I'm curious about finding new kinds of display and exhibition, maybe making a few tentative expeditions into the jungles beyond the usual borders of film.

Maybe it's just that a year of taking film seriously, of thinking about it deeply, has left me thinking about my own work more deeply and taking myself more seriously. Combined with some self-indulgence in my reading, I seem to have tapped into a new and particularly deep-looking well of material. (I still didn't really grasp the physics, but the stuff about cellular biology and evolution made my world-view wrap pleasingly back on itself.) I haven't had this much creative energy at my disposal in years, and while that's absolutely a wonderful thing to find oneself with, it's requiring a bit of effort to channel it into some kind of productive structure. Where'd it all come from? I didn't have it a year ago, I know that much. Vermont may have had something to do with it, but it was holding me back as much as it was propelling me forward. But I'll be disgusted with myself if I don't manage to make something of it.
1:22 PM ::
Amy :: permalink