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Sunday, October 30, 2005

COMFORTING THE COMFORTABLE 

Here's the thing about Nick Coleman: he's reliable. You can always count on him to make a particular kind of emotional appeal. Actually two closely related kinds--he's either tugging on your heartstrings or trying to whip up some righteous indignation. You know, the whole afflict-the-comfortable-and-comfort-the-afflicted thing. (See also Doug Grow.) It's often meretricious, but when well executed (and Coleman's a pro in this respect) it's a very effective rhetorical move, since it forces opponents into a defensive, "yes but" posture.

When well executed, I stress. Which brings us to Coleman's offering in today's Strib. He reveals that bankruptcy-induced changes in Northwest Airlines' flight schedule are forcing a Minnesota woman to change planes when she visits her ex-husband in London.

"And . . . ?" you say? And . . . her selfless work in bringing homemade lutefisk and lefse dinners to starving East End urchins is being inexcusably impaired? And . . . this exposes the heartless refusal of Northwest management to accede to the demands of the noble mechanics' union? And . . . turncoat Senator Norm Coleman's pique at the courageous George Galloway is somehow at the root of it all?

And . . . nothing. That's it. There isn't any more. Bankruptcy-induced changes in Northwest Airlines' flight schedule are forcing a Minnesota woman to change planes when she visits her ex-husband in London!

Jeez, Nick. That's just pathetic. If you're this hard up for material, why don't you just regurgitate an old column?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

MEN AT FORTY 

I recently switched from Manhattans (an old law school pal’s recipe – rocks, 2:1 bourbon or rye to sweet vermouth) to Rusty Nails - 3 parts blended scotch, 1 part Drambuie floated on top, rocks. It has been a nice change.

Some colleagues recently took me out to commemorate a milestone birthday, and here was a rare opportunity to talk to a bartender. She was early 20s, cute, perky, tattoos, etc., and admirably well versed on the classics. She had respectable formulas for Manhattans and Rusty Nails down pat, and even said the kids today order them with some frequency.

But the most popular cocktail among the 20s set is apparently the Jager Bomb. It’s Red Bull in a pint glass with a shot glass of Jagermeister dropped into it, to be chugged.

A sense of peace and acceptance descended, and I recalled a poem of Donald Justice --

Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

SHE SAYS: I GUESS TEAM AMERICA IS A BIT FUNNIER THAN THE THREE STOOGES 

I'm glad I saw Team America the other day but the Warrior Monk correctly reveals that he enjoyed more than I did. Barfing humor, like fart pride, is a concept that eludes me. Even puppet barfing. Nor does puppet sex do anything for me, laugh-wise. Hackneyed romantic scenes are only slightly less boring when performed by marionettes than real (allegedly) actors. In fact, as parodies of action-adventure movies go, I much prefer True Lies to Team America.

So, why didn't I hate it? The linguistics. In scenes set in Paris and South America the puppets exclaim in foreign languages -- but restricted to the few phrases that we ugly America are familiar with ("Sacre Bleu!"). But my favorite is the pretend Arabic spoken by the terrorists and the Team America heroes:
Hero: Bak. Derk-derk-Allah. Derka derka, Mohammed Jihad. Baka sherpa-sherpa. Abaka-la.
Terrorist: Ohhh! Derka derka derka!
[Allows hero into terrorist hideout]
Unlike most earworms, for some reason I like the sound of "Derka derka derka! [pause] Mohammed."

Monday, October 24, 2005

PUPPETS AND PUMPKINS 

Eloise and I finally saw Team America the other day. I liked it more than she did. In fact, I can say without hesitation that Team America contains the best puppet sex scene ever, the best puppet vomiting scene ever, and the best scene ever involving Janeane Garofalo (no restriction to puppets). Then again, as a point of reference, I enjoy farting loudly and blaming it on the kids. Eloise doesn't. So calibrate your expectations accordingly.

Also, I heartily concur with Mr. Fox that "pussies, dicks, and assholes" sums up international affairs quite nicely.

For more in the way of juvenile anthropomorphic high jinks, with a seasonal focus and a do-it-yourself twist, check out this. Let's take back the night!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

OH DEAR 

The four year just announced "we're going to have ho and tell tomorrow!"

Monday, October 17, 2005

I TOO, DON'T RECALL 

It's awfully hard to remember why anyone cares other than where there's smoke there might be some fire. I'm talking about the Valerie Flame (Hah!)/CIA operative leak scandal from the last century (or so it seems).

So New York Times reporter Judith Miller finished her three month jail stint for refusing to testify about it (after VP Cheney's chief of staff assured her that yes he really did mean it last year when he said it was OK for her to testify) and finally ta daa! her answer to the grand jury's questioning: "I simply could not recall where that came from."

Where's there's such weirdness, there must be more to come.

And I've found it, with a sneak preview of Karl Rove's testimony:
All right, rat-brains, I’m coming clean. Sure, I gave the reporters clearance to talk about me years ago, and I’ve testified a whole bunch of times, but I was holding back the really good stuff. This time I’m going to spill the beans…on Mrs. Weinstein.
I may have to go back and figure out what the deal is after all.

Mrs. Weinstein is, of course, a sock puppet.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT THE MSM?! 

Hey! Didja know that people sometimes wear T-shirts with slogans on them? It's true! The redesigned Strib gets its first big scoop here. Damn, I wonder what the next groundbreaking cultural phenomenon will be? Probably something crazy like, oh, I don't know--affixing pithy messages to the rear fender of your car! Wheeee! Wouldn't that be interesting and cool and newsworthy?

And there's more! Didja know that CNN pretty boy and outraged hurricane stalker Anderson Cooper likes to bite his fingernails? It's true! And if you read the whole article, you'll find out that he's a compulsive masturbator too, though he's not sure yet how many times a day is too much. Keep us posted, Coop! We can't wait to find out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

PARKER AND STONE ON HUGHES AND MOORE 

I've always liked the idea of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's South Park much more than the show itself. But I've heard enough good things about their movie Team America that it's made its way into our NetFlix queue. And now, after reading an interview with them in the October 2005 issue of Spin Magazine (not available online, unfortunately), I might have to give South Park another try.

Early on, Parker puts the kibosh on the interviewer Dave Itzkoff's inexplicable supposition that Parker and Stone are John Hughes fans:
Was there a Breakfast Club member you most closely identified with? PARKER: I think we both passionately hated that movie. I remember that a breakfast club actually started at our school. They met after school and sat around and talked about their problems. It was the gayest thing I'd ever seen.
Later on, they redirect their wrath toward another filmmaker:
Are you guys on good terms with Michael Moore these days? PARKER: I fucking hate that guy. And it's built up over the last couple of years. But he's one of the few people that if I ever saw him somewhere, I'd be like, "You're a fucking asshole." And I would pray he'd take a swing at me. STONE: We were never really friends, but he asked me to do an interview for Bowling for Columbine, because I grew up in Littleton [Colorado]. And he asked if we would do an animated thing for it, and we passed, and he did an animated thing anyway and put it right after my interview. PARKER: I was like, "Whatever, fuck it," but these crunchy granola people with sandals kept coming up to me, going, "Hey, way to stick it to America!" And I was like, "That wasn't me, I don't think that way." STONE: I've had people congratulate me for doing that. PARKER: That's what Michael Moore does. He creates meaning where there isn't any. People are like, "Can you believe they're trying to say Michael Moore just manipulates people?" I'm like, "Yes, he does." STONE: After all that, the Team America stuff really wasn't personal. We just loved the imagery of him blowing up Mount Rushmore--the idea that America can only get beaten from inside.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

GRADE INFLATION 

Scene: breakfast table

Dad: Do you want to work on your letters?
Four-Year-Old: Sure.

Dad: [Pointing the first letter in a newspaper headline] What's this?
Four-Year-Old: Two!

Dad: Well no, but that was close. It's the letter "S."
Four-Year-Old: Do it again!

Dad: Uh, OK. [Pointing at the same letter] What's this?
Four-Year-Old: Six!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

I SCREAM YOU SCREAM PART II 

Turns out ice cream isn't the only offensive kids' treat out there: toy pigs are the latest threat.

Workers in the benefits department at Dudley Council, West Midlands, were told to remove or cover up all pig-related items, including toys, porcelain figures, calendars and even a tissue box featuring Winnie the Pooh and Piglet.

Bosses acted after a Muslim complained about pig-shaped stress relievers delivered to the council in the run-up to the Islamic festival of Ramadan.

...

Councillor Mahbubur Rahman, a practising Muslim, backed the ban. He said: “It’s a tolerance of people’s beliefs.”

Well, I believe suicide bombing is offensive. I now expect all bombers and bomber-related items to be removed or covered up.

I'm waiting...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

WORDS TO THE WISE 

Some travelling tips are timeless:
Never attempt to fire a gun or pistol while on the road ... the careless handling and cocking of the weapon makes nervous people nervous. Don't discuss politics or religion, nor point out places on the road where horrible murders have been committed.
Others are a bit dated:
The best seat inside a stagecoach is the one next to the driver ... you will get less than half the bumps and jars than on any other seat. When any old "sly Elph," who traveled thousands of miles on coaches, offers through sympathy to exchange his back or middle seat with you, don't do it.
Vox Baby reprints a list from 1877.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT? 

Another aging songsmith has taken a courageous and unusual stand against President Bush: Burt Bacharach. Burt's new album, to be released in a month, finally allows the king of cheese to speak out:
"I had to express myself, not only musically but lyrically," Bacharach says. "It was time for me to ask, 'Who are these people who are taking control of our lives and how do we stop the violence?'
All I can say is, it's about time someone in the music biz asked these questions. They're all such administration apologists. It takes an old-timer to truly buck the system.

But I can do without all the bawling:
There's no doubt that At This Time is a departure, a deeply-felt and personal statement. Among other things, it features the sound of the old smoothie actually breaking down and weeping, while talking about his children on "Where Did it Go?" He has four children, a 39-year-old daughter by the actress Angie Dickinson, a 19-year-old son by Carole Bayer Sager, the songwriter he married in 1982, and two young children with his fourth wife, Jane Hansen. He sings heart-rendingly about the world he's bequeathing to them. "I recorded the song live," he says, "in front of an orchestra, and yes, I was very moved, I was in tears." Does he really fear for his kids' future? "Yes I do. It's not getting any better, is it? I don't want my 19-year-old boy going into the army. I love these little kids. They understand how passionate I am."
I have this thing about crybabies, you see. Unless they actually are babies.