Friday, December 30, 2005

Homeland Security Update: T.F. Green Edition

On my way back to Maryland a couple days ago, at T.F. Green Airport (Bruce Sundlun Terminal!) in Providence, I checked a bag.  There's an x-ray machine that each bag has to go through... every bag, that is, except mine.  A TSA employee grabbed my bag, picked it up, tagged it with the "OK" sticker, and sent it back.  It arrived OK, but no x-ray.  There's only a couple things that can explain this:

1) I got lucky
2) My bag looked e-friggin-normous so they said "screw it"
3) Random bag search
4) Targeted bag search, because my email accounts and blogs have been scanned for rhetorical anti-Bush sentiments

Personally, I think #4 is the most likely.  I think my arrival tipped off the person in charge of investigating guys on their "watch list," who popped out and assured me that I was taken care of.  It's a distraction thing.  See, the guy who grabbed my bag didn't come back to get anyone else's stuff.  It's not like he was taking every, oh, 20 bags and giving them a thorough once-over.  He took mine, and mine alone as far as I know.  It could be a coincidence, like his shift just ended, or he was covering for someone during their smoke break, but I can't think of one reason why TSA or the airports deserve the benefit of the doubt when it comes to my civil liberties.  It's too weird.  I say I'm on The List.  The one that Ted Kennedy's on that keeps him from boarding airplanes.  (No, not "10 Most Wanted DWI Fatties," I mean the homeland security list.)

Anyway, the purpose of this post is as follows: if I end up disappearing for some reason, without a trace, it's safe to assume that TSA kidnapped me. I'll be in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib, with a bag on my head and electrodes attached to my balls.  Oh, and someone will have defiled the Sports Guy's new book in an attempt to abuse my foreign value system.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Think On This

What if O.J. Simpson hosted the MTV Video Music Awards?  "Our next musical act is very special to me, because I've been hunting them for eleven years.  Here they are... the real Killers!"  Or not.  What do I know, I'm just a doctor.

Gloriously Sick Bastards

I started watching Nip/Tuck last night.  I was floored.  I like it, but it's so shocking... the OR gore is one thing, but they go so excessively far beyond the edge that it takes a superhuman effort to stay with them.  They regularly cross the proverbial line, then take a shit and masturbate on the line for good measure.  I kinda resent that there's no deference to the audience when certain things happen (say, spewing liposuction fat directly from a stomach all over an operating room).  But I'm looking forward to seeing more of it.  That's evidence of how good a job they've done with the rest of the show.  It's in awful taste, it's a little too unflinching for my taste, and I would characterize it as moderately irresponsible.  But it's so original because it's so irresponsible.

What I keep coming back to is whether the graphic surgery stuff is really necessary.  At first I thought Hell No, but later I realized that it establishes something with the audience... yes, we're going there, and we'll go even further in a few minutes, and we don't care whether you come along or not, but we're onto something.  Nip/Tuck will go to any length to disturb you, but it's got an objective, and it can't complete that objective if you're not implicit in the proceedings.  There's a layer of trust between the viewer and the filmmaker, established by your willingness to watch a liposuction tube slip loose and spew human fat all over an operating room.  They know that if you'll watch that, you'll watch the rest of what they have in store for you.  And they need to know you're strong enough to take it.  It takes a strong stomach to watch a main character get tortured with unsolicited shots of botox to his penis; that's definitely a moment where the audience could have jumped ship if they weren't primed with all that surgery gore.

But anyway.  I liked the later episodes more than the pilot (stunning as it is) but based on the psychological torture I just described, that seems like a natural result.  I love the sick sense of humor that starts to come through in later episodes, like the huge deal being made about the late gerbil Frisky, or much of Dr. Troy's behavior during the Twins episode, including the way in which he cures his impotence.  And despite the almost neverending barrage of twists and turns, there's a level of faithfulness that runs underneath it.  It's not trying to be true, it's trying to lend an air of truth.  It's the reverse of Rescue Me, which I believe wants to have it both ways... true-life drama and over-the-top melodrama.

So if you can take it, start watching Nip/Tuck, because it's rewarding.  And it'll put hair on your chest.  Even if you're a woman.  (Especially... no, j/k.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Intelligent Design Works!

Oh, no, I meant intelligent design of the judicial branch.  Jesus fought the law, and the law won!  Bonnnnnng!

I can't imagine it's over, since there will most certainly be appeals brought and technicalities invoked, but in the meantime I feel soft and fuzzy knowing that this law will knock some future voters off the mailing list of Sen. Prick Santorum (R-FU).  Good to see Pricky Rick can't control his own backyard!

(Note to the unaware: Pennsylvania's frothy junior senator is not, in fact, the namesake of this blog.  If you're not one of those faint-of-heart types, and you're not at work, open Santorum's Box, and allow Dan "Savage Love" Savage to show you what's inside.  Beware... once you know what that frothy mixture is, there's no going back.  I sure haven't.  NSFW)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Sympathy For Carl / Senseless Violence On TV

Man... I'm not sure I like where the Aqua Teen people have gone with Carl.  When they accidentally sucked him through the jets of a high-powered toilet-of-the-future, I was OK with it.  When they had Master Shake shoot his foot off with a shotgun, I went with the flow.  When the tree lawyers tore the skin off his back to use as parchment, I didn't say anything.  But last night, when they made him shove a broom all the way up his ass so that it nearly pushed through his skull... ugh.  And as if that weren't enough, then they made him try to saw his own leg off with a butter knife.  Come on.  All the man wanted was a set of rims.  Is that a crime?  To paraphrase Moe Sislak, he doesn't deserve this kind of shabby treatment.  Let the man have his dignity.  And his rims.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Yeah, But Where Did The LIGHTER FLUID Come From?

I just got back from my office's Christmas party. Excellent time, great food, and best of all, an open bar. Had to drive home though; file that one under "dagnabbit" or something similar. Anyway, there's something I need to talk about. It's a little embarrassing, though I have to assert that I enjoyed myself thoroughly tonight, and my beef is no reflection on my employer in any way.

The entertainment tonight was a magician.

Now, this seems innocent enough. Magicians are fun, they're cheap, and they're good for some unintentional comedy. But to someone who has spent the last few months obsessed with Arrested Development, this was a near-catastrophe. GOB Bluth is the eldest Bluth son, and the #1 jackass on a show populated almost entirely by jackasses. GOB, as you may know, is a magician by trade. Every portrayal of GOB performing magic ends with either failure, embarrassment, explosions, living burials, or all of the above. And the show clearly has a lot of disdain for magicians in general, making them out to be glorified village idiots. So I can't really watch magicians anymore without wanting to laugh on the inside.

Now, when I showed up at the bar, this guy pulled me aside to show me some card tricks. I was reluctant, sensing immediately that I was about to let myself be entertained by GOB. Turns out he was good with cards, so I felt like less of a schmuck afterwards. And he pulled off a few good tricks in his show, and also pulled a pink thong from my pants (I'll spare you the gory details). But even though he salvaged his reputation in my mind, I still can't take magicians seriously. And I do feel like a semi-putz for having sat through an hour of magic tricks.

Oh wait, my mistake. It's not a trick...'s an ILLUSION!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Diarios de Motocicleta

Excellent movie.  Above all else, it's a true movie.  Not true like "wow, it's a true story," true like it's genuine.  Every moment that has any potential for melodrama is artfully dodged in favor of something more real.

As always, Gael Garcia Bernal kicks ass.  Mostly for his acting, which was excellent as always, but partly for his depiction of asthma attacks.  He scared the living shit out of my shit, long after that shit had been scared out of me.  I spent a solid month or two doing almost exactly what Ernesto does... unable to sleep or breathe, puke flying all over the place, certain I was within a few seconds of dying, over and over again for, ohhhh, six hours.  Once a night.  Scariest feeling I've ever had.  I'm seizing up just thinking about what it felt like when it happened to me.  So Gael, if you're reading, you got that part right.

Anyway, great movie, highly recommended.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Late Adopters: The Reject Files

I've decided, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Hot Fuss by The Killers is only so-so.  The sound is incredible, the songwriting is good, but ultimately, just not that good.  The second half of the album is straight-up filler, and it bores me.  The only way to get away with a filler-filled pop album is if every song on the album sounds the same; not true of Hot Fuss, which starts out with four or five songs that are clearly above and beyond any that follow them.  They aren't bad songs, they're just plain old boring pop, and as such aren't compelling enough.

Why think about this?  Because I just listened to The Back Room by Editors, which I do find compelling, all the way through the sixth bonus track.  They've clearly duplicated The Killers' sound (albeit not as effectively or impressively), and have no singles as strong as "Somebody Told Me" or "Mr. Brightside," but the Richard Butler/Morrissey-esque vocals on The Back Room give the filler a little more urgency.

This isn't to say The Killers suck.  They are good.  But I think the praise for Hot Fuss is misguided.  Praise the band, not the album.  Hot Fuss is nowhere near the blazing debut that Franz Ferdinand or The Back Room are; instead, it's a gauntlet, thrown at their feet in anticipation of their next few albums.  We will see better from them.

(P.S. I really should have listened to Interpol before commenting on this, but what can I say?  I'm bored.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Wow.  I had never read these lyrics before.  "Take a piece of your pie and say bye / Or be honest and rub your thighs"???  Hey-ooooo!  Not like that's shocking, but it's a lot more graphic than I remembered.  So much for the downward spiral of raunch and morality on television and radio... things seem to be holding steady, if this is any indication.  And if you can't rely on Gerardo, then who can you rely on?

Vultures of Doom

So I'm getting out of my car this morning at work when I look over at the UPS dispatch lot, and this big turkey vulture flies up from ground level, crosses over to my side of the road, and starts circling.  About ten feet from the ground.  Not every day that you see a vulture so low to the ground.  I usually see them way overhead on I-95.  The rare occasions when I've seen them up-close had all been when I was hiking up a mountain (a rare occasion in and of itself).  It was cool to see one of them bird-of-prey bastards close enough to see the sharp tip of his beak.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Some TV Thoughts

I thought tonight's episode was a little subpar.  It was good, and it involved all the show's trademark twists and turns, but I think the show was so Charlize-centric that the supporting cast ended up pushed to the side, thus cutting into the comic hijinks.  Gob, Buster and Tobias made the most of their opportunities (especially Gob and Buster... but especially Tobias) and yet the episode seemed very flat to me.  I'm OK with that, because it clears out the Wee Britain/Mr. F. storyline, which kinda fizzled in the end.  I liked the whole "British intrigue" angle more than the MRF angle, and I really liked seeing Dave Thomas doing a ridiculous Cockney accent.  But I feel like we never learned enough about who and what was behind all that spying... what the hell were they after the Bluths for?  Maybe I missed something in "Mr. F" or "Notapusy" but I don't think so.

And when are they gonna get Anyong out of that crawlspace?

In other social-gaffe-sitcom news, I just discovered that I have this in my On Demand area.  Score!!!!!  Wow, though.  The first episode makes The Office feel like a warm glass of milk by comparison.  I could barely watch it... I had to take two separate breaks just to keep from gouging my own eyes back through my ears, thus saving me from hearing or seeing Ricky Gervais weasel his way out of a Catholic prayer circle.  The agony!  Almost everything in the whole episode was gutwrenching.  On a larger scale, I'm having a hard time understanding who I'm supposed to sympathize with... part of what made The Office so lovable, despite all of the despicable behavior, is Tim and Dawn's groundedness.  No matter what David Brent did, there were sane people to compare him to.  Here, it's just him.  Those two people were us, the two normals in a nutty office.  Who in Extras am I supposed to latch onto?  But that's something I can't know right away necessarily.  I did think it was really outrageous.  And Kate Winslet was really funny lampooning herself.

In short, the first episode was absolutely excruciating, so mission accomplished, but I also see plenty of potential.  I'll keep you posted.

Hunting For The Holidays

I'm watching hockey on OLN right now.  OLN is primarily a hunting channel, and they apparently have a show involving Larry Csonka, the former Dolphin running back.  In their promos for the show, they use the phrase "Stalking Stuffers."

Now, I'm all for risque cleverness, but isn't it a little creepy to use that imagery?  Especially for a network that is trying to reach out beyond the hunter-gatherer demographic?  I'm not arguing the definition of the word, or its meaning within the context above.  I'm just saying that if you aren't a hunter, your first reaction to the word "stalker" is not going to be about cloaking oneself in camo and hiding behind a tree... with no women around.  Sure, you may counter that the "stalker" imagery that irritates me is, in fact, the application of a primal, animal act to a sophisticated art, thus the word in its sex offender context (creepy) is dependent on its meaning in the hunting context (literal).  But then I can come back and talk about connotation vs. denotation, where the connotation dominates the denotation and its literal meaning is irrelevant.  And if you argued with that, I'd get bored and walk away.

I have little else to say about any of that.  Good hockey game though... 1-1 between the Rangers and the Wild.

I'd Like To Buy A Vowell

This link, the current installment in my "I bet nobody ever thought of that before" series of post titles, is a sampling of readings from the audiobook of Sarah Vowell's The Partly Cloudy Patriot. The excerpts are of her celebrity guest readers, including Seth Green, Conan O'Brien, David Cross and Stephen Colbert, performing as politicians from the book.

Vowell is probably best known as a contributor to NPR's This American Life and as the voice of Violet in The Incredibles. She was also a memorable contributor to the excellent They Might Be Giants documentary, Gigantic. More than anything, she has a distinctive, weird, expressive, and ultimately compelling voice, which is ultimately what sells the often-boring material that interests her so much. Anyway, the idea of listening to her dictate her book is a lot more appealing to me than just reading it myself. (This from someone who becomes deeply irritated when people read to him instead of just letting him read the goddamn thing when the aforementioned hypothetical person, who really isn't anyone in particular, is finished.)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Link Fix

1. The Bad Plus Tackle Literature
First, a goodie from jazz trio The Bad Plus... they recently posted, on their blog, a list of musical acts and the authors they most closely correspond to.  Some are uncanny (Phish = Douglas Adams, Elliott Smith = Sylvia Plath), some are amusing (Dave Matthews = John Grisham, lol) and some have better intentions than credentials (The Beatles = Roald Dahl?  I like Dahl as much as the next guy, but COME ON!!!).  Either way it's food for thought.  Knowing that TBP spent a great deal of time discussing the issue internally makes me happy.  And any list that includes Haruki Murakami is fine by me.

(Quick aside: I can't claim to be a huge Murakami fan, having read only A Wild Sheep Chase, but I was really impressed.  His bizarro storytelling is very much in line with how I used to write.  When I come away from a book thinking "damn, I need to start writing again," I know it's a winner.)

2. The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder
Next, the misunderstood and multitalented artist addresses how he spoke with Fidel Castro, why Reginald Hudlin is credited as a Boondocks co-creator despite not having even spoken with McGruder for a year, and what he thinks about the New Yorker profile that flayed him like a butterfly pork chop.

3. Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic's Sarah Silverman
Interview of the year, despite doing the whole thing over email.  She wins three LOLs, two ROFLMAOs, and a OMFG.  She's one of the best around at using the element of surprise to say some outrageous shit.  For example, take the story of how she and Jimmy Kimmel started dating... let's just say the story of how Kate and I got together will be ending differently from now on.

Thursday, December 01, 2005