Friday, September 30, 2005

If James L. Brooks Had Made "The Shining"

Brilliant, just brilliant. Click here.

(Thanks to Chris, who sent this to us via Waxy)

**UPDATE**
The New York Times has a story on the creator of Shining, the trailer above that reimagines the Stanley Kubrick/Stephen King frightfest as a heart-warming date flick. Turns out the spoof is the work of Robert Ryang, a 25-year-old assistant film editor in Manhattan. Ryang had sent a few friends the link to his little-seen blog so that they could check out the ersatz trailer he pieced together to win a local contest.

A few days later, The Times reports:

"Mr. Ryang said ... his secret site got 12,000 hits. By Thursday the numbers were even higher, his film was being downloaded and linked to on countless other sites, it had cracked the top 10 most popular spoofs on www.ifilm.com, and a vice president at a major Hollywood studio had called up his office, scouting for new talent.

"'He said it’s being circulated everywhere in the film community,' Mr. Ryang said of the executive, not wanting to name the man for fear of alienating him. '

'He wanted to know who I was, and if I had any creative ideas. I told him I’d put together a reel.'”

The Daily Skewering

Yeah, yeah, Jon Stewart might be getting a bit carried away with himself these days with his steady roasting of mainstream media, but damned if he isn't always on-target and funny about his criticism.

His latest target? Magazines, as evidenced by a recent panel discussion involving Stewart and the editors of some major mags. Folio magazine has the story here.

Friday Random 10

More self-indulgence, I know. So sue me -- it's a blog. The whole concept is self-indulgent.

1. Death Cab for Cutie, "Transatlantacism"
2. Ween, "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)"
3. Jellyfish, "That Is Why"
4. Pilot, "Magic"
5. The Beatles, "Something"
6. Split Enz, "History Never Repeats"
7. James Brown, "Night Train"
8. Loretta Lynn, "Fist City"
9. Rufus Wainwright, "Foolish Love"
10. The Association, "Windy"

Crumbs 'n Stuff, Take 10

And you thought Face/Off was only a movie. A doctor in Cleveland is making preparations for a first-of-its-kind operation, and it's a beaut: a face transplant.

AP's Marilynne Marchione reports that Dr. Hannibal Lechter -- er, I mean Maria Siemionow -- is interviewing candidates for a first-of-its-kind operation:

"It is this: to give people horribly disfigured by burns, accidents or other tragedies a chance at a new life. Today's best treatments still leave many of them with freakish, scar-tissue masks that don't look or move like natural skin. These people already have lost the sense of identity that is linked to the face; the transplant is merely 'taking a skin envelope' and slipping their identity inside, Siemionow contends.

"Her supporters note her experience, careful planning, the team of experts assembled to help her, and the practice she has done on animals and dozens of cadavers to perfect the technique.

"But her critics say the operation is way too risky for something that is not a matter of life or death, as organ transplants are. They paint the frighteningly surreal image of a worst-case scenario: a transplanted face being rejected and sloughing away, leaving the patient worse off than before.

"Such qualms recently scuttled face transplant plans in France and England.

"Ultimately, it comes to this: a hospital, doctor and patient willing to try it. The first two are now in place. The third is expected to be shortly."

The entire story is fascinating and obviously brings up a host of philosophical and ethical questions.

***

Thinking of uses for a dead cat? Here's one, courtesy those crazy Germans (and via CNN):

"Christian Koch, 55, from the eastern county of Saxony, told Bild newspaper that his organic diesel fuel -- a homemade blend of garbage, run-over cats and other ingredients -- is a proven alternative to normal consumer diesel."

Koch, whom it is safe to say it probably more of a dog person, says that about 20 dead felines added to his patented "KDV 500" machine can help churn out enough fuel to fill an 11-gallon tank.

There's really nothing I can add to this. Insert your own joke: ___.

***

Our misguided but well-meaning buddy, Red Dirt, has temporarily traded in his political invective for a decidedly more Zen-like approach. God bless him and his little, hairy Hobbit-like feet.

***

Speaking of religion, beliefnet has a decent story on Jesus and South Park.

***

Thanks to McSweeney's, we now know what Alfred Hitchcock would have said when complaining about his hotel room: "I am also less than pleased with the facilities. The en suite decor is twee to the point of insult. All bathrooms should be brilliant white to contrast with the emission of certain bodily fluids or chocolate sauce."

Stripped-Down Survivors

Life goes on. The sun will rise, birds will spread their wings, babies will be born ... and fake-breasted babes with tattoos and surprising piercings will grind their asses into the laps of repressed Midwestern conventioneers.

Amid New Orleans' sluggish return to normalcy, the strippers are coming back.

Reuters reports:

"Erotic dancers and strippers are entertaining crowds of police, firefighters and military personnel instead of the usual audiences of drunken conventioneers and tourists in Bourbon Street’s Déjà Vu club, which reopened this week.

[...]

“'It’s nice to get back to work, and all these men need some entertainment,' Dawn Beasley, 27, a dancer at the club, said Tuesday night. 'They haven’t seen anybody but their buddies for two weeks.'"

And thanks to the spirit of Bourbon Street, even strip clubs outside of Bayou Country are thriving. You can take the horny out of Nawlins, but apparently you can't take the Nawlins out of the horny.

Don't forget that wonderful revelation a few weeks ago, in which some Hurricane Katrina victims in Houston used their newly minted FEMA and Red Cross debit cards for a G-string recovery.

KPRC in Houston reported that a number of Houston strip club patrons had used the cards shortly after they had been distributed to evacuated New Orleanians:

"A manager at Caligula XXI Gentlemen's Club on Westheimer Road told KPRC Local 2 that he has seen at least one debit card used at his club.

"A woman known only as 'Abby' is a bartender at Baby Dolls, another adult entertainment club across the street.

"'A lot of customers have been coming in from Louisiana and they've been real happy about the $1.75 beers and they're really nice,' she said.

"Abby could not say for sure which type of card her patrons have been using, but said she doesn't blame them for using federal dollars.

"'You lost your whole house, then, why not? You might want some beer in a strip club. There are a lot of guys out there that like to do that,' she said.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Immaturity …with Results

by Conrad Spencer

I’m a very immature person. Some would argue that I’m exceedingly mature for my age (27), not realizing that my immaturity is masked by a thin veneer of responsibility and worldly knowledge.

The latest example of my immaturity? I got my five year-old son to kindergarten today five minutes early. That’s right—early—but for all the wrong reasons.

My lovely wife is at a conference across the state and will be gone for two nights, leaving me, in her absence, as the primary childcare provider. I’m not undomesticated. I regularly cook dinner (I mean actually cook, not just open cans and boxes) and clean house; sometimes I do laundry. I did all these things before I was married and continue to do them today.

Still, because I have to be at work earlier than my wife and have farther to drive, I’m only minimally involved in the morning routine.

My wife went over it all — get the boy dressed, make breakfast, brush his teeth and hair, etc. I perform this routine myself, so getting the boy ready is no big deal. In fact, it’s easier than getting myself ready because he won’t be shaving or wearing a tie.

I acknowledged her directions. She was worried, and I understand that. But when the instructions turned to “Are you sure you’re going to be OK? Are you sure you don’t want him to stay with my mom?” I got annoyed.

There’s this idea that, because I have a penis, I am unable to care for a child, or that such childcare will undoubtedly degenerate into farce. My wife doesn’t really believe this, but it’s such a common conceit that the idea was swimming around her subconscious, it’s pointed dorsal fin just breaking the cognitive surface.

I blame TV. The men of sitcoms are dumbasses. God help us if those well-meaning but dim beer-bellied average Joes (with hot wives) are actually representative of modern fatherhood.

I politely expressed these views, added that I am not a dumbass, and we moved on …. sort of.

Here’s where the immaturity comes in. Because I was doubted …because I was, on some level, being compared to well-meaning but dim beer-bellied sitcom guy … I had Something to Prove.

Not only did I have to get the morning routine right, I had to do it better. This is difficult because my wife is a fabulous mother, but I know that she usually gets our son to the classroom just as the 8 o’clock bell rings — a chink in the otherwise inpenitrable armor of motherhood.

Failure was not an option. Failure would be the crumbling of my fragile ego, a Dantesque descent into cultural stereotype, the very death of part of my soul.

I was up at 6:00, did my morning grooming until 6:45, got the boy up, toasted his Eggo pancakes, started yesterday’s videotaped PBS programming, explained that when the show’s over, so is breakfast. We brushed teeth; we debated wardrobe; we compromised. We got in the car; I sped. He got to the classroom. We hugged. 7:55.

Oh, yes. That’s one pointless, yet pathetically validating, victory for Conrad. To see my son walk through that classroom door and head for the Legos with five minutes to spare, it’s like launching that wad of paper 15 feet to the wastebasket across the room and...

Swish. Nothin’ but net.

MyPod

by Larry Mondello

Time to turn the tables on ya, Chase. Here is my top ten iPod shuffle for the weekend:

1. The Box Tops, "She Shot a Hole in My Soul"
2. Little Feat, "Willin'"
3. Josh White, "Raise a Ruckus"
4. Sawdoctors, "Bless Me Father"
5. Paul Simon, "Ace in the Hole"
6. Betty Carter, "Shine on Harvest Moon"
7. G Love and Special Sauce, "I-76"
8. Robert Earl Keen, "Farm Fresh Onions"
9. Shelby Lynne, "Go With It"
10.Mitch Hedberg, "The Dufrenes"


Sex Tape Derby, Round 27

Happy Thursday, dear readers, and welcome to another installment of Sex Tape Derby. Here's the deal: Let's say you've gotta watch a video of steamy, raucous, loin-smoldering sex. Of the following sets of folks, whom would you rather be subjected to for serious boot-knocking action? Post your selections in the comments section below.

The more comprehension-challenged readers can learn more about Sex Tape Derby, from its inauspicious origins arriving through Ellis Island to its current salad days, by clicking here.

1. Nincompoop New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin or FEMA flop Mike Brown?

2. Saucy Aussies: Nicole Kidman or Naomi Watts?

3. Hollywood sex Libs: Sean Penn or Alec Baldwin?

4. Which Hilton would you rather stay at overnight? Paris or Nicky?

5. Rock Icons Do It, Too: Bob Dylan or Van Morrison?

6. Creepy in a good way: Morticia Addams or Lilly Munster?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blind Eye Brownie

"My biggest mistake was not recognizing by Saturday that Louisiana was dysfunctional."

-- Disgraced former FEMA director Mike "Brownie" Brown, Sept. 27, 2005

Umm, when you consider ...

If ever there was a comment indicating Brown might not have been quite the sharpest tool in the shed ...

Inside Information

So that kindly man of medicine, Dr. Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican who heads the Senate GOP and dreams of becoming president, has found himself in what the good folks back home might call a "regular pickle." Seems that ol' Bill, always at the ready to visit hurricane victims with his trusty prop of a stethoscope around his neck, is being investigated by the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission for a suspiciously timed unloading of copious shares of stock in Nashville-based HCA Inc.

Nothing to see here, says the Doctor-Senator hybrid. As Bill explains it, he's been been trying to dump these stocks for ages now in hopes of putting an end to nagging conflict-of-interest allegations.

The Washington Post's Charles Babington and Carrie Johnson report investigators want to know whether Bill's sale of all his HCA holdings was based on inside information about a dour earnings forecast that the company had not yet announced:

"Frist held HCA stock in several blind trusts, whose holdings have been valued at between $7 million and $25 million, according to a financial disclosure statement filed earlier this year. The company was founded in 1968 by his father and his brother, Thomas Frist Jr., a former company chairman who remains on its board."

Surely, Thomas Frist Jr. wouldn't have let any earning forecasts slip while the brothers were maybe playing golf or rasslin' in the shadows of the Smokies.

We will say this, though. The illegality of acting on so-called "inside information," as it relates to stock tips, has always struck us as a mighty ambiguous statute. The stock market is essentially a big gamble, anyway, one played through an investor's educated guesses and weighing of available information. One can understand the logic of law enforcement bearing down on the blabbermouth who conveys ostensibly "inside" scoop, but it seems odd (from our admittedly non-expert perspective) to blame the investor who then acts upon it.

After all, who in his or her right mind would then simply not act on what could be a potential loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars? The implied directive seems to be that losing investment dollars is OK, but if you hit the jackpot, look out. Uncle Sam smells a rat.

Isn't the point of business networking, the push to make connections and forge relationships in the marketplace, about -- to some extent -- gleaning knowledge? How can the arbiters of "inside information" draw fine distinctions between knowledge and information? The hitch, it seems to us, is that knowledge indicates that it's yours. The implication with knowledge is that you've filtered the incoming info, distilled it, rotated its tires and run it up the flag pole. You can do with it what you will.

But information -- it seems to us that the law sees that as a different animal altogether. Information is the change you find in the coin return at the pay telephone. It's the newspaper you come across on the subway seat.

According to the law, we guess, you're just not supposed to take those. And when you discover you're about to take a beating in the stock market, you're supposed to relax and try to enjoy it.

This Just In! Tom DeLay Not a Very Good Person!

Yes, assholes are sometimes held accountable in Texas.

News! On the march!

Crank Calls to God

Prayer might be powerful, but evidently it's no methamphetamine.

Remember all the praise-be news stories that circulated months ago about Ashley Smith, the woman who was taken hostage by courthouse gunman Brian Nichols and supposedly calmed his murderous heart by praying with him?

Well, turns out it was all about the power of crank. As AP reports:

"In her book, Unlikely Angel ... Smith says Nichols had her bound on her bed with masking tape and an extension cord. She says he asked for marijuana, but she did not have any, and she dug into her illegal stash of crystal meth instead."

Hey, whatever works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Flightplan: A Review

It is a testament to the continued decline of air travel that Hollywood would have the audacity in recent months to crank out not one, but two movies -- Red-Eye and now Flightplan -- in which the very subject matter pretty much negates any chance of airline distribution.

As for Flightplan, Jodie Foster stars as Kyle Pratt, an engineer for a fictitious airline whose husband has died in an accidental fall. Amid the still-fresh grieving, Kyle and her 7-year-old daughter, Julie, leave Berlin, where the family has been living, to return to the United States for the husband's burial. This being movie magic, however, the Pratts board a mega-super-duper jet that Kyle actually helped design. The mother falls asleep ...

... and wakes up with Julia missing. Understandably frantic, Kyle enlists the help of Air Marshal Gene Carson (the always interesting and perennially stoned-looking Peter Sarsgaard), to search the huge plane. But still no child. To complicate matters, the flight crew isn't even sure there even was a child, since there is no boarding pass or other documentation to prove the girl was a passenger.

As high concepts go, it's not a bad one; it certainly worked for Hitchcock in 1938's The Lady Vanishes. Director Robert Schwentke sharpens the little anxieties that can stem from air travel -- particularly when a seemingly crazy woman is running down the aisles hollering about a phantom child. Heightening the sense of claustrophobia, Schwentke shoots his actors mainly in closeups, sometimes extreme closeup, and usually addressing the camera so as to encourage the audience's identification with the mortified mother. Moreover, Flightplan proves adroit at capturing the casual irritations of air travel, particularly the dismissiveness of flight attendants (although the flight's token "good" attendant is an utterly wasted Erika Christensen).

Anchoring it all is Foster's mesmerizing performance, turning what could have been a one-note portrayal into a complex character who is simultaneously vulnerable and strong. She more than earns her paycheck.

Alas, sometimes a fantastic concept for a film is just too fantastic for its own good. Flightplan is a case in point. Screenwriters Peter Dowling and Billy Ray strain to find rationale for the magnificent mystery they have set up, but the task proves too daunting. It is a credit to the filmmakers that Flightplan manages a suspenseful two-thirds before the final act asks its audience to swallow SUV-sized absurdities.

Perhaps it is only fitting that co-writer Billy Ray wrote and directed the excellent Shattered Glass, which chronicled real-life reporter Stephen Glass, who invented outrageous stories and passed them off as truth. The implausible caper at the heart of Flightplan could have been a Stephen Glass special.

The Killer (Sorta) from Anadarko

It was on this date way back in 1906 that an Oklahoma original, the late great pulp crime novelist Jim Thompson, drew his first breath. Fittingly, he was born in the county jail in Anadarko.

From his 1952 seminal work, The Killer Inside Me, about a seemingly benign sheriff with a streak of psycho murderer in him:

"I've loafed streets sometimes, leaned against a store front with my hat pushed back and one boot hooked back around the other -- hell, you've probably seen me if you've ever been out this way -- I've stood like that, looking nice and friendly and stupid, like I wouldn't piss if my pants were on fire. And all the time I'm laughing myself sick inside."

You gotta love it.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Cartoon Sex

In a comment on this blog several days ago, our pal Dr. Pants (of Wholesale Pants Warehouse fame) offered to post a scholarly article on the sexual peccadilloes of comic book characters. Needless to say, we were intrigued. Nevertheless, I ultimately wussied out on actually posting the piece, chiefly because my parents, God love 'em, occasionally read this blog. I just couldn't handle envisioning my sweet, silver-haired folks reading on my blog about Superman laying pipe mid-air with Lois Lane. Come to think of it, "laying pipe" probably isn't the best phrase to use, either.

At any rate, the good doctor has gone ahead and posted his treatise on his own site. It is an edifying, as well as titillating, read: two, two great tastes in one! Click here for it.

As one of those firmly on the cusp between Baby Boomer and Generation X, I must admit to a little wistful fondness for memories of those cartoon creations that stirred my inner horndog. But long before I found myself disturbingly aroused watching Heavy Metal, there were the comic books of my formative years. Being an avowed Marvel connoisseur, my prepubescent salaciousness chiefly involved The Amazing Spider-Man and its succession of Peter Parker's girlfriends.

The first one I recall getting a crush on was the gorgeous, but ill-fated, Gwen Stacy, whom the Green Goblin killed in 1973. That ... that ... fucking goblin. I'm still enraged just thinking about it.

.

Of course, a superhero can only grieve for so long. I rejoiced when Peter Parker hooked up with the feisty girl next door, Mary Jane Watson.


What prepubescent Chase liked so much about these animated vixens, aside from their obvious attributes (even two-dimensionally, these girls had curves) was the fact that they'd been snagged by quintessential geek Peter Parker. For an awkward 7 year old who could barely hurl a dodgeball without bruising himself, Gwen and MJ provided that rarest of commodities: hope.

It was shortly after I discovered Spidey's hotties that my brother-in-law at the time -- a bookmaker, drug dealer, smut peddler and all-around shady character -- taught me how to draw pictures of nekkid girls by tracing the centerfolds in Playboy.

But that's for a different post.

Okie Bloggin', Take 9

A quick trip around the blogosphere and a few of our favorite Okie-based bloggers:

Okiedoke ponders, in a way, the meaning of life.

Kind of a philosophical mood in the air, I suppose. An Audience of One also muses on the meaning of it all.

The estimable Mr. Hill of dustbury touts The God Who Wasn't There, an eye-opening documentary that examines Christianity.

Existential Ramble's Literary Tech takes a weary look at the Catholic Church's latest assault on gay priests.

Speaking of weary, A Fistful of Fortnights has some reservations about rebuilding a city that happens to be well below sea level.

The Left End of the Dial examines one of the more troubling news stories of Iraqi prisoner abuse, allegations involving some members of the 82nd Airborne Division.

Life and Deatherage explores media gluttony in Oklahoma City.

Oklahomily is relieved -- sorta, kinda --to see Hillary Clinton acting like the liberal she is (we suspect he's being a bit sarcastic).

Okie Funk shudders at the potential battleground of Oklahoma in the culture wars for gay-bashing creationists.

Our pal, ex-Okie Token Liberal, lets his gray roots show with thoughts on Earth, Wind & Fire and Paul McCartney.

The Subjective Scribe , one of our favorite newer additions to Okieblog Land, has trouble understanding the priorities of the new-found war on porn.

Who are the hottest Playboy Playmates of all time? Never one to shy away from the Big Questions, Lip Schtick offers her top five.

The Blue Dot Blog laments the Democrats' knack for overplaying their hand.

Dr. Pants of Wholesale Pants Warehouse fame lets us in on his dream job. What a coincidence. It's our dream job, too.

Oklarama is being plain squirrelly.

Dirtyashtray scoffs at those silly Texans with their deadly radio contests.

What is Reflection in d minor's Lynn reading these days? I dunno. Alaska. Heh, heh. Get it?

And as always, The Daily Bitch still has no permalinks, so all I can do is refer the whole dang site to you.

Hi. I'm Kinda New

by Jill Vatican

Hey there, Chase fans! Let me just take a mo’ to thank all the fellas here at CTTC for allowing me to post here now and again. I’ll do my part to inject some random thoughts and ideas that have nothing to do with …well …anything, really.

Life in and around the Vatican house is very chaotic (but not in a Britney Spears kind of way) these days so it leaves little room for posting. Most often I find myself reading blogs rather than writing. In fact, I find I have to steal little patches of time to do all manners of things.

For instance, this afternoon I took my two boys to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (okay, I said we’ve been busy.) Some time after Charlie and the gang entered the TV Room I dozed off. What can I say? It was dark and cool in there and I was being very still. Anyway, I was awakened when my younger son (whom I’m pretty sure was yelling at the top of his lungs) said, “HEY MOM! ARE YOU ASLEEP?!

That was a tiny bit embarrassing. So, if you were one of the other eight people in the theater this afternoon who had to hear that, my apologies. I left the cell phones in the car, but unfortunately had to bring the loud child in with me.

That being said, I’m looking forward to finding time to post now and again. Even if it has to be after midnight when all is quiet at the Vat house.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Quote of the Day

"Sometimes, in my dark moments, I think he's 'The Manchurian Candidate' designed to discredit all the ideas I believe in."

-- David Brooks, discussing George W. Bush on "Meet the Press"

Black-Hearted, Indeed

Watching Tim Russert get his fat smug ass handed to him for trying to nitpick tragedy is, well, a beautiful thing.

And so we refer you to Crooks and Liars, which boasts a bewildered Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, responding to suggestions that he fudged facts on "Meet the Press" several weeks ago when he related the story of how a friend's mother died in the aftermath of Katrina.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Random 10

More iPod mania. Have a great -- and hopefully disaster-free -- weekend, folks.

1. XTC, "Ball and Chain"
2. The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"
3. Elvis Costello, "45"
4. Sting, "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"
5. Ben Folds, "Gracie"
6. The Beatles, "Magical Mystery Tour"
7. Clem Snide, "Happy Birthday"
8. Graham Parker, "Girl at the End of the Pier"
9. The Electric Light Orchestra, "Mr. Blue Sky"
10. Stereolab, "Come and Play in the Milky Night"

Even Warhol Wouldn't Give This Guy 15 Minutes

by Larry Mondello

I imagine if we took a poll here at the ol' CTTC of the most annoying professions on the planet, TV weatherman would be among the worst.

But this guy gives us all a chance to pause and reconsider. He's friggin' nuts, but at least he's interesting. He also had enough sense to quit that crazy TV biz and focus on what's really important...

From the Pocatello Idaho State Journal:

To the rest of the country, Scott Stevens is the Idaho weatherman who blames the Japanese Mafia for Hurricane Katrina. To folks in Pocatello, he's the face of the weather at KPVI News Channel 6. The Pocatello native made his final Channel 6 forecast Thursday night, leaving a job he's held for nine years in order to pursue his weather theories on a full-time basis.

Since Katrina, Stevens has been in newspapers across the country where he was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying the Yakuza Mafia used a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to cause Hurricane Katrina in a bid to avenge the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. He was a guest on Coast to Coast, a late night radio show that conducts call-in discussions on everything from bizarre weather patterns to alien abductions. On Wednesday, Stevens was interviewed by Fox News firebrand Bill O'Reilly.

And they say local TV news has no more credibility!

Birthday Boss

The birthday of a true rock 'n' roll, and therefore American, icon ...

Happy birthday, Boss.

And thank you for some of the greatest music of my life.

From "Darkness on the Edge of Town"


"Everybody's got a secret, Sonny

Something that they just can't face

Some folks spend their whole lives trying to keep it

They carry it with them every step that they take

Till some day they just cut it loose

Cut it loose or let it drag 'em down

Where no one asks any questions

Or looks too long in your face

In the darkness on the edge of town

Some folks are born into a good life

Other folks get it anyway anyhow

I lost my money and I lost my wife

Them things don't seem to matter much to me now

Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop

I'll be on that hill with everything I got

Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost

I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost

For wanting things that can only be found

In the darkness on the edge of town."

Subpar Partisanship

So five of eight Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were not comforted by John Roberts' artful, and wholly appropriate, dodges of judicial hypotheticals tossed his way like water balloons.

The five Democrats were not happily surprised by his admission early on in the confirmation hearings that, yes, Virginia, there is a right to privacy (even if that fantasy is not actually guaranteed by any specific language in the U.S. Constitution). They were equally unfazed when he assured them that his political leanings and religious convictions do not dictate his judicial actions.

Similarly, the five Democrats were unimpressed with Roberts' unequivocal brilliance, a man who rose to the top of his class at Harvard and later in law school. They were not bamboozled by his good reputation and the apparent dignity with which he has conducted himself in his short time on the appellate bench.

Apparently all that mumbo-jumbo was ephemera, hardly making an imprint when one of the scales of justice was weighted down by reams and reams of legal filings he had written more than 20 years ago when he was a young lawyer paid to represent the interests of an arch-conservative White House administration.

Because, as anyone who has ever revisited an old diary knows, the person you were in your 20s is invariably the same person you are when in your 50s, married and a father. I'm being sarcastic, by the way. Does the U.S. Senate believe that John Roberts is a Peter Pan never-grow-up type simply because he dresses his children as if they're all living in Victorian England?

One of the advantages of being a self-proclaimed moderate is the ability to chime in with a pox-on-both-your-houses schtick when called for. And it's called for now. The five Democratic Senators who voted "no" -- Dianne Feinstein, Ted Kennedy, Charles Schumer, Dick Durbin and Joe Biden -- should be ashamed of such craven partisanship.

While they thankfully did not scuttle Roberts' opportunity to serve as the 17th chief justice to the Supreme Court, they had the chutzpah to vote against him for one breathlessly boorish reason. Not because he is some wild-eyed conservative activist, because he's not one of those -- well, not a wild-eyed activist, at any rate. And they didn't vote against because he isn't qualified or up to the demands of the job, because he clearly is those things.

No, they voted against John Roberts because he is a conservative Republican nominated for the post by a President they hate.

And so what will be their reaction if, as is likely, Dumbya now moves forward and replaces swing-vote Sandra Day O'Connor with another extremist Bork wannabe? What credibility will the Senate Democrats have when the White House really tries to cram an ideologue down their wizened throats and they start pouting like a child who doesn't get to ride the pretty pony on her birthday? George W. Bush is on a major losing streak these days, and rightly so. But Congressional Democrats have never understood the merits of not overplaying their hand.

Think, people. Think.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Sex Tape Derby, Round 26

Scene: It is a future dystopian society (aren't they all?), and your very survival depends on your hunkering down with a virtual-reality recording of hot-blooded, steamy, damp, take-no-prisoners sex. You must choose among the following whom you'd rather watch knock the proverbial boots.

Post your selections in the comments section below. Click here for a more drawn-out explanation of this intellectual exercise.

1. Jude Law or Cillian Murphy?

2. Ashanti or Shakira

3. Superman or Batman?

4. Shannon Tweed or Shannon Doherty?

5. Political pokers: Bill Maher or Jon Stewart?

6. Heyday-era Mary Tyler Moore or heyday-era Donna Reed?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hand It to the Onion ...

The Onion's questionable taste -- thank God -- is in full bloom this week with this headline:

"Bush Braces As Cindy Sheehan's Other Son Drowns In New Orleans"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricane Schoolin'

Here's an honest-to-goodness positive story about post-Katrina relief efforts: A number of private schools in Tennessee are waiving tuition and opening their doors to children displaced by Katrina.

The Tennesseean's Claudette Riley writes that at least 50 private schools throughout Tennessee are either waiving tuition, or dramatically cutting it, to allow Katrina victims.

"No one is required to track displaced students who enroll in private schools statewide, but 390 have enrolled in the dozen or so schools that reported their numbers to the state Department of Education.

"Some schools have room only for a few. Others, including Father Ryan High School in Nashville, are trying to accommodate all who show up.

" 'Our school's mission is to be an example of the living gospel, and these children are in crisis. They have been displaced, but they have found a home,' said Jim McIntyre, principal of the 955-student Father Ryan High, which has 20 displaced students. 'Even though we don't know these people, we know these people. We are these people.'

"The high school is waiving the $6,880 tuition, the $350 activity fee and the $400 to $600 in books for displaced students it simply calls 'transfers.' "

Stay tuned for these genuine instances of private-school generosity to obtain the stench of politics. If you don't think what results from this will become fodder for proponents of school vouchers, well, then I've got some swampland in New Orleans for sale.

Note to Cindy Sheehan: Stay Away from Michael Moore

Cindy Sheehan needs to stick to making the case about the Iraq War.

Her commentary on Michael Moore's Web site, in which she makes some observations from a recent trip to Covington, Louisiana, doesn't do any favors for the anti-war movement:

"One thing that truly troubled me about my visit to Louisiana was the level of the military presence there. I imagined before that if the military had to be used in a CONUS (Continental US) operations that they would be there to help the citizens: Clothe them, feed them, shelter them, and protect them. But what I saw was a city that is occupied. I saw soldiers walking around in patrols of 7 with their weapons slung on their backs. I wanted to ask one of them what it would take for one of them to shoot me. Sand bags were removed from private property to make machine gun nests.

[...]

"If George Bush truly listened to God and read the words of the Christ, Iraq and the devastation in New Orleans would have never happened.

[...]

"George Bush needs to stop talking, admit the mistakes of his all around failed administration, pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq, and excuse his self from power..."

We're no fans of Dumbya, but blaming him for the creation of a deadly hurricane seems a bit, um, well, crazy. And the military in New Orleans is a bad thing? Hell, the military has proven itself to be about the only entity truly prepared for the monumental relief efforts underway in the Crescent City. The bottom line problem with the White House response is that the military wasn't sent in earlier.

We can surely sympathize with Cindy Sheehan's grief over the death of a child, and we certainly sympathize with her desire to end the War in Iraq. But contorting Hurricane Katrina to fit the dynamics of the Iraq debate does nothing but sully both the tragedy of the war and the tragedy in the Gulf Coast.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Need Something to Do, Son?

by Daniel Gale-Grogen

Son of Jeb Bush Arrested

Here are some ideas: this ...

or this

Hot Lesbian Action!

OK, so this post really doesn't have much to do with the aforementioned title. Consider it a cheap attempt to garner some hits from Google.

But while we're on the topic of lesbianism ...

An upcoming biopic about Sixties-era crooner Dusty Springfield is expected to arrive on the doorstep neutered. According to the Times of London, Universal execs contend that Springfield's bisexuality, which helped make her a gay icon, is likely to be sanitized in Hollywood's retooling. As studio execs allegedly put it, movie audiences are "weary" of lesbianism.

"The only boy (or girl) who could ever reach me ... was the son (or daughter) of a preacher man ..."

Weary of lesbianism? Weary? Weary as in bleary-eyed,snaggle-toothed and chafed from endless hours spent searching the Internet for visual celebrations of lesbianism? If that's the kind of weary they mean, well, maybe then "weary" would be an apt description.

But I fear that Hollywood means the other kind of "weary," the not-a-box-office-draw kind of weary. And on that count, I must draw the line. Indeed, we implore Hollywood to stay true to the indomitable spirit and legacy of Dusty Springfield. We must not abide by revisionist history!

In fact, it would be my distinct, er, pleasure to offer to the screenwriters an entire scene I've mapped out that involves Ms. Springfield and Lulu, of "To Sir with Love" fame. The two divas would meet cute in a bistro on London's West End, see, and there'd be some playful tittering and touching, and maybe "The Look of Love" could be incorporated into the soundtrack, and then one thing would lead to another, and ... and ...

Lulu and that crazy Swingin' Sixties yoga

But I digress.

At the very least, why pursue a biopic about someone and then eliminate the most interesting things about that person?

And while we're on the subject of lesbianism, I'd be remiss if I didn't call your attention to a recent Playboy survey that finds a whopping 57 percent of college co-eds would want to hook up with Angelina Jolie.

Yep, this new generation of leaders definitely rocks.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Last Word

by Larry Mondello

OK, OK...let's drop the crossword puzzle thread.

Doctor Tom, Asking the Big Questions

"Would you agree that the opposite to being dead is being alive?"

-- U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, grilling would-be U.S. Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts during confirmation hearings*

* Roberts did agree

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Our President Working a Phone


"Brownie! Speak up! I can't hear yah!"

Tom Coburn, Private Dick

So what can Mad Doctor Tom Coburn possibly do to top his theatrics at the John Roberts confirmation hearings?

Once you've been caught doing crossword puzzles during the hearing to select only the 17th chief justice in U.S. history, once you've broken down sobbing about hate-filled politics (this from a true contender for the most hate-filled senator on Capitol Hill), what can you do to be even nuttier?

Why, tout your psychic abilities, of course.

As Doctor Tom told Roberts (thanks to Dustbury for this gem):

"... I will tell you that I am very pleased, both in my observational capabilities as a physician to know that your answers have been honest and forthright as I watch the rest of your body respond to the stress that you're under ..."

Let's test our psychic abilities: Within two years, we predict Doctor Tom will be in a padded cell, popping crickets into his mouth like popcorn shrimp. You heard it here first, folks.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Cutaways, Take 13

Let us bow our heads and offer a solemn goodbye to one of the great movie directors of yesteryear, Robert Wise, who left this mortal coil yesterday at age 91.

A versatile and dependable craftsman, Wise helmed some terrific spookers, thrillers and sci-fi of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, most notably 1944's The Curse of the Cat People (his directorial debut), 1945's The Body Snatcher, 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still (Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!), 1963's The Haunting (pound for pound, the undisputed champion of haunted house flicks) and 1971's The Andromeda Strain.

Unfortunately, it might not be for those films he is best remembered, but rather a pair of big-budget musicals from the Sixties, West Side Story and (gulp) the saccharine-heavy The Sound of Music. In the humble estimation of this cinephile, there is a special place in hell for that latter film, a movie that my dear departed grandmother worshipped and watched repeatedly, over and over and over, for weeks on end.

"One of us, One of us ..."

I suspect now, thinking back on it, that the von Trapp family was busy transmitting clandestine messages through that old Zenith television set and into the mothball-scented confines of my grandmother's North Miami Beach condominium. I think the von Trapps told her who killed JFK and when to expect the Rapture. I think "My Favorite Things" was code for something that had to do with Sharon Tate.

But I digress. At any rate, R.I.P., Robert Wise.

***

If Philip Seymour Hoffman is not the finest American character actor working in film today, he's mighty close. His performance in the upcoming Capote, which chronicles Truman Capote's penning of the true-crime classic In Cold Blood -- click here for the trailer -- promises to be captivating.

***

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio are gearing up for their next biopic together: The story of Teddy Roosevelt. We love the idea of Scorsese and screenwriter Nicholas Meyer being on board, but we're not on DiCaprio as TR. The guy was surprisingly good as Howard Hughes, sure, but let's not press our luck here.

Incidentally, this would be the fourth film to team Scorsese and DiCaprio (in addition to The Aviator and Gangs of New York, the pair is currently working on The Departed). When did Leonardo DiCaprio become Scorsese's Bobby De Niro bitch for the Golden Years?

***

Finally, our friends over at Egotastic! deserve a raised glass (among other things) for their up close-and-personal pics of Jessica Alba and Eva Mendes.

Me-yowzah.

A Note to Readers

Dear readers, you might note that with the ever-growing number of contributors, we here at CTTC have slightly revised our format for non-Chase writers.

All commentary not written by me with boast a byline (in italics) at the beginning of the aforementioned posts. That way I need not accept credit -- or blame -- for shit I didn't write.

Friday Random 10

Along with blogging luminaries such as American Idle and Rox Populi, I humbly offer this week's random 10 on the iPod shuffle. Let the music begin...

1. Ween, "Sarah"
2. The Searchers, "Farmer John"
3. John Lee Hooker, "Big Legs Tight Skirt"
4. Johnny Cash, "I Still Miss Someone"
5. Sponge, "Molly"
6. The Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Give It Away"
7. Cracker, "Movie Star"
8. The Black Keys, "Stack Shot Billy"
9. The Hollies, "Carrie-Anne"
10. Everything but the Girl, "Missing"

Not such a great shuffle, admittedly, but hey, you've got at least three immortal voices: John Lee Hooker's nocturnal bombast ... Johnny Cash, dangerous hero ... and that young dude with the Black Keys (Dan Auerbach ?) who sounds as if he grew up smoking in his playpen.

The Liberal Activist Judges Must Go

by Conrad Spencer

I've had it with the liberal activist judges.

Not because I disagree with their decisions, mind you. I simply disagree with their timing.

On Wednesday, a judge with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance, as currently written, is unconstitutional. The same ruling brought a similar outcry three years ago. That case was thrown out because the father who brought the case did not have custody of his daughter. The Supreme Court never ruled on the central issue, but now, with additional plaintiffs in hand, they get a second chance.

That's unfortunate, because no good will come of this, meaningless wedge issue that it is.

This is not a victory of the separation of church and state crowd, or for any liberal cause. This is a rallying cry and a fundraising tool for the right. This is yet more evidence that liberals are out of touch with mainstream America and downright hostile to religion.

Rather than moving a cause forward, untimely court decisions that exceed the will of the legislature and people -- even if those decisions are legitimate readings of the law -- tend to force us two steps back.

In the wake of the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that gay marriage cannot be prohibited under that state's constitution, a flurry of states -- 18 and counting -- amended their constitutions to expressly forbid gay marriage. Rather than being a victory for gay rights, the decision set the movement back years, and was used to rally the conservative troops and turn out the church vote in the 2004 elections.

Granted, court decisions in the '50s and '60s were able to move civil rights forward, though it often required the strong arm of the National Guard.

But we shouldn't take this as a victory for the church crowd, either. The Supreme Court will likely overturn the ruling, but based on precedent that belittles religion in the public sphere.

In the 1984 case Lynch v. Donnelly, the court found that the annual nativity scene of the town of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, was not in violation of the Establishment Clause. In a dissenting, Justice Brennan disagreed on the constitutionality of the nativity scene, but also added, "I would suggest that such practices as the designation of 'In God We Trust' as our national motto, or the references to God contained in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag can best be understood, in Dean Rostow's apt phrase, as a form a 'ceremonial deism,' protected from Establishment Clause scrutiny chiefly because they have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content."

So, cursory references to God are OK because they are, in effect, meaningless.

Wow, what a victory for Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Partisan Post Game

by Larry Mondello

I am a registered Independent. Bush drives me crazy many days. But the Democrat reaction to his speech tonight is embarrassing.

From AP

Bush repeated a hotline number, 1-877-568-3317, for people to call to help reunite family members separated during the hurricane. Moments later, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., criticized Bush, saying "Leadership isn't a speech or a toll-free number."

"No American doubts that New Orleans will rise again," Kerry said. "They doubt the competence and commitment of this administration." House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, in a joint statement, said, "We are concerned by Bush administration initiatives this week waiving wage protections, environmental safeguards and protections for veterans, minorities, women and the disabled."


Why can't they wait at least a day or so before they launch with the partisan crap? I do admit, I wasn't able to watch the speech, but I read the text. Despite many missteps by him and his gang over the past two weeks, his message tonight showed that he realizes there were problems and the feds will jump in with both feet to make up for it. I will go so far as to say the President did show some leadership qualities tonight. I also know the Al Franken bunch (which includes Kerry, Pelosi and even ... sadly ... Reid) will never admit it. Why would it be so hard for them to NOT take political advantage, be somewhat civil and statesmanlike and say they will work with the President to do everything possible to help the troubled region? Before anyone responds, yes, I know the Repubs do it, too. Why do you think I am neither?

He Pees!

by Daniel Gale-Grogen

Photos taken by a Reuters photographer could reveal how the press will be treating George W. Bush in the near future. The photos, taken during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York September 14, were shot over the president's shoulder and reveal the contents of a note being written: "I Think I May Need a Bathroom Break," Bush wrote.

Now, under normal conditions, there would be no good reason for the public to see a note like this, which was being passed to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He cannot simply stand up and walk out -- the diplomatic ramifications of a sudden and unexpected exit could be dire. Then again, he cannot stand up, raising one hand with the other on his crotch and yell, like a kindergartener, "I have to pee, Mr. Annan!" So, unless the note constituted some kind of invitation to his diplomatrix, Bush was doing the right thing. Still, the existence of these photos on a wire service is an indicator that the press is no longer so prone to treating Bush as though he were Christ Jesus striding on the Potomac.

The days of that old AP photo of Bush with the presidential seal behind him, creating an aurora, are gone. There is blood in the water, and if Bush does something embarrassing, it will make its way to the public. In fact, just the mainstream press acknowledgment that the man urinates, defecates and commits other mortal bodily waste to a porcelain fate is refreshing.

As, I'm sure, was his bathroom break.

New Contributors

Here at Cutting to the Chase, we continue to grow in leaps and bounds. As in, we're getting more contributors so I can tend to my pet iguana and stag-film collection.

Daniel Gale-Grogen is an associate professor of Belarusian literature at DeMarge College, where he also captained the rugby team. He and his wife Gail live in the hardscrabble environs of Edmond, Oklahoma, where they are the scourge of their gated community -- thanks to son Greg's recent formulation of homemade napalm and his discovery that a bicycle pump can be easily retrofitted into a rudimentary flamethrower. Please make Daniel feel at home.

Similarly, it is CTTC's pleasure to welcome Jill Vatican as another new contributor. Jill's turn-ons include walks in the rain, baking brownies, black-and-white movies, tomato paste and romantic candlelit dinners with her hubby and the local high school swim team. More importantly, Jill is a woman, which means she's the token female voice here.

Bacharach Blasts Bush

by Larry Mondello

For those who woke up this morning wondering where the composer of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Walk on By" stands on the issue of President Bush's response to Katrina, here it is.

OK, Red Dirt... take it away!

Fault Lines

Responsibility fever: Catch it!

Now it's Gov. Blanco's turn to take responsibility for Louisiana's hurricane relief screw-ups.

"We all know that there were failures at every level of government: state, federal and local,"Blanco told lawmakers in a special meeting of the Louisiana Legislature. "At the state level, we must take a careful look at what went wrong and make sure it never happens again. The buck stops here, and as your governor, I take full responsibility."

Echoes of Dumbya: Taking responsibility, but not necessarily the blame.

Meanwhile, the cast of characters is doling out blame for everyone else.

Resume-fudging Arabian horse-show judge Michael Brown is telling The New York Times that he warned the White House early on that Blanco's administration was woefully unresponsive to the impending disaster.

"On Monday night, Mr. Brown said, he reported his growing worries to [Homeland Security head Michael] Chertoff and the White House. He said he did not ask for federal active-duty troops to be deployed because he assumed his superiors in Washington were doing all they could. Instead, he said, he repeated a dozen times, 'I cannot get a unified command established."

"The next morning, Mr. Brown said, he and Governor Blanco decided to take a helicopter into New Orleans to see the mayor and assess the situation. But before the helicopter took off, his field coordinating officer, or F.C.O., called from the city on a satellite phone. 'It is getting out of control down here; the levee has broken,' the staff member told him, he said.


"The crowd in the Superdome, the city's shelter of last resort, was already larger than expected. But Mr. Brown said he was relieved to see that the mayor had a detailed list of priorities, starting with help to evacuate the Superdome. Mr. Brown passed the list on to the state emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, but when he returned that evening he was surprised to find that nothing had been done."


In the meantime, Blanco is getting a pass from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. The Stakeholder notes that the CRS report concludes Blanco met all statutory requirements by Aug. 27 for federal authorities to provide relief assistance. Whether that was sufficient remains to be seen. We're a bit skeptical that anyone -- aside from the media, oddly enough -- did what they were supposed to do in the first few days of the crisis.

For the administration's part, a senior official suggests to the New York Times that the White House "did not believe [Brown's phone calls] had the urgency or desperation" that the recently resigned FEMA head has indicated.

And there might be a reason for that spin on Brown's warnings. A Knight Ridder report now finds that Michael Chertoff, not Brown, might be most accountable for the late federal response.

According to the media report, the feds' national disaster response plan gives Chertoff full authority to federalize the hurricane response regardless of any invites coming from state or local officials:

"But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.

" 'As you know, the President has established the White House Task Force on Hurricane Katrina Response. He will meet with us tomorrow to launch this effort. The Department of Homeland Security, along with other Departments, will be part of the task force and will assist the Administration with its response to Hurricane Katrina,' Chertoff said in the memo to the secretaries of defense, health and human services and other key federal agencies.

[...]

"Chertoff's hesitation and Bush's creation of a task force both appear to contradict the National Response Plan and previous presidential directives that specify what the secretary of homeland security is assigned to do without further presidential orders. The goal of the National Response Plan is to provide a streamlined framework for swiftly delivering federal assistance when a disaster -- caused by terrorists or Mother Nature -- is too big for local officials to handle."

And so it goes.

Sex Tape Derby, Round 26

Thursday is Sex Tape Derby, but then again, you probably already know that. Or maybe not. After all, I don't really know what you know or don't know; hell, come to think of it, what an absurdly presumptuous statement I just made.

So scratch that. Let's start over.

OK, here's the deal: Let's say you absolutely must watch two people get their freak on, and let's say you must choose who -- among the following -- you would rather see get their freak on. Have at it, hoss. Post your selections in the comments section below.

For more of an explanation of Sex Tape Derby, click here.

1. Why don't they do it in the road?: John Lennon or Paul McCartney?

2. Eva Longoria or Michelle Rodriguez?

3. Laying cable ... er, news: FOX's Shepard Smith or CNN's Anderson Cooper?

4. Selma Blair or Michelle Williams?

5. Ryan Reynolds or Jared Leto?

6. News babe showdown: MSNBC's Monica Novotny or Natalie Morales?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Frye Nixon

by Larry Mondello

Since Chase brought it up, I have to thank him for mentioning the great David Frye. He was the definitive Nixon impersonator of the late 60s and early 70s. Obviously Watergate helped his career quite a bit ( you can't go forever doing a great Rod Steiger imitation!) He made a name for himself doing guest shots on such memorable shows as The Paul Lynde Show and The Leslie Uggams Show.

When Nixon left, so did Frye. Not sure whatever became of him and a quick Google search didn't answer the question too much, although he did reappear in 1998 with a Bill Clinton parody CD called Bill Clinton: An Oral History ( get it? hah). (continuing the line of humor...) the CD blew and you can find it on Amazon for 89 cents!



I do know some David Frye trivia: He was a guest on the final Ed Sullivan show in 1971 and the album Chase references, Richard Nixon: A Fantasy was nominated for a Grammy as Best Comedy Album in 1973, only to lose to Cheech and Chong.

Now put THAT in your IPOD and smoke it, Chase!

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog.

Blame and Responsibility

We applaud the President of the United States for accepting responsibility for lapses in the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

Similarly, we also applaud the teen driver who accepts responsibility for crashing dad's car into a tree. We applaud the dry cleaner who accepts responsibility for burning a hole in a customer's sport jacket. We applaud the pet owner who accepts responsibility for his dog dropping a turd on the neighbor's lawn.

What sort of topsy-turvy world is it when the most earth-shattering announcement following a life-shattering hurricane is that the commander in chief of the federal government takes responsibility for federal screw-ups?

Don't answer that; it's a rhetorical question.

Don't get us wrong. We actually are impressed that President Bush said what he said -- and it certainly trumps Mayor Ray Nagin's refusal to admit shortcomings -- but we're not quite ready to wet ourselves like some in the mainstream media, such as ABC's Elizabeth Vargas, who called the statement an "extraordinary admission." We respectfully disagree. An extraordinary admission would be, say, "I led the nation into war based on bad intelligence." An extraordinary admission would be "I made a mistake in hiring an Arabian horse-show judge to head FEMA." An extraordinary admission would be "My name is Rumpelstiltskin."

By contrast, this is a decidedly nuanced admission. Ever the dutiful Air National Guard pilot, Dumbya knows the value of a good parachute: " ... To the extent that the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility."

But don't mistake taking responsibility for taking the blame. We can't help but recall an old Watergate-era political parody record by David Frye called Richard Nixon: A Fantasy. In it, Frye, portraying Tricky Dick, drew the distinction that people who take the blame lose their jobs; people who take responsibility do not.

Remembering the Wounded ... in Iraq

The current death toll of Americans in Iraq: 1,895.

What doesn't always receive so much scrutiny are the escalating numbers of the wounded, many of whom will be facing life-altering injuries for years and years to come. And there are plenty of wounded. The Pentagon indicates that roughly half of all injured troops require at least three days of hospitalization -- military speak for "serious."

The official toll indicates there are more than 13,000 American troops who have been wounded during the Iraq War, although other accounts say the actual figure is anywhere between 15,000 to 38,000. In the fall of 2004, for example, an UPI report found that 17,000 soldiers who had been evacuated from Iraq for medical reasons had not been included in Pentagon figures.

Over the past few months, the Bush Administration had to scramble to recover from dramatically underestimating the number of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who will need medical treatment in the U.S. Initially, the White House estimated a little more than 23,000. Oops, said the administration, apparently going by figures that had been drawn up way back when it was a "mission accomplished." The White House, needing Congress to help plug a $2.6 billion shortfall for Veterans Affairs, returned to Capitol Hill to clarify that the figure would be more like 103,000 troops.

And then there is the mental anguish of those returning troops. As Okie Funk has pointed out, VA facilities have already dealt with some 70,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder among American troops.

Amid our nation's ADD-addled media mindset, don't forget Iraq.


UPDATE: The death dance continues. A suicide bomber in Baghdad has killed as estimated 80 people, mostly poor Shiites, and injured 150 others.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Quote of the Day

Comes from our pal Token Liberal, musing on some of the law-and-order crowd howling for the shooting of looters in post-hurricane New Orleans:

"I’m no fan of the looter, but capital punishment seems a little harsh for stealing a television set. Yes, even a flat screen."

We wholeheartedly agree and will do TL one better: We think capital punishment is a little harsh even for stealing a plasma screen.

Ittsa Bout Tyme

by Larry Mondello

Today's forecast for hell: partly cloudy, chance of falling temperatures.

POTUS takes blame for something!

From AP:

"Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.

"To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.

The president was asked whether people should be worried about the government's ability to handle another terrorist attack given failures in responding to Katrina.

"Are we capable of dealing with a severe attack? That's a very important question and it's in the national interest that we find out what went on so we can better respond," Bush replied.

Central Casting

by Larry Mondello

I know, it's WAY too early to start casting The John Roberts Story, but Greg Kinnear needs work. Besides, I'll do anything to stop talking about Katrina!


The Non-Summer Summer Movies

With the lackluster summer movie season officially past, I come to briefly sing the praises of three decidedly "small" films that were among the best we saw. While I dug the big popcorn fare, particularly Batman Begins and War of the Worlds, I want to pay special tribute to ...

Murderball
This documentary should have been the sleeper hit of the summer. One can only guess, however, that its exploration of the world of quadriplegic rugby didn't exactly translate into a fun Saturday night date movie in Sioux City. That's a shame, because Murderball is hands-down the best documentary I've seen in recent memory.

Neither a depressing look at those with handicaps nor a feel-good tale of spirit overcoming adversity, filmmakers Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro find some amazing characters in quad rugby player Mark Zupan and Canadian quad rugby coach Joe Soares -- hyper-competitive, athletic, self-possessed, surprisingly sensitive -- and lets their obsessive drive take center stage as their respective teams roll toward the Paralympics in Athens, Greece.

And the filmmakers have the good sense to answer things you probably wondered about but dared never ask, like: How do quadriplegics have sex?
****

The Constant Gardener
This adaptation of the John Le Carre novel defies being pigeonholed by genre. Directed by the gifted Fernando Meirelles, The Constant Gardener is very much a visually told story that still achieves the rich, multilayered tapestry of literature. Ralph Fiennes is a British diplomat in Africa who slowly unravels what really resulted in the death of his wife (a radiant Rachel Weisz) and, in so doing, falls in love with her all over again.

Love story, geopolitical thriller or socially conscious drama, the movie succeeds marvelously at all three.
****

Broken Flowers
Along with Lost in Translation and The Life Aquatic, this Jim Jarmusch film (surely his most commercially accessible, which really isn't saying so much) might conclude the Bill Murray trilogy of hollow-eyed men going through an existential crisis involving Fatherhood, Lost Love and The Meaning of It All.

Murray is Don Johnston, a past-his-prime womanizer who grudgingly sets out on a road trip -- prodded by his pal Winston (Jeffrey Wright) -- to find out whether there's any truth to an anonymous letter that indicates he fathered a son some 20 years ago. In his investigation, he revisits four old flames, a quartet played by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.

Lyrical, quiet and open-ended, the picture reminds you of why indie cinema can be so important.
***1/2

Monday, September 12, 2005

Now HERE'S a resume

by Larry Mondello

Interim Director named to replace Brownie:

US Fire Administrator R. David Paulison, former Fire Chief in Metro Dade County in Florida.

Judging from his credentials, looks like he should have gotten the director job in the first place instead of Brown.

click here for his bio.

See No Evil

OK, so we know that President Bush doesn't read newspapers:

As he told Brit Hume on FOX News back in 2003:

"I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. ... I glance at the headlines just to [get] kind of a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are (sic) probably read the news themselves ..."

And he doesn't watch TV.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman notes that on the Thursday following Hurricane Katrina, Bush's media people slapped together a DVD to show the president some of the news coverage. Why? The commander in chief hadn't realized how serious the disaster was.

"How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less 'situational awareness,' as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century -- is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.

[...]

" ... It is not clear what President Bush does read or watch, aside from the occasional biography and an hour or two of ESPN here and there."

Hmm. So how does our commander in chief stay in touch with the world? I always thought it was John Travolta who had played that part ...

Getting Fingered (and Not in a Pleasant Way)

Looks like the White House, Louisiana and New Orleans officials are indulging in more finger-waving than a Wendy's bowl of chili (yeah, yeah, it's a dated and awkward reference -- so sue me). With the Bush Administration tsk-tsking Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and her aides, in turn, assailing the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin weighs in.

On "Meet the Press," Nagin offered an olive branch to Dumbya but offered a middle finger to Blanco. Proving himself the quintessential anti-statesman, the mayor told Tim Russert:

NAGIN: ... My interactions with the president is, anytime I talked with him and gave him what the real deal was and gave him the truth, he acted and he made things happen.

RUSSERT: How about the governor?

NAGIN: Well, you know, I don't know about that one. We fought and held that city together with only 200 state National Guard. That was it. We did not get a lot of other support for three or four days of pure hell on Earth. There were resources that were sitting in other parishes. I just don't know. I mean, and then when a group did come down to review what was happening in New Orleans, it was a big media event. It was followed with cameras and with AP reporters, a little helicopter flyover, and then they had a press conference and it was gone. So I don't have much else to say about that.

Ouch.

It is becoming increasingly evident that almost every single government official with a desk and a laptop, almost every step of the way, shares culpability for the deadly fiasco that followed Hurricane Katrina.

That includes a mayor who failed to follow the city's own evacuation plan and ensure buses for more than 127,000 residents without transportation.

That includes a governor who apparently panicked and failed to sufficiently tell federal authorities what her state needed.

That includes a president who had whittled away FEMA's ability to respond to natural disaster and provided conflicting signals about what the feds would be doing to assist.

As The New York Times meticulously notes in an excellent wrap-up on the tumbling dominos, this tragedy was one of those rare instances of political bipartisanship. It was a full-fledged case of bipartisan fuck-up. Chalk one up for bureaucracy.

Joe over at The Moderate Voice, incidentally, has a terrific summary of the post-Katrina breakdown.

He's Doin' a Heckuva Job ...

Mike Brown has resigned in disgrace as head of FEMA.

Wonder how that will appear on his resume ...

Cats and Dogs


We don't need to tell you that hundreds of thousands of displaced hurricane victims need your help. But we will make special mention of the Herculean efforts of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States to save the thousands of pets from the hard-hit region.

As of this writing, more than 4,000 pets have been rescued from New Orleans and treated by veterinarians. But thousands more remain.

To learn more about how you can help this massive animal-rescue operation, check out the Humane Society Web site ...

Or the ASPCA site.

But most importantly, give.

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

A post from Above Top Secret has been showing up on a lot of blogs throughout the nation -- from Boing Boing and Culture Kitchen to, closer to home, Okiedoke and Existential Ramble -- and it begs some clarification.

Like all states providing housing, medical care and other assistance for evacuees from the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast, Oklahomans deserve credit for their commitment to helping people whose lives have been ripped apart by this disaster. And that includes the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for answering the call to open its southern Oklahoma campground, Falls Creek, up to some 3,000 storm victims.

One falsehood from the ATS blog is as follows:

"The occupants of the camp cannot leave the camp for any reason. If they leave the camp they may never return. They will be issued FEMA identification cards and 'a sum of money' and they will remain within the camp for the next 5 months."

Wrong. If Falls Creek had actually been utilized for housing refugees (more on that in a second), evacuees would have been allowed to leave, but they would not have been allowed to return. News reports indicated that the problem would have been security personnel reprocessing them back into the facility. Don't forget that a major U.S. city and its surrounding environs were evacuated completely. That means inviting people of all walks of life, and that means taking sensible precautions. While the vast majority of evacuees are law-abiding people who have been through an unfathomable ordeal, a small number are not so nice. As news reports have pointed out, a number of hurricane victims placed at Camp Gruber in northeastern Oklahoma included several gangbangers and convicted sex offenders.

Moreover, Falls Creek volunteers did not plan to keep hurricane victims for five months; they wanted to be able to accommodate for up to five months -- if necessary.

It was no detainment camp. A coordinated effort among state authorities and the faith-based community resulted in Falls Creek receiving more than 1,200 volunteers, from medical professionals to Oklahoma Baptists who traveled across the state to help folks in desperate need. Compared to the nightmarish Superdome and the Tom DeLay-sanctioned camping hijinks of the Astrodome, Falls Creek promised to be ideal for long-term housing of hurricane victims.

It should go without saying, then, that FEMA's infinite wisdom eventually rejected using it as a housing section for evacuees. Apparently, the agency felt it made more sense to ship the city's poor and infirm -- many of whom had never been out of Bayou Country -- to such comparatively exotic locales as Utah and Rhode Island. The lights remained off at Falls Creek.

The author of the blog, evidently a volunteer from one of the Baptist churches with a cabin at Falls Creek, expresses dismay that highway patrol troopers and ambulances were so prevalent in the area. What would she expect? Again, the post-hurricane lawlessness that terrorized New Orleans speaks to the importance of ensuring public safety and security. As for the ambulances? Well, that would be to take refugees needing medical attention to area hospitals. Some 80 evacuees who were brought to Camp Gruber required immediate medical care.

Criminy.

As someone decidedly ambivalent about religion, I'm not used to coming to the defense of the faith-based crowd, but c'mon: Lumping relief workers in with the federal incompetents does a disservice to everyone. And it plays right into the hands of Bush apologists who would like to dismiss all carping and criticism as partisan rancor.

Don't give them that chance.