Wednesday, November 08, 2006
And boy howdy, have we witnessed one of those. These guys put the guys who got Harry Truman re-elected to shame. You see, while it's a bad thing to have a lousy president, it's one of those things that just happens. It only takes the wrong guy (Pierce), the right guy in the wrong place at the wrong time (Jimmy Carter), or even the right guy in the right place at the wrong time (G.H.W. Bush) to be a crappy, weak, or just plain uninspiring president. It only takes, at most, a couple of dozen people to have a truly rotten presidential administration (Harding, Nixon, and most of Reconstruction). But it takes a cast of hundreds to make an abysmal legislative branch.
And lookit what we've seen-- Tom DeLay (every minute of it). Ney and Cunningham. Denny Hastert and the Monkey Bunch (see no evil, hear no evil...), with Mark Foley in his Very Special headline-grabbing role. And that's just the House! The Senate provided us with Bridge to Nowhere, the Terri Schiavo Circus (starring Bill Frist and Rick Santorum) and the continued existence of Trent Lott. Not all of this was concentrated in the two years of this current Congressional session, but things reached a tipping point this year-- financial scandals, sex scandals, and the biggest scandal of all-- a legislative branch that didn't legislate. At all.
Really, you'd think they were facing a hostile president poised to veto like Andrew Jackson reincarnate, an 'activist' Supreme Court ready to declare their every act unconstitutional, and a rabid, filibuster-happy minority. Not, y'know, a Republican executive who didn't seem to be aware of his own veto power, a conservative-led court, and a spineless, cowering opposition.
'Scuse me, I was being critical of the new Masters of Capitol Hill (sort of). Back to them in a moment. Anyway, what are the achievements of the 109th Congress? Immigration reform? No. A balanced budget? Nope. A reasonable budget? Hell no. Anything resembling checks and balances? No. Any attempts to clean up their own ethical litter box? No. These people deserved to lose their jobs. The midterm election shouldn't just have been a referendum on the president, it should have been a referendum on, y'know, Congress.
On the other hand, Bush kind of insisted on making this election all about him. So, his party deserved to get smacked as his proxy. And the result-- a purge of Midwestern Republicans, Northeastern Republicans, some Californian Republicans (yes, they do exist). Not just "throw the bums" out, but "throw these particular bums out." No Democrat has lost his or her seat that I've seen. And it wasn't only the bums that went down, either-- at least one Republican Senator whose constituents thought he was doing a decent job lost because the voters in his state wanted to send a message to the president! Lincoln Chafee was just a sacrifice to the national weal. That's got to burn, man.
As for me, I voted for my state's Democratic incumbent senator, not because I liked her or anything she's done (which isn't much, really), but because she's a butt occupying a seat on the Democratic side of the aisle. I voted for her to give my state's other, better Senator a chance at reclaiming the reins at the Senate Armed Services Committee. And if things go blue in Montana and Virginia, he will.
I don't know what to expect from a Democratic House and Senate. I didn't really expect them to win either house, given all the bumbling of the past few years. Speaker (!?!) Pelosi? She's an Italian-American woman from SF, CA, so we're practically family and all, but she's got a mess on her hands now. But I do feel very relieved. Because what we have, technically speaking, is going to be gridlock. Gridlock is a much-maligned state of affairs. An executive-legislative stalemate means, in essence, that checks and balances are doing what they're supposed to do. Neither branch has leeway to screw over the country, and after six years of Bush II and Friends, I think we've had a tutorial in the dangers of unchecked executive power. Also, see Nixon, FDR, Jackson, John Adams... but none of them had a roll-over Congress quite like the 107th, 108th, and 109th. Not even Jackson, and he was known to shoot people he had disagreements with.
At its best, gridlock means that officials who want a legacy and spiffy achievements to put on their reelection campaign lit actually have to work together, deal and dialogue and do all that bipartisan stuff that's been under the rug since Tom DeLay started running amok. And, as I said above, given the sad and sorry legacy of the 109th Congress, even terminal gridlock is already a step up. At least then there's an excuse for nothing getting accomplished. The gentlemen and ladies who bear the responsibility for the 109th have no excuse at all. People can blame Bush for the Republicans taking a hit. But in an efficient democracy, the deadwood and filth of the lame-duck Republican majority should have lost power on their own demerits.
Enjoy private life, Santorum and all the rest of you. Say hi to Donald Rumsfeld while you're there.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Criminy, even the in-flight magazine had nothing good to say about the film! Hoot is adapted from an allegedly good and medal-winning young adult's book, and since I didn't read it, I'll judge the film on its own 'merits' and not as an adaptation. Also, I watched it with the sound off, but it was the kind of film where you can guess at least 65% of the dialogue.
Anyway, our Tom is some wide-eyed cute kid (cute in a Pete Townshend way, not the Paul McCartney way), and he gets his face mushed up against the school bus window by the local fat bully, and then he spies some blond kid running by like the wind, and then a blonde girl with glasses intervenes with the bully and...
This is also the kind of film where the female non-love interest has glasses at the beginning of the film but not by the end of it. A shame, as she was much more interesting looking with the odd angular frames beneath her golden mane. Sans glasses, this Becky Thatcher stand-in was not nearly as attractive. But that's OK, since judging from the covert co-ed sleepover scene between her and Tom, he ain't never gonna be interested in her like that. [Online research compels me to mention that "Tom's" nickname in the film is "Cowgirl." Yeah.]
Anyway, so we have Tom and Becky, and Huck is the deeply attractive blond youth running around in the woods. After some dull and obvious exposition, we learn that Huck here is a terrorist, planting alligators and poisonous snakes on a construction site. Why? To save some darling burrowing owls on the site. OK, now it bears asking why an animal lover would use other animals as weapons, imperiling them in the process of his crusade. It's not like snakes and 'gators don't already have a bad rap.
Whatever. This is set in Florida, but instead of the real fake Florida, it's actually Kiddie-Empowerment Fantasy Land. The kind of place where a middle-schooler can receive a knockout blow to the forehead and wake up in his own bed attended by mommy and daddy and a cold compress, and not in a hospital receiving a CT scan as a Grade Three concussion warrants. [Tom gets whacked again with a golfball, again in the head, later on and sadly does not succumb to Second-Impact syndrome.]
Everything about this film reeks of phony, from the school bully scenes (I can't tell if they advance the plot or not, but I'm guessing no), to Huck's bleached hair, to way the Scooby Doo caper wraps up. It's the kind of film that tries to inspire kids by uh, lying to them? And any environmental aspect is kinda ruined by the way these kids are, like, criminals. They vandalize property, plant lethal animals to harm construction workers, and even kidnap and hogtie a guy. Actually, there's a lot of tying and binding and kiddie bondage engaged in by Huck and Becky (not with each other), and one of the school bully scenes looks a hell of a lot like attempted rape. This is a film that just doesn't know what it wants to be-- black comedy? Afterschool special? A stomach-turning fusion of both with a dash of shounen ai (look it up) to turn on the girls?
Lookit, I saw Manny and Lo. That was a teen runaway black comedy (tho' the ending broke my suspension of disbelief). This Hoot thing is just... bad. The pacing sucks, the plot obviously sucks, and I can tell the dialogue is inane without even hearing a word of it. It's transparently bad.
OK, the kiddies save the owls and Show Everybody in the end, and Tom and Huck ride off into the Florida sun, where we leave them in the process of plotting to destroy a condo development. I guess that bit warmed my heart.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Syd Barrett is dead. Of course, the papers all mean Roger Keith Barrett, aged 60, who died at his
Syd Barrett has, after all, been dead for thirty years or more. The former Floyd frontman retired from the stage in the early seventies; his last appearance in a recording studio was apparently the day he dropped in on his old mates in ’75 whilst they were in the middle of recording their tribute to him. Syd wasn’t impressed enough with “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to stick around, and he passed from that surreal incident into misty legend. Oh, the legend was interrupted by crusty bits of truth—snapshots taken by stalker fans, interviews with relatives who knew their brother, their uncle, as “Roger”—but it endured for thirty years, and was alternately built up and chipped at by his own ex-bandmates, Dave, Rick, Nick, and that other Roger.
It’s a funny thing to witness the death of this particular star. All the pictures accompanying his obits are of that handsome young man with dark eyes and elf-curls. This isn’t just because it’s how people want to remember him, the way that Rolling Stone graced its George Harrison memorial issue with a pic of the Quiet Moptop from nearly forty years back. The pictures aren’t merely a selective filter, they’re a weird expression of truth. That is Syd. That is why anyone cares. The aging, balding man captured walking the streets of
Yet, people have kept “Syd” in a weird suspension state for three decades. Sure, fans knew that the painter and gardener puttering around
Well, Roger Barrett didn’t want Syd and doesn’t seem to have wanted his fans or his ex-bandmates. “Syd” has been a construct, a figure for everyone from Roger Waters to Cliff Jones to the fan in the street with his @#$%ing camera to project onto, an image of fantasy. Maybe the lovely boy in the picture still existed somewhere, growing mushrooms in his basement or painting the floorboards green. Maybe Barrett would snap out of his lull, get that twinkle back in his eye, grow out his hair and make music—and magic—again.
Syd, eternally young, defined by a few albums’ worth of songs and a few years’ span of pictures, may seem like something of a Peter Pan figure. It’s worse than that, though—he’s rock music’s Terri Schiavo, kept “alive” through other people’s fantasy all down the years. And plainly, he didn’t want to be.
Well, enough of that. Roger K. Barrett, who pulled the plug on Syd a very long time ago, has passed away and is to be buried in a private service, by his family, like any ordinary denizen of
Roger Keith Barrett, 1947-2006
Syd Barrett, 1962(?)- 1975(?)
Friday, April 28, 2006
Add a couple of new ones to the perp walk.
I was going to analyze Ben Domenech, the little blogger who couldn't, when that story broke a month ago. However, it dropped off the radar awfully quick, and seemed mainly of interest to a) other bloggers and b) the other media types. It was a very incestuous deal, all around.
Domenech was vile, childish, a disgrace to homeschooling. The real mystery was why WaPo online even hired a accident-in-progress like that to begin with, especially when a cursory dumpster-dive through his opere would have uncovered blatant plagiarism-- heck, he ripped of MaryAnn Johanson! The fiend!
But it was all over in a froth of reddish bubbles by week's end. And the weirdest thing about it was that Michelle Malkin turned out to have the tiniest scrap on integrity.
This latest story, though, is a doozy.
Move along, Ruth Shalit. Meet La Plagiarista, V. 2.0
She's a Harvard undergrad. She's only nineteen. She's cute. And the entire affair has an ethnic twist to spice up the lily-white world of plagiary (Blair was an outlier, I tell you).
Away, Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin. Welcome, to your ranks of the hard-bound and dodgy, the latest Little Miss.
Kaavya Viswanathan, take a bow.
The story is very entertaining, and still somewhat in progress, so I'll be a lazy blogger and link to Slate's extensive coverage of How Kaavya Viswanathan Got a Book Deal, Got Published, and Got in Big Trouble.
She's a nice counterpoint to Domenech-- he's homeschooled, "attended" College of William and Mary but left without papers. She's in Harvard. He's shameless. She claims memory issues. He's a white boy, she's... well, you get the point.
And they're both in big trouble. Dunno what Domenech's done since WaPo canned him, but Viswanathan's book is being yanked from shelves as we speak.
I'm enjoying this one, oh yes.
Monday, April 10, 2006
My initial reaction was something along the lines of "Who are they trying to kid?" The City Formerly Known as East Detroit, for example, has fooled approximately no one by tacking a "pointe" onto their name. A residential appraiser cited in the Freep article admitted that, contrary to the claims of name-change advocates back in '92, East*bleep* property values have not increased, and they spent a bucket of money changing all the signage and letterheads.
That warms my heart.
The fetishization of "Pointe"-y-ness is lame anyway. We have five Grosse Pointes, at least one blatant wannabe, apparently another one pending, plus innumerable strip malls and apartment complexes that slap that extraneous "e" on to add a veneer of class. Or a soupcon of le stupid. And yet, the allure of the "e" remains.
On second thought, though, perhaps Mr. Scott Campbell and his ilk are on the right track. Eastpointe hasn't done nearly enough to debase the concept of The Pointes. So, in addition to the possibly forthcoming Grosse Pointe Heights, I propose the following new communities to join the City, Woods, Park, Shores, and Farms in Pointedom.
Grosse Pointe Slums
Grosse Pointe 'Hood
City of Faux Pointe
I expect St. Clair Shores, Roseville, Fraser and Center Line to get in on the act. If we can work together, we can send everybody's property values spiraling down to a nice baseline, and I can score myself some lakefront property. Go team!
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Tolkien fans, though, frequently come across as just narrow-minded gits. These self-proclaimed defenders of canon often take ‘fic writers to task for things that well, aren’t actually violations thereof, sorry.
Example 1: During the course of the ‘fic dissection, one writer was mocked for naming an original character “Laurelin.” Why? ‘Cause it’s the name of a tree. Ha ha, stupid writer.
[/ me picks up my copy of the Silmarillion and goes to the index]
Hmm. Let’s see... Tolkien has a character named “Nimloth,” a female elf who married into a very important family. And... oh, of all things! “Nimloth” is also the name of a tree, the very White Tree of Numenor. Also, Tolkien gave the name “Tar-Palantir” to the last “good” king of Numenor. Try trotting out a character named “Palantir” into fandom and see the reception you get. There was also a writer who named her hobbit character for a gemstone and was ripped, because apparently hobbits don’t do that... except for the canonical ones that do-- like Diamond Took, Pippin’s wife.
Translation: Tolkien did it, but YOU CAN’T, fic writer.
Example 2: I’ve seen ‘fic writers given a virtual mauling for giving original characters (OCs) the hallowed names of characters from Tolkien’s own works. Sometimes, it is clumsily done and deserving of at least a virtual pinch-- giving names of male characters (Elendil, Earendil) to Mary Sues and other new female characters, giving the names of the Valar to human OCs, that sort of thing. But sometimes... is it really worth reaming an author for dubbing an OC “Amroth”? Who was Amroth, again?
Again, Tolkien reused names, and no doubt with a purpose. Many of the characters from the Lord of the Rings (War of the Ring) timeframe have the names of antecedents from the First Age, Second Age, etc. Finduilas? Borrowed elf-name with a tragical story behind it. Denethor and Ecthelion? Elf names. Glorfindel? Okay, apparently Glorfindel is the same elf from the Silmarillion. But still.
Translation: Tolkien did it, but YOU CAN’T, fic writer.
Example 3: Another darned annoying thing is when ‘fic writers are taken to task for using terms like “sapphire,” “jade,” and “topaz” as descriptive terms. Granted, this sort of thing should be done sparingly, and gets old in itself (quick, what colour is a “jacinth”?) But some of these Defenders of Canon and the English Tongue get snippy over the very concept of using gem-terms for colour, as there’s natural variance in stone-colour and the terms are imprecise.
I wonder if these people send nasty letters to the likes of J.K. Rowling and Elizabeth Peters when they open a book and phrases like “emerald green eyes” and “sapphirine orbs” leap off the page at them. Maybe they should, but if they don’t, then they’re hypocritical wankers.
I think some of these people are coming from a warped modern perspective on what gem-colours are. We know, from QVC if nowhere else, that any hue of gem quality corundum is a sapphire-- save the red ones, which are automatically rubies. So, we whinge about people using “sapphire” to denote blue because hey, they could mean peach, blush, canary, violet... Um, no. “Sapphire blue” is, historically, one of those things that is. Like “emerald green” (There’re red emeralds too! National Geographic says so! Send Rowling your hate mail, pronto). Jade green, likewise, in spite of the existence of white, red, yellow and purple jade. As for topaz... if someone is writing fanfiction for Lord of the Rings, they are writing about a world wherein blue, pink, and various colour-treated crap forms of topaz haven’t flooded the market. Citrine got its name “false topaz” for a reason, y’ know-- its orange-yellow colour. That rather indicates that “topaz” had a clear meaning before our era (shoutout to QVC, again).
I won’t even get into Tolkien’s own flowery descriptions of the hair, etc, of his surpassingly beautiful characters. Suffice it to say...
Tolkien (and others!) did it, but YOU CAN’T, fic writer.
Sigh. I can see, I really can, why a lot of these writers tear their virtual hair out over fan-scribbles that genuinely violate the spirit of Tolkien’s legendarium. Promiscuous elves, rapist elves, assassination of canonically “noble” characters, modern-day girls “falling into” Middle Earth to shag Legolas, these are the sort of thing that makes one want to ask the writer, “If you ignore/abuse canon this badly, why are you a fan again?”
But really... is it so wrong to think “That whole Faramir/Eowyn romance is thrown together and not very convincing. Maybe I can tweak things a bit...”? Or going, “Hey! Wikipedia says that Aragorn did hook up with Eowyn in early drafts! Nothing against Arwen, mind, but I want to run with this...”
Some circles of fandom would have you believe that sort of thinking is a capital offence. As is, say, going subversive and re-writing things from the POV of Sauron. Goodness, no, we can’t have that.
Translation: John Gardner did it to Beowulf, but YOU CAN’T, ‘fic writer.
Oh well. It’s the Internet, and people are going to continue to write what they want to, regardless of quality and canon-compliance. They’ll keep on giving Lord Elrond second daughters, and falling into Middle Earth, and naming their original characters Nienna and Yavanna and having N&Y shag Faramir and Legolas (with Boromir-bashing on the side). And 95% of it all will be sheer godawful crap, and maybe some of it will be worth reporting to FF.net for TOS violations (the ultimate weapon of the canon nazi).
But, you know what? A lot of the canon-compliant stuff I’ve read by these same canon purists wasn’t great shakes either. ‘Twas boring, actually.
Wankers. All is wank, and we all are but wankers. Piffle.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Random thoughts on LotR, books and films--
Fellowship of the Ring really is the best of the films. The Two Towers is the weakest, not just because it's a "middle chapter" but because the flow of it is so warped by the War plot, as opposed to the original Quest plot. RotK suffers from the same, but to a lesser extent. I would love to know how those two installments would have turned out had 9/11 never happened. We would have been spared Sam's wretched monologue at the end of TTT, that's for sure.
At least people weren't constantly breaking into song in the films. Made the death scenes easier to take. The absolute worst part of Tolkien's books that I can remember is the poem about King Theoden's friggin' dead horse. It was one poem too far, and marked yet another use of the phrase "Whosit's Bane." Tolkien overused that one to death. Durin's Bane, Isildur's Bane, Swift Snowmane, his Master's Bane. Just die, already.
I respect movie adaptations for being movie adaptations, as long as they remember they are films and not pretending to be the book (I'm thinking now of an atrocious Madame Bovary I had to watch in school that vandalized the spirit of the book while claiming, onscreen, to be true to Flaubert). So I don't mind most of the tweaking that Jackson and pals did to the Tolkienverse. Give Aragorn some reluctance to be King, fine. Make Boromir more of a jerk than he is in the books-- fine, and on second watch he's not that bad anyway. Totally screw up Faramir by giving him a dark side-- cool, man. Kid was a drip in the books. But what they did with Denethor (messed-up father of the aforementioned 'Mirs) was kind of painful. Couldn't Jackson have mentioned, even once, that the reason Denethor was insane was that a palantir had scrambled his brain? Palantir abuse was all over the films, so why leave that crucial detail out? A five-second glimpse of the bloody thing would have explained so much. Denethor and Sons got canon-raped pretty badly, yeah.
Speaking of canon-rapine, Tolkien fans are the most anal, pinheaded bunch of self-proclaimed "canon nazis" I've ever come across online. And half the time they're in the wrong themselves, because "canon" (if you go beyond the Baggins books and deal with the Silmarillion and worse) is so vast, subject to so many retcons by the author, and so contradictory in itself. Ugly, ugly fandom, and I came out of Sailormoon and Gundam Wing, which were bad in themselves. I'm talking about the LiveJournal crowd, mostly, but the Wikipedia entries have some screwball stuff in there too.
And, regarding fandom... Legolas, WTF? Dude barely exists in the books (JRR himself said in a letter that Legolas "accomplished the least" out of the Fellowship). The reader doesn't even learn what colour hair Leggy has. He's there, he's an elf, he makes nice with a dwarf. That's about it.
All right, I know. Legolas is popular because he was played by Orlando Bloom. Dunno, the fake blond hair doesn't do it for me. He's a little cute, but if I have to watch Orlando Bloom, he was cuter in Pirates of the Caribbean. And probably in Troy, though I never saw that. Orlando-Legolas has weird hair, inconsistent-coloured contacts, and not much to do. John Rhys-Davies got to play Gimli and Treebeard both, and was amusing as both, but Orli just looks... elven, I guess.
People More Attractive Than Orlando-Legolas in the LotR Films:
1) Elijah Wood-Frodo / Viggo Mortenston-Aragorn
Two different types of male beauty, both very, very welcome. And I don't usually like stubble. Or hairy feet, for that matter.
3) David Wenham-Faramir
A big step down from Aragorn, here, but still pretty good-looking. From what I've gathered, Book!Faramir (the insufferably noble one) had longish black hair, grey eyes, and no beard or stubble. Ditto for brother Boromir. Heck, IIRC it says that Faramir looked enough like Aragorn to be his younger brother. That would have been real nice, but what the film-viewer gets instead isn't bad.
4) Sean Bean-Boromir.
Some chicks really, really dig this guy. He's not quite my type, and Book!Boromir sounds more attractive to me, but Film!Boromir has his moments. He's human, for a start.
"Figwit" is the fan-created acronym for a very attractive elf in Jackon's movies. He has lovely dark hair, blue eyes (iirc), and basically no lines. He's the one in RotK that was trying to lead Arwen to the Gray Havens when she turned 'round and hightailed it back to Rivendell. Apparently he's also in the Council of Elrond scene in FotR. Best-looking elf in the film, hands down.
No, not the old king. Theodred, the dead kid we see in all of three scenes. Looks like he would have been quite nice on the eyes, cleaned-up and alive.
7) The youngish-looking Ent. Dunno his name. Nice foliage on that guy.
[Insert Orlando-Legolas Here.]
I don't go for elves, really. Elrond? Nope. Haldir? Was glad when he bit it; guy was annoying me. Celeborn? Galadriel can keep him. The most attractive male elf I saw in the film was "Figwit," and he's not even a real character. Orli-las is the best of the elven lot, I admit.
9) Bernard Hill-Theoden
Hey, he's human! And I'd rather look at Theoden than at his nephew. No lovin' here for Karl Urban as Eomer, 'cause he looks like an escapee from the early years of Metallica.
Beneath the cut: two wizards, assorted Hobbits, and Grima Wormtongue. No, just no.
A final note about the Jackson films-- my husband hated the battle scenes the first go-round, and liked it even less when we watched King Kong and loathed the action scenes there. Me, I liked the LotR battle scenes much, much better than the action scenes in Kong, because Our Heroes got muddy, bloody, cut-up, and trapped under their own horses (Die, Snowmane!). Watching Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody (aka Mary Sue and Gary Stu) get through dinosaur attacks and the like without a scratch was just sickening to behold. The LotR battles are still kind of messy to watch, but at least Eowyn isn't prancing around looking like she just stepped out of her onset dressing room. And Aragorn gets stepped on by a troll. My suspension of disbelief doesn't shatter like the bridge of Khazad-Dum, y'know?