Pixilation malfunctionDaniel Radosh
No, I haven't seen F911 yet. And with a certain superhero movie now in theaters, I can't say it's my top priority. But I'm happy to keep rounding up other people's idiotic responses to the film -- on both sides.
First blowhard up, Michael Moore himself. You may know that some people played a little gotcha with MM because he failed to acknowledge in the flick that the guy who authorized those controversial Bin Laden family flights is the same guy who, in other sections of the film, is cast as the hero: Richard Clarke.
For a seemingly tough chick, Ana Marie Wonkette sure folds easy in the face of assertive geekdom. Earlier today I sent an e-mail challenging her claim that Laura Bush looks like "an animatronic clone."
"After botching the Jeri Ryan reference," quoth I, "I think you'd want to be more careful about tripping up with us sci-fi geeks. Animatronics is a technology for animating non-living puppets. A clone is a living copy of another creature. By definition, nothing, not even Laura Bush, can be an animatronic clone."
Within the hour, the line had been changed to animatronic replica."
Think we can get her to make that "replicant"?
I'd like now to make some observations about Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 that will be more disjointed and incoherent than I might like because 1) I have actual work to do today and 2) I haven't seen the film yet (not through any resistance; it's just that neither Moore nor Kev has volunteered to come and babysit yet).
As an early critic of Moore, I've been watching the criticism of his new flick pretty closely, and I've noticed a couple of trends that don't reflect particularly well on the critics. Even without having seen the movie, I can see what's wrong with the complaints.
New York Times correction of the day: "An account in the Soccer Report column on June 22 about Ethan Zohn, a former player in Zimbabwe who won $1 million on the CBS reality show "Survivor: Africa" in 2002 and has capitalized on his moment of fame by starting an international nonprofit AIDS awareness foundation on the continent, misstated a word in a comment he made. Mr. Zohn said, 'We can make value judgments all we want, but through some cultural differences it has been all right for men in Africa to have multiple sex partners' — not 'all right for me.'"
And you thought Jenna was a ho.
Kevin Shay spotted an unusual credit on the audiobook of Hannity's Deliver Us From Evil.
Check out the bottom line. Maybe Hannity readers are just dumb enough to need that whole "author" thing explained to them.
Look, I have no problem with anybody saying "fuck." Even to a senator on the Senate floor. Senators should probably be told to fuck themselves more often.
But the Cheney incident does highlight the complete absurdity of his own administration's FCC ruling on the use of the word. Forget whether there's a difference between saying something in front of other adults in the Senate or on air where kids may be watching. Just look at the rationale the FCC used to decide that the word is inherently unacceptable.
"The 'F-Word'' is one of the most vulgar, graphic and explicit descriptions of sexual activity in the English language. Its use invariably invokes a coarse sexual image. "
That's right: invariably. When Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy, "fuck yourself," he didn't mean -- and we didn't hear it as -- "get lost." No, according to the FCC, we immediately pictured Leahy actually penetrating himself with his own penis.
Or as Timothy Jay put it on This American Life recently, if someone says "I went to a great fucking party last night," the listener doesn't think the party was exceptionally good, he thinks it was an orgy.
If we're going to have a debate over what's permisible on the airwaves, shouldn't it at least be grounded in the actual meaning of the words in question?
My bud Anthony now has a regular guest spot on Janeane Garofalo's Air America show, promoting lefty books. If you live in the ten block radius that still gets this network, tune in tonight and every Monday at 10:20 pm.
Also on the show tonight: Dave Eggers. I hope they don't come to blows.
The Wall St. Journal's James Taranto was off duty today, so we'll have to wait till tomorrow to see how he backpedals from a little premature bragging he did yesterday:
There's a new article by me on Salon today: Harry Potter: The digital remix. How one artist turned a kids movie into a poetic masterpiece J.K. Rowling never could've imagined.
On the day "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" opened, as they say, at theaters everywhere, some 50 people gathered in a concrete-walled screening room in Brooklyn, N.Y., that was the only theater anywhere showing the other new Harry Potter movie, "Wizard People, Dear Reader."
Actually, "Wizard People" isn't a movie, exactly. It was conceived as an audiobook that tells the story -- or rather, a story -- of Harry Potter's first year at Hogwarts Academy. Creator Brad Neely, 27, recorded narration to be played while watching the first Potter movie, 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," on mute. In the projection booth, Myles Kane of the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival, which sponsored the screening along with Stay Free magazine, tried frantically to get the sound and picture in sync using an iPod and DVD player. But the DVD kept starting at the wrong point, or not starting at all. An error message flashed on the screen: "Operation currently prohibited by disc." Stay Free publisher Carrie McLaren chuckled. The screening itself was quite possibly prohibited by law.
If you're not a Salon subscriber, you'll need to click on "free day pass" and watch a short ad (how ironic) to read the rest.
I should add that perhaps the best thing in the article is the chance to listen to an excerpt from Wizard People, which you will definitely want to download in its entirety when you have the chance.
On Sunday, the Times compiled a history of Bush administration statements on the Iraq-9/11 link, calling it "difficult to say" if there was "a deliberate campaign to create guilt by association."
Strangely, this chart omits the most direct linkage made by the White House. As Sam Boone-Lutz pointed out in a letter to the Times on Saturday, Bush's official letter to Congress on the start of the war states,
Everyone knows I'm not a fan of Michael Moore, but when even Fox News is giving Fahrenheit 9/11 a rave review (OK, the Fox News gossip columnist, but still), I'm prepared to go into the new film with an open mind. Indeed, I would love it if the advance buzz is correct and Moore finally got it right, not just factually but as a filmmaker. My dislike of Michael Moore pales in comparison to my support for his agenda, and my criticism of him has always been that he's bad for the left. If he's now become good for the left, I'm ready to re-join the fan club (as long as I never have to work for him).
Ambiguous headline of the day: SARS Virus Found in Tears
The problem with magazine covers that use too many exclamation points everywhere! is that you learn to tune them out, resulting in occasional confusion. When I first this cover I swear I thought it was all one story.
No, I'm not asking for money. Just posting compulsively about the Supreme Court ruling on the Pledge of Allegiance.
The problem with knowing almost nothing about actual law (as opposed to the ideas or policies that the law addresses) is that I'm ill equipped to spot flaws in other people's analysis.
Ernest Miller makes a compelling case for replacing the Pledge of Allegiance with the Preamble to the Constitution (or, as a commenter suggests, an adaptation thereof).
I don't agree that the values expressed in the (pre-God) Pledge are inherently unpatriotic, but certainly the Preamble is a more accurate and more eloquent statement of the American idea.
[via Tech Law Advisor]
As the comments on my previous post about the Pledge show, there are folks who like to say that people like myself and the ACLU who believe in strict separation of church and state are trying to restrict all religious expression in public forums. Urband legends abound about kids being suspended for reading the Bible in the school cafeteria.
It's true that fear of lawsuits sometimes leads ignorant officials to overreact, but here's what quite rightly happens when they do.
Abby Moler really had it going on in 2001. She was valedictorian of her graduating class at Stevenson High School in Sterling Heights, Mich. One of the perks of being the No. 1 student was the opportunity to submit some words of wisdom to be printed in the school yearbook.
Abby chose a Bible verse to serve as her message to fellow students. The verse she picked was Jeremiah 29:11, which reads "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Seems harmless enough, right? But school officials, no doubt fearful of a lawsuit from some offended parent or student, nixed the message because of its religious content.
Abby wasn't about to take this affront to her right to self-expression lying down. So she called for backup. Did she call up Jerry Falwell, or Pat Robertson, or even Rush Limbaugh? No, she turned for help to what might at first seem like a most unlikely ally - the ACLU. And they agreed to take up her cause.
The case finally concluded this week with Abby and her friends at the ACLU claiming victory. The school sent Abby a letter of apology and they also agreed to add a sticker with her biblical message to copies of the yearbook still on file at the school. They further promised not to censor similar messages in the future.
I swear this never happens to me, but I was just commissioned by Slate to write a humor piece and simply couldn't... perform. The subject was the Reagan funeral, and I assure you it wasn't taste that kept me from fulfilling my comedic duties. I had a pretty good idea and everything -- a souvenir program in the mode of the convention guides I worked on for Modern Humorist -- but I just couldn't work up any good jokes. Well, I came up with some OK ones, but as my editor aptly put it, they were not good enough to overcome the taste barrier.
I've posted one of two pages I managed to eke out -- a pardoy schedule of pre-funeral events -- after the jump, along with the excellent cover that Slate art guy Josh Payton mocked up. The second page was marginally funnier so I've pitched it elsewhere as a separate thing. Look for it on this site in the next few days.
I had just begun to console myself that maybe there was nothing funny to be done with this subject, when, like you, I was forwarded this. So I have no excuse.
And on that note, click [More] to enjoy Mourning in America. Now all I need to do is find a more appropriate subject for next humor piece. Hey, have you seen Ray Charles' new coffin? Neither has he!
Arts & Faith has posted its list of The 100 most spiritually significant films of all time. It's an interesting list. "Although developed from a Christian perspective, the focus of the list is the spiritual depth or focus of the films involved rather than moral or commercial value." That seems to mean that, yes, The Passion of the Christ and Zeffirelli's problematic Jesus of Nazareth are here, but so are The Last Temptation and The Life of Brian.
The real problem is that the judges never adequately explain what they mean by spiritually significant, and discussions of the individual films don't go far for making a case for them. They seem to have just about every half-decent Bible epic (plus The Prince of Egypt), which would be understandable until you realize that they've cast a much wider net than that. Given their apparently broad definition of spirtually significant -- which encompasses Blade Runner, On The Waterfront, and The Elephant Man -- surely some of the lesser Bible pics should have been bumped.
"Ensler took the stage and thanked all the 'fierce, incredible vagina warriors here tonight. I feel like we are about to take off in this big vagina plane.' (I wondered briefly: If a vagina were a plane, where would the wings be?)"
If you've been searching for a brief biography of Ronald Reagan that begins, "Everybody knew he was a dumbass," here it is.
To mention just one highlight that I had forgotten:
In his January 1987 testimony before the Tower Commission, President Reagan specifically acknowledged having approved the Iranian arms sales back in August 1985. Two weeks later he reversed himself, claiming that his prior statement was erroneous. Reading from his notes, Reagan fucked up when he read some of his stage directions aloud: "If the question comes up at the Tower Board meeting, you might want to say that you were surprised."
[Thanks to Craig]
A comic I wrote for Playboy has been anthologized -- "handpicked by Hugh M. Hefner himself," it says on the dustjacket -- in Playboy 50 Years: The Cartoons.
This is in many respects an honor. Those respects include: 1) They actually paid me a reprint fee. Sure that was in my contract, but I promise that many magazines would have ignored that. 2) They sent me a copy of the book, which they definitely didn't have to do. 3) The book came with an authentically-signed letter from Hugh M. Hefner himself. V. cool.
However in at least one respect this honor is dubious, namely: 1) Playboy cartoons, by and large, blow.
Abu Ghraib quote of the day: "The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house!"
By the way, I've been wondering why this story hasn't gotten wider play: "The Army confirmed Tuesday that a former military police officer was injured while posing as a prisoner during a training session at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last year."
According to Cosmo, Israeli women are among the most sexually adventurous in the world. I believe it. But what's a bit wacky is the editor's explanation. "In Israel, women join the army at the age of 18, and their fast, high-adrenaline lifestyle spills over into their sex lives."
As Pervscan notes:
The whole intifada is so dismal that it's hard to imagine, no matter how innately optimistic you may be, any good coming out of it. And yet Cosmo now tells us there is a silver lining to this dark cloud: Israeli chicks are hot, super-hot. The maneuvers they learn in the army carry over into the bedroom. Every terrorist explosion apparently serves to make an Israeli chick better in bed. Muslim fanatics die so that Jewish hotties can assert their right to orgasm.
I am very excited about next month's music club theme... but first, let's have a quick with the results of our last session, songs you want played at your funeral. I complained about this theme, as you may recall. As Kevin pointed out, pretty much any song, no matter how sappy or cheesy, when played at an actual funeral becomes sanctified by its context. And yet, this being not an actual funeral but merely a gathering of music geeks, I found it hard, as I said, to think of a song that wouldn't be trite.
As it happens, in Jewish tradition, we don't play music at funerals. While I'm not down with every Jewish law (I'll be drinking the tap water, thanks), this one makes sense to me. Which led me to the only possible choice I could make, a recording of Kaddish being chanted.
What did other people come up with? Well, Eve had a touching story about Emmylou Harris's Born to Run, certainly a fine reminiscence of a life well lived. Gina chose the song whose sentiment comes closest to the one I'd want at my funeral if I had to have music -- What A Wonderful World as performed by Victoria Williams. Tracy, knowing it's hard to go wrong with either gospel or Dylan, brought the Chicago Mass Choir's rendition of Pressing On. Francis and Rose both went for the joke, he with You'll Miss Me (They Might Be Giants), she with Too Darn Hot (Ella Fitzgerald). Emily will be laid to rest to Dobie Gray's Drift Away.
Next month: superheroes. Some say best theme ever. I've got some swell ideas already, but I'm always open to more. Remember, it doesn't have to be "songs about superheroes" (though there are enough of those). Interpret how you will. Up, up, and away!
Interview Magazine: "Do you sometimes feel that pressure to be thin?"
Lindsay Lohan: "Sometimes. But people I admire, like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn and Ann-Margaret, had beautiful figures. I don't like the fact that people my age are dealing with today's images, because they're not realistic."
Kevin Shay, fighting his way through more depressing stories about the state of Iraq than I care to read, stumbled on what appears to be a writer for the Independent taking a shortcut. Is it plagiarism, coincidence, or something in between? You make the call.
Even if you thought you had a good sense of the controversy over the FDA's rejection of over-the-counter emergency contraception, this Slate article explains exactly why all those concerns about 11-14-year-olds was such a crock: they're not having sex.
If you don't have a good sense of the issue, it will also get you up to speed.
Brad Yung's list of The 100 Worst Porn Movie Titles is quite the funny ("WHY THINGS BURN - It's called a venereal disease"; "SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE DWARFS - You're only calling attention to the fact that you're ripping us off to the tune of four dwarves"), marred only by his inclusion of Hamlet: For the Love of Ophilia, on the grounds that "Your average porn movie consumer will have no idea what this is a reference to."
Does he not know that there's a proud tradition of Shakespeare porn?
[Via T. Muffle (hee hee, muff...)]
William Safire can't believe the librulmedia is ignoring the good news out of Iraq.
"Have you read the encouraging headlines from Iraq? 'Monthly U.S. Combat Deaths Down by Half in May' is one."
Normally I'd keep going and make fun of the whole column, but this opening line is such a jaw-dropper that I'm gonna stop right there.
First of all, he's worded that very carefully in order to make it more or less correct. Throw in non-U.S. and "non-hostile" fatalities and the May count is far more than half the April one.
But that's not the, um, half of it. Ya see, May US combat deaths are in fact down by roughly half from April: 63 down from 131. But only because April was the deadliest month of the war to date. The "encouraging" May figure is still more than double what it was for March, February, January, December... Hell, only two months of combat since March, 2003 have seen more U.S. combat deaths than May. Talk about your encouraging headlines.