Monday, October 31, 2005

The Vanishing Vagina

Vaginas. Seventeen magazine. Albertson's groceries.

Apparently, these three things do not play well together.

Albertson's chain of some 2,500 stores has pulled the current issue of the teen magazine from the stands because of a 2-page story that addresses the facts and fictions surrounding the celebrated maw of mystery.

Associated Press, presumably amid some smirking in the newsroom, described the offending section:

"The article, titled 'Vagina 101,' shows a drawing of a woman's genitalia with arrows pointing out the clitoris, the labia majora, the labia minora, the hymen and the anus. It provides a short description of each part of the anatomy, under the headline 'Owner's Manual.' On the second page, the author addresses what's normal and what's not."

Boy, the execs at Albertson's are such pus- .... oh, never mind.

SCOTUS Smackdown

With Scooter Libby indicted and Harriet Miers weeping in her pillow, it is only fitting that Halloween begins the next chapter for the Great Pumpkin currently residing in the White House. The selection of U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito for the Supremes sets the stage for the ideological battle that both the far right and far left have been itching for.

From AP:

"Alito has been dubbed 'Scalito' or 'Scalia-lite' by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered."

Well, at least he's polite. That's nice.

Yep, this president is definitely a uniter, if by uniter you mean it in the profoundly ironic sense.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Scary Movies

What is my inordinate attraction to making lists? I dunno, but Halloween provides an excuse to wax self-indulgently on my list of the scariest horror films I've ever seen. In deference to the All Hallow's Eve, incidentally, I am limiting myself to films with a supernatural bent of some sort (meaning The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs are rendered ineligible).

10. Dawn of the Dead (2004)
Forgive me, George A. Romero, for I would rank the remake scarier than your 1978 entrails-laden original . But hey, the updated zombie yarn is simply scarier; the first 20 minutes, in particular, are just crazy intense.

9. The Evil Dead (1981)
Well, the sequel is much more fun, but it's more hilarious than horrifying. Sam Raimi's original low-budget classic features the infamous "shaky-cam," nifty animation and a dance number that's worth losing your head over. Besides, the movie that essentially launched Bruce Campbell's career is always worth recognition.

8. The Changeling (1980)
A solid haunted house story that manages to achieve actual poignancy, too. Go figure.

7. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Roman Polanski's take on the Ira Levin novel is less horror and more paranoia, but man, oh, man, is it a paranoiac's wet dream. Atmospheric and expertly paced, Rosemary's Baby is too often overlooked as a great film because its title and plot are so ensconced in popular culture. While the central plot point has Satan planting his seed in pasty-faced Mia Farrow, Polanski elicits the real frights by exploiting our more mundane suspicions: the divide between generations, the nosy neighbors and the aloof spouse.

6. Halloween (1978)
While John Carpenter's mad slasher flick is mask and shoulders better than the craptacular imitators, it's no masterpiece. The director goes a bit overboard with the p.o.v. shots, Nancy Loomis underacts, Donald Pleasence overacts and the premise -- crazy guy torments trio of babysitters -- is pure drive-in fare. But Halloween was the first movie I remember seeing in the theater that completely flipped me out. It was my Cinema Paradiso moment, a dying-to-be-scared 13 year old in a theater filled with freaked-out teens and adolescents certain that we were all being let in on the most twisted of collective nightmares. All that, and P.J. Soles' bare boobies.

5. The Ring (2002)
Not so much a remake as an English-language do-over, this Hollywood take on the 1998 Japanese horror flick Ringu scores with the visual themes of water, TV static and a cursed videotape that looks like outtakes from a Nine Inch Nails music video.

4. The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
A woefully underappreciated chillfest, director Mark Pellington performs the amazing feat of making even Chap Stick disturbing.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999)
Not a through-and-through horror film, but M. Night Shyamalan's directorial debut is as spooky a ghost story as they come. In this story of a kid who -- c'mon, say it with me -- can see dead people, Shyamalan wrings the maximum chills from Philadelphia, a city undoubtedly teeming with apparitions of all kinds. Once the temperature drops, the ghosts appear for scenes simultaneously creepy and morbidly humorous: the teenager with a head wound offering to show his dad's gun, the domestic abuse victim rummaging through the kitchen for a knife. Just because The Sixth Sense has been absorbed by the zeitgeist doesn't make it any less terrific.

2. The Shining (1980)
"Play with us, Danny ... play with us. Forever and ever and ever." Christ, Almigty -- if there's one thing I don't like, it's creepy twin girls who've been hacked to pieces by their dad and still insist on hanging around. The only thing worse? Well, possibly a long-legged nude woman in a bathtub who turns out to be a fleshy old crone. Talk about beer goggles. Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece of mood and pace is a far cry from the Stephen King novel on which it's based, but the cinematic Shining is brilliant on its own terms. And scenery-chewin' Jack Nicholson is a gas, gas, gas.

1. The Exorcist (1973)
Pound for pound, still the horror champ in my book. I know it's considered cool these days to scoff at some of the film's dated special effects -- the levitating body, the bed thumping wildly against the floor, etc. -- but William Friedkin's unblinking, almost documentarian approach to the William Peter Blatty novel still gives me the willies. Ellen Burstyn and Jason Miller are excellent, and Captain Howdy is one bad mofo.

By the way, MDC has his own -- and rather impressive -- list over at Manifest Density.

Indictment Day?

The official CTTC prediction:


Friday Random 10

Spin dat iPod.

1. Ian Hunter, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy"
2. Jerry Lee Lewis, "Great Balls of Fire"
3. Camper Van Beethoven, "Peace & Love"
4. Beck, "Bottle of Blues"
5. Elvis Costello, "Beyond Belief"
6. Terence Trent D'Arby, "If You Let Me Stay"
7. Fastball, "Damaged Goods"
8. Carole King, "I Feel the Earth Move"
9. The Four Seasons, "I've Got You Under My Skin"
10.Thomas Dolby, "She Blinded Me with Science"

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Sex Tape Derby, Round 31

In the words of Aristophanes, the premise of Sex Tape Derby is this: If you absolutely have to watch someone in the throes of the nastiest, seizure-inducing sex imaginable, whom would you rather be the star of the show?

Post your selections in the comments section. Remember, if you don't, you let the terrorists win.

For the comprehension-challenged, click here for more.

1. Bubblelicious: Kelly Clarkson or Avril Lavigne?

2. Mark Ruffalo or Elijah Wood?

3. Sporting a Woody: Old school Diane Keaton or old school Mia Farrow?

4. Out of the joint and ready for love: Robert Downey or Nick Nolte?

5. Claire Danes or Sarah Polley?

6. Two love: Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras?

Rednecks Never Learn

by Larry Mondello

I kid you not, Trent Lott just said this to CNN:

"I want the President to go out and select a man, woman or minority(for the Supreme Court)."

Then he said it again ...

"There are a lot of good men, women and minorities who can be on the Supreme Court"

Sen Lott appears to think only whites can be men or women.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Boom Sooner: Shut Yer Mouth

A number of blogs continue to take a beating from some in the mainstream media for daring to suggest something amiss with the Oct. 1 suicide bombing of Joel Hinrichs on the University of Oklahoma campus. Nope, acts of self-destruction such as this one -- held right outside the college stadium on game day -- are more commonplace than anyone thought.

At least you'd think so judging by the tsk-tsking of some self-appointed arbiters of news value. After The Wall Street Journal weighed in with a hatchet job against what it dismissed as conspiracy-mongering blogs, here comes Cathy Young with a "me, too!" for The Boston Globe:

"One fact did understandably trigger suspicion: Two days before his death, Hinrichs had tried to buy ammonium nitrate -- the fertilizer Timothy McVeigh had used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing -- at a local feed store. This had brought him to the attention of the police, and after his suicide, the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force were brought into the investigation. While the investigation is still ongoing, the FBI said on Oct. 4 that it had yet to find any evidence of a terrorist connection.


"... there were numerous unfounded allegations: that Hinrichs was a Muslim convert and a regular at the [Norman, Okla.] mosque; that he had tried to enter the stadium but run away when a guard wanted to search his backpack; and that Islamic extremist literature and a one-way plane ticket to Algeria had been found in his apartment.

"These claims have been debunked in an Oct. 13 article in The Wall Street Journal ..."

Wrong, Cathy. Saying something is debunked doesn't necessarily make it so. As the FBI apparently told U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, investigators could not determine whether Hinrichs had tried to enter Owen Stadium. Meanwhile, one fact is indisputable: a ticket-taker did tell a local TV station that a young man trying to get into the football game that evening scurried away when he was told his backpack would be checked.

Was that Hinrichs? We might never know if that mystery man was Hinrichs or just some poor schlub trying to smuggle booze into the game. But the fact remains that there is no official "debunking" of that possibility.

Why is it inappropriate to raise questions?

Ironic Quote of the Day

"No one should underestimate the difficulties ahead."

-- George W. Bush, Oct. 25, 2005, predicting future casualties in the Iraq War

"Elizabethtown": Some Thoughts

Director-writer Cameron Crowe has written and directed two great movies, 1996's Jerry Maguire and 2000's Almost Famous. There are traces of both in his latest, Elizabethtown, in which Orlando Bloom stars as a failed wunderkind tennis-shoe designer who sets aside plans to kill himself so that he can retrieve the body of his father, who has just died during a visit to Kentucky.

Unfortunately, there are traces of other stories, too -- scores of 'em.

So it's about a guy coming to terms with the deceased father he never really knew, right?

Well ... on the nearly empty flight to Kentucky he meets a kook of a waitress (played by the adorable Kirsten Dunst) who is this pop cultural Zen master, life-affirming force, see ...

Oh, so the movie is a romance, huh?

Well ... Crowe throws in an awful lot of music. I mean, it's a killer soundtrack, everything from Elton John and Tom Petty to Ryan Adams and My Morning Jacket, and the songs speak to the soul of the characters and the divine power of art and all that jazz.

So it's a movie about the power of rock 'n' roll?

Well ... not exactly. There's a road trip, see ...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

100 Top Novels

Time magazine lists its take on the 100 greatest novels published since 1923 (the year that Time was founded).

It's a fun little read ...


Wow -- so Interview with the Vampire novelist Anne Rice, she of the horror erotica (or is it erotic horror?) genre, now says she has found God and is a real Christian.

Gosh, if someone like Anne Rice can start acting like a real Christian, just imagine who might be next ...

James Dobson? Pat Robertson? George W. Bush?

Truth or Consequences

In The Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutten expertly dissects the Judy Miller debacle:

"The [New York] Times is a great news organization with a newfound capacity for self-criticism and a demonstrated capacity to renew itself. Miller, the reporter, represents something far more persistent and pernicious in American journalism. She's virtually an exemplar of an all-too-common variety of Washington reporter: ambitious, self-interested, unscrupulous and intoxicated by proximity to power.

"Unfortunately, she has also become the poster child in the push for a national reporter's shield law, and this week she went before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify for the Free Flow of Information Act. There, she didn't even blush when she told the lawmakers: 'Confidential sources are the life's blood of journalism. Without them ... people like me would be out of business.'

"Probably so, but there's still a case to be made for this legislation."

In particular, Rutten zeroes in on Miller's recollection (published Oct. 16 in The Times) of a conversation she had with Scooter Libby, the veep's embattled chief of staff, in which Libby initially noted that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, worked for the CIA and had sent her husband to investigate allegations that Iraq was seeking WMDs. Miller said -- and apparently has since testified to special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald -- that Libby wanted to be identified as a "former Capitol Hill staffer" instead of as anyone connected to the White House.

Rutten goes on:

"As the Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger reported Friday, Libby was obsessed with Wilson and determined to discredit -- and defame -- him. Why take the chance of leaving your own fingerprints at the scene of the crime, when the Washington press corps continues to be studded with useful idiots like Miller, who would whack their own grandmothers for a byline above the fold."

Miller's journalistic transgressions aren't the only lamentable actions here. On the other end of the spectrum is the incredible latitude she received from her editors. The New York Times' public editor and current instrument of self-flagellation, Byron Calame, also holds the feet of Miller's bosses to the proverbial fire:

"The apparent deference to Ms. Miller by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, and top editors of The Times, going back several years, needs to be addressed more openly, especially in view of the ethics issues that have come to light ...


"Mr. Sulzberger, inclined by instinct and Times tradition to protect any reporter's confidential sources, wasn't doing anything special in backing Ms. Miller on this journalistic principle. But in an interview for the retrospective last Sunday, Ms. Miller acknowledged Mr. Sulzberger's special support in this case. 'He galvanized the editors, the senior editorial staff. ... He metaphorically and literally put his arm around me,' she said."

Reporters, by and large, do not appreciate their own power. That isn't to say they are bad reporters, necessarily; I still cling on to my romantic notions, fueled by legends like Edward R. Murrow and Woodward & Bernstein, that the Fourth Estate is a vital part of democracy and essential to ensure an informed citizenry.

All too often, however, those seem to be incidental outcomes. For all the chest-thumping that so many reporters (including this one, admittedly) give about holding government accountable and giving a voice to the voiceless, etc. -- the same bluster Miller dredged up before Congress while promoting a shield law -- experience continually shows that most reporters don't really get it. And neither, really, do most editors.

They want a substantive scoop, sure; and they might even enjoy being a burr under the saddle of the high and mighty. But too many reporters do not fully appreciate the awesome power they have at their disposal. They are careless with it, children with a loaded firearm in the sandbox; or they fail to recognize that the choices they make -- what to cover and what not to cover -- impact real people and have real consequences.

Judith Miller obviously practiced some shoddy journalism. She did not weigh the more insidious motives of her sources, and she failed to come clean with her editors. It is no remarkable accident that she was among the most celebrated reporters for arguably the most celebrated newspaper in the world. From Bakersfield to Bangor, Maine, scores of well-intentioned Judith Millers are still tapdancing away, albeit with smaller shoes.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Keep Your Seat

The power of one person's courage, tenacity and sense of justice

Rest in peace, Rosa Parks
1914 - 2005

Dictator Traffic Court

"It was most definitely not a school zone ..."

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lights, Play Ball, Action!

Not that anyone particularly cares, but the World Series seems as good an excuse as any to list my favorite movies about baseball:

5. Field of Dreams (1989)
OK, it's schmaltzy, sentimental and saddled with Kevin Costner in another of his ubersensitive modes. But I still get misty-eyed every time I see Ray Liotta emerge from that friggin' cornfield to finally play catch with his son (and Ray Liotta isn't exactly the tug-at-your-heartstrings type).

4. Major League (1989)
Not a great comedy by any means, but the movie actually does have some resonance for baseball fans. Written and directed by David S. Ward, it follows a shopworn underdogs-pursue-the-championship formula, the cinematic equivalent of a down-the-plate fastball, enlivened by some fun performances, particularly Charlie Sheen as an ace reliever with control issues.

3. Eight Men Out (1988)
With the White Sox back in the series for the first time since 1959, it might just be in bad taste to mention this story of the eight ChiSox players who threw the 1919 World Series to Cincinnati at the behest of gamblers. But John Sayles' film is an interesting, albeit unapologetically leftist, tale of American capitalism gone awry -- and Studs Terkel even makes a cameo, to prove it.

2. ( a tie) Bull Durham (1988)
Along with The Natural, this dramedy directed and written by Ron Shelton (who also did the decidedly darker quasi-baseball flick Cobb) is widely considered to be the zenith of baseball movies -- which is kinda odd considering that both films employ such polarizing views of the game. The Natural revels in the game's golden-tinged mythology (with director Barry Levinson wringing every drop of sentiment out of it), while Bull Durham opts for a much looser and libidinous vibe more akin to the great Jim Bouton tell-all book, Ball Four. Kevin Costner is the aging catcher, Susan Sarandon is the bed-hopping groupie and Tim Robbins is the up-and-coming pitcher. But hell, you know all that already.

and 2. The Rookie (2002)
A straightforward "family" film, but don't let that scare you off. Dennis Quaid gives one of his better performances in the real-life story of Jimmy Morris, who finally pursued his dream of pitching in the major leagues at the ripe old age of 35.

1. The Bad News Bears (1976)
Well, not so much a great baseball movie, but it's definitely a great movie that has to do -- peripherally, perhaps -- with baseball. A formative flick for yours truly growing up, this Michael Ritchie-directed yarn about a team of Little League misfits says more about sportsmanship and childhood than several dozen ABC after-school specials put together. And it's a testament to the glory days of Seventies' cinema that the original is so much more raw and honest than its 2005 remake.

Honorable mention: Cobb, The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings and Pride of the Yankees.
Full disclosure: I've never seen Bang the Drum Slowly and Fear Strikes Out

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Dr. Tom Pisses Off the Senate

Even when Dr. Tom Coburn shows himself to be principled and impressive, the crazy bugger can't help but prove problematic.

Case in point: Dr. Tom's proposed amendment on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday in which he sought to block more than $450 million of pork projects that had been tucked in a bill for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Railing against the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska and even a Ponca City, Okla., American Indian museum advocated by Oklahoma senior Sen. Jim Inhofe, the good doctor argued that dollars instead needed to be funneled toward rebuilding the infrastructure of post-Katrina Louisiana.

The idea didn't sit well with the august body. As The Washington Post dutifully reported:

"Sen. Ted Stevens, the veteran Alaska Republican, was dramatic in his response. 'I don't kid people,' Stevens roared. 'If the Senate decides to discriminate against our state ... I will resign from this body.'"

It got better. The Daily Oklahoman's Chris Casteel followed the senatorial meltdown:

"Coburn got the strongest rebuke from U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., who managed the spending bill on the Senate floor.

"Bond, seeming to mock the Senate convention of complimenting colleagues during debate, talked about Coburn's habit of practicing medicine during Senate breaks and said he envied Coburn's abilities.

"Then he delivered the blow.

"'You know what I do when I have time off?' Bond said. 'I travel around the state.'"

Coburn's measure ended up soundly defeated, and the Tulsa World reports he later apologized to Inhofe for crossing him on the floor of the Senate.

While I applaud Coburn's sentiments and conviction on this count, as an Oklahoman I wonder what this means for the future of federal help for a variety of programs here. Pork barrel, after all, is defined by one's proximity. A rock garden in your front yard is important for curb appeal. A garden in your neighbor's front yard might just be an eyesore.

We all love the political maverick who kicks ass and takes names and shoots from the hip and tells it like it is and every other cliche I can think of -- but let's be honest: Politics is very much about knowing when to play well with others and how to choose your battles. And payback is a bitch.

Over the past 10 years, Oklahoma has lost some mighty powerful members of its congressional delegation -- Don Nickles, David Boren, J.C. Watts, Dave McCurdy -- and the state, like any state represented by zealous politicos who know how to play the game -- prospered from it.

I'm just not certain that Dr. Tom's crusade, no matter how principled, will ultimately serve his constituents.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Friday Random 10

iPod me, baby.

1. Spanky & Our Gang, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same"
2. Combustible Edison, "One Eyed Monkey"
3. Joe South, "Don't It Make You Want to Go Home"
4. A.C. Newman, "The Town Halo"
5. Elvis Costello, "The Long Honeymoon"
6. Too Much Joy, "Just Like a Man"
7. Roky Erickson, "Bermuda"
8. The Eels, "Beautiful Freak"
9. The Beatles, "Here Comes the Sun"
10 Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, "The Waiting"

Thursday, October 20, 2005

That's Gonna Be One Busy Men's Restroom

Head Hustler honcho Larry Flynt is turning his attentions to a chain of restaurants, the Hustler Bar & Grille.

Bloomberg reports:

"'This is Hooters meets Hard Rock Cafe meets the Cheesecake Factory,' said [Hustler Bar & Grill Las Vegas LLC president Brad] Saltzman, 37. His company, Gerald Bernard Hospitality LLC, is licensing the Hustler name for the venture, although Mr. Flynt will be involved in menu and decor choices, he said."

Kinda gives new meaning to the concept of "eating out tonight."

I'm Your Number One Fan ...

Boy, oh, boy, this is one committed fan. From the Daily Oklahoman:

"A man's wish that the number of years he spends in prison match the 33 on a former NBA star's jersey was granted this week by an Oklahoma County judge.

"'He said if he was going to go down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey,' District Judge Ray Elliott said Wednesday. 'We accommodated his request and he was just as happy as he could be.'

"Eric James Torpy asked to do three more years on a 30-year sentence for two counts of shooting with intent to kill and robbery. The total now reflects famed Boston Celtic Larry Bird's uniform number."

But the best thing for Torpy is that, in case he comes across any rabid Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-obsessed prison gang fan club, he has an immediate alternative explanation ...

Sex Tape Derby, Round 30

Thursday means Sex Tape Derby -- or at least that's what it means in Sanskrit. If you're familiar with this blog, you know the schtick (sorry, LilRed, for the copyright infringement). If not, click here for a fuller understanding of what you've been missing.

1. Seventies style: Young Linda Ronstadt or young Carly Simon?

2. Method style: Johnny Depp or Joaquin Phoenix?

3. A New York Times state of mind: Maureen Dowd or Judith Miller?

4. Stone Phillips or The Rock?

5. Hot plates: Master chef Rachel Ray or master chef Nigella Lawson?

6. And just to be weird about it: Shrek or Donkey?

Traitorgate and Judy Miller

Will there be indictments in Traitorgate?

My Magic 8-Ball says all signs point to yes.

Oh, and allow me to get a few things off my chest despite their having been beaten on the blogs already like red-headed stepchildren. I don't wanna rehash everything going on right now with Patrick Fitzgerald's probe (woo hoo!), especially since leaks are starting to drip fast and furious these days, but I do want to offer a few quick thoughts on New York Times reporter and White House fluffer Judy Miller:

1. Miller wrote she told the grand jury that although Scooter Libby told her Joseph Wilson's wife worked at the CIA, she had gotten Wilson's wife's name, Valerie "Flame" (she apparently recorded the name incorrectly in her notebook), from someone else but she can't remember who it is.

Right. Makes sense. So Judith Miller would have the special prosecutor and the public believe she went to prison for 85 days all to protect someone whose identity she can't recall. What a sweetie pie.

"Miller cannot recall where the name at the center of the case came from?" muses PressThink . "Wowzer. ... Claiming memory loss about the most important fact in the story is weak. Very." Ditto that.

2. Miller wrote in her New York Times personal account that she agreed to Libby's request that, for their second conversation -- the one in which he trashed Wilson and outed the ex-ambassador's wife as a CIA operative -- she would identify him not as a "senior administration official," but rather as a "former Hill staffer."


Two things: First, the request seems particularly suspicious, especially since Libby, in their next conversation, was back to being fine with the identifier of "senior administration official." Could it be that Scooter Libby knew he was breaking the law, or coming mighty close to doing so?

Secondly, speaking as a reporter, Miller's agreement to play cute with her source's identity (technically accurate, but real-world accurate? No way, no day, as they say) is dishonest at best and collusive at worst.

And this administration mouthpiece works for the so-called paper of record? Why was/is Judith Miller a reporter for the premier newspaper in the United States? And why in the name of you-know-who is the Society of Professional Journalists proceeding with its plans to award the fluffer with a First Amendment Award?

As a journalist, I have a great deal of sympathy for reporters protecting their sources and I surely believe in the sanctity of shield laws. But I don't think journalists can hide behind such laws when, in instances such as this, the very act of leaking to a reporter is a crime that draws the reporter in as accessory.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Shout Out to "Frontline"

If you have not seen the latest "Frontline" investigative piece about the Pentagon's micromanaged policy of torture and humiliation from Guantanamo Bay to Abu Ghraib and beyond, do yourself a favor and check listings to make sure you do not miss it. The story is spellbinding. While it doesn't necessarily reveal much new information -- in-depth articles on such issues have appeared elsewhere, perhaps most notably in The New York Times -- this is still well worth seeing. Perhaps most helpful, "Frontline" connects Gitmo and Abu Ghraib in a narrative that very much explains the machinations that set up the brutality of coalition interrogations.

Thank God for Sen. John McCain and the anti-torture and prisoner abuse measure he authored. And thank God only nine idiotic senators voted against it (unfortunately, Oklahoma's two senators were among the nine), therefore reminding us that turning around the hearts and minds of deeply entrenched ignorance and apathy doesn't happen overnight.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sleeps with the Fishes

From The Godfather, Part II, in which mob lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) gently urges stool pigeon Frankie Pentangeli (Michael Gazzo) what to do to make things right:

HAGEN: "The Roman Empire ... when a plot against the Emperor failed, the plotters were always given a chance to let their families keep their fortunes."

PENTANGELI: "Yeah, but only the rich guys. The little guys got knocked off. If they got arrested and executed, all their estate went to the Emperor. If they just went home and killed themselves, up front, nothing happened."

HAGEN: "Yeah, that was a good break. A nice deal."

From Lewis "Scooter" Libby's letter to New York Times reporter and White House fluffer Judy Miller freeing her of obligations to remain incarcerated for purposes of protecting him:

LIBBY: "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them. Come back to work -- and life ... "

Birds of a feather?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Nothing to See Here, Move Along ...

The Wall Street Journal's a bash piece on those who dare question the Joel Hinrichs suicide-by-bombing on the University of Oklahoma campus hinges on the ol' straw man argument. Reporters Ryan Chittum and Joe Hagan apparently ignore legitimate questions about whether Hinrichs had set out to rack up a huge body count when he exploded himself Oct. 1 minutes away from Owen Stadium and more than 82,000 fans. Instead, the intrepid Woodward and Bernstein wannabes focus on what they consider unequivocal truths:

"... blogs and local Oklahoma TV stations added several apparent inaccuracies, including: that Mr. Hinrichs was a Muslim and visited the [Norman, Oklahoma] mosque frequently; that he tried to enter the stadium twice but was rebuffed; that he had a one-way airplane ticket to Algeria; that there were nails in the bomb and that Islamic extremist literature was found in his apartment.

"None of these claims are true: Mr. Hinrichs's family, university officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation say Mr. Hinrichs suffered from depression, and the explosion was an isolated event.

"The FBI's investigation is nearly complete. On Oct. 4, the FBI issued a statement saying, 'At this time, there is no known link between Hinrichs and any terrorist or extremist organization(s) or activities.'"

A-ha! But the question that many bloggers -- and, yes, even non-bloggers -- have is not about whether Hinrichs was part of an Islamic terrorist plot. That is awfully unlikely, despite some still-tantalizing coincidences regarding OU and al Qaeda.

There are some decidedly more reasonable questions. Does anyone really believe that this is how a depressed, lonely 21 year old kills himself? It's a question worth asking, especially when you note that three days before the suicide, Hinrichs tried to purchase ammonium nitrate, the same fertilizer used for the homemade explosive that took down the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

But whatever. Apparently we're not supposed to be skeptical of such things. At any rate, Hinrichs waits until Game Day to blow himself up, and chooses to do it on the campus' South Oval, which is always bustling during home games.

Here are tangentially related questions: Why exactly is it that the mainstream news media has paid such little attention to this mystery? And why does it seem that only the right-wing blogs are interested? What makes this strange case of Joel Hinrichs something that would cut along ideological lines? Being no right-winger, I don't get it.

And for the record, the FBI concedes that it has no idea whether Hinrichs tried to get into the stadium for the game. At least one ticket-taker at the stadium indicated to KWTV, Oklahoma City's CBS affiliate, that a young man that day scurried away after refusing to let his backpack be checked. Granted, there is nothing to identify Hinrichs as that unknown person, but there is no definitive answer to that question, either -- despite what the WSJ wants to believe.

Someone Had to Do It....

Da Brains...

by Larry Mondello

No matter how you feel about King Karl Rove; you can't deny, this is stupid!

Associated Press ( which often goes by the nickname AP, a little wire service that once had some standards) reports this today, the contents of Mr. Rove's garage!

Either indict him or don't indict him; just make it stop!

(Personally, I love to see him squirm)

The 100,000 Mark

Not to be too self-indulgent, but we here at Cutting to the Chase are tickled pink (not that there's anything wrong with that) about having just surpassed the 100,000 visitors mark. Granted, the vast majority of visitors to this site are drawn here by pictures of Tara Reid and Google word searches that even make me blush, but what the hell, I'll take what I can get.

Still, 100,000 is a big number. Just to put that in perspective: If you had 100,000 pennies, you would have $1,000. Or to put it another way: If you had 100,000 eggs, you could make roughly 33,333 three-egg omelets. That's a heck of a lot more than Babe Ruth ever ate in one sitting.

So there. I hope you're impressed. At any rate, thanks for reading.

Reel Short Reviews, Take 12

More thumbnail reviews for your reading enjoyment:

The Cave (2005)
So Alien was scary in outer space, right? Well, then, why not set the slimy critter in a cave and see what happens? This movie answers the "why not?" query: 'Cause you end up with this shoulda-been-straight-to-video crapfest.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)
Director Scott Derrickson has boasted that this might be the first-ever horror/courtroom drama. Well, there might be a reason for that. The two genres don't mix, at least not in this lugubrious tale. What a waste of the mega-talented Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson.

Fight Club (1999)
David Fincher's mind-blowing satire comes close to overstaying its welcome, but not enough to sap the movie's snap, crackle and pop. Based on the novel by Chuck Pahlaniuk, this exceptional film stars Edward Norton as the nameless office drone wasting away through insomnia and addictive consumerism until he meets up with the messianic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). The alliance leads to Fight Club, groups of disenfranchised men yearning to slug their way out of ennui and back to the hunter-gatherer state. In its own twisted way, however, Fight Club is about everything, although it never really goes off the rails thematically.

The Man (2005)
A serviceable buddy flick that gets what little mileage it does from co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy.

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger conjured up some of the most gripping, dreamlike films in the history of cinema, and this quasi-wartime fantasy one might be their best. David Niven stars as a World War II pilot in Britain's Royal Air Force who jumps from his burning plane without a parachute, only to miraculously wash ashore not too far from an American woman (Kim Hunter) whom he briefly spoke to by radio shortly before he bailed. Wouldn't you know, it turns out some incompetent angel (French,of course) failed to whisk Niven away to Heaven for his appointed time; so now the pilot, who has survived and is in love, wants to stay put on Earth. Drenched in beautiful Technicolor, A Matter of Life and Death laces the Earthbound romance with a black-and-white Heaven more reminiscent of German Expressionism than anything approaching Utopia. And somewhere along the way, Powell and Pressburger even find room for a fascinating debate on the merits of America vs. Great Britain. Terrific stuff.

Night and the City (1950)
Director Jules Dassin made this extraordinary film noir thriller after the anti-Commie frenzy of the period forced him to flee Hollywood for London. Richard Widmark stars as Harry Fabian, a two-bit con man whose dreams exceed his abilities; in his quest to corner the promotions market on pro wrestling in London, he spins a web of schemes that ultimately ensnares him -- and everyone else he comes near. A knockout of a film, Night and the City includes all the trappings of great noir. It is dark, moody, fatalistic and morally ambiguous, a nocturnal world in which the drama of loveless couplings and broken men play out in shadows. Those were the days.

Rock School (2005)
Not so much a documentary about East Coast kids with a hankering to be rock stars as much as it is a snapshot of Paul Green, a smug, delusional, powertripping snob of a rock teacher who insists he can turn his class into first-rate rock 'n' rollers. Paul is a self-important prick, but apparently a lot of his students respond to the verbal abuse. It's watchable and holds your interest, but you can't help wishing that director Don Argott went digging just a bit more into Green's backstory.

Rushmore (1998)
Wes Anderson's breakthrough film is still his most successful -- an energetic, flamboyant, ultimately good-natured comedy about edgy prep school overachiever Max Fischer (Jason Schwartman), a lost soul who squares off against a world-weary industrialist (a pitch-perfect Bill Murray) for the affections of a widowed schoolteacher (Olivia Williams). Boasting a terrific soundtrack (where the Ramones, the Who and Chad and Jeremy's "Summer Song" all find themselves fratenizing) and a fearlessness ready to try out every gloriously cockamamie idea that occurs to the filmmakers, Rushmore is that rarest of creatures; it's a hipster comedy that actually has a heart.

Saved! (2003)
The movie frustrated its audiences at the time, and no wonder. A gentle satire about young Christians, it was marketed as being a skewering of strident Bible-thumpers. The overall vibe, however, is decidedly more humanitarian in this tale of Mary (Jena Malone), who becomes pregnant after she tries saving her boyfriend from homosexuality. Helmed by Brian Dannelly, the cast is uniformly terrific, particularly Malone, Mandy Moore and Eva Amurri. Maybe Saved! could have used sharper teeth, but the movie works well for what it is, and actually achieves moments of poignancy.

The Skeleton Key (2005)
In addition to being one of the last movies shot in New Orleans before its 2005 Armageddon in the shape of Katrina, this hoodoo creeper also makes for one of the more unfairly maligned films of the '05 summer. Kate Hudson is understated and believable (and in her underwear a lot, thank goodness) as a frustrated caregiver who takes a job helping a mute stroke victim (John Hurt) in a neglected Bayou mansion. The protective wife (Gena Rowlands) might just be a bit batty or sinister, and there might just be a history in this old house. The Deep South is one of the few truly exotic cultures left in this country -- unless you count Radio Shack salespeople that is -- and director Iain Softley sharpens the edges for some moderate frights and a nifty twist ending.

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)
A solid, straightforward documentary about the be-bop jazz legend.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Rare Defense of the President (Sort of)

I hope the new-found skepticism of the news media regarding the Bush Administration doesn't turn into plain, old-fashioned piling on. In a recent teleconference between Dumbya and a group of soldiers in Iraq, AP slapped on this loaded headline: "Bush Thanks Soldiers in Rehearsed Talk."

Reporter Deb Reichmann, apparently having been born sometime within the last few days, recounts with dismay that -- heaven forbid! -- a deputy assistant defense secretary, Allison Barber, did a walk-through rehearsal about what soldier would field what question.

"'OK, so let's just walk through this,' Barber said. 'Captain Kennedy, you answer the first question and you hand the mike to whom?'

"'Captain Smith,' Kennedy said.

"'Captain. Smith? You take the mike and you hand it to whom?' she asked.

"'Captain Kennedy,' the soldier replied.

"And so it went.

"'If the question comes up about partnering — how often do we train with the Iraqi military — who does he go to?' Barber asked."

Blah, blah, blah.

The quickest way for the news media to return to its fearful, scaredy-cat coverage of the White House is to overplay its hand and get rightfully spanked by a scornful public. Headlines such as this are utter nonsense.

Friday Random 10

This is the part of the blog in which I self-indulgently shuffle my iPod and tell you what's on it.

1. Buddy Holly, "Rave On"
2. Fountains of Wayne, "All Kinds of Time"
3. TV on the Radio, "Staring at the Sun"
4. Joan Jett, "Crimson and Clover"
5. The Black Keys, "A.M. Automatic"
6. Steve Earle, "Valentine's Day"
7. The Boomtown Rats, "Don't Believe What You Read"
8. Elvis Costello, "Baby Plays Around"
9. Charles Brown, "Black Knight"
10. Iggy Pop, "The Passenger"

"All Kinds of Time," incidentally, has the distinction of being the best rock song about football ever recorded.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Harriet Heart George

The Moderate Voice 's Greg Piper has a nifty segment on Harriet Miers, Bush Groupie.

You've gotta read some of the mash notes our wannabe Justice has sent to Dumbya over the years. Sounds like girlfriend's angling for a promise ring.

Sex Tape Derby, Round 29

Happy Thursday, people. It's another Thursday and that means another Sex Tape Derby (well, it also means another Thursday, but that seems fairly obvious).

Surely by now you understand the idea of this thing, so let's just cut to the chase (hey! what a great name for a blog!) and post your selections in the comments section. Or not. See if I care.

And in case you are itching for a lengthy explanation of what this is all about, click here or forever hold your, um, peace.

1. Answer the question, Claire! Ally Sheedy or Molly Ringwald?

2. Computer love: Bill Gates or Steve Jobs?

3. Kirsten Dunst or Mena Suvari?

4. Old school Mickey Rourke or old school Kurt Russell?

5. Liz Phair or Sheryl Crow?

6. Muppet strumpets: Kermit the Frog or Fozzie Bear?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Boom Sooner

Although I generally shy away from Oklahomacentric topics here, I cant help but weigh in on the percolating conspiracies surrounding the Oct. 1 Sooner boom on the University of Oklahoma campus. The apparent suicide bombing of Joel Henry Hinrichs III is still prompting rumors floating through the blogosphere, and it's easy to understand why.

Joel Hinrichs III

As is the case with conspiracy theories, there is an abundance of tantalizing coincidences -- if they are coincidences, that is -- with which to connect the dots.

Of course, the curious death of Hinrichs is made all the curiouser because of Norman, Oklahoma's footnote connection to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, attended Airman Flight School in Norman, lived near the OU campus, attended the Islamic Mosque in the town and, strangest of all, somehow ended up using the email address of an OU student from Pennsylvania named Nick Berg. As investigators later concluded, Moussaoui had bumped into Berg on a bus in Norman, when one thing led to another and, to make a long story short, the al Qaeda terrorist gained access to Berg's email account. It proved to be a fortuitous meeting for Moussaoui. After all, Berg attended OU for only a semester, although he did end up spending another several months living on the OU campus, sleeping in the student union center and even on the floor of the Lloyd Noble Center. Strange.

Even stranger, four years later terrorists in Iraq beheaded Berg, a gruesome murder that was transmitted across the globe via the Internet.

So Joel Hinrichs chooses game day at OU to kill himself with the explosive TATP, which shoe bomber Richard Reid used in his thwarted act of terrorism and which is the explosive of choice in the Middle East. Then investigators find more explosives in Hinrichs' apartment, which he shares with a Pakistani student. Some media outlets and blogs contend that an airline ticket to Algeria was found in the apartment. Whether that is true -- or, if true, whether that means anything -- remains to be seen.

KWTV, Oklahoma City's CBS affiliate, reports that unnamed sources place Hinrichs as having visited the Norman mosque on a few occasions earlier this year. That claim is disputed by the FBI. By the way, the bureau successfully pushed to seal the search warrant executed on Hinrichs' apartment, which, we are told, is not particularly common in a case of apparent suicide.

We concede that there are some mighty strange things about the case. First, we suspect that people who commit suicide by bombing are probably intending to rack up a body count with them. We also have trouble believing Hinrichs' father's claim that his son was just an enthusiast about blowing shit up.

There's also the interesting business about Hinrichs, a 21-year-old junior majoring in engineering, having attempted to purchase a large amount of ammonium nitrate fertilizer two days before he eviscerated himself. Although the sale never happened -- the seed-and-feed store Hinrichs visited no longer carried the fertilizer -- he aroused enough suspicion that an off-duty cop in the store jotted down the young man's license plate number.

Accuracy in Media, for what it's worth, has a concise summary of the main mysteries by Cinnamon Stilwell (now, that's a name!):

"When it comes to the Hinrichs bombing, it doesn't take a tinfoil hat to wonder whether there's a cover-up in progress and why. It may simply be that investigators don't want to jeopardize the case by giving away too much information or maybe they don't want to alarm the public needlessly. But doesn't an attempted terrorist attack that could have killed countless civilians warrant some concern?"

My own totally uneducated theory is that Hinrichs was a lonely, sad and misguided young man who wanted to die and take a lot of people with him in the process. My hunch is that something detonated too soon or too late, or something just plain screwed up, and he accidentally blasted himself to smithereens while sitting on a bench.

But will that be what actually comes out? Who knows? OU President David Boren has an obvious vested interest in dismissing any question of public safety at a home game. After all, we are talking about the university's financial lifeblood.

As for the other side of the coin, the more salient mysteries surrounding the case are sure to be tarnished by the likes of conspiracy mongering reporters who overreach and compromise the credibility of everything they allege.

Nope, our prediction: There will be nothing more definitive to come from the strange case of Joel Hinrichs.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

When You Know ...

"When you know some of the things that I know, that I probably shouldn't know, that take me in this direction, you will understand why I have said ... that I believe that Harriet Miers will be a good justice."

-- Focus on the Family lunatic and vowed SpongeBob SquarePants foe James Dobson, October of 2005

"I'm telling you, her ass was this big..."

"Some day, when you know what I know and what I have learned, and that day will come, you will never again think of the United States of America in the same way."

-- Stephen Jones, conspiracy mongering attorney for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, in December of 1995

"That's a mighty salacious dog you got there ..."

Birds of a feather?

Chase Spins More of the Beatles

As promised,or threatened (depending on your perspective), I, Chase McInerney, humbly offers my top 10 Beatles songs:

1. "In My Life" - I want this song played at my funeral. A wise-beyond-its-years song that John Lennon wrote when he was, what, 24 or 25? Amazing. Lennon was such a consistently honest writer, even his most seemingly innocuous lyrics ("There are places I remember all my life / Though some have changed") pulsate with meaning. And the song's concluding swan-song to love gets me every time.

2. "Across the Universe" - Lennon's haunting existentialist lullaby is a happy accident of production, its very roughness augmenting the song's strange feeling of peace. It is some sort of musical genius who can turn the phrase "Nothing's gonna change my world" into something approaching an epiphany.

3. "Come Together" - I've got to defer to Turtle's dead-on description for this one greasy great.

4. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" - Bare-knuckled, blues-drenched, nonsensical rock 'n' roll courtesy Lennon (hmm, I didn't realize my preference for John's compositions until writing this). And it even has more cowbell!

5. "Your Mother Should Know" - I know this is a Paul McCartney-penned trifle, frothy orchestrated pop that doesn't mean anything and is a harbinger of the songwriter's worst impulses to come, but I don't care. This is a great pop song that is as timeless as the music it celebrates.

6. "All My Loving" - Irresistibly simple jangle pop. With its playful rockabilly hook and bittersweet lyrics, this McCartney love song practically calls out for a background chorus of screaming Beatlemania groupies.

7. "Lovely Rita" - From the opening "aaahhh ahhhs" of abandon that sound as if McCartney is spiraling down the rabbit hole, this sonic confection hooks you and doesn't let go until it wraps up all its engaging silliness about a hot-to-trot meter maid. And isn't the alliteration of "sitting on a sofa with a sister or two" just fun to say?

8. "Eleanor Rigby" - Under George Martin's meticulous production, the song's relentless strings and elegiac harmonies paint a landscape of loneliness and isolation. Apparently McCartney had his depressive side, too (bad acid, perhaps?). No wonder he died for a while.

9. "She's Leaving Home" - Maybe they could've toned down the harp a bit, but generally its lush orchestration works in this McCartney sudser about a teenaged girl running away from home. The tune spurred some grousing at the time from rock purists -- after all, the song sure ain't rock -- but I don't know who could deny the song's ethereal beauty.

10. "Here Comes the Sun" - When I was young, I thought this George Harrison composition was just too sappy, but it's grown on me considerably over the years. A deceptively simple track buoyed by Harrison's strumming guitarlines, the song actually sounds like daybreak.

And now you know. Now I can't wait to get around to listing my favorite songs by the Cowsills.

I'm kidding, incidentally. That's an oldies joke.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Hurricane This, NOAA

The Miami Herald has a sobering story on the continued underfunding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's hurricane forecasting system.

Reporter Debbie Cenziper writes that since 1995 the NOAA has allowed the hurricane research division to languish with only nominal funding increases -- if any.

"It's difficult to track how much money researchers have asked for and why it was denied. That's because requests for budget increases made by NOAA agencies including the Hurricane Research Division are considered a part of internal planning -- kept outside the view of Congress and the public. NOAA administrators decide which projects to support, then send an agency-wide request every year to the Department of Commerce and eventually to the president.

'''It means Congress can think they're funding hurricanes properly when they're not,' said research meteorologist Mike Black, a 20-year division veteran ...

"At the Research Division, it has come to this: [hurricane division researcher Mike] Black studies the intricacies of storms that killed thousands of people on a rigged personal computer because the one NOAA gave him was 8 years old and obsolete. Key data from hurricane hunter flights is stored on a 10-year-old computer; there's no money to replace it.

"The screen that researchers use to dissect satellite images is a hand-me-down from a lab in Colorado. Devices they rely on to test ocean temperature were Cold War leftovers donated by the Navy."

A Friend Posits His Top 10 Beatles Songs

Speaking of the Beatles (we were, y'know), a longtime friend of mine and Beatles aficionado whom we will call Turtle, recently offered his favorite 10 Fab Four tunes. Since we dig his list, here 'tis in its entirety, with his notes:

1. "Come Together" - To me this will always be, if not necessarily the quintessential Beatles song, then the quintessential song of the late '60s. Something about it just positively drips with the raunchy sound of heroin needles, yellowed, half-smoked roaches, fading pop-art posters, cheap incense, black lights and dirty ashtrays at the end of a frighteningly long acid trip. With its vaguely drugged-out lyrics about madness and freedom, a bass line that pulses like the underbelly of urban hippiedom and a percolating rhythm like bubbles being sucked through a stale bong, you can feel the weariness in John Lennon's bones, as a man who has been dragged, kicking and screaming, through the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll decade only to be spat out the other side. It's one of the most perfectly dirty recordings (from the Beatles' most polished album) in rock history.

2. "Across the Universe" - Not a perfect recording, but a perfect song nonetheless. Unabashedly trippy lyrics, a lusciously beautiful melody and perhaps the saddest refrain in rock history.

3. "Revolution" (White Album version) - Deceptively stripped-down, there's actually much more going on sonically than in the blasting single version. The lazy blues style juxtaposed with the urgent political message, as well as the electric vs. acoustic instrument play, more truthfully reflects the lyrics' intentional ambivalence about actual, blood-shedding revolution; a complexly layered recording that deepens with each listening.

4. "Savoy Truffle" - It's so much fun to hear the usually somber and serious George Harrison relax and just kick ass in this giddy ode to sweets. The lyrics are even more of a hoot as the delivery is played straight. And you have to marvel at that horn section that manages to totally rock without being overbearing.

5. "Lovely Rita" - One of the down-right strangest recordings of all time, sounding more like a Spike Jones novelty bit than a rock song, it is nevertheless one of Paul McCartney's most exuberant and beautiful melodies and, appropriately, his most genuinely funny stab at satire.

6. "Long, Long, Long" - Harrison's most achingly beautiful dirge surges and ebbs with such subtle grace, its ephemeral effect is easy to dismiss on initial listenings. But it's precisely its cloudy mix and whispered vocals that give it its serene and ultimately haunting quality -- like awaking from a deep sleep to memories of a long-lost love.

7. "Hey Bulldog" - This overlooked gem is more raucous and uncontrived than anything else in their catalog, marking the first, and perhaps only, time the Beatles sounded like a garage band. Lennon's cryptic, enigmatic lyrics and speed-riffs, as well as the closing animal howls from the entire band are (dare I say it?) practically punk!

8. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey" - Another Lennon blaster that just won't quit. Listen to this one on 11 and just try not to thrash. And has anyone ever rocked the triangle this hard?

9. "Baby, You're a Rich Man" - Another of their more twisted recordings, the song manages to rock extremely hard despite the maracas and muted electric guitars. That East Indian flute (or whatever the hell it is) curls in the belly and up the spine and makes you want to freaky-deaky!

10. "Good Day Sunshine" - McCartney does best here what he does best. With his trademark, sing-song melody, relentlessly upbeat lyrics and only a simple piano, he puts a song in your heart and spring in your step. This may be the ultimate feel-better song of all time.

All in all, a damn exquisite grouping, Turtle. My compliments.

Anyway, the exercise got me to thinking what would be my favorite 10 Beatles tunes. That's still to come. In the meantime, feel free to post your favorite Beatles songs in the comments selection. Unless, of course, you don't know who the Beatles were.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Meet the ... Fashion Police

By now you've probably read or heard the story about Southwest Airlines booting a female passenger from a flight for wearing a "Meet the Fuckers" T-shirt lampooning Bush, Cheney and Condi Rice. That's right, Washington native Lorrie Heasley was bounced off the flight after refusing to turn her T-shirt inside out.

It's worth pointing out that Heasley's refusal came hours into the flight, and only after she had already agreed to wad up a sweatshirt and place it over the offending word. But the sweatshirt fell to the floor once she fell asleep. That's when the Southwest Airlines crew put the screws to the woman to turn the T-shirt inside out ... or else.

The part that most amazes me, however, is that the T-shirt only became an issue, according to a Southwest spokeswoman, after "several passengers complained."

Several complained? This is the sort of keep-your-nose-outta-my-business foolishness that makes me wonder sometimes if I am a latent libertarian or just fed up to here with people. Why would a passenger, and several passengers, at that, be offended enough to complain to a flight attendant?

What business is it of theirs? The only way I could begin to understand such busy-bodied B.S. is if the offended passenger was with a young child who could read the slogan. But even then I don't think it would occur to me that the T-shirted nimrod had forfeited his or her right to travel. I would either 1) Try to avert the kid's eyes, or 2) Point out to my child that the clod wearing the obscenity-laced shirt is exactly the sort of numb-nut that my kid should not aspire to be.

In the course of a day, we are offended constantly. A salesperson is rude or flippant. Someone blows cigarette smoke your way. The person at the next table at lunch drops an F-bomb. Someone elbows you on the subway. You smell a fart in the elevator. Life is made up of a gazillion slights, both real and imagined. Are people so frigging brittle that they would be complicit in having a fellow passenger be bounced from a flight because her T-shirt had a bad word on it?

It sounds to me as if Lorrie Heasley's T-shirt proved prescient, indeed. To be sure, she met the fuckers. They were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Wield the Pitchfork in Bush's Hell

by Daniel Gale-Grogen

It is Friday, and we all need a good time-waster/stress-reliever/safe and reliable forum for sadistic impulses.

This is not a Dantean version of Hell -- more of a post-modern concept. You can control Bush by holding down your left mouse button. To let him fall, just click and release. Either way, much fun to be had. Some of the best chortles can be loosed by letting him rest and pant for a while before once again forcing him through another level of this Hell of Spheres.


"In Her Shoes": Some Thoughts

Relegating In Her Shoes to the ghetto of chick flick, as I had before seeing it, does injustice to this Curtis Hanson-directed dramedy. Boasting solid storytelling and universal themes, the film is far more ambitious and insightful than its advertising campaign would have you believe.

Based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner, the always-dependable Toni Collette and always-underrated Cameron Diaz star as, respectively, sisters Rose and Maggie Feller. The women are close, but eons apart. Rose is the responsible, level-headed one. Maggie is promiscuous, nearly illiterate and conniving. After Maggie screws one guy too many -- namely, Rose's would-be love interest -- the hussy skips town to mooch off her estranged grandmother, Ella Hirsch (Shirley MacLaine). What follows are all the expected character arcs, valuable life lessons and revelations, but hey, those can be good things -- really good things -- if they're presented honestly and artfully.

And they are here. Hanson lets the story unfold gracefully. While not a leisurely paced film, Susannah Grant's poignant, economical screenplay is character-driven enough to appreciate the simple joys of learning about the people you've invested two hours of your time watching.

At its core, In Her Shoes far exceeds expectations -- at least it did mine. It is not a perfect film, by any means. Sentimentality, almost by definition, takes some highwire steps for the sake of emotional resonance. In Her Shoes has its inevitable moments of contrivance and pat reconciliations, but such stumbles are few and far between. The thematic soul of the picture -- the bonds and rivalries of family, the pain of shared responsibility, redemption -- transcend "chick flick" pigeonholing.

What Am I Missing Here?

With the Federal Emergency Management Agency bloodied and bruised in the wake of questions regarding its competence, this doesn't seem like the smartest move by lawmakers: the U.S. House has voted to reduce FEMA's basline budget by 12 percent, to $2.6 billion.

The New York Times reports:

"Part of the reduction reflects emergency appropriations Congress has already made to cover hurricane-related costs and a reorganization requested by the secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. The reorganization would transfer some duties from FEMA to other agencies. But the base budget for FEMA -- including financing for its response to disasters and for programs aimed at reducing damage from future hurricanes or earthquakes -- was trimmed in the measure passed Thursday night.

"That evoked immediate criticism from emergency management experts.

"'It's difficult to understand the logic behind another round of budget cuts to FEMA at the same time Congress is questioning their ability to respond to future disasters,' said Trina R. Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association."

Friday Random 10

iPod me, baby.

1. Bongwater, "Ill Fated Lovers Go Time Tripping"
2. Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)"
3. R.E.M., "At My Most Beautiful"
4. Wilco, "She's a Jar"
5. John Coltrane, "Countdown"
6. Steve Earle, "I Feel Alright"
7. The Mountain Goats, "Cotton"
8. Pink Floyd, "Mother"
9. Ben Folds, "The Ascent of Stan"
10.Elvis Costello, "Jack of All Parades"

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Bogeyman

Just think, this man once fell in love, got married, raised a family, went to work with a smile and a spring in his step, etc., etc.

Just look at him now and tell me he doesn't eat children.

Shut up, We're Having a Baby

by Daniel Gale-Grogen

If Fox News is to be believed -- which isn't often, but for the sake of this argument, let's be generous -- Tom Cruise interviewed several of the more nubile members of Hollywood's up-and-coming actress sect for the position currently being filled by Katie Holmes. Among those who made the final round of interviews were Jennifer Garner, Kate Bosworth, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba. Fox also reported that Scarlett Johansson made a narrow escape after a dinner at Hollywood's Scientology Celebrity Centre.

Of course, with People magazine reporting that Holmes has submitted to a Purification Rundown and they are now going to spawn a little Hubbie, those actresses (with the exception of Garner, who now suffers a potentially worse fate) are undoubtedly having that near-miss phenomenon experienced by people who narrowly avoided an airline crash or sold their stock in HCA before it tanked.

So, we at CTTC decided to check out what Scientology's views of childbirth might be, and found this passage in the holiest of holy science fiction novels:

"Maintain silence in the presence of birth to save both the sanity of the mother and the child and safeguard the home to which they will go. And the maintaining of silence does not mean a volley of "Sh's," for those make stammerers."

L. Ron Hubbard, "Dianetics," Chapter X, "Preventive Dianetics," page 193

So, breathing exercises are out, which means Katie will suffer more during the birth than she should. Natural childbirth is okay, but what is Cruise going to do when Katie starts feeling that "passing a Thanksgiving turkey through a pinhole" feeling and wants to take quick, rhythmic breaths? Will her "Scientology Chaperone" Jessica Rodriguez be on hand to give her Thetan pep talks? If, as Hubbard claimed in "History of Man," that humans evolved from clams, should the hospital cafeteria not consider a "catch of the day" menu on Katie's due date?

And what will Tom do if Katie suffers post-partum depression? Offer her a One-A-Day and tell her to walk it off?

Crony Baloney

Forget the far right assailing the Harriet Miers nomination as some amorphous Dumbya betrayal because she's not on record as a fire-breathing, anti-gay, pro-life nutjob.

Forget the far left assailing the Harriet Miers nomination because they suspect she is a fire-breathing, anti-gay, pro-life nutjob.

The question ultimately comes down to this: What is it that ostensibly makes her a suitable candidate for the highest court in the land?

Sure, William Rehnquist also had no judicial experience when Nixon appointed him to the bench, but he was highly regarded in legal circles for his intellect, such as it was, having been ranked No. 1 in his law school class and distinguishing himself as a top lawyer at the Department of Justice.

Miers' bona fides: deputy counsel at the White House and one-time president of the Texas Bar Association. It is difficult to see how such credentials justify her appointment above scores of respected and experienced jurists.

As much as it pains us to quote George Will, once in a while the guy hits it:

"It is not important that she be confirmed because there is no evidence that she is among the leading lights of American jurisprudence, or that she possesses talents commensurate with the Supreme Court's tasks. The president's 'argument' for her amounts to: Trust me. There is no reason to, for several reasons.

"He has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution. Few presidents acquire such abilities in the course of their pre-presidential careers, and this president particularly is not disposed to such reflections.

"Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that Miers's nomination resulted from the president's careful consultation with people capable of such judgments. If 100 such people had been asked to list 100 individuals who have given evidence of the reflectiveness and excellence requisite in a justice, Miers's name probably would not have appeared in any of the 10,000 places on those lists."

You would think that ...

After Arabian horse competition judge Mike Brown was picked to run the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

After the selection of Julie Myers, a prosecutor with precious little experience in immigration or customs issues, to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency;

After the debacle surrounding the work of Jack Abramoff lapdog and recently indicted David Safavian as the White House's top procurement official;

After the appointment of Dumbya's fairy godmother Karen Hughes to serve a quasi-diplomatic role to Muslim nations ...

That the White House would have placed at least a moratorium on in-your-face cronyism. But, hey, George W. Bush has asked that we trust him on this nomination; and if anything, the man has certainly proven himself trustworthy.

And now I'm going to crap my pants.

My President, My Pal

Presidents make the best friends. There's no two ways about it. They look out for you when you're down on your luck. They can shoot all sorts of goodies your way: high-paying jobs, lucrative contracts, big offices with assigned parking and a nice view of the Potomac. Hell, they can even pardon you if things get, like, completely crazy. And they can bestow upon you some nifty wildman nicknames.

If Harriet Miers knows what's good for her, girl best already be perusing this year's Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue for the commander in chief who has everything (well, almost everything).

Sex Tape Derby, Round 28

You must watch sex. You must pick your star among the following. You must post your selections in the comments section.

If you still need more, click here.

1. Serenity now: Morena Baccarin or Summer Glau?

2. Bono or Sting?

3. Bulimia boom boom: Calista Flockhart or Kate Moss?

4. Hey, lady!: Jerry Lewis or Dean Martin?

5. Lady Justices: Harriet Miers or Sandra Day O'Connor?

6. Olivier, they ain't, but what the hell: Keanu Reeves or Paul Walker?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

But at Least We Know Where She Stands on Evolution

By Conrad Spencer

In defending Harriet Miers to the right wing of the right wing, President Bush said, "I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today."

Forget, for a moment, that change is inevitable and that this is an absurd statement. What does it say about our expectations for our leaders that a static philosophy and a reluctance to change are considered virtuous?

Willingness to change, grow, and evolve should be considered the sign of an intelligent, curious and thoughtful person. Instead, it's become a mark of imperfection and weakness. The President means to say that his Supreme Court nominee will not be one of those damned flip-floppers and will not disappoint the radical fringe of his base. He's also, perhaps unintentionally, told us Ms. Miers will stubbornly refuse to change her preconceptions despite whatever new facts or circumstances are presented. She apparently has nothing left to learn.

This is not a new stance for the administration, which generally refuses to admit mistakes (the Katrina response being the exception) and continually tells us to "stay the course," regardless of the IEDs strewn along the way.

In the Bush lexicon, evolution is sinful, change means weakness, but to be born again ... that's something else entirely.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Harriet the Homophobe? Part 2: Another View

I love the blogosphere -- seriously love it, the variety of perspectives, the additional information, the chaotic scavenger hunt for truth.

AMERICAblog's John in DC provides an interesting take on Harriet Miers' responses to a 1989 questionnaire provided by a Texas gay-rights group. While Miers concedes she does not support repealing the anti-sodomy statute then on the law books there, she makes some other curious stands. Miers tells the organization she is a strong proponent of further AIDS funding and opposes job discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As John puts it:

"I'm not sure this questionnaire provides any definitive answers about Harriet Miers and gay rights -- many of her answers aren't great -- but it sure raises a number of questions. And I wouldn't want to be the Bush administration right about now, trying to answer why their wonder candidate was sucking up to gay groups as early as the 1980s (not that there's anything wrong with that :-)."

Harriet the Homophobe?

With all the hardcore conservatives assailing Dumbya for the Harriet Miers nomination for the Supreme Court, we figured she must not be too scary of a pick. Maybe not.

Direland zeroes in Miers' on-the-record support of the ill-fated Texas anti-sodomy statute, which the Supremes wisely struck down 6-3 in 2003. AP reports that in Miers' 1989 race for Dallas City Council, Miers indicated to a gay-rights organization that she opposed repeal of the anti-sodomy law.

From Direland:

"This revelation means that Miers was against the single most significant Supreme Court decision affecting gay people ever to come from the Court. And it also makes a vote for Miers' confirmation by any Democratic Senator utterly inexcusable."

We suspect Miers' view on gay rights won't be a factor in whether the Senate will confirm her. After all, discrimination against gays appears to be the last truly accepted form of out-and-out prejudice. Still, this nugget is worth consideration.


Nicolas Cage and wife have a new son. The tyke's name is Kal-El, the birth name of Superman.

I recall an old "Saturday Night Live" skit in which Cage played a new father worried that whatever he and his wife name their baby will doom the child to getting teased mercilessly for life. The punch line to the skit is that we learn the guy is named Aswipe Johnson -- although the Cage character testily insists it is pronounced "Ass-WEE-pay."

Looks like Cage didn't learn much from that shtick. You name a kid Superman, you are fairly begging for kids to kick his ass.

Meet the Beatles

A digression ...

I was working in TV news back when George Harrison died in November of 2001, and I remember the newsroom scurrying to find some sort of local connection to the Beatles (as you know, local TV news is about nothing if not tenuous links to national and international news). At any rate, I stopped dead in my tracks, astonished, when a twentysomething show producer piped up with: "Who's George Harrison?"

"Um, one of the Beatles. You really don't know who George Harrison is?" The expression on my face, I suspect, belied my disgust. You would have thought he had taken a crap on the floor.

"I'm not old," the kid barked defensively. And then with insolent pride he added, "I wouldn't be able to name any of the Beatles for you!"

At the time I wrote him off as an idiot, but in retrospect I was the foolish one for thinking he was an anomaly. Increasingly I find that a lot of people in their twenties -- and even early thirties -- cannot name all four Beatles. The enlightened ones can at least name Paul and John. But all four? If you are under 35 and can do so, you might just be in the minority.

Who are these people?
Your mother should know -- and so should you

Speaking as someone born in that demographic DMZ between Baby Boomer and Generation X, I can say it nearly boggles my mind that so many people do not know all four Beatles.

The dismay doesn't solely stem from the fact that I grew up nourished on the Fab Four, albeit secondhand. As the youngest (by far) of five children, I inherited -- or stole, depending on how much of a stickler you are about such things -- from my older siblings a stack of sacred Beatles albums that included Meet the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's and Let It Be. I worked hard to memorize the words to "Penny Lane." The song "Eight Days a Week" severely hampered my comprehension of the number of days in a week. "Revolution" likely impacted my political awareness for years to come. I loved the animated flick Yellow Submarine long before I knew you were supposed to be stoned to appreciate it.

No, the dismay goes deeper than all that. Surely the Beatles' imprint on popular culture, an influence still very prevalent today, is profound enough to warrant everyone at least knowing the names of all four members. It is why schools teach kids about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. It is why kids learn about friggin' George Washington. At the very least, it is about understanding what has shaped our world and respecting those precursors of change.

Consider it the fundamentals of rock 'n' roll literacy. Kids ought to know who Elvis was and where Graceland is. They ought to possess rudimentary knowledge of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. They should at least be able to name two Rolling Stones (guess which two) and they should understand the phrase "British invasion" in terms that have nothing to do with Paul Revere (or the Raiders, for that matter).

So, there. I got it off my chest. Thanks for indulging me.