Instapun*** Archive Listing

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May 15, 2008 - May 8, 2008

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscars 1: Missing the Point

The evening's BIGGEST star -- Marlon Brando William Howard Gore.

HOLLYWOOD. Even the MSM reviewers were uncharitable about the Oscar telecast. The WAPO's Tom Shales pronounced it "a bore and a horror."  Variety's Tom Lowry said, "this year's Academy Awards ultimately proved a stately if unspectacular-bordering-on-dull affair, with host Ellen DeGeneres' traditional shtick feeling a trifle small for the industry's biggest stage." The NYT's Alessandra Stanley began her review this way:

“Aim lower,” Ellen DeGeneres joked about her unexalted childhood ambitions, and last night the Oscars did.

And Hollywood gossip blogger Nikki Finke was savage:

I've had a better time watching my clothes in the laundromat dryer. This show was officially painful. I lost the will to live watching it... I say enough is enough. Who isn't sick of getting stuck sitting through an ass-killing show that runs on and on beyond reason with no entertainment within it to speak of? As a comedian friend told me: "If this goes on any longer, they're going to be reporting next weekend's Friday night box office, the obituary package is going to be out of date, and the ballots will be going out for next years' awards."

Somehow, they just didn't get it, despite the fact that collectively their reviews surfaced most of the relevant evidence about what was going on.  Finke came close to unravelling the mystery when she wrote:

As a friend emailed me, "this was like a Reagan era show." That was the low-tech level of this year's broadcast. Which makes me wonder in disbelief why the very rich Oscar telecast seriously stinted on tonight's production values. Did Bernie The Accountant abscond with the show's hefty budget? It was lacking in razzle-dazzle.

Shales was getting warm when he observed that:

Ellen DeGeneres, doing a crisp and unpretentious job in her first gig as an Oscar host, said at the outset that this would be "the most international Oscars ever," and that prediction seemed to come true. But it meant that many of the films cited were largely obscure to the national audience. Weren't the Oscars invented to honor American films? Apparently not anymore.

Stanley actually reported two key points but failed to put them together, beginning with the "aim lower" quote. The second was this:

Al Gore, whose star turn in the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” won the film an Oscar, took the stage early in the evening to announce that, for the first time, the Oscars were “green”...

There's the nub, ladies and gents. Last night's Oscars were the first step in preparing us for the brave new world of a global community turning back the clock on technological civilization. Viewed from this perspective, the production was a brilliant artistic triumph, a long, subtle intimatiion of what we have to look forward to in the inconvenient future Gore and his allies are seeking to bring about.

It's a world that's going to be slower -- much slower -- as we wean ourselves away from gas-guzzling high-performance automobiles and 600 mph jet planes. We're going to have to learn how to be patient as we wait for our dull little electric cars to recharge themselves in the garage. What we used to expect to transpire in two hours will expand to four and then six hours, just like the Oscar telecast.

Low-tech will become exciting again. That's precisely why in an age of computer graphics miracles, the Oscars offered us in their place multiple mime performances -- low-contrast silhouettes behind a white screen that beckoned us back to the days of magic lanterns and shadow boxes. We'll rediscover, in increments, the pleasure of appreciating one sense at a time, hence the retro master stroke of a "sound effects" choir recalling an era of radio entertainment remembered these days by no one but the Garrison Keillor fans of NPR's Prairy Home Companion.

We'll even learn to read again. In manageable steps. First, we'll acquire the skill of reading rather than watching movies, which is one of the reasons why so many of the Oscar nominated films were imponderable subtitled affairs from third world nations like Mexico.

Furthermore, Shales's comment about honoring American films -- "Apparently not anymore" -- is also apt. Hollywood is going to lead the way in helping us all realize that the bigger, bolder, better mindset of America has to be jettisoned in favor of the smaller, weaker, inferior mindset of the peoples outside our borders who hate us with every fiber of their beings. That's what we'll learn to aspire to, thanks to vehicles like the Oscar telecast's many collages of dull old foreign films, despairing foreign documentaries, and even depressing short foreign animations.

It's all good. In coming years, more ambitious progress (?) will be achieved. The greening of the globe will no doubt eventually reach even the wardrobes of our actresses as they start to add up the miles of carbon waste associated with flying European designers in and out of Los Angeles for dress fittings, and they'll preen on the red carpet in shirtdresses purchased by catalogue from Penney's. And it won't represent any kind of serious loss to us, either, because by then the inexorable backward-ticking of the clock will have returned the Oscar telecast to black-and-white, perhaps even on a small, fuzzy screen powered by a low-voltage picture tube. Nirvana.

The Oscars of the Future. Razzle-dazzle free.

Don't worry, though. It'll probably take a while to get there. You know how those evil conservative reactionaries are, always holding up progressregress.

Oscars 2: A Star is Born.

Jennifer Hudson is on her way.

DREAMS DO COME TRUE. Yes, there were a lot of foreign ladies in beautiful glamorous dresses on display (Cate Blanchette, Kate Winslet, and Helen Mirren come to mind), but the brightest star of the evening was the newest, ingenue Jennifer Hudson. Asked by an ABC correspondent if her Best Supporting Actress Oscar had "sunk in" yet, she replied charmingly that she'd only just gotten used to being cast in the movie Dream Girls, so the answer was "No."

We'd like to help out, because you can never start planning too early for a glorious future on top of the Hollywood "A" list. Especially if you're a woman. When men win an Oscar, their mailboxes are immediately inundated with a tsunami of the best scripts penned by the most talented screenwriters in the world, and they're forced to start making important pictures that can alter the course of history -- or at least a few weird voting blocs in the next national election. All that sitting on the couch reading brilliantly significant scripts can be hazardous to one's health. That's why Jack Nicholson is almost as humungous as Marlon Brando now and why Tom Hanks got so portly there for a while. It's what we call a log in the water, and it's something much to be avoided.

Fortunately, though, actresses who win the Oscar have an alternate route that's a lot more satisfying for everybody involved. It's a route so well established that it's becoming a kind of tradition. They can forego all the dreary important scripts and star in big-budget blockbusters as comic book super-heroines instead. Which pleases all the men no end, and makes all the women jealous, spiteful, and secretly adoring. Take a look at recent precedents:

Angelina Jolie, from Girl Interrupted to Tomb Raider I and II

Halle Berry, from Monster's Ball to X-Men I, II, and III and Catwoman

Charlize Theron, from Monster to Aeon Flux.

Where did it all start? Some say one thing, and some say another. There are those who give credit to: Michelle Pfeiffer, who went from her Oscar-nominated roles  in The Fabulous Baker Boys to the Catwoman role in Batman 2 or 3; Uma Thurman, who transitioned from an Oscar nomination for Pulp Fiction to Poison Ivy in Batman 3 or 4 and thence to My Super Ex-Girlfriend; or to bona fide Oscar winner Jessica Lange, who did a highly costumed and sometimes bare-breasted turn in Titus, which though not technically a comic book role was as close as you can get to one in a movie version of Shakespeare's worst play. There are even a few diehard film historians (you know how backwards they get in their pontificating) who credit 9-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda with pioneering the trend by playing Barbarella when she was just the wastrel daughter of an Oscar winning actor.

But it doesn't really matter how it started. What does matter is that it's a way to get great big paychecks without tearing your soul apart with a lot of painful method-acting. If you can sit back contentedly in that makeup chair for a few hours, you can  still make a big bang on the silver screen, which means big bucks in the bank. What's more, it's a hell of a lot easier on movie audiences, too, because they don't have to suffer through agonizing acting ordeals like, say, Leaving Las Vegas.

Speaking of which -- and just to show you how acceptable the comic book route has become -- guess who else is picking up on the advantages of playing characters who talk in speech balloons:

Nicholas Cage, from Leaving Las Vegas to Ghost Rider

Obviously Cage, who's the nephew of film great Francis Ford Coppola, was smart enough to realize that he doesn't want a case of Brando lardbutt contracted by reading scripts written in words of more than one syllable, either.

The sad thing is that this career option has only been open so far to women (mostly) who can fit into a Size 4 super-heroine costume. That's why it's time for another breakthrough performer to make her mark. We believe Jennifer Hudson has the beauty and charisma to be the first full-figured woman super-hero.

Jennifer Hudson. Ready to be a SUPERstar.

We're not as up on comic books as we probably should be, but we're sure the geniuses in Hollywood can come up with a fitting premise, maybe SuperWoman (forget Supergirl) or The Calico-Catwoman. Think of the doors you could open for other talented practitioners of your craft.

All right. We admit it. We're trying to find a candidate to crash through the superhero plausibility barrier. Does anyone realize that it's been almost 20 years since Jack Nicholson played a comic book character in Batman I? Except for all his intervening roles, of course.  But that's not the point. In all those other roles, he hasn't worn any masks or tights or capes or utility belts, and we want the superhero world to be open at last to crumbling old white guys who would otherwise bore us to death with the kinds of movies made by crumbling old white guys. You know the ones we mean. Where the crumbling old white guys are such wry and witty old bastards that women 25 or 40 years younger find them irresistibly attractive. Which is far more ludicrous than a comic book movie starring Jack Nicholson as Jabba-the-Hut-Man, Harrison Ford as Liniment-Man, or Sean Connery as Super-Scot.

There's got to be something to do with all these ancient leading men still being cast as romantic protagonists by ancient producers who think the Baby Boom will last forever. Contrary to the nonsensical delusion perpetuated by Hollywood, most old guys really do know that beautiful young women prefer men who are only a bit older than they are and could dandle an infant on their knee without making a doctor's appointment immediately afterwards. The celluloid transmutation of the Dirty Old Man into mesmerizing heart-throb is more embarrassing than appealing. If you could help help us with that, Jennifer, there are a lot of old white guys who'd be eternally in your debt.

Besides, we're the only ones -- apart from every black guy we know -- who don't think women have to be starving sticks with disproportionately big breasts to be beautiful. We really would come to see your new blockbuster SuperMama. And we'd even buy the giant-sized popcorn Jerry Seinfeld doesn't think we should pay $10 for.

So there.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Money Talks.

Even cooler than the Euro.

MONEY. Those who who have been following the presidential campaign thus far might be pardoned for thinking that Hillary is some kind of Democrat moderate. All the sniping she's getting from the left is pretty convincing on that score. The truth is, though, that Hillary is a true visionary, much like previous rescuers of troubled democracies like Octavianus and Napoleon Bonaparte. She knows our needs and wants, and that's why she's going to help us rejoin the community of nations who have been so mad at us for so long. One of her first steps will be the renovation of the fascist currency that has been a constant reminder to the rest of the world that the United States is hopelessly committed to militarism, achievement, individuality, and God worshippers. These aren't things that a modern nation should admire. Thankfully, we have the benefit of the example set by Europe, which somehow overcame its thousand year legacy of murder and oppression a few years ago and is now showing the rest of us how civilization ought to work -- with enormous governments that give lots of money to everyone who needs it, or wants it, or thinks it's owed to them somehow.

That's why we're so amazingly happy to announce the brand new money that will be printed and minted when Hillary becomes President in 2009. We can all expect to receive lots and lots of these of these new bills, which for the first time in our history are going to reflect the real values we all hold dear. Here's a quick review.

The new one-dollar bill will remind us of the greatest hero of the American Revolution, the general who realized that the war against the British just couldn't be won, and therefore shouldn't be fought. Alone among all the New World colonists, Benedict Arnold remembered that no one had ever won a war against the Old World, and he did the civilized thing, switching sides when he saw that the idiot in charge of the American effort was too stupid to follow his advice.

Talk about an American hero -- here's the greatest one of all. It's a fact of history that leaders should always listen to their generals unless they're generals who demand more troops and more offensives against the enemy. George McClellan was one of the good generals, though. He always knew that the North wasn't ready to fight the South, no matter how many troops and provisions he had. He also knew there was no way the North would ever beat the South in the Civil War, and he loved peace so damn much that he ran against the president who had done more damage than anyone in history to the civil liberties that make America great. So what if he lost the campaign. He was right, goddamn it. No war is worth more than a few thousand casualties.

In a way you could say that American civilization didn't even begin until this guy showed up on the scene. George McGovern was the first presidential candidate ever who had the sheer balls to say, "This is a war we absolutely have to lose, no matter how much it costs." He was talking about the quagmire called Vietnam, and maybe it's true that old-time Democrats like FDR, Truman,  JFK, and LBJ would have cut his head off and pissed down his windpipe for being such a traitor to his own country, but who's on the 10-dollar bill now, Jack? And who gets a new documentary made about him every six months for all the sexist, perverted things he did to every single person with breasts and a vagina he ever met? We've grown beyond the macho men who kept getting us into all those wars in the past. Now we're advanced enough to admire the men who really matter, the ones who pee sitting down, just like all those virtuous German men.

Remember who used to be on the twenty-dollar bill? Well, we don't either, but the odds are he was an idiot chavinist pig who never appreciated just how wise and wonderful women are when they're running the government. Thank God goodness we now have a Speaker of the House who isn't the hostage of testosterone and knows when it's time to march up to the nearest imam and surrender like a good little girl. There really isn't anything else you can do when you're confronted by that kind of man.

If we didn't put him on the 50-dollar bill, we'd have to just stop everything and declare him a saint. Who else could be so pristinely objective in the face of nationalistic madness that he has the wherewithal to defend the democratically elected leader of a nation at war with his own country? I mean, Saddam Hussein got almost 99 percent of the vote in his last presidential race. No American politician ever gets a mandate like that. No wonder all those Iraqi women wanted him to rape them to death. Well, as I always say, if you want people who take a principled stand, find yourself a Democrat, preferably one who's served in a Democrat presidential adminsitration. Someone like Ramsey Clark. Or Martin Sheen.

People are so cynical. Most of the Republicans I know were awful when I told them I was writing about the new currency. They thought Bill Clinton should be on the 100-dollar bill. You know, Cocaine jokes. That's why I'm so pleased that the real new face of the 100-dollar bill is someone who's never done anything wrong or unsavory. He just loves peace. And poor, hopeless losers. To death.

All right. So he's a desperately stupid, incompetent, and not so patriotic boob. Can you name me one organzation that doesn't have a Patrick Leahy on the board submitting outrageous expense accounts and annoying the hell out of the people who do the real work? No. Of course you can't. There's always a Patrick Leahy. It's our choice. We can nuke the state of Vermont, or we can find some way to cope. Face it. You're never going to get rid of numbskull crooks like Leahy. What you can do is is give them their anniversary pins, plaques, and all the other crap that says you care, even though you don't. Besides, have you ever seen a $500 bill? No one else has either. Serves him right.

He didn't do it for the money. Julius (corrected 2/26 by commenter Scipio -- thanks!) Rosenberg gave the Russians our nuclear secrets because he believed in peace, the perfectability of man, and the wisdom of Josef Stalin. Who doesn't believe in those things? And who wouldn't commit espionage just to have the satisfaction of putting one over on Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon? Can you even imagine how effective he'd be as an activist against Global Warming? We know he'd kick ass. Gore would be sick with envy.

Hey. It's the top denomination. Who else would you put on this bill? He's the Top Dog, the Alpha Male, the.. well, you take the point.

About time, don't you think? The three-dollar bill is important, because it's somewhere between the one-dollar bill and the five-dollar bill. We always needed it. Because life just wouldn't be the same without a pompous, patronizing, pseudo-intellectual, obnoxious, corrupt, er, unit of currency. You know.

We're going to have all new coins too. Hurray. Like the penny.

Isn't she just so gre-e-e-e-e-a-a-a-t? Of course she is. So humble. And so classically beautiful.

This is the guy who defunded the South Vietnamese army. He'll be the new nickel. And worth every penny. We need more politicians like Speaker of the House Carl Albert. Are you listening, Nancy?

Jimmy Carter. So good to have him on the dime. He's worth so much more than that. But if you're going to be on the quarter, you've got to be really really special, not some trailer trash who accidentally got elected president.

Babs.  It doesn't get much better than this. Just don't keep your quarters in the same pocket with your dimes. Barbra is Jewish, you know. But a good Democrat. Like all Jews. Or Hillary wouldn't put one on the quarter. It's not as if they're actually silver anymore.

We've been told that that Hillary is also thinking of putting an African-American on the 50-cent piece, maybe Paul Robeson, because he was so loyal to the proletariat people. And there's also talk of a new dollar coin, which would be a nonpartisan choice like Charles Lindbergh, because he believed in peace so much. Way back when. The alternative candidate is John Wilkes Booth. Who knew the best approach to take with a war-mongering Republican president. Stay tuned.

UPDATE. Thanks to Wuzzadem for the link, but we're pretty sure it's not illegal. We confidently expect a verdict of not guilty by reason of inanity.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ear to the Ground

Disturbing rumblings from the grass roots.

PSAYINGS.5A.12. If you're already as bored as we are by all the premature analysis of the premature 2007 presidential campaign, you're probably wishing something interesting would happen. Over at the always entertaining Ace of Spades (AoS) website, Jack M. has offered up an election scenario that's intriguing on several levels.

Let's look at 2008. We have a supposedly "unpopular" war, and a President who can not run, and a VP who isn't going to do so. The Democratic nominee will be an unrepentant liberal (either Hillary! or Obamessiah). The GOP nominee will likely be to the left of a significant portion of his party (and I believe that, barring a significant series of mistakes or some bombshell "Giulianigate" story Giuliani will be the nominee).

So where's the problem? John McCain.

I think he is going to be the George Wallace of the 2008 election. And I think that, much like George Wallace did, he will siphon enough votes to either toss Red States to the Dems or to throw the election into the House of Representatives by winning a couple outright.

The stories of McCain's admiration for the 3rd Party candidacy of Teddy Roosevelt are legendary.

More troubling, though, are the rumors (and that's what they are, rumors) I'm hearing in the DC circles I run in that the McCain folks are already planning a third party "National Unity" run. Supposedly, they are following polls that show them steadily losing ground, and this contingency plan is being put into action.

Which isn't surprising to me in the least. I think McCain's ego is such that he would hand the election to the Democrats in a fit of pique, should Republican primary voters reject him.

It's a provocative idea on its own terms, of course, but the reader comments make it all the more fascinating. AoS doesn't get a lot of  lefty commenters, because it's a righty site and Ace can be, um, discouraging to leftwing trolls, so the comments on Jack M's theory represent a broad range of conservative and Republican viewpoints. Some think Jack's right, some think McCain is too loyal to the party to torpedo its candidate, some think he's already out of the money race and couldn't run third party if he wanted to. The common thread seems to be that none of them really likes McCain, and many actually despise him.

They also seem disposed to consider a lot of alternative scenarios -- independent runs by Gingrich and/or Lieberman, Tancredo on an anti-immigration ticket, a paleoconservative isolationist, or a hard-core anti-war lefty -- and one even proposes the possibility that both parties could break apart into multiple factions, resulting in a parliamentary style free-for-all.

All of which suggests to me that they're bored and fed up, too. Think about it. We have almost two years to go before the election, and we're already getting daily coverage of intramural spats between Hillary and Obama about who has a better right to the mega-millions of Hollywood's jetsetting populists. On the other side, we have the incredibly dreary daily coverage of McCain, Giuliani, and Romney tripping over each other in their haste to pander to a conservative base that's been systematically betrayed by their party leadership for years.

Against this background, the third party possibilities are about the only hope for a campaign that doesn't plunge the entire nation into narcolepsy before it's through. The problem is, we'd have to wait till after the conventions, almost a year and a half from now, before we could expect to receive even that crumb. We'll all be in a coma by then if nothing's done.

So I'd like to suggest that one or several of the big blogs seek responses from both Republicans and Democrats to this poll.

Check one:

[ ] I'm happy to have a presidential campaign that goes on like this for twenty-two (22!) more dreadful sickening months.

[ ] I want all the candidates to go home and wait by the phone in their living room until we call back in a year or eighteen months or so and say it's okay to hit the campaign trail again.

[ ] I want all new candidates. The new ones should include, at a minimum, 1) Republicans who actually believe in winning the Iraq War, fighting the War on Terror, preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or annihilating Israel, controlling U.S. borders, reducing both taxes and government spending, appointing reliably conservative judges, and preserving Second Amendment rights; 2) Democrats who actually have a plan for ending the Iraq War without further loss of American life in the short and long term, ensuring effective health care coverage for all Americans, including the 40 million presently uninsured, eliminating the budget deficit by raising taxes and reducing waste in government, solving the Global Warming crisis, significantly improving the safety of Americans from terrorist attacks within our borders, restoring respect for America around the world, and establishing a viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

[ ] I want all new parties, and I don't care if the election looks like the mess you see in some South American backwater. I want a party that appeals to national security Republicans who don't give a rat's ass about abortion and gay marriages. I want a party that appeals to fundamentalist evangelicals who think the whole world is going to burn in hell tomorrow anyway, so let's forget about everything else and save some fetuses while we can. I want a party that doesn't care about anything at all except closing our borders and getting rid of all the damn foreigners who are already here sucking up tax money. I want a party that appeals to senile Republicans who still think the government has no business interfering in absolutely everything we do, except for the part about protecting the nation from foreign enemies. I want a party that hates America as much as Osama bin Laden, the Iranians, the Palestinians, and the French and Germans and Brits do. I want a party that doesn't care at all what happens in the rest of the world but is willing to spend every dime in the GDP on free health care and free everything else for all the people who aren't up to competing in an evil capitalist economy. I want a party that believes as much in national security as the Republicans but also all the free stuff we should all be getting from the government too. I want a party that cares about nothing but Global Warming and is willing to hurl us all back to the Stone Age to cool the world by a degree or two. I want a party that gives me everything I want and says the hell with everyone else.

[ ] I'm an utter fool. I just want everyone to calm down and talk about real issues, reasonably, like grownups, disagreeing where necessary in tones of basic human respect.

Well, maybe they could fiddle with the wording a little bit, but you get the idea. I mean, do any of you think you can tolerate the current garbage they're calling a campaign for twenty-two more months? I'd really like to know.

The Horror!

Not much we can do to help, it seems.

PSAYINGS.5Q.56. Nothing original about this post. We just had to acknowledge a brilliant column by Boston Herald reporter Jules Crittenden (h/t Glenn Reynolds). It's called Quagmire. The opening graphic is great, the column itself is even better, and the concluding YouTube file is priceless. Go enjoy yourselves.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

BBC's America

Secretary of Defense Lynn Cheney Rumsfeld Warner

THE WISDOM OF THE BRITS. I tried to hold off writing a review of BBC America's miniseries The State Within because the glowing reviews at (8 out 10 stars!) insisted the plot was so surprising no one would ever figure it out until the final scene of the final episode (about 340 hours in). Too many twists and turns. Too many Brit nuances. And all that acting. But, according to reviewers, plenty of excitement:

The first episode opens quickly, matching the dizzy speed that the camera moves around, with a bomb bringing down a passenger plane [over Washington, DC]. This opening looks to grab you and hold you because the writers know that...  viewers are going to be thrown into the middle of a lot of detail and be asked to keep up with it even though the connections will not start coming together for an episode or two (bearing in mind this only was six episodes long). Obviously I didn't know this at the start and I confess I did find the first two episodes to be demanding of attention without giving a lot back. However sticking with it does see all the pieces fall into place in a rather convoluted but engaging web of twists and developments. The conspiracy is sadly believable and the series builds a plot that 24 would be proud of – albeit with a bit less action.

Unless, of course, you define action as something other than chase scenes and gunfire. If you're a Brokeback Mountain fan, you'll find all the action you can handle in the Episode 1 scene between the aide to the Brit ambassador and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, who lock lips more ferociously than Madonna and Britney Spears at the Grammys. (If you don't believe me, look here, but I warn you it's Not Safe For Work, and not safe for any heterosexual who's eaten any solid food in the last 24 hours or so.) But I'm getting ahead of myself here. Only one of the rave reviews noted any sort of flaw in the six(hundred)-hour BritFest:

The whole production looks professional and expensive but at times the shaky camera-work is a distraction – in moderation it isn't a problem but some episodes felt like it had been filmed during an earthquake! The narrative does have one glaring problem within it and that is the issue of political bias. If you are right-wing and believe that the Iraq war was right and that it was all about WMD (or regime change or whatever the official reason is as you read this) then you will probably hate this series because the whole plot is essentially a very unsubtle parallel with Iraq (in regards US going to war obviously – the whole "fabricating the war thing is total fiction!). As a bit of a liberal, this element didn't bother me that much but at times it was all a bit obvious and unimaginative in regards the underlying ideas.

Obvious? Does he mean the part about how the terrorist bombing was a conspiracy by the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Sharon Gless (!), former CEO of the awesomely corrupt  Halliburton Armitage Corporation, to whip up support for the suspension of all civil liberties and the internment of all foreign-born muslims?

I can't prove that's the final solution of the plot, which is why I held off writing the review while I was laboring through close to five hours of incredibly talky scenes and opaque exposition. But I can report that I knew Sharon Gless was the villain the moment she appeared on screen and began uttering dialogue in which no single sentence lacked a reference to "dicks" or "balls." You know how those crude American Neocons are. I leaped immediately to the conclusion that she was behind the bombing of the Brit plane and would turn out to be the source of all the blackest evil in the world. It took the plot only four and a half hours or so to confirm (Surprise!) my idiot right-wing paranoia. Four-and-a-half hours of indecipherable dialogue, unidentifiable Brit actors with bad hair and worse teeth, action scenes that would put the Energizer bunny to sleep, and more precious sermons than you'd hear from the Archbishop of Canterbury in a year. The one thread of suspense that kept me going related to the fact that in every scene she appeared in, I expected Sharon Gless to pull out a huge cigar and light it up, but she kept not doing that, which is probably typical Brit understatement, because everyone knows that as soon as a character smokes tobacco on screen (s)he is automatically revealed as the embodiment of pure evil.

There's still an episode left, so you can all watch to see if Sharon does ultimately pull out that stogey and laugh that fiendish American fascist laugh we all hate so much, but I warn you, each of the episodes is two-and-a-half hours long. I confess I'm not going to be there for the finale, so I won't ever find out if Sharon smokes her cigar, or lets slip a "sieg heil" salute, or rips open her top to reveal the double lightning tattoo of the S.S. on her mannish right boob. But that's the problem with us right-wingers. We suffer from attention deficit disorder when confronted by sophisticated Brit dramas that are too complex and nuanced for our dimwit American brains to comprehend.

If you want to watch, maybe you could report back to me about the surprising developments in the final episode. While you're at it, maybe you could explain a few other things to me. Like when was it exactly that the Brits became the arbiters of morality and decency in the conduct of foreign affairs? The last time I looked they were still the all-time Guinness world champion record holders in the imperialist category, with 400 continuous years of brutal, racist oppression and exploitation of more third-world nations than the average American politico can even name. When did they acquire the Solomonic wisdom that enables them to lecture their American cousins about the most virtuous policies for defeating terrorists while preserving the necessary civil liberties on the homefront? Was it sometime after they stopped ordering the Brit army to wantonly beat and murder British subjects in Northern Ireland a few years ago? Or didn't that count? And when in the hell did they get the nerve to look down their big ugly noses at us about the death penalty? Haven't they executed more people for more trivial offenses than there are incompetent dentists in the whole sorry thousand-year history of the Evil British Empire?

Just asking. And one more thing. If you have the time, could you explain to me why any American would sit still for -- let alone enjoy -- being pontificated at by a bunch of self-pitying anti-American nitwits who'd be speaking German right now if we hadn't saved their flat flabby asses from teutonic conquest, twice, in the last 90 years?

Well, maybe it's a gay thing. Wasn't it Oxford that first made treason and homosexuality synonymous? I think so. But that still doesn't explain Sharon Gless. Are there dykes at Oxford? My muse is silent on this point. Someone please help me.

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