Friday, June 09, 2006

Vampires and Werewolves Versus Gay Cowboys

Watched Underworld Evolution yesterday.  It started out better than it ended, but afterwards I looked up what the critics had to say.  They roundly hated it.  Since it’s not objectively a bad movie, I suspect that the critical response had a lot to do with it’s release date, January 20, which is also the date Brokeback Mountain saw wide release.

Given the choice of which movie to pan that week, it’s unsurprising critics chose Underworld.  It’s a genre pic, but even though it’s about vampires and werewolves, it’s more of an action picture.  Bullets fly with impunity.  Blood is omnipresent.  There are even a few well-placed cursewords.

If you had to watch Brokeback Mountain and then review Underworld, what do you think you would say?  Too violent?  Too loud?  Too much blood?  Not enough Oscar-worthy vistas of sheep and desolate skies?  Yeah, I thought so.

The funny thing is that Underworld is somewhat more believable than Brokeback.  I just didn’t buy the love affair between Jack and Ennis.  In fact, I thought the best part of the whole movie was Anne Hathaway.  The performances from Heath and Jake (and Michelle, too, I guess) were awesome, no question about that, and the subject matter was heartbreaking and poignant, but that love affair, tragic as it may be, seemed shallow and borderline insulting.

No otherwise straight guys are going to spontaneously become gay, no matter how lonely and cold they are on the side of a mountain.  They may resort to having sex with each other simply because that’s all that’s available, but in their minds and in their hearts, they will always prefer a woman.  That’s why they are “straight” guys.

Of course, the movie is supposed to be this grand love story, not the tale of how two cowboys went jailhouse in their tent, but it never quite got that part right.  Some effort was put into giving Jack Twist a gay identity outside the yearly Brokeback Mountain ritual, but the same couldn’t be said about Ennis.  His marriage crumbled, he got even more forlorn and withdrawn, but he never got gayer.  (Gayer?)

For all intents of purposes, at the end of the movie, he was just another straight guy, but a straight guy who found himself in the curious position of having fallen in love with a man.  And some love affair, too.  They only met once a year and often fought.  Both of them remained committed to other people, or in Ennis’s case, a boring job rustling sheep.

This is supposed to be the “love story” that makes America swoon?  If you listened to the critics, you might think so.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Asylum Versus Immigration

I was reading this post and was reminded of a very recent example of the hypocrisy on the right over this illegal immigration thing.  I’m working from memory here, but wasn’t the Republican Right all up in arms over Elian Gonzalez a few years ago?  

Here’s a kid, whose mother illegally tried to get him to this country against his father’s wishes.  Thanks to the “wet feet, dry feet” rule, Republicans of all stripes were really pushing to make sure Elian, an illegal immigrant too young to understand the gravity of his situation, stayed in the US, even as liberal “traitors” in the Clinton Administration and Janet Reno’s Justice Department did everything in their power to send him back home.  Cooler heads prevailed and returned the boy to his father,  but how come no one has mentioned this in the context of the right’s illegal immigration bullshit?

I don’t get it.  Let me see if I understand this, in the Republican mind, crossing over from Mexico makes you an “illegal immigrant” but washing up in an inner tube from Cuba makes you an “asylum seeker?”  

Hell, why don’t the Mexicans just come up through Cuba?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Like Quarrelling Spouses

In the Huff Post today, Michael Smerconish writes about the fierce partisanship that has come to define American politics in these early days of the 21st Century.

Comparing the Red-Blue state culture wars to bickering spouses, he writes:
“I keep waiting for the equivalent of a domestic disturbance to occur on a national level. Ask a cop what kind of call he hates responding to, and chances are he will tell you quarrelling spouses, who inevitably turn on him when he arrives on the porch.

When is that going to happen here? When are we going to channel our energies against a common foe and ratchet down the hatriolic behavior toward one another at home?”
This is what I gotta say to that one:

You motherfuckers started it.

When voting Democrat became treason, and being a liberal is equated with being crazy, or worse, a terrorist, and being pro-choice means being pro-death…yeah, way back then.

You slap us around and then want to make nice when the cops come around? I don’t think so buddy.

Scott's Farewell For the Summer

Today was the last day of school for Scottito, and also his last day in town before he's shipped off to Arkansas for summer vacation. Two months without my buddy? I don't know if I can make it. Me and the kid are pretty tight. But this trip will be good for him, and it will be good for me, too.

Since tonight was his final night, I took him on the worldwind tour. First I took him out for wings, which had been prearranged with my buddies anyway. My brother came by for a little while, but had to split. Then we met up later at my Mom's house for our last chance to see him, for a while anyway.

This is what the Pearce boys looked today, from left to right, me, Scott, and Jason. Not only are we rich, famous, and good-looking, but we do tricks.

Witness, the Pearce Pyramid.
During the photo session today, my brother and I were standing next to each other, each holding a camera and taking a picture of my Mom and Scott, Grandma and Grandson. Jason, who's on a big UFC kick right now, said, "Say Tapout!" Flash. My turn. They turned to me, and I said, "Say Tap Dat Ass!"

And this is what happened. A blush and devilish grin from Scott and a "What did you just say?" from my Mom. Priceless.But Mom is no square. If the hat didn't already tip you off, she's much cooler than your mom, I guarentee.

Look what she got me. She went to the store, saw this demonic belt buckle, and instantly thought of me, her beloved firstborn. (It probably helped that earlier this year, I went on a rock and roll belt buckle search. I wanted a skull, but the only ones I could find had crosses. What am I going to do with a cross?)

And in case you were wondering, it's awesome.

Gay Marriage

The Senate predictably shut down the gay marriage constitutional amendment. Unfortunately they picked up a few votes from the last time so don’t think the issue is dead.

I came across two pieces of punditry that put the whole thing into perspective perfectly.

First, from Andrew Sullivan:
They want to keep us from those feelings of being one with our own families; they want to keep us outside the society we grew up in; they want to deny us the love and support heterosexuals take for granted. Marriage humanizes gay people and shows us in the context of love and commitment, rather than merely sex. This corrodes the far right's attempt to portray us as "subhuman" or "objectively disordered" or "sinners". That's why they are so adamant on keeping us as second class citizens.
The emphasis is mine.

The second bit of perspective comes from Jon Stewart, who effectively shut confirmed bigot Bill Bennett down on the Daily Show. (C&L has the video.)
Bill Bennett: Look, it’s a debate about whether you think marriage is between man and a woman.
Jon Stewart: (without a shred of irony) I disagree. It’s a debate about whether you think gay people are a part of the human condition or just a random fetish.
It’s astounding to me why social conservatives, often masquerading as “Christians” are so up in arms about this. Who do they really follow? Jesus, or Dobson?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Monster Trucks

As a special treat, and a lazy cheat (okay, not so much, considering I posted twice today already), I thought I would honor the 6-6-06 buzz by posting my first published story, Monster Trucks. I was actually paid for this one, fifty dollars. I wish I still had that check, but at the time, I needed the dough. It appeared in the debut issue of a literary magazine called The Akkadian. Don’t try to find it. That was the first issue…and the last issue, an outcome unrelated to my story, I’m sure.

Anyway, it’s loosely based on(inspired by is probably a better description) a Clutch song, Walking in the Great Shining Path of Monster Trucks, and it’s called Monster Trucks. I wrote when I was 18, so if it gets a little silly at parts, you just have to go with it.

Monster Trucks
By James Pearce

     The Cadillac purred under him like a lion pleading to be freed from its cage. He took his heavy foot off the brake and slammed it on the gas pedal. The car surged forward with a roar, gnashing its mechanical teeth, drooling oil, hungry for speed.
     The hunt was on.
     He glanced in the rear-view mirror and allowed himself only a fleeting glimpse of the angry headlights behind him. They were far away already, hundreds of yards from his bumper, eating his dust and loving it.
     He squinted into the terrain ahead of him, attempting to keep the jerking steering wheel steady with firm hands and raw adrenaline. The Caddy's near-melted radio, barely audible beneath the raging howl of the engine, sang at him gruffly, "The skies are always sunny in the heart of flavor country." It was a comforting thought, sunny skies in flavor country, and he let it drift around in his mind as the Caddy pierced the darkness. He blinked the sweat out of his eyes.
     The gate, his destination, flamed high in the distance.
     The headlights behind were gaining on him, their all-terrain tires easily negotiating the rocks and gullies that made his Caddy bounce and rumble and groan. But he had something they didn't, a headstart and resolve. And if he kept his head on his shoulders and his hands on the wheel, there was no way in hell they could catch him.
     He could feel the heat of the fires at the gates now, and they were getting hotter as he got closer, a towering inferno like the one that ate Steve McQueen. He kept his bearing, straight at the gate, ten yards. Five.
     He covered his face with his arms, bracing for the impact.
     Then the metal exploded and he and the Caddy were through.
     "I hope he goes to hell," a little old lady with raspberry-colored hair said on the TV.
     Attorney Robert Lowder changed the channel to something a little lighter, something remotely entertaining. Bugs Bunny. He watched Bugs bend the barrel of Elmer Fudd's hunting rifle so that Elmer got a nice kick in the ass by genuine Acme gunpowder. Lowder left it there and went into the kitchen for another cup of coffee.
     The fallout of the morning's events was still snowing down like nuclear winter, and he needed something to warm him up. Coffee wouldn't do it alone, so he added some vodka. The mixture tasted awful but vodka was the only liquor in his cabinet and he didn't feel like degrading himself by trudging off to the liquor store at nine in the morning. Especially after a client he'd had the misfortune to defend had been executed less than eight hours earlier. It would be admitting defeat. And Lowder, always the lawyer, hated admitting anything. Including, but not limited to, defeat.
     Even though he had been, in all sense of the word, defeated. Defeated three years earlier when he couldn't save his client from a conviction; defeated after that when he couldn't rescue his client from a death sentence; defeated again in a long strung-out battle in which he couldn't win his client an appeal or a reprieve; and defeated exactly five hours and forty-two minutes earlier when his client, one Warren Drake, and his career, one cozy job at the public defender's office, were both put to rest by the relatively clean and humane lethal injection method.
     Drake hadn't felt any pain, so the authorities said. But they always say that, even when men burst into flames in the electric chair. And death, as everyone alive knows, is painless. "He didn't even know what hit him," the prison doctor had said after he confirmed that Drake was clinically dead. But Lowder didn't buy it. Drake felt it. He felt his body giving up, felt his sphincter relax and release his last digested meal, felt his soul drifting down into the Pit.
     The doctor should have said, "See you in hell, buddy."
     Because if there was a heaven or hell, Drake was definitely soaking up the rays in the latter.
     He'd committed one of the most heinous acts of inhumanity Lowder had ever seen and, with luck, ever will see. Six dead, one paralyzed from the chest down, another permanently scarred, all in one crazy rampage on a sunny August day. He deserved to die, some --most-- said. But Lowder, always the thinker, reasoned that what Drake did was insane, so Drake, by extension, was also insane.
     And that was his defense. "Not guilty by reason of insanity, your honor." And Lowder tried hard to swing it. He called doctors, experts in their fields, to evaluate Drake, and when one by one they determined that his client was of sound mind and body when he committed the murders, Lowder called another. And another, until every leading doctor had been consulted, and only a handful reasoned as Lowder did, that Warren Drake was a nutcase and deserved to be in a hospital, not a prison.
     But the jury saw right through all of Lowder's bullshit, and they gave Drake the worst sentence of all. And the sentence stuck. The public rejoiced. Get that murderer off the streets, they cried. And they thought they had succeeded when the State doctor inserted the deadly needle into Drake's arm and pushed the plunger.
     They thought being the key words here.
     The Cadillac groaned, sputtered, and died with a crunch. One moment he was shrouded in a darkness so thick it felt like mucus, the next he was enveloped in a hot blinding light that felt like a hundred sunlamps stacked up like a drive-in screen before him. He didn't see the flames, but he felt them.
     He pushed his body against the door of the Caddy and it exploded outward. He went with the force, ejected from the Caddy like a fighter pilot, and for a brief moment, he was floating in the air, beyond pain. Then he was skidding across sandpaper.
     The friction slowed him down until he was a useless lump in the sand, bloody, bruised and burned, every cell in his body crying out in absolute pain. But he was alive. And he was free.
     He lay there on the sand, letting his eyes adjust to the white haze in the air. And he felt a monstrous heat come at him like a firestorm, singeing his hair. The pain was unbearable, but he was used to it. It wasn't like the hell he'd just escaped. It was better, a lesser evil.
     He blinked and stared into the blur. Images morphed in his mind and mere stimuli turned into perception, and he saw the Caddy, blown to shreds, the peeling pink paint, the stacks of smoke rising to the blue sky, and a snakelike road gouged into the sand. Sand, everywhere mountains of sand.
     He had no idea where he was. He had no vehicle, no money, no sense of direction. Nothing but the comfort of liberty. The comfort of knowing that his pursuers were no longer pursuing. At least for now.
     He stood up, brushed off his charred clothes, and began walking. And despite the echoes of pain in his bones, he was smiling.
     The vodka worked fast and Lowder was feeling lightheaded, tired, worn down. Two coffees with more liquor than creamer will do that to you. It was too early in the day to be drunk, he knew, but at least in a couple of hours, he would be sober again, and he wouldn't wake up with a hangover. It would just hit him. And he preferred that.
     The TV was still going on about the execution, but Lowder couldn't hear it. He'd turned the volume down and the radio up. Johnny Cash sung about stealing a car from General Motors one piece at a time. Lowder sat in his chair, eyes closed, stomach rumbling.
     And then the phone rang. He let it ring four times before he opened his eyes. Two more times and he started to rise from his chair. Three more times and he was across the room, standing over the phone, staring down at it as it buzzed at him. He waited for the eighth ring and he picked it up.
     A trucker had been kind enough to give him a lift to the nearest town, to a gas station. The trucker should have dropped him off at a hospital, but the town was so small, it didn't have a hospital. It had a couple of motels like the Bates, a grease-pit diner full of the town's old ranchers, and a gas station. The gas station had the town's only payphone.
     He walked right up to it, picked up the receiver, dialed the operator.
     "ThankyouforcallingU.S.West. ThisisBrian. HowmayIhelpyou?"
     "Well, Brian," he said with a lopsided grin, "I need you to place a collect call for me."
     "Hello?" Lowder said.
     "Hello, sir, this is Brian from U.S. West and I have a collect call from . . ."
     A recorded voice chimed in, "Warren."
     Brian from U.S. West resumed, "Do you accept the charges?"
     Lowder almost dropped the phone. What was this? Some sick prankster's idea of a joke.
     "Warren?" he said, hoping to hear the sick son of a bitch's voice.
     "Do you accept the charges?" Brian from U.S. West said.
     Then he heard the voice. "Accept the charges, counselor." It was the voice of a ghost. The voice of a man who died earlier that morning at the hands of the State.
     "Y-yes. Patch him through." He waited for the connection.
     "Bobby, how's it going? It's Warren."
     "Where are you?"
     "At a gas station."
     "A gas station? Where?"
     "In the desert."
     "The desert? Which desert?"
     "I don't know. Nevada maybe. California for all I know. It's in the states, though."
     "Jesus Christ, what are you doing? I mean, you . . . you died. I saw it. This morning."
     "This morning?"
     "Yeah, this morning."
     "Damn, it feels like . . . an eternity."
     "What happened? How . . . I mean, you're alive."
     "Barely. I got into a car accident. I'm pretty banged up."
     "A car accident? What? You're dead. How can you get in a car accident?"
     "Well I'll tell you . . ."
     "No, don't tell me. Where are you? I'm coming to get you."
     "I'm in the desert."
     "Which one?"
     "I don't know."
     "Well, ask someone!"
     "Call me back."
     "And Warren?"
     "This better be fucking good."
     "It's good. Trust me."
     Perhaps, through some sort of luck, Drake was spit out of Hell into another hell, Arizona, just miles from Mexico and California. It was a cute desert town, population five hundred and change, called Vermillion, a few miles south of Yuma. Drake's lawyer and failed savior was in Denver, population, at least according to the census a few years back, shy of two million. And thinking in relative terms, Vermilion, Arizona was not that far away from Denver, Colorado. A day's drive, a day and a half at most.
     But Lowder was smarter than that. He booked a flight out of DIA to Phoenix, rented a car, drove down to Yuma, and then on down to Vermillion. The whole trip cost hundreds of dollars, and Lowder kept track of every dime, but only took about seven hours, an eternity of nail-biting curiosity.
     He pulled into the gas station and saw Drake, sitting in the shade. He was sleeping, which struck Lowder as odd because he couldn't imagine an old mutt tired enough to sleep in this heat.
     As Lowder opened the door to his rental car, and stepped out into the broiling sunlight, he instantly felt the first waves of heat stroke, and he thought, maybe Drake isn't sleeping. Maybe he's dead. Maybe he's been baking in this hot sun for the last seven hours, while I was on an air-conditioned plane, and waiting in an air-conditioned airport and driving in my air-conditioned car. The thought churned his stomach.
     But Drake sat up as soon as Lowder slammed the door on his car. Lowder looked at the face, and it wasn't the same face as the man he'd watched die early that morning. It the face of a man who had seen some things, felt some things, and worst of all, knew some things. An eternity stuffed into the course of fourteen some hours.
     "You have to help me," Drake said. Before Lowder could say anything, Drake ran to the car, opened the door. "Let's go."
     "Wait," Lowder said. But it was obvious Drake had no plans to wait. He was in the car before Lowder could finish another word.
     On the road.
     "Okay. Now tell me, please tell me, what the hell you are doing here."
     "I got in a little accident." Pause. "I think I might've broke some ribs. And my arm hurts like hell."
     "Try this one. How can you get in a car accident when you're already dead?"
     "It's not as easy as it looks, believe me."
     "Well, I'm not sure exactly. I don't remember dying."
     "No surprise." All the sedatives and tranquilizers, you know.
     "But I remember being dead. And I remember Hell. You know about that, don't you? Demons and the lake of fire and Satan munching on Judas Iscariot's head and the nine circles and all that bullshit? It ain't true, man. Hell's not too bad. It's nice actually. All the drugs you can take. All the sex you can have. You got porno stars and faggots, and let me tell you, both know how to suck mean dick. The radio station is playing rock and roll all the time, maybe even some gangsta rap mixed in for all the brothers who got kicked in the balls by the One True Man. If you want something, you steal it. If someone pisses you off, you kill him, even though sooner or later he shows up again anyway. Nothing's taboo. You want to fuck a sheep, well there's pastures of 'em, lined up, waiting for a piece. Nothing's sacred, nothing's bad.
     "But nothing's good either. And even if you can spend hours fucking some broad and her sister, maybe even her brother if you dig it like that, you can't enjoy it. Because it's Hell. There's no pleasure in Hell. Things get old down there. The drugs. You get so strung out, man, that all you can do is think about is getting sober. The music, oh man, it would be heaven up here in the real world, but down there it's repetitive. Not like they play the same song over and over and over. No, they play one great song, something by Led Zeppelin maybe, and you can't enjoy it. Psychologically, you can't enjoy anything.
     "And that's the torture. They overload you with so much good shit that none of it is good anymore. It's boring. And you wish you could come back up here for some fresh air, so you can enjoy reveling in the bad shit that's Hell's bread and butter. And you know what? You can, if you really want to.
     "Do you think that if God says to Satan, 'I'm giving you all the sinners and I want you to keep them down in Hell,' that Satan, Mr. Disobedient, is going to say, 'Okay, God, no problem?' I don't think so. He's not gonna try too hard to follow the rules. He's not gonna put guards at the gates and run the place like a prison. It's gonna be like, 'Yeah, come on in. Have a seat. You don't wanna go nowhere.' And if you get up to leave, they don't really mind.
     "Only problem is the guys, demons if you wanna call 'em, get rowdy some nights, and they like to go out into the real world, looking for the ones that escaped. It's their version of hunting deer. They get all dressed up in their gear, grab the rifles, pile into their monster trucks and go hunting. And everyone that gets out knows this. And everyone that gets out always gets caught. But still they try. Because for just one minute, we'd just like to enjoy something. The warmth of the sun. A baby's giggle. The smell of the grass. A root-beer float. A junior football game. Just something good and wholesome and all the things Hell ain't.
     "Cause you know it ain't gonna last long. Them trucks'll come barrelling down on you, and them demons are gonna drag you back to Hell. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But some day."
     Lowder, listening intently. Drake, looking out at the wide expanse of desert highway with a smile on his face.
     "And it's all worth it."
     Lowder didn't say a word. He was torn between half-way believing Drake's story and bursting into laughter. Drake certainly believed it. There was no question about that.
     He was enjoying everything from the desert to the comforting air conditioner to the feel of the leather seats. He flipped through the radio stations and whined with ecstasy when he got something he liked. He stuck his head out the window to "taste the wind." And he was checking the mirrors constantly.
     "So, Drake," Lowder said. He moved stealthily, considering that he was sitting next to a genuinely insane man, and continued, "You were in Hell, huh?"
     "What'd I just tell you?" There was no anger in his voice, no sense of annoyance. He was in his own world of re-experience. He checked the mirrors again, his eyes darting.
     "Well, you know, that's kind of hard to believe."
     "Believe it, man."
     And that's it. Lowder wasn't sure if he could. He wasn't entirely religious, and even if he was, he'd have a hard time buying a portrait of Hell as such. A Sin City of sorts, where nothing is forbidden and excess is encouraged. The only catch is you just can't enjoy it. Where you can get out if you've got the courage. Where you don't burn and get tortured and pay for yours sins like you should. It's almost a resort for the wicked, the Las Vegas of the Universe.
     One word: Bullshit.
     It was late afternoon, early evening by the time they got close to the Fours Corners. They stopped off at a restaurant in Tempe for lunch, and Drake had eaten well. Lowder wrote it down in his expense log. There was no way he was going to pay the bill with money out of his own pocket. He was a lawyer. And he had an expense account.
     Drake, belly full, was sleeping quietly in the passenger seat, shifting every time the car ran over a pothole or a bump. Lowder was tapping rhythmically on the steering wheel along with an old wife-left-dog-died-truck-broke country and western song. Drake had picked the station. "I want to hear some good ol' boy music," he said. Lowder didn't fight him on it.
     A shrill burst from a steel guitar was squealing away when Drake stirred. He opened his eyes, sat up in his seat. A dribble of saliva hung from the corner of his mouth, which he quickly wiped away. He turned down the radio, listened to the sound of the car and the receding road.
     "You hear that?" he said, paranoid like Sabbath. He checked the rear-view mirror, looked over his shoulder, shut off the air conditioner and rolled down the window to hear better. "Come on, Bobby, you hear that?"
     At first Lowder didn't hear anything. Just the whir of the Japanese engine, the faint buzz of tires on asphalt. But then, in a gust of sound that brought to mind a jet engine, he heard it.
     The sound of a hundred tires, not just any tires, monster truck tires crushing the dirt, eating the road. And they weren't going 65.
     "Oh, shit, Bobby," Drake said. He looked over his shoulder and froze.
     Lowder followed his gaze in the rear-view mirror. And he saw them. An army of monster trucks, grills bearing down ten-feet high and a hundred miles an hour. And behind that, a dust cloud, the remains of the earth after it had been mulched by the six foot tires. But it wasn't the sight that scared Lowder. It was the tremble.
     He could feel it in the seat. A rumble that shook his bodily organs, throbbed at his temples. The steering wheel shivered in his hands.
     "Floor it!" Drake shouted and he braced himself.
     It didn't take much for Lowder to do as he was told. His foot hit the accelerator and the Japanese car hummed in response.
     "Change gears!" Drake commanded.
     "I can't!" Lowder shouted above the noise.
     "Why not?"
     "Automatic transmission!"
     Drake grumbled something, but Lowder couldn't hear it. The cacophony of engine noise prevented him.
     Lowder swerved to miss a ripple in the road and almost lost control of the car.
     Drake screamed, anger and fear. "Stay on the fucking road!"
     "I am!" Lowder screamed back. There was a little more than anger and fear in his voice. A little regret. A little daring. Much more exciting than, say, a day in court.
     "What the fuck are those?" Lowder screamed.
     "The demons!" Lowder could feel the ice clinging to the word. Demons. Fallen angels in monster trucks. "They're early!" Drake shouted.
     As opposed to late, which would have been too soon for Lowder.
     "They don't want me!" Lowder shouted. "They want you!"
     "Obviously!" Drake shouted. "But you're my lawyer! They love lawyers!" Drake laughed. Like being carted away back to Hell in the back of Big Foot's cousin is funny.
     Lowder was in the middle of forgetting to laugh with him when they ran over the pothole. He didn't even see it, a spot a foot wide at most, worn away by traffic and erosion, deep enough to hold water.
     And to shred a tire.
     By the time Lowder jerked the steering wheel to miss it, the car was through and the tire was gone, black ribbons adorning the road. The car veered off the road, slammed into a fence and cut across a firm pack of sand. Despite the missing tire, Lowder had control of the car, but not for long. He was off the road, driving on a wheel. And an armada of monster trucks was on his tail.
     "Keep going!" Drake shouted. "Go! Go! Go!"
     Lowder ignored him. He slammed on the brakes.
     The car skidded forward, slid sideways. And came to an uneasy stop in a cloud of dust and debris.
     "What are you doing?" Drake screamed.
     Lowder didn't answer. He jerked off his seatbelt and opened the door. He smelt smoke and exhaust, and he heard the swarm of trucks.
     And he ran. He ran as fast as he could, away from the car, away from Drake. Away from the monster trucks.
     Drake screamed from behind him, but in the roar, the words were lost. Lowder didn't stop running until he was far enough away to see that the trucks were ignoring him. He was a mere mortal, who would find his way to them all in good time. Drake, on the other hand, was the one who had escaped. He was the quarry, the prey in this hunt.
     Even as the trucks came to a stop and black forms that slightly resembled large hulking men got out of their cabs, and Warren Drake screamed at his lawyer for assistance, and they grabbed him, and ripped him into pieces with their hungry claws, and tossed the bloody chunks in their trucks, and drove away in a cloud of smoke and noise, Lowder didn't move from his perch on a sand bar, baking in the heat but safe from the carnage.
     And he didn't move as he watched them disappear down the road, as if to say, "We'll see you later, pal. Enjoy it while you can."
     And for a while, Lowder honestly tried.

Behold, Upon A Pale Horse

It’s appropriate that on 6-6-06, the first domino in the apocalypse falls.  The US is giving Iran nuclear technology, which the AP calls “a major concession.”  

This is absolutely shocking, because weren’t the hotheads talking about nuking Iran just a few months ago?  Now we’re going to help them with the reactors?  Sweet!

The good news is that we won’t be invading Iran anytime soon.  

Those possible penalties include selective U.N. Security Council sanctions such as travel bans of Iranian government figures and a freeze of their foreign assets. But in a bow to Russia and China, they contain no threat of military action, diplomats have said.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Kingdom of Heaven

So I was watching a little bit of Kingdom of Heaven this morning to confirm a suspicion I had.  This weekend, I watched two movies featuring an actor from New Zealand named Marton Csokas, first his portrayal of Trevor Goodchild in Aeon Flux (kinda dumb, but Charlize made it watchable) and then as a desperate POW in The Great Raid, an old-fashioned rah-rah war movie with Ben Bratt and Joseph Fiennes.

Csokas never quite plays an entirely likeable character, but in Kingdom of Heaven, he’s absolutely despicable.  (He gets his, though, being captured by Saladin’s army and paraded around in a dunce cap on a jackass.)

Kingdom of Heaven never quite succeeded, at the box office, or as a movie, but it’s a noble attempt, and as a dyed in the wool disciple of anything either of the Scott brothers make, I still liked it.  

Here are a few of the reasons I think it doesn’t quite work:

  1. Orlando Bloom.  He’s a decent actor, but he doesn’t have the gravitas to embody such an epic character.  There’s a scene towards the end, just before the climactic battle, where he desperately knights all those “of arms.”  The music swells, the actors are all earnest and solemn, and the viewer feels like they just did a cannonball into an Olympic sized pool of cheese.  Truth be told, this is who I would have picked for his role:  The Rock.  Yes, the People’s Champion himself.  His agent hooks him up with silly comedy or genre roles, but I think if given a chance, he could really take a bite out of a juicy dramatic role like blacksmith/warrior Balian.  Of course, they’d have to cast someone other than Liam Neeson for the role of his father…but that’s not so bad anyway, right?  Neeson gets killed in the first reel.

  2. The antagonists, Reynald and Guy (pronounced Ghee), are on Balian’s side.  They’re a bunch of war mongering, greedy killers who incite Saladin to raid Jerusalem with catapults and towers in the final battle.  It makes for some interesting scenes of treachery, but it toys with the viewers sympathies.  Saladin, portrayed by Ghassan Massoud, is a much more sympathetic character, not only because he is repeatedly wronged, but because he is a much better man.  The overall effect is that you don’t know who to root for.  In a tense psychological drama that might work.  In a rousing action movie, not so much.

  3. We’ve seen all this before, huge battles, catapults, siege towers, computer generated armies.  From Lord of the Rings to Troy on up to Braveheart and Alexander, all of the stuff in Kingdom of Heaven looks good, but it also looks familiar.  There are some amazing shots, including the battlefield swarmed with CGI carrion birds, as well as the fireballs at night at the end, but over all, it’s variations on a theme.  Kingdom of Heaven just might be the last historical battle picture we see for a while.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Link Orgy

Pete Townsend blogged about Won’t Get Fooled Again, too.  Being listed as the number one “conservative” song by the National Review didn’t sit too well with him.
What I wish Bush would have said earlier today.  I almost believed it, till the NSA came up.

You’ve probably heard about the Van Ryn/Cerak mix-up story.  Now read the blog.  It’s a fascinatingly tragic story and I can’t imagine what those families are going through, so I can forgive them for going overboard with the Bible stuff.

They say Jessica Alba got a nose job.  According to the rumor, this pic was taken five days after the surgery.  Doctors say it’s possible for it to heal that quickly, and some make-up probably helped, but say it ain’t so!  

Love the tat, by the way.  What is that?  Sanskrit?A Fallujah Marine has something to say.  He makes the case that all the anti-war sentiment at home is hurting the cause in Iraq.  He’s got a point, considering that there’s a guerilla war going on over there now.  Low intensity conflicts over a sustained period of time.

But that doesn’t mean I think we should shut up about it.

Speaking of Fallujah, I got an audio book version of No True Glory, Bing West’s account of the Battle for Fallujah.  It’s read by Robertson Dean, who sounds a lot like the guy who narrates Frontline.  So far, it’s fascinating.  I wish I had the book in my hands…

I had no idea the Rockies were so evangelical  Batter up.

Green Chili Peppers

Trying to deal with Blogger today has led me to the conclusion that I have this.  What the fuck, man?  I have all these clever and witty things to say on my internet friends’ blogs and Blogger won’t let me!  

Pardon me for a moment.  I think I’m going to get that $1,359 worth of property damage out of the way now…

Alright, I feel better.  I’m gonna need new furniture, but I’ve been thinking about Japanese style living anyway.

Okay, on a more serious note, if you have Myspace, feel free to give this guy a hard time.  He’s an ass.  I don’t know him personally, but he started up a flirtation with a friend of mine.  He started to freak her out, so she rebuffed him.  Yikes.  He turned into Psychoman and deserves all the scorn he can get.

Motley Crue, take it away.

You know what I want?  I want a beef and bean burrito smothered in the hottest green chili this side of NM, with pork chunks and lots of lettuce and diced tomatoes.  Just heaped with shredded cheese.

But there is no way I’m getting one of those in my neighborhood.  No, all the restaurants around here don’t serve that kind of stuff.  Smothered burritos?  Sorry, buddy, it’s all Chipotle style, lots of cilantro and onions.  I like that stuff --sometimes-- but I want some green chili dammit!

A Day in the Life...

Here I am in my pajamas…actually my boxer briefs, wondering why the hell I can’t sleep these days. The other night I was tossing and turning until I saw the light of morning creeping in through the window. It was enough to make me long for a rumored remedy

Damn urine analysis. It’s keeping me up at night.

This is the problem: my brain won’t shut off. The night I tossed and turned, I was composing in my head another poem inspired by my pathetically comical crush on Christina. Like “Cupid’s Arrows,” this new poem is an acrostic, the type of poem I prefer to write. Unlike verse, with it’s rhyme and meter, acrostics are more like free verse, but there is still a hint of structure. Most free verse is notoriously bad. Look at any literary journal for any school (elementary, high school, college) and you will see the pages filled with horrible free-verse poetry. Acrostic poems may suffer from free-verse style pretensions, but at least it’s somewhat absolved by the “message” hidden in the first letter of each line.

The “message” for my current poem is “Strength and Beauty,” two of the qualities that I admire in Christina. I got about three lines in, and then got stuck.

Here’s what I have so far:
Strength and Beauty,
Twin virtues so seldom
Revealed in a single soul.
As it stands, it’s almost like a haiku (although the syllables are off), but I still have “ength and Beauty” to get thru. I’m not sure I have the strength, and if I force it, the poem won’t have any beauty.

I’m not much of a poet anyway. I’m more of a sleeper.

Yesterday my friend’s Ian and Amy returned from a trip to Mexico and stopped by to pick up their dogs. (More Adventures in Dogsitting.) They promised to bring back a Latina for me, but couldn’t fit her into their luggage, so instead returned with some posh tequila and a Cohiba.

After smoking a Cuban and horking back a couple shots of tequila, I made my way downtown to visit the Capitol Hill People’s Fair with my friend Ginger. It’s a huge festival in Civic Center Park, ala the Taste of Colorado, Cinco De Mayo, or Pridefest. Being the last day, and an incredibly hot one, the People’s Fair wasn’t as crowded as it usually is, which was nice.

Although I did run into a few people I know…Special Olympics Mike, who I famously insulted, as well as another former co-worker, Kim. Kim and Ginger were friends at one point, but it went sour due to Kim’s raging idiocy, so I just waved. Me and Ginger were joking that next thing we’d see were our exs, so we split to the Park Tavern.

It’s been a while since I’ve been there, almost a month, and sadly Rebecca wasn’t working. A new bartender girl, just as beautiful as Rebecca, managed to laugh at some of my jokes and entrance me with her effortless good looks. I gave her a big tip, but didn’t ask for her number.

We ran into some people that Ginger knew, and long story short, one guy threatened to de-shirt Ginger if she squirted him with the water pistol we were carrying around all day. As much as I’d like to see Ginger’s boobs, that would have never happened on my watch. Pulling down a woman’s tube top is very inappropriate unless she wants you to and it’s safe to say Ginger felt no need to flash the bar.

Another guy urged her to squirt him, because obviously he wanted to see the show. He later spent most of his time watching up close and personal two drunk chicks making out by the pool table. I’m sure when he got home later that night, he only had to do two strokes before reaching for the Kleenex. (I mean, tissue.)

Before she started playing kissy-face, one of the Sapphic drunk ladies told me that I looked like her ex-husband. “That’s funny,” I said. “You look like my ex-wife!”

I don’t think she got it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Haditha and The Toronto Terror Plot

Some people see things in the shadows that aren’t there.  As you may have heard, a terrorist cell was busted up in Canada before they could get enough ammonium nitrate for three Oklahoma Cities.  Canadian authorities are saying these would-be terrorists were “inspired by” Al Qaeda (and apparently Tim McVeigh) and could have launched attacks on multiple targets in Toronto.  Thanks to the Mounties, they’ll never get the chance.

But is this story bigger than Haditha?  Should news organizations highlight the terrorist conspiracy in Canada “above the fold” as they say?  Apparently, some on the right think so, although I’m not too sure about the wisdom of that.

After all, when I read about how the Canadians broke up this terrorist cell, I’m reminded of the US’s mixed bag results in our own fight against terrorism.  The feathers in our hat?  Jose Padilla, who was held as an enemy combatant for three years before being charged.  He still hasn’t been tried.  Then there’s Richard Reid, the idiot caught with bombs in his shoes a few months after 9-11.  And let’s not forget his Supermax cellmate, Moussaoui, a joke of a man and a wannabe terrorist.

You would think a country that declared “War on Terror” and invaded two Middle Eastern countries to wage it would have a few more Xs on the side of our plane.

What are we to think of Canada, who managed to break up a domestic terrorist plot (before it occurred, mind you) without launching expeditionary adventures in foreign lands, without wire-tapping millions or mining through your calling records, without holding “enemy combatants” in Gitmo for years with no charges, without Abu Ghraib prison or secret renditions to Eastern European countries, without civilian deaths in Haditha?  

If anything, focusing on the Canadian terror plot just exposes the holes in our own approach.