December 13, 2011 - December 6, 2011
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
doesn't have anything to do with the post. It's just a better game than you're likely to see
in the next month or two. Word.
FOOTBALL. Golly. Ohio State will be playing in the Potato Bowl. Not
making that up. Don't trust anything I say next. Some of it's true,
some of it isn't. But can you tell which is which?
USC isn't bowl eligible. Why they're playing in the Allstate Allmost
Bowl. Does anyone remember when bowl games weren't preceded by some
Here's a frightening fact. Every Division I team with a .500 record is
bowl eligible. Ohio State's great rival, Michigan, is playing in the
Perrier Water Bowl. Against Hawaii Southern if memory serves. Penn State is
playing in the Ticket City Bowl against the Ticket City Junior Varsity
High School team, excepting only those players who have reached puberty
by game day.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is playing Florida State Technological
Seminary in the Tyson's Chicken Burrito Bowl, in Mexico. Free tostitos
to all customers who arrive by game time. Alabama is playing LSU in the
Brent Musberger Chivolet Been There Done That Bowl sometime next year, where Obama will change
sides at the half and shoot a few baskets en route. Then there's the
Preparation H Bowl, which will be held as usual in El Paso, Texas,
between SMU and the University of Chicago. South Carolina is playing itself in the Buddy's Smoked Mirrors Bowl, Notre Dame is playing the Massed Archangels of Heaven in the FritoLay God Bowl in Godforsaken, Alabama, and Temple is playing Wyoming in
the Mopar Some Goddam Bowl, somewhere west of East Jesusville, Oklahoma. I swear.
I'm tempted here to spill the beans about other schools I know some of
you have been to. Rutgers. The Citadel. Villanova. Et cetera. But maybe
you should tell me. Which one of you has a secret ticket to the
Washington Post Insider Bowl? Or the Starbuck's Catholic Atheist Bowl
in South Bend, Indiana? Come clean. Where are your teams playing?
Enquiring minds want to know.
Amateur Annotations: Psayings 5Y: The Big Finish
PART THREE. Haven't read the comments on my last post yet. I trust they were all laudatory.
Here she is. The last 20 or so dates from Psayings 5Y in one big blowout.
33. 1788. Constitution was ratified and Washington became President in 1789, so...
A bunch of states ratify the Constitution. Mozarts dashes off his last three symphonies in the span of a few months (don't let those older Encyclopedia Britannica boys bully you into saying "antepenultimate," Wikipedia. "Third-to-last" is just fine). The money event has to be The Great New Orleans Fire, which "kills 25% of the population and destroys 856 buildings, including St. Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo, leaving most of the town in ruins." Holy hell.
Births and deaths: Wilhelmine Reichard, the first German female balloonist. And David G. Burnet, who went on to become President of the Republic of Texas. Tough to imagine a cooler entry on a résumé. I pine for the days when politicians looked and carried themselves like this, and make politics seem like an adventure fit for only the rugged and intrepid. (I said "seem." Teddy Roosevelt's Croly-loving ass was just as statist as FDR.)
34. 1898. Sounds familiar? I might recognize it when I see it.
Oh. Spanish-American War. That one.
Annie Oakley offers McKinley "the services of a company of 50 'lady sharpshooters' who would provide their own arms and ammunition should war break out with Spain." He turned her down. What a dunce. Bet he could have used one of those lady sharpshooters at his side in 1901, amirite?
37. "Four thousand and some B.C.". What? Guess I'll search 4000 BC?
Domestication of horses? One of the early human cultures? Boss, little help!
38. 1919. All these WWI-era dates blur together for me. Lusitania? No, that's what got us in the war. '19 must be Versailles?
Yup. Even spelled it right from memory. Damn French with their decorative consonants. How poncy can you get? I'm no fan of the Nazis, but when the History Channel covers 1940, I have a tough time rooting for the Third Republic. The fact that they rolled over and played dead proved they weren't playing. Done as a culture. Not just decadent, but dead. Finito. Kaput. Marshall should have left them out of his Plan.
39. 1944. Battle of the Bulge. And other stuff, but that's the big one and I don't know any of the other stuff. I could probably tell you any notable Batman comics that came out that year.
"First ever photographs of Yellowstone National Park region taken by the photographer William Henry Jackson." Bully for William Henry Jackson. "The abolition of the han system is carried out in Japan." And to think, that sentence would have made me glaze over in my teenage years.
I bet it's that the first MLB game ever is played. I've got some tender feelings toward Dave the Dad for knowing the exact date. Whoever came up with Dave's list is a pretty good writer.
45. 337. Fall of Rome? Did we have that one already?
Kind of. Turns out Constantine's heirs divvy up the Roman Empire into three parts. Like Alexander's kids.
46. 1848. OK, I know this one, and it's complicated. I used to own an old book called Revolutions of 1848 that talked about revolts and uprisings happening all over the world. Looking it up to refresh my memory, I find revolutions in France, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Italy (the "Italian states" back then), Hungary, Switzerland(!), Belgium, Ireland, "Greater Poland," some made-up faerie land called Wallachia, some made-up Tolkein fifedom called the Habsburg Empire, and even effing Brazil.
The most potent revolution? Karl Marx publishes the faggoty Communist Manifesto. Thanks, dick.
47. 1896. More 19th century. In my mind, the era tastes like licking the side of a dirty old train. You know what I mean? Dunno what the hell supposedly happened this year.
Utah becomes a state. There's a quote I loved in my Mormon days that I can't find now, so I'll paraphrase. It's from a "gentile" outsider astounded and grudgingly impressed at the Mormons' intransigence on the polygamy issue. "The entire weight of the United States was brought to bear on this people. Their homes were broken up. Their leaders were arrested and driven into hiding. And they would not budge. But one word from their prophet [ending plural marriage], and they stop." Always loved that.
Also this year: The first modern Olympics. Ford makes its first car. Sousa writes Stars and Stripes Forever on Christmas. "The shortest war in recorded history, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, starts at 9 in the morning and lasts for 45 minutes of shelling." But I'm pretty sure the event in question is Plessy v. Ferguson.
48. 323 BC. Shrug.
Alexander dies, his kids divvy up Babylon. See, I knew of it. I knew it happened one of those years, in the past there.
Looked it up. Still don't know. Birth of da Vinci? I need the official word on this one too.
50. 1789. Constitution ratified. Washington becomes first President.
51. 1760. Stamp Act of the French and Indians? Dunno.
George II dies. I don't care what else happened this year. Since I am a cruel and purile 14-year-old boy at heart, I love the story of George II's death. From The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin:
George's death, when it came, was in its own unexalted way similarly indicative of the hazards of ruling-class life. The rich diet of the rich in eighteenth-century England led to gout and other maladies, including constipation. On October 25, 1760, George II awakened at Kensington Palace to his usual cup of chocolate, after which he retired to the royal water closet for his morning effort. The effort proved too much for the royal blood vessels; a critical one burst and killed the king.
Love, love, love, that story. Will never stop loving it. Always chuckle imaging the king drinking a whole cup of melted chocolate every morning and it seals him up like it's pure cement. I know medical science wasn't then what it is now, but did no one guess that a cup of chocolate every morning might back a dude up? Was chocolate that new to the white man's diet?
I know I'm a bad person. No need to remind me.
Wait, it's 1660? Shit.
51. 1660. Cromwell beheads Charles the 1st. Or hangs him. I know it's one of those.
52. 1763. Stamp Act. For real this time.
53. 1849. Last one. Let's see if I can finish strong. 1849. 1849. What the hell happened 1849. It's the year after 1848.... I got nothing. Gonna have to look it up.
...and I still don't know. I'm too ignorant to see anything here that could make Dave's list. Hungary splits from Austria, ooh, big shit. Zach Taylor sworn in as President. So? What the hell was the New Roman Republic? In the 19th century? Sounds like a serious non-starter. Let's click and see what it was. Blah blah blah Pope blah blah blah Catholic Church YAWWWN, back to 1849. Fourth year of the Irish Potato Famine? No. "Denmark becomes a constitutional monarchy"? No. "The United States Department of the Interior is established"? Doubt it. How about this one: "James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, the Governor General of Canada, signs the Rebellion Losses Bill, outraging Montreal's English population and triggering the Montreal Riots." Canadian history! It's its own punchline! Because it happened in CANADA!
So much for finishing strong. I break the tape with a cloud of question marks over my head.
That's my little history lesson. Only took me three weeks to squeeze it out in four posts. Dust off your Boomer Bible if it's been a while for you. Good shit in there.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Now Now Now
for the dinosaur rock clip. But I'm a dinosaur.
OFF, BOZOS. I'm being assailed
because all I want at the moment is
to defeat Obama. Peter claims I never talk about the issues.
Skinny Devil says if the Republican candidates can't solve the economic problem,
it doesn't matter who wins. Helk promises that his own love of chickens
is proof of the greatness of HIS generation. Douglas Rain insists that
the millennials are smarter than I give them credit for.
Phooey. They're all idiots. Why? Because their whole consciousness
consists of me, me, me in the now, now, now timeframe. I've written
hundreds of thousands of words about the real issues. They're not going
to be fixed in 2012. People keep hammering me about the "Greatest
Generation," a term I didn't dream up and never subscribed to. They
weren't smarter or braver than the generations that came
after. They failed completely as parents. Because their chief virtue
was one that can't be passed along, can't be taught. Patience.
They had a different sense of time. The Depression, The War. Horrible
events that ingrained in them a willingness to keep working for an
outcome that would be decades in the making.
I, too, have a different sense of time. Odd, given that I'm working for
what may not transpire until long after I've shuffled off this mortal
coil. But that's one of the few blessings age can bestow on you.
This time -- 2012 -- all we can do is stanch the bleeding. Defeat
Obama. None of our candidates is any good. No matter which one you
back, the only consistent credential is "not Obama." I didn't make that
state of affairs. It just is.
The good news is that there are potential reformers in the wings.
People who can do what needs doing. Bobby Jindal. Marco Rubio. Sarah
Palin. Chris Christie. Paul Ryan. Eric Cantor. And (if you must) Rand
Paul. But they're not ready yet. They need experience, they need to
grow into the role we will ask them to play. They are the future. Note
that they're not repeats of the past. Only one fat old white guy among
them. The others include an Indian, an Hispanic, a woman, and a
semi-orthodox Jew, as well as a young midwestern white guy and the
obligatory crazy white guy.
I'm not telling you who to back in that future race. The basis for my
hope -- as opposed to all of you in the "it's fucking over" crowd -- is
that there are no young
Democrats boasting equivalent credentials. In other words, if we can
survive the current crisis, we can absolutely save the country we love.
Four more years. Time for the Millennials to learn something about
life, others, and the need for balls. Unlike most of my critics, I'm
not talking End of the World here. I'm talking triage.
We can still be the shining city on a hill. But it's going to take
time. And it's important to remember The
Mission. Which for the moment
is throwing Obama out of the White House. Sorry if that's too small an
objective for the more grandiose among you.
Sorry. I've said that a lot in this post. Except that I'm not. Not
sorry at all. I'm what you need to hear. Whether you know it or not.
Because I'm smart. And patient.
Learn or lose. The first option is a lot more fun.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
We'll be doing
this to you for the next two decades.
WHY BE SO NASTY? The so-called Greatest Generation is gone.
Their direct heirs are the Boomers, which you kids should really refer
to as the Biggest Generation.
They're getting old now, but they're not going to go quietly. Occupy
Wall Street? Hell. If you knew anything, you'd Occupy the Senior Lobby.
But you've been had. They've done to you and you haven't a clue.
They're smarter and far better educated than you, which they engineered
in the name of bolstering your self-esteem, and they absolutely will
not surrender their Social Security benefits, their Medicare
reimbursements, their outrageously inflated union pensions, or their
ultimate Parthian shot -- the contempt they feel for the fools who
imitate their worst moments at a time when the "beloved kids" should be fighting like
hell for their own lives and the lives of their children. They're
laughing at you.
Ha ha ha.
And they vote. Yes, they have
an attention span longer than a text message, and they will make you
pay for every minute of the incredibly long life spans they inherited
from the last generation that did any actual work. Dirty secret,
though. Baby Boomers are just as smart as their parents, if not as productive. The question
you have to ask yourselves is, why aren't you? Because as far as they're
concerned, you were never more than accessories in their lives. Like a trendy handbag.
Which can be thrown away when it ceases to be fashionable. Awww.
They will suck you dry.
Madison Avenue already knows the score. The large demographic of old
people with government benefits and pensions to spend on themselves is
already showing up on the airwaves. As the Biggest Generation, they
have enormous economic clout. Hell, they buy top-of-the-line Audis...
keep running out on you the way we always have...
...and retro Camaros.
because we're still teenage assholes ourselves, hee hee.
And they're still running their games on you.
The ones who convince you that your enemy is Harvard MBAs who want to
make money as opposed to the $15 trillion in unfunded debt represented
by "promises we can't break" to a generation that never gave much of a
shit about the country -- or you, their kids.
The ones who convince you that your artificially created and ignorant
solipsism is an argument for isolationism in a world that has never
been more interconnected by a technology whose global
interconnectedness you otherwise take for granted. Imagine just how
much work has gone into legitimizing the fantasy that the whole
world will conform itself to your sociopathically narcissistic delusion
that anything inconvenient to you personally won't be allowed to
happen. Here's your trophy. You were present in the 21st century. When
it all fell apart as you watched in high dudgeon and angry
incomprehension. Congratulations. Killing the Federal Reserve and
canonizing Ayn Rand restoreth the libertarian atheist soul.
I feel sorry for you. The way I feel sorry for a "mentally challenged"
teenager sentenced to death for a crime he was guilty of but didn't
entirely understand as he was committing it. The crime? Imitating the behaviors and
verbiage -- Revolution! Freedom! Bumper Stickers! -- of the precise set
of people who have doomed your lives to nullity in the mistaken belief
that you were acting like the idealists they never were. How big a fool can you
Sorry. For you. All you Occupy Wall Streeters. All you Paulistas. Bunch
I did try to tell you. Warn you.
But you've got the arrogance of the terminally, suicidally ignorant.
You're convinced you're smarter than everything you don't know and have
Why I lose my temper.
Friday, December 09, 2011
Amateur Annotations: Psayings 5Y, Part Three
PART TWO. Hi, nite owls. Thought I'd break into the office and post while the grown-ups are asleep.
I've been in deep seclusion working on a project so top-secret, even The Boss doesn't know about it. And to keep it secret I haven't answered any of his calls or emails in the last two weeks. On the off chance I spill the beans "in the heat of conversation," as George Lowe put it. Secrecy is paramount.
Here's part 3 of that date list thing I was doing a while back. Was it worth the wait? Probably not.
23. 1917. Russian Revolution. Shammadamma.
24. 1500 BC. I think that's a bit early for Greece. Egypt? Something happen in Egypt? Akenaton? Big Bang?
Not a lot going on this decade. The start of something called "Mycenaean civilization." Should I know about them? The domestication of ferrets begins. And the "Biblical Exodus, according to Simcha Jacobovici in the earliest suggestion of the documentary Exodus Decoded." Is that the consensus? 1500 BC? K.
30. 1348. Black plague. Started by dead Chink rats in catapults, right?
31. 1607. Jamestown. Looking it up, I just now learn that this is not the same as Roanoke. Jamestown was the first colony that took. Guess my brilliant quip comparing National Geographic's obsession with Roanoke to The History Channel's obsession with Hitler and UFOs will have to wait.
Holy hell, this year was jam-packed. First up: The Compromise of 1877. Turns out Rutherford B. Hayes, current remembered only as the best name to use in a joke about obscure US presidents, was significant right from the very start of his administration. I could explain why this is, but I'm not... it has something to do with reconstruction. It's all very... look, I could explain it, but it's all very intricate and there's lots of extenuating... details. Your time is valuable, and it's late. Suffice to say, it's historic and the fact that no one at all remembers it shows the shameful state of education in this country. Or maybe every teacher in the last 50 years made the same choice I just did to skip it because it's complicated and these little bastards don't care anyway (Hall.B.19).
And that's just January. After the first half the year, which includes the surrender of Crazy Horse, the first Westminster Dog Show, and the first Wimbeldon, there's a massive railroad strike that gets so out of hand that, according to the synopsis in Wiki's 1877 entry, a sympathy strike in St. Louis "briefly establish[es] a Communist government" and Hayes has to call in federal troops to wrap it up. Dude!
(the page on the St. Louis strike looks to be only lightly paraphrased from A People's History of the United States and is begging for a "neutrality questioned" tag, but I don't have the time. Secret project and everything)
Then some lucky sumbitch discovers both moons of Mars inside a week of each other, Crazy Horse is killed, and to cap the year off, Thomas Edison invents the effing Phonograph. No big deal!
I have never been taught or exposed to any of this, and that is bullcrap. There's been an eighty-year gap in every history class I've ever had, jumping from Appomattox straight to Black Tuesday, with maybe the Titanic mentioned if I was lucky. Nary a word (other than "Carpetbagger") on Reconstruction, WWI only ever brought up to explain why WWII had the II. Bogus.
TOMORROW, OR WHENEVER: Part 4? Who knows.
"Too Dumb to
Romney is the son of a successful politician. He knows how to campaign for the
White House. Marquis of Queensbury Rules all the
I took some grief on the recent NR cruise by telling the group that I
thought Mitt Romney would lose to Barack Obama rather handily. That for
some mysterious reason Obama continues to have relatively strong
personal-approval numbers and a substantial, reliable base, which
Romney doesn’t. As a typical standard-issue Republican, Romney wouldn’t
have the heart or the courage to take the fight to the president, but
instead would debate around the edges, and lose.
If this is to be believed, that’s the actual strategy:
Republicans on a private Republican
National Committee conference call with allies warned Tuesday that
party surrogates should refrain from personal attacks against President
Barack Obama, because such a strategy is too hazardous for the GOP.
“We’re hesitant to jump on board with heavy attacks” personally against
President Obama, Nicholas Thompson, the vice president of Tarrance
Group, a Republican polling firm, said on the call. “There’s a lot of
people who feel sorry for him.”
Recent polling data indicates that while the president still suffers
significantly low job approval ratings, voters still give “high
approval” to Obama personally, Thompson said.
Voters “don’t think he’s an evil man who’s out to change the United
States” for the worse — even though many of the same survey respondents
agree that his policies have harmed the country, Thompson said. The
upshot, Thompson stressed, is that Republicans should “exercise some
caution” when talking about the president personally.
Gee, if Obama’s personal-approval numbers are still high, why would you
want to take them down? Let them stay there, lest the Democrat-Media
Complex accuse you of being a blue meanie.
Remember, GOP: principles, not policies. Principles, not policies.
Principles, not policies.
It’s not Obama’s policies that are the problem, it’s Obama and
everything he represents and stands for. Engage the president on the
deepest, most potent level, or join John McCain and Bob Dole on the ash
heap of history.
Really, this party is too dumb to live.
Which brings me back to my own recent
post on the candidacy of Newt Gingrich, his growing popularity in
the polls, and the opposition that's being expressed inside the
Beltway. The few comments were mostly interesting, although the last
and longest one is typical of the muddled thinking I was talking about,
long on know-it-all condescension and short on comprehension. (It's
never a good sign when a comment is longer than the post it's
commenting on and still seems not to have understood that post.) A
Your characterization of who the
Republican "insiders" are is very interesting. And I would say, flat
out wrong. Gingrich is the quintessential Republican insider. It's
difficult to imagine being more of an insider than Newt. Who made how
much money from Fannie Mae and the other GSEs right before the home
mortgage collapse? Who sat next to whom and said we need to spend how
to buy indulgences against the dishonest ravings of an insane junk
Mark Steyn is an insider? Mr. End-of-the-World? Do you seriously think
the Republican insiders listen to a word Steyn says? Come back to the
real world, my friend, where the Republican insiders want to keep
pouring ethanol subsidies into the gravy train so they can suck at the
government tit like everyone else in politics. Don Imus? Ann Coulter?
These people may be conservative cultural opinion trend-setters, but
they are not "insiders". The insiders don't give a crap what your
opinion is. The insiders are proud examples of the combination of the
iron law of bureaucracy and the symmetric property of the golden rule.
They are dedicated to expanding the organization of government rather
than achieving its goals; they expand the organization because it
expands their personal power to make the rules - and he who makes the
rules gets the gold.
The insiders don't care about the difference between Gingrich and
Romney. The insiders are fine either way.
Sigh. I never said or intimated that Gingrich wasn't an insider. Of
course he is. That's why I said I was smelling a rat. As to my definition
of insiders being "flat out wrong," not so fast, kemo sabe. I wasn't in
this case referring to the official Republican Party power brokers but
to the incestuous inside the Beltway community of those who spend most
of their time in the DC community, talking with others in the DC
community, and forming their sense of the politically possible via the
view from DC. Why I said: "I get it. Gingrich has enemies. He isn't a
guy. He's stepped on a lot of tender
Beltway toes." [boldface added]
The people I cited, with the exception of Imus (who I excepted in the post), do speak -- more openly than
professional politicians can -- for a variety of viewpoints within the
official Republican powerbase, from the intellectual elite, like
Krauthammer, to the Tea Party rebels, like Steyn and Ingraham.
That's what was so interesting to me and the basis of my principal
point, that this is going to be an exceptionally nasty, dirty, and
repellent presidential election campaign. Obama is going to start in
the gutter and plunge lower from there. Why, therefore, are mouthpieces
from every part of the conservative Beltway crowd ganging up on
Gingrich in a transparent attempt to give us Romney as the nominee
A point just reinforced by the Corner piece above.
I was hoping for some useful inferences from the data, not supercilious
lectures. (Yeah, I know "insiders don't give a crap what [my] opinion
is." What's your assessment of the sum of 2 + 2? I'm sure it will be
equally educational.) You see, I'm thinking that a lot of the voters in
the crazed right-wing flyover population are seeing something the
insiders -- however you define them -- don't see: that if what we're
looking at is a bare-kuckle brawl, then we want the best bare-knuckle
brawler we can find on our
Us crazed flyover types nobody listens to don't get invited to debate
politely on TV, we're not asked to the cocktail parties where our
mortal political enemies fill our wine glasses and offer us exquisite
canapes, and there's a point at which we stop parsing the distinctions
between social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, paleo
conservatives, and even (dammit) quasi-RINOs. We just want Obama OUT.
We survived Johnson, Carter, and Clinton. And, yeah, they were bad,
more than one of them corrupt as hell. But we don't think we can
survive four more years of Obama. He's in a category all by himself.
My bet is that people who are now flocking to Gingrich aren't at all
ignorant about his flaws, faults, and liabilities. After flirtations
with Bachmann, Perry, and Cain, they're done with well meaning
amateurs. They're ready to hire themselves a professional gunfighter.
They don't want to take a chance on Will Cain from High Noon. They want
the Man with No Name. Even if, and perhaps especially if, he's
considered too ruthless and quick on the trigger for the civilized
tree-huggers of government and media. What ordinary people can see that the
illuminated ones apparently can't see is that Gingrich has come from the
nowhere of "no chance in hell" to a lead in the polls, and he's done it
all alone, with a very well publicized absence of media cheerleaders
and professional campaign staff, all of whom also wrote him off months
ago. But they've seen him draw... and they know he's fast. Fast with a
gun. (Speaking metaphorically, of course, for the benefit of you
politically correct mavens of diction who think Anglo-Saxon words are
vile and Latin words are equality-inducing, just like the ancient
Romans.) Bang! They want a Bang! moment or a hundred in the
presidential debates, because nobody anywhere has ever taken this phony on and peeled
away his layers of lies. Face to face. In the arena. What they
absolutely, positively can't wait for. Simple as that.
I suppose it's too simple a point for someone who calls himself
"Chevalier de Johnstone," or even "Reince Priebus," to stoop to
comprehend. Far better to nitpick and posture... and then lose
amicably, like gentlemen, in the end because a weak but genteel dauphin
is the enemy of a slutty Joan of Arc. (I know I won't have to explain
the unstated first half of the analogy to a "Chevalier.")
The opening bell isn't that far away, folks. Do you really have no
strong opinions you wish to share about the ring? Or shall we go on
pretending that this political war for our lives is an academic
Thursday, December 08, 2011
rarity: the movie is far better and more engrossing than the trailer.
DONE REVIEWS FROM TIME TO TIME. I don't know how many of you
subscribe to the Netflix streaming
service, but I'd appreciate some input from those who do. I've been
toying with the idea of setting up a website
dedicated to reviews and recommendations of Netflix offerings. Their
own descriptions and ratings are, well, uninformative, and it's even
difficult to find what all is available. You're more or less hostage to
a rotating set of recommendations by genre, based on what you've
already watched. Plot synopses are truncated, sometimes in
mid-sentence, and cast lists are confined to one or two names. The
search function is also fairly primitive. It's almost as if they're
trying to hide how much good stuff there is, from Brit, Canadian, Aussie, and even short-lived American TV
series we don't get to see on cable to all kinds of movies that never
made a splash in theaters.
I'll give you one movie example today, although I can give you other
examples in other categories if you ask for them.
In the Action genre I found a 2008 movie called Exit Speed. According to the viewer
ratings, which is all Netflix offers, it got three stars, which almost
all their Action movies do. I watched it on a hunch because the pitiful
descriptive blurb mentioned a bus and bikers. How bad could it be? (We
all know the answer to that question. It could be completely
unwatchable.) Here's the setup:
On Christmas Eve, ten strangers board a
bus traveling across Texas. Far out in the wilds they collide with a
meth-addicted biker. Forced off the road by other members of the gang,
the passengers take refuge in the hell hole of an abandoned scrap
That's about all you'll get from Netflix, except that the cast includes
Lea Thompson and Desmond Harrington (Who? He's Jennifer Carpenter's
sleazy cop boyfriend in Dexter.)
No mention, for example, of Fred Ward or the real female lead, Julie
Mond, who comes across as a tougher, leaner version of Scarlett
Johansson. Who never goes topless once.
Not promising, right? Wrong. This time, somebody knew what he was
doing. Or more than one
somebody (Director Scott Ziehl and Writer Michael Stokes to name two.)
The movie has roots in many others, including Speed, The Road Warrior, and Zulu, but the real foundation of
the script is a clever modern twist on the old "Bronx Bomber Crew"
ensemble casts so pervasive in World War II movies: you know, the
Italian, the Irishman, the Jew, the Puerto Rican, the Alabama farmboy, the
Boston Brahmin, etc, all overcoming their differences in the face of
peril. The outcomes of those movies were predictable, but they were
also satisfying because there's truth in the stereotype of American
commonality transcending real cultural differences.
That's why this movie is more than an ordinary bloody shoot'em up. The
bikers are just Road Warrior evil, but among the bus passengers we have
a female fugitive from an army court-martial, a grieving loser who's
never seen his four-year-old son, a fired (with cause) high school
football coach, a non-English speaking (presumably illegal) Mexican
handyman, a vegan video-gamer, a con-artist drifter and his streetwise
ex-biker moll girlfriend, and a soccer mom. And Fred Ward as the
plainclothes MP tracking down the fugitive war vet.
The expository characterizations are minimalist but effective, and
based on your knowledge of the action genre, you size the characters up
quickly, like targets in a shooting gallery, and wait to see them fall
over one by one for their sins. But then they start changing on you,
revealing more of themselves, both talents and tenderness, and by the
time the ones who fall do fall, you are sorry every time. Predictable?
Yes. But satisfying nonetheless.
It's not trying to be ugly and gory for the sake of being ugly and
gory. The violence is violent but it's appropriate rather than leering,
voyeuristic violence. None of the bus passengers takes death or killing
lightly. They are human beings in grave danger. And so the script
becomes to a much higher degree than usual in such movies a parable of
good versus evil, with some surprisingly touching and idiosyncratic
turns along the way. The vegan video-gamer has become a competitive
archer as a result of her gaming obsession, but she cannot aim arrows
at people. Her transition is obviously a "yes!" moment, but the way
it's effected is the antithesis of action movie cliches. I despise
spoilers but there's an equally turnabout scene where you hurt more for
the killer than the killed. Enough said. Well done.
Netflix viewers give it three stars, probably because of an
insufficiency of arterial spray. I give it five stars, with a special
call-out to the editor, Marshall Harvey, who kept up a nervewracking
action pace without losing any of the human moments that make you care
about the characters.
No, it's not Citizen Kane.
Very few movies are. And, yes, it's predictable, formulaic, and a
definite B-movie. But as B-movies go, it's the best I've seen in quite
a while. If that means anything.
So what do you think of my Netflix site idea? Is it worth pursuing? If
it is, what's the best way to go about setting it up and organizing it?
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
TO WILL & APOTH. I was being solemn about the state of our
youth when commenters Will Ashbless and Apotheosis started talking
about the most elemental of all toys, including "stick" and "cardboard
box," about which they may have been reminded by this.
true that those of us who grew up before minivans, child seats,
and multimedia electronics often made do with simpler entertainments.
I, too, had forts that existed only in my imagination in the woods out
back, although I had quite an arsenal to defend them with, depending on
whether I was a Revolutionary soldier, a sheriff, or a secret agent at
The Daisy shot air only. Cool sound.
Mattel guns had bullets with individual caps. You had to
reload like a real shooter.
The snub-nosed .38 had a shoulder
holster. I was Ilya,
small but cleverand a
definite chick magnet.I was
Let me hasten to say this isn't a cultural essay. I'm just wondering
what any of you look back on and remember the most fondly. I've always
been suspicious of the exaggerated nostalgia practiced by elders on
kids: "Back in my day, we smeared soot eyes on a white sock from the
ragbin and made it into a puppet. By golly we performed the entire
second Shakespeare folio that way, and we remembered it all by heart,
I am not playing that card. There have always been cool toys, and most
of us had some of them, if not all the ones we wanted. But I'm curious
abut what you think back to that might be different from what your own
kids will experience.
For me it's grand old American bicycles with coaster brakes. The
picture up top is the closest I could come to the one I had, which was
slightly more voluptuous. Note the absence of brake
and clutch levers on the wide Harley-esque handlebars. There was only
one gear and
stopping the thing was a function of backing the pedals into reverse so
that the rear wheel could no longer turn unimpeded. The
faster you were going, the longer it took to stop, and the more muscle
power. Fair enough. "English" bikes with front and rear brake levers on
the handlebars were for girls. (But neither girls nor boys were wearing
kneepads, elbow pads or styrofoam Faberge eggs on our heads in those
days. Just saying.)
So. What we discovered is that if, like me, you had a big country
driveway that was mostly compacted dirt populated by miscellaneous
loose pebbles, you could create fantastic skid patterns by stomping on
the coaster brakes while
dramatically changing direction. You got points for the curl of
the resulting skidmark and for not falling off en route. The latter
frequently resulted in a net point deduction, skinned knees, bloody
noses, and what we would come to know (as future motorcyclists) as
"road rash." I did a complete 180 one time and didn't completely wipe
out: the bike tipped over at the last but I was still standing. And you
should have seen that swoosh in the driveway dirt. A high point of my
I won't tell you about our pre-Knievel attempts to use a six-inch wide
an orange crate to jump as far as "that tree there," because people my
age need to preserve some
What do you remember? It
doesn't have to be all guy stuff. Just what makes you smile in
N.B.: December 7th isn't just Pearl Harbor Day. It's my grandfather's birthday. This year I prefer to honor the day by remembering the time when he was still alive.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Newt the Nasty, the way the Beltway
crowd sees him.Scarcely
AND DUMBEREST. I'm starting to smell a rat. Everybody on the inside
overtime, even double-overtime, to tell us how awful and unspeakable
Newt Gingrich would be as the Republican nominee. George Will, Charles
Krauthammer, Mark Steyn, the National Review Gang, Ann Coulter, Laura
Ingraham, Senator Tom Coburn, and even Don Imus AND his Cain-loving
toady Bernie McJerk. I get it. Gingrich has enemies. He isn't a nice
guy. He's stepped on a lot of tender Beltway toes. He's cut some
corners in the past. You might not want to invite him to your wife's
But is anybody else seeing the irony? It is Republican insiders
(excepting Imus, who's just senile) who are leading the charge against
him, and their preferred argument is that he's a Washington insider who
shouldn't be acceptable to the Tea Party folks. Huh? Since when have
George Will and Charles Krauthammer approved anyone favored by the Tea
Party crowd? Aren't they the ones who keep telling us that the
presidency isn't a job for well-intentioned amateurs? They certainly
disposed of Herman Cain in a hurry and with prejudice.
My wife suggests that all these Gingrich opponents must know something and we should consider
ourselves warned. Maybe she's right. She frequently is.
Still. My suspicion cilia are on alert, standing up and waving their
tiny hands. Things I'm getting tired of hearing: "Yeah, he's the
smartest guy in the room, but he never knows when to shut up." "He's
never had an unspoken thought." "He's not really a limited government
conservative; he's a big government conservative if he's a conservative
at all." "He's a detestable human being."
Interesting, too, that the Democrats are exhibiting schizophrenic
behavior. Barney Frank claims Gingrich is his dream Republican
candidate. Pelosi is threatening him with Ethics Committee blackmail. If
Frank wants Gingrich as a candidate, why advertise that preference to
Republican primary voters? If Pelosi thinks she can do him in later,
why try to scare him out of the race now?
Let's all take a breath here. I'm not even going to libel Romney,
other than to point out that he took offense at an interview by Bret
Baier of Fox News, who merely asked questions Romney will be asked a
thousand times before the nomination and/or the election will be
But I will ask some questions. Is Romney the smartest guy in the room?
Not when Gingrich is in the room. And which do you prefer? Romney
who can't answer a straight question about RomneyCare, or Gingrich,
who's "never had an unspoken thought." and "never knows when to shut
up"? Is Romney, former governor of Taxachusetts, a true believer in
limited government, more credible as a conservative because his
political career consists of a single term as governor and many more
years of running for office? And is Romney, for sure, NOT a detestable
human being, unlike almost all other politicians, because his
personality consists of good hair, tallness, and a car dealer's smile?
I'm just posing questions here. Because I have a very clear vision of
what the 2012 presidential campaign will be like. It will be ugliness
incarnate. Obama cannot run on his record. He will run instead the
dirtiest campaign since Harry Truman's whitewashed 1948 bid, which was
as nasty as it gets until Obama 2012 gets underway.
Who will you want then? When the negative ads powered by a billion
media dollars start rolling out across the electoral landscape. Will
you want a thin-skinned office-seeker whose chief claim to fame is a
profitable Olympics and a budget-busting healthcare mandate? Or will
you want Mike Tyson in a fat, old-guy suit drawing on a lifetime of
harsh ring tactics to go toe-to-toe with an opponent everyone but Alan Colmes concedes
is not in his brainpower league?
Sure, Gingrich will get bloodied in the ad wars. Who thinks Romney
wouldn't? He's already wearing RomneyCare like an ox-yoke, and he's too
prideful to pull his head out of the harness. And who doesn't think the
man who can't shut up will not counterattack with pitiless
documentation of the multifarious and disgraceful scandals of the Obama
administration? A right cross and deadly uppercut (or three) for each wild left
look. Here''s a new mantra for you in considering how the 2012 election
will go: WHAT WOULD ROMNEY DO? I'm thinking he'll open his eyes in
shock and awe like the Runaway Bride. Gingrich? Laura Ingraham dismissed him on Imus
this morning as a tubby cross between a Cabbage Patch doll and Chuckie the
horror movie nemesis. When I think of Obama's Mussolini pose I kind of
like the Chuckie imagery. (Funny how fat was okay when conservatives were clamoring for Christie...)
Who out there thinks presidents have to be nice guys? We've had a few
but hardly the majority. Ever notice that all Bill Clinton's friends
eventually got thrown under the bus? That LBJ so bullied and
intimidated those around him that even his doting biographer Doris
Kearns Goodwin recounts that he held staff meetings -- a la Louis XIV
-- on his regal toilet?
And when is it exactly that we started insisting on nice guys to look
out for our
interests against the thieves and crooks who populate Washington, DC?
Wasn't there a time when we needed Andrew Jackson to batter his
opponents into submission? Or George Bush with his bullhorn on the
rubble at Ground Zero? Or... oh forget it.
uh, the Octagon.
Looks mean in there, don't it? Obama! Obama! Wanna see it.
Forget everything I've said. Think of this instead. Why do all the insiders suddenly want Romney, who
acts more like Mr. Greenjeans or the star of a Nickelodeon series about
Canadian Mounted Police than a president of the United States? Why?
And can you think of any possible reason why the two or three smartest
conservatives in the conservative movement keep bashing a man they just
as repeatedly describe as "the smartest man in the room"?
Me? I can't think of any. Although it is interesting how many of them
are writing columns criticizing Obama for "class warfare" campaign
rhetoric they contemn as causing "envy."
Forget I said that too. None of them have any desire to be the smartest
man in the room. Or woman. You know what I mean.