Saturday, June 24, 2006

Borat Ees Ver-Ver Funny

Borat, alter ego of British comedian Sasha Baron Cohen (perhaps better known as Ali G) is coming out with a new movie. It's this humble blogger's opinion that Cohen is a comic genius.

Let's watch as he dips his toe in heartland politics:

Friday, June 23, 2006

Skewering Paul Walker

The only Paul Walker movies I’ve ever liked were Joy Ride, which I liked because the immortal Ted Levine played the voice of the killer trucker, and Into The Blue, a not-so-thrilling thriller that gets a nod because his co-star was Jessica Alba. Walker’s got the looks, but Ted Levine’s got the spaghetti and Jessica’s got the sauce.

And yes, I’m aware that sentence makes absolutely no sense, but I've been drinking. Work with me here. Suffice it to say that whatever Ted and ole Jessica have, Paul Walker ain’t got, alright.

So I wasn’t expecting too much when I rented one of his latest flicks Running Scared. You might remember it. It was in theaters for about a second.

I’ve long given up on using time in theater to gauge the quality of a movie. Some movies, like Donnie Darko, never even got a chance until they were on video. Others can stay in theaters long past their welcome. (The other day I was shocked to see Mission Impossible III still in movie theaters. Is demand for that flick really that high?)

And yet Running Scared defied even my low expectations and may even be one of those “bad” good movies. Roger Ebert called this flick “over the top” and he wasn’t lying. Everything is massively over the top, from the acting, to the language, to the events that take place.

Forget the plot. Just know that it concerns Jersey gangsters, crooked cops, Russian whores, white pimps, meth cookers, and a stolen gun. Of course, I’m forgetting the most over the top part, a husband-wife serial killer team that shows up out of some comic book for about ten minutes before quickly becoming yet another plot point. It’s just too much.

And the lame twist at the end? I know you’ve seen those movies with the twist. “He was dead the whole movie.” Well, with Running Scared you get the “He was a cop the whole time.” How convenient! What an easy way to wash the blood from your character’s hands!

The truth is, this movie could have been better than it was by being less ambitious. You can’t expect Paul Walker to pull off an obviously affected Jersey accent. Nor can you include every stray plot line you’ve been saving up, you know, the one about the abusive dad or the Puerto Rican hooker with a heart of gold, and expect to make a movie that coheres in the mind of the viewer.

But I will say this. There were some clever camera tricks, with all kinds of in your face shots, including some notable ones of a hockey puck slamming (quite humorously) into Paul Walker’s face. Chazz Palminteri gets the menace thing right, even when he’s smiling…especially when he’s smiling. And that actress, Vera Farmiga, there’s something about her.

I don't know what it is, but I'll be watching that before I watch Running Scared again.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Presidential Family Values

Recently I’ve been thinking about why US Presidents all tend to be married WASPy guys. There’s almost an unspoken acknowledgement that non-white, non-protestant bachelors have no chance of getting the nomination, much less the win. I doubt the wisdom of this tendency, as it seems to me that a non-Christian bachelor with non-European descendents would be able to do the job just as well, if not better.

I suspect a lot of it has to do with the smokescreen of traditional family values. Politicians have been working overtime these last few decades trying to convince the populace that the principles of American policy should be rooted in “family values,” but that doesn’t make it so.

Politicians themselves don’t seem to have much interest in “family values” except using them as a means to an end, that end being their ultimate victory at the polls. Bill Clinton’s “family values” were infamously displayed during the Lewinsky affair. And what can be said of the Bush family, born wealthy all of them, entitled to the gills, even to political office?

In pondering the reason why our Presidents all have impeccable family credentials (in public, at least), I encountered this interesting article. It explores the disgraceful family history of some top GOP contenders. Here’s the dirt:
McCain was still married and living with his wife in 1979 while, according to The New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, "aggressively courting a 25-year-old woman who was as beautiful as she was rich." McCain divorced his wife, who had raised their three children while he was imprisoned in Vietnam, then launched his political career with his new wife's family money. In 2000, McCain managed to deflect media questioning about his first marriage with a deft admission of responsibility for its failure. It's possible that the age of the offense and McCain's charmed relationship with the press will pull him through again, but Giuliani and Gingrich may face a more difficult challenge. Both conducted well-documented affairs in the last decade--while still in public office.

Giuliani informed his second wife, Donna Hanover, of his intention to seek a separation in a 2000 press conference. The announcement was precipitated by a tabloid frenzy after Giuliani marched with his then-mistress, Judith Nathan, in New York's St. Patrick's Day parade, an acknowledgement of infidelity so audacious that Daily News columnist Jim Dwyer compared it with "groping in the window at Macy's." In the acrid divorce proceedings that followed, Hanover accused Giuliani of serial adultery, alleging that Nathan was just the latest in a string of mistresses, following an affair the mayor had had with his former communications director.

But the most notorious of them all is undoubtedly Gingrich, who ran for Congress in 1978 on the slogan, "Let Our Family Represent Your Family." (He was reportedly cheating on his first wife at the time). In 1995, an alleged mistress from that period, Anne Manning, told Vanity Fair's Gail Sheehy: "We had oral sex. He prefers that modus operandi because then he can say, 'I never slept with her.'" Gingrich obtained his first divorce in 1981, after forcing his wife, who had helped put him through graduate school, to haggle over the terms while in the hospital, as she recovered from uterine cancer surgery. In 1999, he was disgraced again, having been caught in an affair with a 33-year-old congressional aide while spearheading the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton.

If history is any barometer, those guys have no chance of ever becoming president. None.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Thoughts from a Library

Enough about Brangelina. Who cares? It’s beyond weird now. Angelina Jolie is disgusting. I can’t even admire her humanitarian work anymore. To me, it’s pretty clear that when Angelina is roaming through refugee camps, she’s just shopping for her next kid. Icky.

Britney Spears is a skank. Sorry, just had to get that out.

John Murtha sounds like a crazy man when you wind him up. It’s pretty funny. “There’s no plan!”

Holy shit! Federal prison guards opening fire on FBI agents? You know what they say. Corruption runs deep…

You also know what they say. Reading is good for you. And libraries make it happen. All in one week it seems I got lucky and a number of books I’ve had on hold for who knows how long have shown up at my local library. The cute librarian must think I have a crush on her, which I do, but I don’t go to flirt.

First up, The End of Faith by Sam Harris. It reads like someone’s graduate school work, but makes a few good points. Here’s a doozy:
“Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”
Then, a couple on the war: Paul Rieckhoff’s Chasing Ghosts and Cobra II, the “inside story of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.”

The library buys these books so you don’t have to. Support your local library.

Slow Going on the Book Front

I made a few changes to chapter six of Poets Row, seeing as how I was stuck going into “chapter” seven.  The first, and a minor one, was correcting a bit of the action, making the elbow-throat double whammy attack that Max suffers more plausible.  (Thanks, Chel.)

Also, I cut off the end part about Max going home and making love to his wife.  I had it on good advice from several sources that was just well, creepy.  And yet I imagine many wives across the country know when their husbands have been to a strip club by how feisty they are when they get home, so that kind of sexual projection doesn’t seem uncommon.

But that’s not why I cut it.  To be truthful, that part seemed tacked on and out of place.  It gave it an edgy twist at the end that was ultimately unnecessary and redundant.  Max had already lost some moral authority when he kissed Abby, so why lose more by treating his wife like a whore?

The kiss stays in, though.  

Igor No More

For those in the know, Igor Cavalera has left Sepultura.  There was some speculation when it was announced earlier that he wouldn’t be joining them on tour this go around, but apparently the decision is now final.  

The surprising thing isn’t that he’s leaving the band.  The surprising thing is that he stayed in the band so long, after his brother (and Sepultura’s main voice) Max Cavalera ditched out in the late 90s to form Soulfly.

Igor remains one of the best metal drummers in the world, but the question is now what?  This is what I would tell him if I was in charge of his career:  Go make nice with Max and hope he lets you record with Soulfly.  This just isn’t going to work…

I heard that Necro guy’s stuff on Myspace.  It’s pretty bad.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Camping in the Rockies

No fires. None of us realized this sad little fact when we got up to our campsite, but it shouldn’t have been surprising considering we were camping on the outskirts of where the Hayman fire devastated the area a few years ago. Driving up, we passed hillsides covered with fallen logs and scorched upright trees, black and denuded by the fire, so it wasn’t too surprising to discover the fire ban still in effect. I was somewhat annoyed to find out that it extended to my charcoal grill, too.

The camping itself was fun. I went on a hike up the hillside with my brother and my dog, climbed some boulders, took a few pictures. The boulders were massive lichen-covered things that had fallen at odd angles, creating plenty of nice little dens for mountain lions or worse, bears. Luckily the only dangerous wildlife we came across was a woodpecker.

We played horsehoes and shot at empty cans with our bb guns, and though I was tempted, I never did start my grill. All cooking was done on small camp stoves, generously used by me on loan.

I did get into a little tiff with the loser who ran the campground. I was peacefully cooking some fried potatoes at my stove when I started to hear the rantings of a crazy man. Watching down the path and shouting in the general direction of our tents, he was yelling, “If those dogs aren’t on a leash, I’m taking them out of here!” Oh, he was mad! Not only angry, but mad…mad, I tell you. Thinking he was just another obnoxious camper and tired of his raving lunacy, I told him to go back to his campsite.
To which he responded, “I run this campsite!”

Oh. Well, glad to see they only hire professionals. The dogs were leashed and I escaped the man’s wrath.

Earlier, we went to the river with our tubes. On the way up, me and my brother were scouting locations. Along Jefferson County 126, there was a lazy river winding through horse ranches and private property with only the occasional rapid. Instead, we found a spot a little further out that turned out to be quite hairier.

An old mountain rat saw us with our tubes and got excited. He wanted to watch for the vicarious thrill of it, and insisted on giving us tips. Put some more air in your tubes. Hot air plus cold water and those tubes will just deflate by the time you get to the end. Wear shoes. (I didn’t.) Lift up your butt when you go down a drop. Stay to the left.

I was feeling a little trepidation as I got into my tube and we drifted out in the current. The water wasn’t as cold as I thought, but it was fast, and we got sucked down the rapids before we could do anything about it. And then it was hold on for your life, a million constant decisions, avoiding this rock, or trying to keep your feet in front of you as you splashed into some white water.

I managed to maneuver to the left of a big boulder, going down the kiddie side, while my brother got swept down the right side. I didn’t see what happened, but when we emerged around the rock, I looked over and he was in the water, trying to grab his tube. Later, he said that on one of the drops, his tube flipped over and he went under. The lights went out and his life flashed before his eyes.

I didn’t hear her, but some lady had been yelling at him as soon as he flipped, Get out! Get out now!” The panic in her voice wasn’t helping the situation.

Even as he struggled, his tube got away from him and started drifting further away. I started splashing toward it, trying to retrieve it before it was lost forever. Somehow I too got flipped, but I didn’t go under and I held onto my tube. Finally, I got myself back on and oriented enough to snatch Jason’s tube and carry it down with me. I tossed it up on the reeds and then focused on getting myself out of there. Jason had managed to catch himself on the reeds and now had regained some control.

I continued to drift with the current. Thankfully, a guy that was standing on a rock with his fishing pole saw me and reached out his hand. I paddled towards him and grabbed on. He pulled me out, but then my tube got away. His friends further down stream snagged it before it was lost, so we had survived, and so had our tubes.

I was so gratified that I let the guy take the tube down on a run. Afterwards, Jason was shaken and said he was a little gun-shy after nearly drowning. The lady who had been yelling passed by as we walked back to the truck, saying “You know people die doing that every year.”

“I know,” I said. “A guy just died doing it a week ago.” Like we’re stupid…

Needless to say, we didn’t go back for more. Later, we agreed that some water shoes would be helpful, a helmet would be absolutely necessary, and a life vest would be a good idea. If I’m going to get all that, might as well just get a kayak too.