That explains a lot

Ever since I learned that Lucas had a scriptdoctor who saved Star Wars and Empire, I've thought that he was overrated, and I think his subsequent films have proved that point. He's a gadgeteer, and I don't mean that disrespectfully, because he's the best damn gadgeteer in the world of special effects I've ever seen--for that alone, he deserves to be remembered in the annals of film history.

But I had the sense that he cares more about his toys than his stories reinforced when I read this interview with Brian Singer, director of the new Superman flick coming out soon. Now I want to be clear here--Singer's not taking a shot at Lucas. I'm taking the shot.

Hayden Christensen talks about a moment in filming Revenge of the Sith when he forgot to put on his wig before a scene, and George Lucas says, “Don’t worry. We’ll put it in in postproduction.” How do you resist the temptation, or compulsion, to do everything with CG?

Yep: We have the technology; we can rebuild your sky. But I fight that every day. We try not to tamper too much with reality. We built beautiful sets; we have wonderful actors and great costumes. Then, every once in a while, you’ve got to do it. Wave your hand and the wall changes color. At some point, I’m going to make a film for $20 million, not $200 million, and I’m not going to have that flexibility. But since this is Superman, the film supports that kind of budget.

That's not directing. I'm not a director and have no illusions of ever being one, but that's not directing. That attitude--we'll just do it in post-production--tells me that Lucas doesn't really care about what the actors do on the screen. He cares about how his toys look. The actors are a necessary evil for him.

So is that why Hayden Christensen got that part? Because he looked right? Sure, I could see him as a young version of Mark Hamill's dad, but his acting was atrocious, and why should it have been any better if that's the attitude on the set? Christensen is apparently a satisfactory actor--I didn't see Shattered Glass but it got better than average reviews and his performance in that film elicited this review from Gary Thomspon of the Philadephia Daily News:
"Christensen is terrific as the deceptively boyish Glass, and his performance confirms the notion that people who act badly in George Lucas movies (he's Anakin Skywalker) aren't bad actors, they're just in George Lucas movies."

I didn't see Revenge of the Sith. I gave up on Lucas after that atrocity known as Attack of the Clones and decided he wouldn't get another penny of my money until he stopped sucking. Well, I doubt that's going to happen anytime soon.

Well, at least she wasn't from south Florida.

Wow--talk about a really, really bad idea:

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Annoyed with a sheriff's helicopter flying over her house late Thursday night, Marjorie Thompson ran outside with a bottle rocket launcher and started shooting rockets at the aircraft, authorities said.

Authorities said they caught Thompson, 44, in the act of launching the second bottle rocket.

Thompson is facing a felony charge of shooting or throwing a deadly missile into an aircraft.

I wonder what as going through the pilot's mind when he saw these bottle rockets coming up at him? Sure, there's little to no chance they would have damaged his aircraft or caused him any harm--but even so, that's got to be a little disconcerting.

Butterfly birth and the Friday Random Ten

Over the last few months--well, since the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma really--Amy has been redecorating our back patio with all manner of plants wih unpronounceable names. It's gorgeous. One of her more recent acquisitions was a magenta passion vine, meant to attract butterflies, and attract them it did--at least, it attracted enough to lay eggs all over the thing. The first few caterpillars excited us--oh, how precious! we exclaimed. Then they multiplied and starting eating holy hell out of our new and weakened passion vine.

We'd planted some red passion vines earlier and they were far stronger than the magenta, so we transplanted, by hand, a ton of caterpillars from the fragile magenta. A couple of weeks ago, we saw some cocoons form, and this morning, we saw one of them hatch a butterfly. It's still attached to the underside of the Crown of Thorns pot, waiting, I believe, for its wings to dry so it may flutter away and no doubt taunt the cats. Hopefully we'll be posting the occasional photo.

On a music note, Atrios is pushing eMusic, a service I have used for some months now and absolutely love. None of that DRM crap, none of that "you're licensing the song, not buying it" garbage. They have a terrific indie library, a wonderful jazz library, and it's ten bucks a month for 40 downloads, no matter how long the song. Check them out if you're interested.

Here's the Random Ten. iTunes on Party Shuffle, first ten songs to pop up. No cheating to look like you have better taste than you really do. We all know you still sing "Shadow Dancing" into the bathroom mirror with a hairbrush as a microphone.

1. Stop Breakin' Down Blues--Robert Johnson
2. Dry the Rain--The Beta Band
3. I Liked You Tonight--The Shins
4. Darktown Strutter's Ball--Dave Brubeck
5. World Inside the World--Rhett Miller
6. Box of Rain--Grateful Dead
7. Lodi--Creedence Clearwater Revival
8. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps--Cake
9. Friar's Point--Susan Tedeschi
10. The Golden Wedding--Woody Herman

Bonus Track--at number 11, I have Did You Get My Message, by Jason Mraz. So close this time.

So what are you listening to this fine Friday morning?

Clerks II Trailer



You damn right.

My Bet? They'll Never Serve a Day.

Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling were both convicted on multiple counts of Securities and Wire Fraud. And they'll never see a prison cell, I imagine. Two years of appeals and then a pardon by Bush on his way out the door (right before he signs his own, I'd imagine).

A Bush Move I Can Get Behind

Jeb Bush, NFL Commissioner

TALLAHASSEE -- Could Gov. Jeb Bush's future be in football instead of politics?

While U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has publicly flirted with the idea of becoming the next commissioner of the National Football League, Bush has been privately approached to gauge his interest in the job.

Bush, who spends his Sundays each fall watching pro football, acknowledged Tuesday that the NFL job was broached during a recent meeting with Patrick Rooney Sr., owner of the Palm Beach Kennel Club.


Let me just say that I think this is a fabulous idea, both for the NFL and Jeb Bush. Anything that gets a Bush out of politics is a net good as far as I'm concerned, and considering the baggage that Neil and Marvin are carrying around right now, Jeb might be the end of the line politically speaking for the Bush family, at least for a while.

On the Radio

I've been neglectful of some of old friends. Occasional commenters Stephanie and Zepp (aka Mike) do a weekly politics and music show on bZoo Homegrown Radio, available online. Stephanie had some dental issues over the weekend and couldn't go, so they asked me to fill in at the last minute. We recorded just over an hour of conversation over the phone last night, and the show should be airing at the above link tonight from 9:00-11:00 p.m., with re-airs on Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., Thursday from 7:00-9:00 p.m. and Friday from noon - 2:00 p.m. The show is called Politically Sound, and I'm eager to hear how it comes off. (I think I talk too much in the discussion, as though I'm some sort of expert.)

Help me out. I'm confused.

So Ray Nagin wins re-election to the position of Mayor of New Orleans. But every report I've seen calls it a narrow win. Nagin eked it out, they say. What's eking it out?

4 percentage points. 5,000 votes out of 114,000 cast. 52-48.

How is a 52-48 victory anything but a clear win? Hell, conservatives were calling Bush's 51-49 victory a clear mandate. 52-48 ought to get Nagin a handjob by that standard.

Now I won't pretend to know whether or not the citizens of New Orleans made a good decision--I haven't lived in Louisiana since 1999, and never in the city (though if I ever go back, that's where I'm going)--but come on people. A victory is a victory, Give Nagin his due on this one.

Jon Stewart and the Friday Random Ten

Watching this clip from the Daily Show where Stewart completely eviscerates right-wing pundit Ramesh Ponnuru over his latest book The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life (No kidding--that's the title), I'm constantly reminded of how ill-prepared right-wing pundits seem to be outside their comfort zones. Ponnuru is generally regarded by many as a reasonable right-winger, this latest book notwithstanding (where he seems to have become Coulterized), and yet, if you watch the clip, he comes off as a high school sophomore blindsided by a moderator in a formal debate.

Pundits of all stripes are often made stupid (if they weren't stupid to begin with) by living in their bubbles, surrounded by those who agree, or who, if they disagree, do so only in terms of how extreme the reaction to a set of stimuli should be, as opposed to actually questioning their base beliefs, and as a result, I think they 1) believe themselves smarter than they really are and 2) believe the rest of the world is dumber than it actually is. And I think Ponnuru's performance is an example of that.

Stewart is a smart guy, but since he's a comic doing a send-up of a news show, it's easy for an "intellectual" to dismiss him, perhaps thinking "I'll go on this show for a laugh, reach a slightly different crowd, sell a few more books--easy cheesy" never for once thinking that Stewart would ask more pointed and argumentative questions than that "intellectual" would face on a serious news show. Ponnuru walked into a buzz saw, and came away suitably mangled as a result. Watch the clip-superb work.

Here's the random ten. iPod or other music player/program on shuffle, and the first ten songs that come up. No exceptions. Here we go.

1. Tonight, Not Again--Jason Mraz
2. Upstage Rumba--Dave Brubeck
3. My Drag--Squirrel Nut Zippers
4. When You Sleep--Cake
5. Hold On, Hold On--Neko Case
6. Respect Yourself--The Staples Singers
7. Saturday Night--Ozomatli
8. Me and the Devil Blues--Robert Johnson
9. Personal Jesus--Johnny Cash
10. Remindor--Thinking Fellers Union Local 282

Bonus Track: Terraplane Blues--Eric Clapton from Sessions for Robert J, a cd/dvd Amy bought for me for Christmas. Amazingly good stuff all the way around. Highest recommendation.

So what's on your lists today?

Rain.

I love rain. For the last month or so, I've been dying for it.

The thing that killed me most about living up north was... well, actually, it was the cold. But hand-in-hand with that miserable bitter Arkansas cold and ice was the fact that it was miserable dry. Even when it rained, it was this dribbly old-man-with-a-kidney-stone piss that did nothing but make the leaves slippery. I've seen worse: in my brother's former high desert home the rain evaporated on the way down, so that you could see it, but not quite touch it.

There's nothing I hate more than being dry.

In California, people are obsessed with fire. Earthquakes bring fire; cigarettes thrown from windows bring fire. Burning Man was nothing but this big tribal urge to embrace that which ye fear (in my humble opinion). When we moved there, we didn't see rain for months, and it began to drive me crazy. I started staring out the window for ten-minute stretches begging the skies for rain. When it came, it was a dribbly piss, and I was happy for it.

But now it's raining.

The sky's been darkened all day. At noon it looked like 6am. At this latitude that means summer rain. And it pours. And it drenches. And it soaks. And it grumbles and booms with energy. It's music to my water-loving ears.

A lightning strike burned a historic building on FAU's campus to dust. A lightning strike fried a friend of mine's AV equipment at his house. He'll have to spend 100's if not 1,000's of dollars to replace it all. The afternoon was spent to the sounds of rainfall, thunder, and ambulance sirens. And for it all, I could not be happier to be home.

Mother's Day

I've never celebrated Mother's day with my mother. It's never been an option, really. When I was a Jehovah's Witness, we didn't celebrate any holidays, of course, unless you count marking wedding anniversaries. In some cases, it was because of the holiday's religious ties to other traditions (Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Halloween); in others, it was because of their ties to nationalistic entities (Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Veteran's Day, etc.) or to unrelenting debauchery (New Years, Mardi Gras). Guess which ones I favor most of all these days.

But for some, most notably the ones at times disparagingly referred to as the Hallmark holidays, there was really no explanation given as to why we shouldn't celebrate them--they just fell into this nebulous category of "worldly things we don't do." So we never did them.

And while I've since left the church well behind, my parents have not, and to say that my mother would look upon a phone call that begins "Happy Mother's Day" with disdain is to put it mildly. Of course, since my last letter to her returned the latest Witness literature she'd sent me, it may well be the case that she would look on any phone call as unwelcome.

So that means that for the last five years, Mother's day has been with Amy's mom, whether we've been here or distant. And before that, well, it just didn't really happen, except for one time, about 6 years ago. It was the first year Monkey lived with me instead of her mom (and before she was Monkey, for that matter), and she woke me up on Mother's Day with breakfast in bed. I was Mom that year, and I presume that she did the same for her mother on Father's Day.

Monkey spent part of this Mother's Day on the driving range--I got her a cheap set of clubs from craigslist for $20 to see if she'd like the game, and so far so good. She'll be with her mom for Father's Day again this year. I wonder what they'll do, if anything, that day.

Hey Paul Begala
I got something for ya. On Thursday, you went after Howard Dean, not because of his performance on the 700 Club (and Howard, really, what were you thinking going on that show?), but because, well, you don't like how he's spending DNC money. You said, "What he has spent it on, apparently, is just hiring a bunch of staff people to wander around Utah and Mississippi and pick their nose."

Well, just for you, I have the product of that money well spent. A booger, all for you.



I haven't had any success locating an email address for Mr. Begala, but if I can find one, you can bet I'll update this.

That was a nice break, and Friday Random Ten

Summer school starts up Monday--that was quick. Fortunately, I'm only teaching Summer A, so six weeks and it's over (and onto the Ramen noodles diet until the fall cranks up), and then to the Poetry workshop this fall, assuming it fills. God I hope it fills.

Here's the random ten.

1. Blue Rondo a la Turk--Dave Brubeck
2. Wondering--The Amy Garland Band
3. Hey You--Pink Floyd
4. It All Depends--Squirrel Nut Zippers
5. Superman--Laszlo Bane
6. So Long Eric--Charles Mingus
7. Don't bust my chops--The Ramones
8. I May Be Wrong--Hoagy Carmichael
9. Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore--John Prine
10. Memphis Soul Stew--King Curtis
All over the place today--Ramones, Mingus, Prine, Brubeck and Hoagy.

Sometimes I Get a Little Misty

So I just watched Howard Dean on the George Stephanopolous show from over at Crooks and Liars and I went back to the summer of 2003, when Amy and I were here in Florida, I having just finished my MFA at Arkansas and about to embark on a trip across the country to San Francisco to begin my Stegner time. We were frustrated with the world of politics, and my blog life extended basically to reading Eric Alterman when I thought about it. (Man, if you knew the hours I spend these days, and I've actually cut back!)

We were sitting in her parents' tv room, talking about presidential candidates, but we didn't really know anything, so we just googled and found out who was running, and Dean's name came up. I remembered his civil unions bill and we liked that so we looked farther (even then we knew we weren't Lieberman types), and we discovered a whole lot more, particularly his bluntness, so much so that we donated money to his campaign--a first for either of us. We eventually bought yard signs and put them in the windows of our vehicles for the cross country trip. I have film photos, but nothing digital, alas.

So why am I reminiscing? Dean was in full effect on Stephanapolous today--blunt, straightforward, and unapologetically Democratic. When asked about William Jefferson's situation--if he's indicted for bribery, should he step down--Dean said "Yes," and nothing else.

Now growing up outside of New Orleans, it was hard not to hear of William Jefferson. He's had questions of impropriety dog him since I was a teenager, so it's no surprise that he's in trouble now. He reminds me of your basic machine politician, frankly--nothing more than basic greed at play here. But hearing Dean say that he needs to go if he's dirty--no equivocation, no hemming or hawing--was beautiful.

I'm no naif--I know that most politicians are only as honest as their opportunities, so while Dean may make the requisite claims that Democrats will clean up Washington (and may even believe them, for all I know), nothing will really change--but it's still really nice to hear a politician say that a dirty member of his own party ought to go. And since all we're really left with, politically speaking, is style rather than substance, I'll take what little style I can get.

Grading's Half Done

Unfortunately, it's the easy half, but there's still time for a random ten. Side note--Mark is loking for suggestions for outstanding books of poetry published in the last 3 years. My votes were for Emily Rosko's Raw Goods Inventory and Gabrielle Calvocoressi's The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart. If you have any ideas, drop him a visit and leave a comment.

And here's the random ten:

1. Obviously Five Believers--Bob Dylan
2. These Apples--Barenaked Ladies
3. The Long and Winding Road--The Beatles
4. Cool Blue Reason--Cake
5. Makin' Whoopee--Dr. John and Rickie Lee Jones
6. KC Accidental--Broken Social Scene
7. Hey You--Pink Floyd
8. Have You Ever Seen the Rain?--Creedence Clearwater Revival
9. I Liked You Tonight--The Shins
10. Mood Swing--Luscious Jackson

Bonus Mraz track for Michael and Amy--Did You Get My Message? from Mr. A-Z

Why Do Americans Talk So Much Smack?

This won't be an amazing insight, I imagine, but I've been lacking for stuff to blog about and this has been on my mind a lot, for various reasons.

We, as Americans, love talking shit. We're tough, we're badasses, we're the ass-kickingest, taking-namiest, Chuck-Norris-roundhouse-kick-to-the-faciest people on earth it seems. This morning, I saw an "Operation Enduring Freedom" bumper sticker on the drive to work, and recently, I saw one that said "If you can read this in English, Thank a Marine."

And I think that's part of the reason for our national attitude--we're propagandized from our youths onward to believe that our military is the line that stands between us and total subsumption by some scary other, some vague national enemy that would force us to learn another language and change our customs, when the fact is that during the lives of most Americans today, the US has never been seriously threatened by invasion. Even during the Cold War, invasion was less a threat than annihilation--we might have wound up glowing, but we'd still be eating apple pie at a baseball game, by God.

So why is it that civilians so often talk smack when it comes to violent, bloody conflict? We don't have anything to back it up, after all. It's not as though we see bombed out houses left over from the repelling of the enemy on the shores of Savannah, or bullet holes in the walls left standing from when we drove the enemy into the sea and out of San Luis Obispo. (We have those from our own internal class war, but that's another topic for discussion.) The last war fought on US soil was the Civil War, and there are no survivors of that conflict left--no one born and raised here has tried to drive the invader from his or her soil. And yet civilians connect themselves with the military shamelessly, I believe, precisely because we have no concept of that level of violence. It's easy to talk tough when war means that you get to watch other people fight hear the occasional news report about how well the war is going while you jam another Whopper in your piehole.

These self-styled patriots like to think that if we were invaded, they would rise up, a la Red Dawn and form little paramilitary groups, frustrate the enemy at every turn, scream "Wolverines!" and survive to become the next leaders of the free world. And maybe some of them would actually give that a try. But most of the smack talkers would be the first to toady up to the new regime, once they'd finished cleaning the shit out of their pants, that is, because they have no concept of just what it means to be invaded. I don't either, frankly, but I know enough to know what I don't know.

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