Monday, November 27, 2006

Kids' Movies That Aren't... and Veal

After Thanksgiving dinner the B&D and I went to visit some friends… they hosted a post-Thanksgiving desert party. You know, a couple of cocktails or glasses of wine, anything with chocolate (or rum), and some chit-chat. We brought the boy, although he was beginning to need his bed (not because he was slowing down, but because he was getting attitude).

One of my friends (my friends known for extremely bad judgment) started to get cutesy and giddy talking about “Happy Feet” and how she cannot wait to see it. Clap, clap… oooh, oooh, oooh… blink, blink… I’m over 35 and I still act like a twelve year old. (It is funny because it’s true.) In any case I pointed out that the word about the film was that it is not a film for kids… I got looked at like I was painted blue and had just farted latex bubbles.

Apparently, Medved didn’t think the publicity for the movie did it any favors… he says the film is targeted to kids and families, however, he suggests the movie is too dark for young kids. I passed that information on to the B&D (who wanted to take the boy to see it). She read it and then looked for other reviews… then declared that not only will she not see the film she’ll make sure the boy doesn’t see it at all.

I mentioned this at the party. Really?!?!?! Why? Well, I didn’t say much, but another guy (who looked like he voted Socialist) said the film was apparently the animated equivalent to Al G*re’s An Inc*nven*ent Tr*th. My response was, “Even more reason to spurn the film.”

Lileks’ daughter, Gnat, saw the film over the weekend. How do I know?

From The Bleat!
Gnat went to see “Happy Feet” today with a friend; I was under the impression it was a movie about an oddball penguin who cannot sing but cuts the rug with amusing skill. I assume he is accepted at the end despite his idiosyncracies, since we need to learn that lesson from time to time. Every sixteen seconds, as it happens. If we do not remind everyone that it’s “okay” to be an individual we will all topple back into the gruel-colored sea of Conformity, waiting for Elvis to return from the dead and save us again. We’re always so close; it’s a miracle some people have the courage to leave the house with unpopular bands on their iPod, lest the Conformation suddenly strike before you can get home, and the grey-flannel-suit-clad Sameness Squad takes you aside to see if you’re listening to something other than a Clear-Channel approved song. We have a long way to go, of course, before we know we’re safe; I read the other day about a fellow who got a full-face tattoo and had troubles finding employment in the service industry. But he sounds like an individualist, you think. Alas: he used Maori imagery. Most people who get a full-face tattoo use Maori imagery. That’s right: conformists.

Anyway, the movie came down on the side of the little iconoclast, to my surprise. Cartoons usually preach giving in to the herd, the crowd, blending in, accepting the rules. You know, Felix or Bugs. I thought it was about dancing penguins, but it was actually about overfishing. To hear it recounted (by my wife, who endured the thing) it seems that the penguins were dying, a nice touch for a kid’s film, and the hero followed a fishing boat and ended up in a zoo then told everyone to stop fishing and so everyone stopped fishing and yay the day was saved.

Overfishing? I asked. They stopped overfishing?

No, they stopped fishing.

So now we have to apologize for serving fargin’ fish sticks, eh. Hell with it. Veal daily from now on. Veal for breakfast. Veal-O-Bits swimming in whale blubber.

I remember when animals were used as stand-ins for humans, to shed light on human behaviors and foibles; now animals are stand-ins for creatures more ethically advanced than humans. (See also, The Ant Bully. Or rather don’t; that movie said it was okay to be an individual as long as you were part of a collective, and no one ever had competing goals or ideas. Muddle-headed twaddle.) If the current filmmakers had made “Ol’ Yeller,” the dog would have been allowed to stay rabid and chew all the locals. Why, bitin’s what a dog does! And I wouldn’t say he was mad. Why, sometimes I think the crazy ones are the only sane folk around! And who are we to say what’s sane and insane, really, in a world where – AAHHH! JESUS CHRIST! HE BIT ME! GOD, GET HIM OFF!

The best part about the movies that celebrate the struggle of the individual, of course, are the blurbs: it’s the movie everyone’s talking about! Critics agree, “A Voice Alone” is a hit!
For tonight’s family meal? Veal!

Interestingly, my Earth muffin friend who wants to stave off looking her own age loves veal, but becomes conflicted whenever she eats it. She also enjoys pork, beef, fish, chicken, seafood, and other things that go with vegetables.

Perhaps there’s hope for her yet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I"m Thankful... at 2:15 AM?!?!?!

The B&D Mrs. either pushed me, shoved me, "tapped me", or hit me followed by, "He's up talking." I think I vaguely remember hearing the voice of Badda-Toddler saying something without much of a trace of sleepiness. The general idea was that the wife was going to go off to the bathroom while I would go into the boy's room... apparently, I'm better at getting him back to sleep after he wakes up at night. (News to me... especially considering I haven't gone into his room at a quarter-past two o'clock in the morning for a considerable number of months.)

I grab my oversized comfy robe (a gift from my mother) and start shuffling like Tony Soprano hunting for his newspaper. When I get to the hallway I notice from the crack under the door that his light is on in his room... and B&D notices this (eyes widening, almost ready to laugh) and girds herself for what might be a battle of wills.

On my own, for now, I open his door... he's standing right there. His eyes look almost alert and his face looks almost sad. I asked him why he's awake. "Gran'ma call me, Daddy," and, "My tummy don't work."

That last one seems to be his stock answer for just about anything these days. Why are you sad? My tummy won't work right now. Why won't you brush your teeth? My tummy don't work. What about finishing your dinner? My tummy don't work. Let's go upstairs. No, tummy won't work.

"My can't open the door, will you help me, Daddy?" It was so damn cute I wanted to pick him up, open the door, lead him out, and do whatever he wanted from then on. To stave off that urge I stalled for time asking for him to come over to me, asking for a hug, telling him I'm here, and so on. Eventually, B&D hears this and comes in... almost grinning. Together we convince him that he needs a dry diaper, fresh powder, one last story, and then he can turn the light out again and get back to sleep.

He agrees to it although initially he didn't want a new diaper. (Apparently, it takes all sorts.) Shortly after this treaty, he wants a drink. (Another new ritual.) He smiles more, but starts to move more slowly.

Before I know it the story is done. (Once again I finish the big Awdry book of Thomas the Tank Engine.) Of course, that boy has other ideas. Sure, he wants to turn out the light on his own (that's a job he always volunteers for... in fact, he's a little territorial about it). He also wants Mamma to sing a song.

The "Gebby" Song. You know that folk song On Top of Old Smokey that insane people turned into On Top of Spaghetti? That's the Gebby Song. My wife even sings a final verse that is personalized for her and the boy... plenty of damn words hammered in like a square peg in a round hole.

I am extremely thankful for that boy... especially since he doesn't say "pah-sceddy". Thank God! (He's picked up gnocchi pretty well, too.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving: Revisiting the Past

It was a year ago when I discussed my dislike for the childish name of Turkey Day. It is effing Thanksgiving. You celebrate with turkey (or ham or some other wonderful feast), you do not celebrate the turkey. The celebration involves our gratitude to our Creator and the founding of our country... we are not grateful for a turkey dinner (even though we're plenty damn hungry the moment we arrive at our relatives' house).

Please, allow me to be lazy... click on the link in the title to take the Wayback Machine (gee thanks, Mr. Peabody) to 2005 and revisit my grumblings on why Turkey Day is lame, and why Thanksgiving is great.

We all have plenty to give thanks for, so show some respect, modesty, gratitude, and some effing manners.

Thank you for your time and attention. ;)

Anti-Strib: Charlie Quimby Makes Point, I Think

The Anti-Strib has a few worthy posts and I don't want to bump them down the line just yet... so permit me to use my own blog to try and figure this out.

I got a post from a guy named Charlie Quimby caught my post on a few letters to the Star-Tribune regarding Chris Stewart (Rahelio Soleil).. Apparently, I contribute to a virulent blog, flirt with racist imagery, and was part of what Rahelio Soleil (Chris Stewart) was opposed to. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment of the situation.

Quimby quotes me from the Anti-Strib:
[E]ven I a regular person - who happens to be white yet not sullied with the shineboxary of a vegan, activist lawyer - can see that this has more to do with... what was it? Ah, yes... the hate-whitey attitude that Chris Stewart / Rahelio Soleil has against Miinnesotans, Midwest whites, non-blacks, and blacks who he sees as (in his words) "coons".
Then he starts his post:
Telling Shineboxery From Shinola.
I don't usually link to virulent blogs, but to understand at least part of what Rahelio was raging against, you really must read a week or two of posts and especially comments at blogs other than this one. I am not going to dislodge some of those contributors from their pure certainty or their cute flirtations with racist imagery, but at least they keep it over there.

I'm interested in working it out for myself.
First of all, Quimby suggests folks read at least a week of POSTS from virulent blogs to get at least some of what Ra-So Horny was getting at. The POST he links to is at Pair o’ Dice, a recent post about Chris Stewart. Maybe Pair o’ Dice is a virulent blog… maybe not. I really don’t know. The only other POST he links to my post, the post from which he quotes. If my post is virulent in some way it would be nice to know why.

The COMMENTS he links to don’t illustrate his point at all, either. He does link to an online dictionary that provides a definition to shinebox (as if someone really needs a dictionary to find that out). Apparently, this boils down to my use of the word shinebox (or, specifically the word I created, shineboxary… like my other word jackassary). Maybe that is not his only point of reference, however, he mentions no other.

The shinebox and calls for someone to go get their shinebox are neither racist in word or image, nor are they flirtations with racism. Does that mean if someone wants to get offended by the mention of the word mattress perhaps we should just substitute the words, “dog kennels”? (Dog Kennels, Second Floor.)
I understand charming people do lie. Targets of intolerance are not models of tolerance themselves. Wingers left and right veer across the center line. A fish doesn't know it's wet and a racist thinks he's just a gentle white man trying to make it in this world. Or a black man aggrieved.

You can't tell the players by the program. Hell, you can't tell them by their uniform with their name on the back in four-inch letters. So you have to start with yourself.

Chris Stewart may be full of shit and [badda]-blogger may be one of the more color-blind people on the planet. A few seconds with them won't straighten you out on the matter.
Uh… um… is this Harold? Brevity is the soul of wit, Quimby. (I understand that sounds funny coming from me… however, I used to write news, so ten sentences in three ‘graphs seems a little excessive to his point across.) That aside, he’s clearly right. In fact, I try to maintain a certain amount of color-blindness, and if someone else isn’t straightened out after a few seconds in my company or of reading my posts or comments that’s my fault with clarity. Guilty as charged… regardless whether Quimby just made that charge or not. (It isn’t exactly easy to tell… considering he’s a writer, he may want to edit his own post for clarity.)
If you're going to be a decent human being, you have to do the work. But as a decent person, you begin to couch your speech. You know the pictures in your head and the tugs at your gut are wrong. How can you talk honestly about race if you are afraid of saying something that might be called racist ?
What pictures in his head is he talking about, and what is tugging at his gut? I have NO idea what he is talking about.
If thinking impure thoughts is racism, we are all racists. We are encoded to be. Our DNA forces us to quickly detect who is of our clan and who is not, who might be a friend and who might do us harm.

Civilization tries to jam those ancient signals. You are not going to be clubbed by Alan Page, for chrissakes! Keith Ellison will not betray our country. The Hispanic tree trimmer is not planning to steal my car. That is so ignorant! We know better now. But our lizard brain does not. The Sunni brain does not. The good ole boy brain does not. The Crips brain does not.
I refute the statement he makes that we are encoded to be racists. If we are in fact forced by our DNA to detect (and react) swiftly to those who are like us and not like us, friends and foes, I don’t know if that is racism. I don’t believe it is… at least not with the argument he used in his post.
Minneapolis police just reclassified the death of student Chris Jenkins a homicide. Halloween night, Jenkins left a Minneapolis bar costumed as an Indian and disappeared. Months later his body was found in the Mississippi — death by suicide or misadventure. Case closed.

Police now believe, four years later, he was murdered.

Imagine how the killer(s) might have followed Jenkins, drunk and vulnerable, from the Warehouse District bar and thrown him off a bridge on the near North side when they discovered he didn't have any money. His costume had no pockets, and his wallet was back in the bar with his girlfriend.

Disgusting, isn't it?

It's like the senseless shooting in Uptown, or the guy hit by a stray bullet half a block from where Jenkins disappeared. The police can't control the city, the streets are not safe, and if it weren't for one dedicated cop, Jenkins' parents would still be in limbo. I hope they catch the bastards. Someone already in prison has started to talk. They should put the screws to him.

Okay, retrieve your mental image of the detective who did not give up on the case, even after the police chief declared it finished. Who was the witness? What did the killers look like?

Could you pick them out of a line up?

Of course not. They're figments of your imagination. And if you live in a city, I'll place odds your killers and the witness were black. Mine were. It was neither voluntary nor contrived. The pictures just popped in place as I read the stories.
Maybe that is where we differ from Quimby. I don’t “see” anyone in particular. I don’t see a white cop, a black perp, black witnesses, Chinese dry cleaners, Somali cab drivers, Italian pizza cooks… especially with the lack of information provided.
Well, now we know the cop was black. We don't yet know the rest about the case. But we know about ourselves. We know we have to watch it, despite our educations and acculturation and sensitivity and best intentions.

That's not all Rahelio was saying, but if you don't get that, you won't be able to hear the rest.
You know, maybe it is me but I don’t know what Quimby is actually saying. Considering some other parts of his post lack clarity (and his very weak insinuation that either I or the Anti-Strib is tainted slightly by racism) it might be his problem… but I’m probably missing something very simple. Somebody please spell it out for me.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Film & Television: A Day Late and a Dollar Short, part 3

I’ll mention two television series in this post. (One of these days I’ll actually add a film.) Both use a little dramatic license to cover events during the Roman Empire. The older of the two spans more rulers and much more time while the more recent series charts the rise of Caesar and the beginning of the empire.

“I, Claudius”
Claudius: “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud hatch out.”

Senator: “There are those who say you cannot hear properly, you cannot speak properly, and that you've got no experience of government.”
Claudius: “And that I am besides half-witted. Senators, it is true that I am hard of hearing, but you will find it is not for want of listening. As for speaking, again, it's true I have an impediment. But isn't what a man says more important than how long he takes to say it? It's true again I have little experience of government. But then, have you more? I at least have lived with the imperial family who has ruled this empire ever since you so spinelessly handed it over to us. I've observed it working more closely than any of you. Is your experience better than that? As for being half-witted, well, what can I say - except that I have survived to middle age with half my wits, while thousands have died with all of theirs intact. Evidently, quality of wits is more important than quantity. Senators, I shall do nothing unconstitutional; I shall appear at the next session of the senate where you may confirm me in my position or not as you wish. But if it pleases you not to, explain your reasons to them [points at the Praetorians]… not to me.”

Herod: “Trust no one, my friend, no one. Not your most grateful freedman. Not your most intimate friend. Not your dearest child. Not the wife of your bosom. Trust no one.”

Augustus: “Is there anyone in Rome who has not slept with my daughter?!?!?!”

Caligula: “Yes, sometimes I think that I’m going mad. Do you – be honest with me – has that thought ever crossed your mind?”
Claudius: (humoring him) “Never. Never. The idea is preposterous. You set the standard of sanity for the whole world.”

Tiberius: (On his mother) “They say a snake bit her once… and died.”

Tiberius: “I wonder sometimes mother if you ever did anything so natural as giving birth.”
This miniseries aired in the mid-1970s and included some very great names… Brian Blessed roaring and bellowing as Augustus, George Baker as Tiberius, John Hurt barking mad as Caligula, Shelia White as Messslina, Siân Phillips marvelously portrayed Livia, plus Patrick Stewart, John Rhys-Davis, John Bennett, Peter Bowles, Kevin Stoney… and, of course, Derek Jacobi as Clau- Clau- Claudius.

If you have time for thirteen 50-minute episodes and enjoy Machiavellian plans, rich characters, unpleasant murders and assassinations, illicit affairs, and trouble families this is for you.


Lucius Vorenus: “Do you think of nothing but women?”
Titus Pullo: “What else is there? Food, I suppose.”

Lucius Vorenus: “Fortune pisses on me once again!”

Mark Antony: “A courier came from Alexandria. Caesar has lifted the siege and massacred the armies of Ptolemy. He is safe and sound, and master of all of Egypt. (Laughs) The man is a damn prodigy!”

Atia of the Julii: “By the five Furies, if I was not a gentle woman I would have you flayed and hung from a bracket at the door!”
I am not familiar with the actors of “Rome”, although I saw Polly Walker in “Enchanted April”… however in this series she’s extremely hot! She’s also wonderfully sinister, manipulative, calculating, and can “motivate men”… if you know what I mean. ;)

Apparently, a second series of “Rome” is due on HBO in January (probably starting on the BBC soon)… my wife even mentioned that she heard something on the bonus features of the series DVDs that a third series is in the works. Since HBO also has a hand in it I’m not surprised. However, I saw a little note online saying HBO will cancel “Rome” after season two. Considering they fronted the lion’s share of the budget for season one I expect the BBC will not be making a third series either.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Film & Television: A Day Late and a Dollar Short, part 2

Continuing my selection of political entertainment, my next selection also comes from British television. Nominated twice for a Best Comedy Series Bafta (how it failed to win is beyond me) and beloved on both sides of the globe… at least it is loved here by those who know of it.

You might think, “This is one of his political favorites and it’s a television comedy series… how is that possible?” You might think audiences would fall off their seats from boredom or that they would tune out due to complexity. Not so. It is easily understood, even as a show centered on British politics. It isn’t too high brow at all, either.

“Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister”
[Sir Humphrey demonstrates how public surveys can reach opposite conclusions]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the rise in crime among teenagers?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there is lack of discipline and vigorous training in our Comprehensive Schools?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think young people welcome some structure and leadership in their lives?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do they respond to a challenge?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Might you be in favour of reintroducing National Service?
Bernard Woolley: Er, I might be.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Yes or no?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Of course, after all you've said you can't say no to that. On the other hand, the surveys can reach opposite conclusions.

[survey two]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Mr. Woolley, are you worried about the danger of war?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Are you unhappy about the growth of armaments?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think there's a danger in giving young people guns and teaching them how to kill?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Do you think it's wrong to force people to take arms against their will?
Bernard Woolley: Yes.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Would you oppose the reintroduction of conscription?
Bernard Woolley: Yes. [does a double-take]
Sir Humphrey Appleby: There you are, Bernard. The perfectly balanced sample.


Sir Humphrey: Bernard, Ministers should never know more than they need to know. Then they can't tell anyone. Like secret agents, they could be captured and tortured.
Bernard: You mean by terrorists?
Sir Humphrey: By the BBC, Bernard.


Sir Humphrey: My job is to carry out government policy.
Jim Hacker: Even if you think it is wrong?
Sir Humphrey: Well, almost all government policy is wrong, but...frightfully well carried out.


Jim Hacker: Are you saying that winking at corruption is government policy?
Sir Humphrey: No, no, Minister. It could never be government policy. That is unthinkable. Only government practice.


Sir Humphrey Appleby: Prime Minister, in government, a clarification is not to make things clear. It's to put oneself in the clear.


Sir Humphrey: "Taxation isn't about what you need. …the Treasury doesn't work out what they need to spend and then think how to raise the money. …They pitch for as much as they think they can get away with and then think what to spend it on."

The series is known for usually giving Sir Humphrey, member of the Civil Service and foil to the Minister James Hacker, long and word descriptions with important sounding governmental and political jargon… just what you’d expect a bureaucrat to say.

The essence of the show is that James Hacker (possibly a conservative Tory politician) becomes appointed to the Ministry of Administrative Affairs when his party wins the national election. Hacker and the party want changes in the government… streamline, cut waste, limit the bureaucracy, make the government to servant of the people, and so on. The position comes with two civil servants, one senior and one junior, do apparently do his bidding… however, it becomes obvious that the Civil Service appoints members to politicians to prevent them from doing anything that might upset the bureaucratic status-quo.

If you enjoy The Screwtape Letters you’re likely to enjoy these series… Sir Humphrey is Screwtape to Bernard’s Wormwood. However, Hacker is rarely the unfortunate mortal tempted by Bernard… that typically comes from Humphrey’s machinations. In fact, even Hacker manages to put Humphrey in his place now and again.

One interesting point, while a number of the situations appear to be clever writing and inventive imaginations more than a few plots came from actual events from inside the British government.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Film & Television: A Day Late & A Dollar Short

If I was on the ball this past weekend I would have created a post about great things to watch during the election season… of course, that’s something of a blogging cliché. All the same I enjoy that stuff.

Everyone suggests The Manchurian Candidate (with Sinatra, obviously) or Seven Days in May or some such no-brainers.

Here is my first suggestion, and it is probably near the top of the list... if not actually my top recommendation.

"House of Cards"
"You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." - Francis Urquhart
A four-part television film from 1990 based on a British novel by Michael Dobbs (former Chief of Staff at Conservative Party headquarters during Margaret Thatcher). The two have noticeable differences, making this one of those rare occasions where the film is better than the book.

One aspect which makes the mini-series is actor Ian Richardson as the main character, Francis Urquhart. He serves as narrator of the story and tour guide to British politics at Number 10. He’s merely the Chief Whip (“just a backroom boy”), but a remarkably good Chief Whip. In fact, he’s so good (the actor and the character, for different reasons though) that he can pull off a who-dun-it when you know he-dun-it all along. Urquhart looks right at us when he confides his true feelings and ambitions… at times making us feel like accomplices to a murder. They help the audience understand what is going on better, like Shakespearean asides… he says one thing in public or to an apparent ally, while he lets us in on the truth. His performance earned a well deserved Best Actor in the Bafta Awards.

Both the book and the mini-series are followed by “To Play the King” and “The Final Cut”. The third book rules them all, while as a mini-series it doesn’t hold up… in fact, the author had his name removed from the final mini-series as he didn’t wish to be associated with it for various reasons.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Purely on accident I picked up a new tube of toothpaste... I'll grab a whitening toothpaste whether it is Colgate or Crest or the other one. (Not that I actually have high hopes for any change... and not that I've got a change to ask for, but I drink coffee.) The accident came in the shape of a combo-toothpaste with a truly unfortunate flavor:

Who thinks citrus should be a flavor associated with brushing your teeth? Everyone knows that if you drink orange juice after brushing your teeth you make a face similar to the face you'd make if you drank any gin or vodka sold in a plastic bottle.

Mint, yes! Everyone can relate to mint and toothpaste. That's like Mike Hatch and a temper tantrum. Even cinnamon is a fairly natural choice.

What's next from these people, chocolate flavored tartar control ultra-whitening anti-bacterial toothpaste with a splash of mouthwash guaranteed to kill most germs that cause bad breath in
a tube shaped like Thomas the Tank Engine?

I'm off to vote with my son. Then after I drop him off at day care I'm going to smoke... deeply.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Victorious Return

A while ago I mentioned the imminent return of my good friend Hip J and his wife the Doll. (At my recent rate of blogging only puts that a few posts previous to this one.) They arrived well and we all welcomed them with a number of requests/demands for their time.

The last Saturday of October the Three Musketeers gathered at Old d'Artagnan’s house for dinner, cocktails, smokes, and conversation… not all in that order. (We nailed almost four packs of Spirits and talked past both one o’clock chimes.)

This past Saturday we continued our longstanding poker game with a few other guys. Hip J made reclaimed his status as a poker regular by taking the lion’s share of the pot. (God love him, the bastard.)

Figuring that most of us are now married, a couple of us with kids, we planned on ending at a respectable hour. (In the past we’ve run as late as five and six o’clock in the morning.) We left around 3:00 am.

I might have lost most of what I put in, but by my estimation that was victory. (Especially when I consider the provolone and prosciutt’ sandwich from Cossetta’s.)

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