Instapun*** Archive Listing

Archive Listing
August 18, 2012 - August 11, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Treat for the Weekend:

The Best Superhero Movie
you didn't see or hear of

Yeah. It's in Russian with English subtitles. You won't mind, believe me.

WAY BETTER THAN GREEN HORNET. Not even going to mention the news. It's all nonsense. Like Hillary was going to do a Joan of Arc for Obama. Fat chance. She wants to beat Romney in 2016, not plead for absolution from the disaster of two Obama terms. And I'm not going to report on the panty poll that reveals Ryan's real and perhaps insuperable advantage in the fall election. Besides, women already know what I'm talking about. It'll be our little secret unless they want to share...

What I am going to do is aim all you sci-fi/comic book mavens at a movie you'll find as irresistible as I did. Black Lightning. Derivative? Maybe. There are elements of Spiderman's Peter Parker in the hero. And the score references the Dark Knight more than would seem coincidental. But the end result is gloriously Russian rather than Hollywood. We have personal guilt by the protagonist like Dostoevsky used to make. We have a heroine who is an archetype of the naive and vulnerable Russian blonde who doesn't scream in the face of danger but shrinks to paralyzed victim (at least for a while). We have a Putin stand-in so obvious I'm wondering if the producers are still wandering around outside the new concrete gulags of the Russian democracy. And we have abundant self-deprecatory Russian humor. Good pacing, good editing, great Soviet settings, and lots of showering flowers. Trust me. You'll love it.

The budget was probably a tenth of a Batman or Spiderman movie. But it's all well spent. What we have, ladies and gents, is a supernatural Volga sedan -- i.e., an example of the very worst of Soviet automobile manufacture -- that becomes a symbol of freedom, Christian morality, and the power of love.

It's charming from first to last, funny, affecting, engaging, and stirring. The implausibilities, when you think about them, if you think about them, are no more than you'll find in any other superhero movie. Yeah, the Volga is more indestructible than seems possible. Same could be said of Batman and Spiderman too. The movie makes you want to suspend disbelief. Which is the sign of a movie well done.

I saw it on Netflix. Maybe you can too.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shades of Blue

Blue is the color of the sky and freedom. Also of oceans in murderous mood.

WHAT DO WOMEN KNOW AND WHEN DID THEY KNOW IT? It started innocently enough. I was trying to address the unexpected appeal Paul Ryan has to women -- verified by my wife, her co-workers, and most recently our own Barbara -- which I suspect is a secret weapon unanticipated by Democrats. I conceived of a definitely NSFW post on the subject and discarded it based on sound advice from a male friend because it was just too, well, blue for this audience. Then my wife suggested a tribute to "Blue Eyes," because women like men with blue eyes, Paul Ryan included. Some examples:

But, hell, that was even more dangerous than my NSFW idea. Laden with potential charges of racism in the current electoral climate. I did some research, found some pictures and interesting web discussions, and finally realized there's more than a political point to be made here. It has nothing to do with race. Blue is just far and away the most interesting color of the spectrum. Because depending on its shade. it contains every human emotion from sunniest optimism to utter despair. Why, just possibly, blue eyes are the most fascinating to members of the opposite sex. There's no way to tell if retinal hue is an actual filter that influences what is seen and how it is processed. Yet the color blue is a cultural obsession anyway.

From "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis. Eloquently simple sadness.

Blue but pretty. You know.

Sweet and heartbreaking.

If you've seen the right shade of blue, heaven isn't such a distant concept.

And then there are "The Blues." Don't give me grief. My blog. My links.

Hold your horses...

...Sex has always been a big part of blue.


Red is hot and passionate and oftimes evil. Green is plants and (these days) dumb bureaucrats. Yellow is French, mustard, and too much sun. Brown is what brown usually is: Providence RI and more bullshit than a man can rake up in a lifetime. Other colors? The eyes of Lincoln and Jimmy Stewart and Ronald Reagan were gray.

Blue is the color of life, the good and the bad, the terrifying and the hopeful. Also endangered because recessive in a world determined to breed differentness away. There's an old idiom concerning the blue eyed boy, which meant "a man who is liked and admired by someone in authority." A rarity. Maybe all those women are onto something, wanting to see through the eyes of life rather than uniform, increasingly collectivist death wishes.

They're probably wrong in the specific. But the rest of us should give some thought to the latent subtext. How do we want to go about living?

Blue Rooms or Blue Skies. Your pick.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Olympic Wrap-Up

She's a sweetheart.

. Like you, I enjoyed Brizoni's Olympic Report. It's left to me to do the unfunny stuff. What was inspiring and what wasn't. Brizoni and TrueJock were mostly right about the sports themselves. Brizoni appears, or affects, not to know the difference between gymnastics (good) and rhythmic gymnastics (gay). Focusing on ribbons and puffballs prevented him from acknowledging the moving performance of Gabby Douglas. TrueJock is so in love with the battering martial arts that he scorns one of the oldest of them all, fencing, which uses electronics to defeat judge bias. Doesn't mean it shouldn't be in the Olympics.

Truth is, all the Olympic martial arts have become as boring as soccer. Judo, Tae Kwan Do, Boxing, Graeco-Roman Wrestling, and Freestyle Wrestling. Like watching paint dry. Everybody's gotten too good. What should be physical has become chess, feints and counters that rarely result in the excitement they're supposed to engender. I'll cite only one example. Freestyle wrestling. I remember watching our wrestling team in high school. We had one guy so good that as soon as he took the mat, people started pounding the gym floor and yelling "Pin Pin Pin Pin Pin Pin Pin." He lived up to expectations. Takedown was immediate, and there followed a blizzard of pinning combinations that didn't end until one of them worked, usually between 30 seconds and 2 minutes into the first period. Those were the days. I don't fault the current athletes for being so good that they're boring, but they are boring. These days, there are no takedowns, no reverses, no escapes, no pins. Just two savvy combatants who gain a point or two in a match by bumping the other guy out of the regulation area. Yawn. Same thing obtains with what I suspect is TrueJock's new passion, Mixed Martial Arts. It was fun at the beginning to watch pure tough guys brutalize Karate black belts and talented wrestlers outwit professional boxers. But now it's become formulaic. And dull. Two or three punches, grappling on the floor for long minutes, and then some bald tattooed guy screaming around the ring in jubilation. Double yawn.

By the same token, the only thing I watch for in fencing is the first point. Where most real duels would end; somebody has three to four inches of steel in their innerds. That's how I approached it when I was a saber fencer, and saber incidentally has been the last of the fencing weapons to move to electronics in place of judges. (Not that the NBC broadcasters ever alert anyone to the differences among foil, epee, and saber... It's all fencing!!!)

Where were we? Best Olympic events that reflect Olympian skills, given that the ancient Greeks were always about warrior-related skills: Decathlon and Modern Pentathlon. How many minutes of either of these did you see? Also Rowing and Equestrian events. (The "Dressing" line in Brizoni's post was funny but ignorant.) You can find 3 minute snippets about these at NBC's On-Demand site. Unlike Brizoni, I did see some of the archery. Archers are now fat.

All the sports our two mavens deride are actually functions of global political correctness. Without team handball, field hockey, water polo, and volleyball, we'd never hear a word about Croatia, Serbia, or Macedonia. Wouldn't that be a tragedy? Unfortunately for some of our favorite commenters, the same can be said of the sport called "Beach Volleyball." A sport? Maybe just. More probably, soft-core porn for men and women capable of pretending that tiny bathing suit bottoms (and skimpy sports bras) aren't their chief Olympic interest.

The Lowdown. You knew I'd get to it eventually, didn't you? Drudge was ecstatic announcing 46 gold medals under the headline "We're Back." Hardly. The USA men won 19 gold medals, the women 27. That's right. The women are now not only in command with the majority of athletes on the team but also in results. Against a world where women's athletics are trivial compared to America's huge Title IX investment. This was the FIRST year in which every competing country had at least one female athlete.

19 gold medals for USA men. Including all the made-up events in swimming.

All the inspiring stories attach to the women. Our admittedly glorious and admirable female sprinters. (Yes, I love them!) Our high school winner of four golds who nevertheless and at prodigious cost retained her amateur standing so she can swim for whatever college she decides to attend.

The gymnast who made her own bold political statement by doing her floor routine to a pumped-up version of Hava Negila at an Olympics that refused to honor the memory of 11 dead Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

What did the men do? Loaf to a gold medal in basketball. And mostly lose everywhere a swimming pool wasn't involved.

Proud, are we? Tell me about it. I'm guessing the USA Olympic committee is currently looking into Olympic status for Lawn Jarts, Stickball, Homerun Derby, Video Gaming, Beer Pong, Tailgating Barbecue, iPad Pinball, and Male Texting.

Am I inspired? By the women, yes. By the men? Uh. No. Though I'm thinking some of them are contemplating a massive new opportunity in rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming. If GBR doesn't beat our buggered asses to the punch.

Oh. One more thing. NBC. (Costas, Brokaw, broken web streaming, phony and duplicitous teases, fraudulent suspense for completed events broadcast in prime time, continuously incompetent announcers, horrifying self-promotion of doomed series programming, hatchet-style editing, way too many Obama ads, Michelle described as the "leader" of Team USA, and of course, Costas and [Jesus!] Brokaw.)

Can somebody please find a way to get this multi-colored turkey out of the Olympics? Please?

Paul Ryan:
Man on a Brown Horse.

Just a guy. Just a horse. What they said about Seabiscuit.

FOCUS ON WINNING. I've been exploring the world of the secretly pleased. Nobody can tell me precisely why they're so pleased. But they are. A kind of beaming is going on. From Laura Ingraham to my best friend in Ohio to my wife, they all seem to know something I don't, or didn't.

There's scant evidence to go on. Where I see an Eddy Munster haircut, Laura Ingraham and my wife see a guy who's "cute." I gave up trying to translate that female word more than 30 years ago. It means something, but even women don't know what that might be.

So I embark on a process of elimination. My Ohio friend knows how good Miami University is, which is very, and he also cites the bio. Kid loses daddy early in life and (Shock!) does not turn to a life of acting out (i.e., crime) but sprints toward super-accomplishment. Hmmm. You'd think Obama wouldn't be hateful about that if he were a good guy.If...?

Result? Well liked leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, so humble and affable that even Democrats privately like him.

In the words of John Lennon, he's "not the only one." People. Like. Ryan.

He didn't campaign for the VP slot. He's got three kids and a wife he loves in Wisconsin. Some network story discovered the cot in his DC office. What's that for? Turns out, he sleeps there for four days a week before returning home to his family.

I was interrogating my Ohio friend who knows Ryan better than I do, looking for an easy comparison. "Is he TR?," I asked, looking for that VP leader who was absolutely ready to stand in if called. "No, no, no, no, he isn't TR. He's a guy who wears shirt collars that are too big. He's gotta stop that, by the way. It looks awful."

Republicans keep looking for the new Ronald Reagan, the man on the white horse. Right now, and just as a glimmering, I'm thinking they got something better. A man on a brown horse. Let me explain.

Romney is rich. So what. Ryan is the perfect counterweight. Not rich. Not Ivy League. Yes, he's sustained many personal attacks, but those attacks haven't had to deal with his bio. Which is all about hard work, loyalty to family and religion, everything the Democrats have tried to demonize in general. People who know him keep talking about how humble and approachable Ryan is. He's the anti-Palin. He's so smart he's risen on that basis alone, and the last thing he'd ever expect would be an assessment that he has star quality. Hence those ill-fitting shirts.

I'm starting to see the logic. I wanted to keep him in the House, which is where (to be fair to me) he said he wanted to stay,  But the ineluctable truth of the matter is that he understands the U.S. budget better than practically any man alive. In a time when we have no budget. He's the smartest man at the center of the biggest screwup in US history. And he actually understands it down to the last decimal point. He has fought it tooth and claw. I guess he really might be ready to step into the ring against the greatest fraud ever to hold the Oval Office.

What does he give Romney? Instant insider info about how Washington works and doesn't. A hitman on the order of Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name about every policy issue that passes within a hairsbreadth of the House. And an ability -- so rare that even I don't have it -- to take an opposition argument apart. utterly, without making it seem personal or hostile.

He's from the midwest, the heartland. Women, God knows why, love his widow's peak. He has an aged mother who lives in Florida. Nobody's ever going to believe he'd do her har harm. Apart from his natural talent at being a rhetorical killer, he's the ultimate good son, perfect husband, model father. Mr. Nice Guy.

He'll murder Biden in the debate, even though the establishment has already procured a foreign correspondent to concoct the questions. He'll know more than she does before the first question is asked.

He's also going to murder The Obama-Biden ticket on every matter of substance that has passed through Washington. The final stroke of genius. He's been there. While Obama was playing golf and Biden was getting hair plugs and shock treatments, Ryan was trying to make the stricken mechanisms of government work.

I wanted Jindal. I was wrong. Ryan is the guy. If we don't win with him, we were never meant to win.

A man on a small, brown grade horse of his own modest upbringing can change the world. That's the America we all believe in. I'm not even going to suggest that he buy shirts with collars that fit right. I'd hate to jinx the game.

Final thought. One that didn't occure to two Republicans noodling late in the night. Imagine a better educated, less partisan, and FAR less vicious version of another man on a brown horse from Independence Missouri. Yippee-kai-yay. Life's a bitch. Especially for totalitarians.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bottom Five Olympic Sports

TOP SPORT BEING MODERN PENTATHLON, OF COURSE. Let's be blunt. NBC wasn't the only problem with the 2012 Olympics (though their coverage was the chief evil). There's some fat in the sports themselves that must be trimmed.

Not every sport is to my taste. I'm not big on the more hoity-toity equestrian stuff like Dressing. I can appreciate the difficulty and artistry of the team gymnastics where they each have a ball they toss around, but I still don't care one bit. And not to be a dick, but do we really need judo and taekwondo? This list isn't just the sports that don't grab my eye. These are the events that objectively mar the Olympics and need to go.

5. Men's Sprint (cycling)

There's a few events like this, where they pace for the first 2/3 of the round or whatever, then do the fast part on the last leg. What's the point? Just start with the fast part! Warm up on your own time!

4. Badminton

Enough's enough. Badminton is to tennis what bumper bowling is to bowling. And then the IOC shoots themselves in the foot with the new round robin elimination that encourages throwing matches? Call it a day. Think about this sentence for a moment: Scandal rocks the badminton world. Badminton. I'd call this a pity sport for backwash countries like Kazakhstan, but they acquitted themselves nicely this year with 7! gold medals (13th highest per capita). So NOT EVEN Borat land needs this patronizing silliness. Junk it.

3. Handball

So you want to play soccer, but you have trouble with the pesky No Hands rule? Or maybe you wanted to play hockey but the stick/puck arrangement is too awkward for you? You're in luck: You've inexplicably aroused the IOC's sympathy. Handball is a textbook fake sport. Much like Ping Pong, which is at least amusing. Handball is a middle-class gym class makeshift sport in a school district that's had to tighten its belt. If this makes the Olympics in 2016, it's a slippery slope to the inclusion of dodge ball, or rope-climbing. Or tetherball. Or hide and seek. Or... remember those boogie board things with wheels? They were kind of like if Lil Tykes made a skateboard? Did you have those at your school? Those were the best gym days. Come to think of it, I'd be all for Olympic-level wheel boogie boarding. Or should I say, on board... with that? Huh! Eh!

2. Pool Soccer

You know it as water polo. But it's not. Real water polo would be horse polo but in about 18 inches of water. That doesn't sound like much difference? You ever try to swing a heavy mallet through water? And the hoves are splashing everywhere so you've got to navigate around that constantly. THAT'D be a man's sport. Fill a whole football field with a foot and a half of water and a bunch of men ride on horseback through it majestically while smacking a ball around with long hammers. That's a sport that could impregnate you through your TV.

True water polo doesn't exist yet. What we get instead is pool soccer. Double remedial soccer. No good with your feet AND you get tuckered out running up and down that big long pitch? Here's a pool that's about 25 feet end to end. You can just doggy paddle to the goal! And don't worry about handling that pain-in-the-ass ball-- it's floaty!

If you've played water polo on an Olympic level (how ridiculous that I can type that sentence not in jest), be ye not proud. Even if you've taken home the gold. It's not like a real gold. Imagine the conversation you'd have to have every time you try to brag about it.

"Check it out, bitch! A gold medal from the Olympics, yo!"

"Wow, impressive! What'd you medal in?"

" waterpolo..."

"No kidding? Splashing around on a horse and everything?"

From there you've got two options. You can lie and say you did something worth bragging about when you didn't. Or you can admit that you got it flicking a pool toy into a 10-dollar net. That almost literally any idiot could come in off the street and play your sport at a pro level. If the world "pro" works in even a figurative sense here.

1. The Closing Ceremony.

God. OK. I can tolerate the opening ceremony. The nation-of-origin celebrity cameos,the 20-foot million-dollar props, the interminable musical numbers, the prolonged dance sequences that are symbolic of national unity or whatever, but the commentators have to explain the symbolism every step of the way so does that really count as symbolism? I can even applaud the inclusiveness of the pageant, creating an event to engage gay men who otherwise have no interest in sport. (beyond the usual catty comments about wrestling and ostentatious objectification of the male athletes, but they get tired of that faster than you might expect. So I hear.) But do we need to repeat the torturous spectacle only two weeks later? It's bad enough that, as my wife put it, we start the Olympics with a two-hour Super Bowl halftime show. Why put ourselves through that again?

Here's what it should have been.

Empty stage. Keep the Union Jack shape if you want. But nothing else. No mock-paper mache, no silly space-filling purposeless structures. Definitely no Annie Lenox prowling around a gangplank like anyone still gives a shit. Start with the parade of athletes mulling about for 10 minutes (NBC, feel free to cut this instead of the Munich tribute). Everyone applauds themselves into sore hands. Which is unfortunate, considering what comes next.

Athletes off the stage. Lights down. A low hum of music plays, as though some big number is about to kick off. And there is. Just not what anyone expects. The hum holds for a good 45 seconds. Then it stops, conspicuously abruptly. Silence. Then just before anyone starts wondering if the show's over, the announcer's voice: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Ray Davies."

Spotlight on Ray entering the stage, acoustic guitar slung around his shoulder. Keep it on him as he walks to the center. "Thanks for having me," he greets the crowd, humble and happy to have an audience to play for, like he always is. "This is a song about London."

Then he plays this. Just him and his guitar.

He looks up, nods kind of sheepishly, and says "Thank you very much." END OF CEREMONY. The remaining time is filled up with a standing ovation that leaves everyone assembled with broken wrists. Everyone goes home with oven mitts made out of colored tape.

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