Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Vacation's You Didn't Even Know You Were On Is Over. Rosie O'Donnell's Back

So, Katie Couric is going to CBS to anchor the CBS Nightly News, Meredith Viera's going to replace Couric on the Today show, and now we find out who's going to replace Veira on The View.

Rosie O'Donnell.

Wow. If The View was squirmy to watch before, what with the awkward mini-feuds between Starr Jones and the redhaired "funny" one, and the chick from Survivor occasionally inserting right-wing talking points into her "banter", having O'Donnell sitting in Veira's MC seat is going to make The View absolutely unwatchable.

I was A-OK with O'Donnell back when her own talk show started. I even thought some of her stand-up was funny back on VH-1's Standup Spotlight (anyone else remember that?). But as she continued on with her talk show, she seemed to get a little pricklier, her general lack of interest in her non-Tom Cruise, non-Barbara Streisand guests got more noticeable, and then after she ambushed Tom Selleck about his views on gun control when he was just there to plug some crap movie or another, I think she officially became kind of unappealing. After she quit her show, she went a little crazy, going off on some obscenity-laced tirade against Hillary Clinton for staying with Bill after the truth came out about Lewinsky. I guess what this really means is that this is the beginning of the end for The View -- maybe this story has a happy ending after all.

Also, in completely unrelated news, this item. I haven't read this book, but I have read The Fountainhead, and it freaked me out for a few days. Has anyone read Atlas Shrugged? Will it freak me out? Is it worth a read? Is it adaptable into a big Hollywood studio epic like Pitt and Jolie think it is? I know Rand was a super-crazy uber-Capitalist, but I really liked The Fountainhead and wonder if Atlas is worth slogging through it's 1,000-plus pages.

All right. I'm out. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Inanities First (and Best) Guest Blogger: the Lovely Peggy Crane

Hello Loyal Readers! Before I begin, I would like to congratulate Brian, on what I think is a great blog! Recently, Brian and I have been deliberating on whether or not I should be a guest blogger one day each week. And, if I did, what topics should I cover. Well, my idea is to half rant, but also give advice. Obviously, I don't want to tell anyone want to do (read: I like telling people what to do), but I do like to be helpful if possible.

In honor of this past weekend's Earth Day, I would like to help you reduce junk mail, cut down waste, and maybe save some trees in the process. So, if you hate receiving 5 credit card offers every day, today's blog is for you!

1. Virtually all companies offering pre-approved credit cards and insurance offers use lists from the major credit bureaus. Fortunately, to have your name removed from mailing lists used for unsolicited credit card and insurance offers, all you need to do is c
all 888-567-8688. This single automated phone line takes you off the lists of all major credit bureaus. You can also do this online at:

2. The Direct Marketing Association represents many mail-order sales companies, and estimates that listing your name with their mail preference service will stop 75% of all national mailings coming to your home. To do this, send a postcard with your name, address and signature to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 or download the online form at http/

3. Companies that do not participate in the D.M.A. program must be contacted directly. In addition, if you only want some of your junk mail stopped, contacting individual companies is the way to go. You can write to firms that send you unsolicited material and tell them firmly to stop. Be sure to use the enclosed Business Reply envelopes when replying through the mail, and address them to Customer Service. You can also call the firms' toll free numbers and ask to speak with customer service.

4. Buyers beware ... you are covered under a manufacturer's warranty whether a registration card is returned or not. These cards are primarily used to gather names for mailing lists. Write National Demographics & Lifestyles (a firm that collects this information) to have your name removed: NDL List Order Services, 1621 18th Street, Suite 300, Denver, CO 80202

5. To remove your name from major nationwide sweepstakes mailers, contact:

* Publishers Clearinghouse, 101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050 Phone:
(800) 645-9242

* Readers Digest, Readers Digest Road, Pleasantville, NY 10570 Phone: (800) 234-9000

* American Family Publishers, PO Box 62000, Tampa, FL 33662 Phone: (800) 237-2400

* The average person gets only 1.5 personal letters each week, compared to 10.8 pieces of junk mail.
* Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year.
* That's 4.5 million tons of junk mail produced each year!
* 44% of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread.
* Approximately 40% of the solid mass that makes up our landfills is paper and paperboard waste.
* By the year 2010, it is predicted to make up about 48%.
* 100 million trees are ground up each year to produce junk mail.
* Lists of names and addresses used in bulk mailings are in mass data-collection networks, compiled from phone books, warranty cards, and charity donations (to name a few).
* Your name is typically worth 3 to 20 cents each time it is sold.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Love Me My Dems, But This Cover Makes me Laugh

I saw this on the shelves at Barnes and Noble today and at first I thought, "Well, this must be a conservative magazine." I don't really know the Economist's political bent, but I have to say the more I look at this mock-up of the stars in the Democratic party, the funnier it gets. Here's a closer look. For a blogger's analysis of the image, click here. I'm out.

A Movie Review of "Friends With Money"

I saw a fascinating movie over the weekend called Friends With Money. It got a lot of positive attention at Sundance this year, and now it's out in theaters in limited release. I have to say that not only did I like the film, it's the first time I actually liked Jennifer Aniston in a movie (before Friends With Money, I thought she was the cinematic equivalent of a black hole).

The film follows a circle of friends that include three wealthy Los Angeles-area couples and their single, down-on-her-luck friend, Olivia, played by Jennifer Aniston. In the film, Olivia's a maid. I think Nicole Holofcener, who wrote and directed the film, maybe could have thought a little harder about which job an attractive, English-speaking white female in Los Angeles who quits a teaching job is likely to have because, for me, 'maid' isn't even going to make the top ten list. Executive assistant, perhaps? But, to her credit, Holofcener does a good job selling Olivia as a maid, in part my making us believe she's probably not working as a maid entirely out of economic necessity, but partly out of a need to punish herself. Friends With Money presents a lot of middle-aged angst, which I enjoy, partly because I like to watch the characters either find ways through their existential crises, or not find their way. Friends With Money features characters who do both. The film isn't particularly eventful in the typical three-act structure sense of the word, but it's also not ever boring. It's actually full of fantastic little details that resonate because they feel like the truth. Details like showing how Aniston's character keeps herself stocked with expensive face creams she can't afford, or how a married screenwriting duo works together in their home office, or how Olivia's sort-of boyfriend, Mike, a callow, BMW-driving personal trainer (played to perfection by Scott Caan), asks for his "cut" of Aniston's house-cleaning pay even though he's done nothing to help her. (Even more telling is that she actually gives him the money.) There's a lot of great, deftly rendered moments like these throughout this movie. And it's worth seeing just to see how Aniston can be in a film without killing every scene she's in. I know, isn't that amazing? Maybe breaking up with Brad made her a more watchable actress, who knows?

Anyway, you can read an interview with the director here. She talks about her own feelings of "self-loathing" coming out in the film, she tells the interviewer, laughingly, "I'm as repellent as everyone else", and she also says that "even women can be ass-holes". I've never heard a female director be so down-to-earth and honest with her opinions, so after reading it I said, "Yeah, I have to see that one." So, if you get the opportunity, I recommend you check out Friends With Money. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Georgia Puts Rational Thought In Its Place

Oh blog! How I've missed you and also not missed you. Anyway, back from my much needed hiatus. Plenty of vaguely interesting things happened during my week off, but nothing too exciting. I spent half of my non-blog writing time writing my very long entry for the Literary Smackdown site, and the other half working on Book. Made some good progress there but the ongoing problem for me is that, at the beginning (back in 2000), the writing of my novel was like a 6-lane freeway and I just tore ass down that thing. But as I've continued work on it, it's narrowed down to a two-lane country highway, then a bumpy bike trail, and now (to flog this simile a little harder), in the waning pages of this final draft, it's more like a tightrope I'm having to walk, balancing on a tiny wire of plausibility stretched over a yawning chasm of straight-up, laugh-out-loud ridiculousness. The silly deus ex machina territory that King so fearlessly waded into for the second half of his most recent novel is a place I'm trying desperately to avoid. And, in the interest of full disclosure, when I was similarly troubled during the writing of the first draft, I tried just writing it all down, getting it all out on paper and then returning to it later to whittle and finesse and rework. The result of that method was the dreck I'm rewriting now. Slow and steady is the way, I think. Anyway. The next writing project I do will be short short and simple simple. I'm talking like "See Spot Run" short and simple.

Also, go to and take a gander at my story and Hinesy's poem. (I'd say read Heath's and the Bloodworth guy's entries, but I don't think their stories are for everyone). Mine is, like I said, kind of long, but read as far as you can and the second you get bored with it, make note of the sentence that made you want to quit reading, and put it in the comments. It would help me out because I could try and make it suck less.

Anyway, on with the show! To start this week, I have a couple of Georgia-related items to share. The first is this. From my former hometown, Lawrenceville, Georgia, located in beautiful Gwinnett County, a parent named Laura Mallory is fighting to have all of the Harry Potter books removed from all Gwinnett County public school libraries. “I want to protect my kids, children and others from evil,” Mallory said. “Not fill their minds with it.”

Yes, it is sad that yet another book-banning debate has arisen in my home state, and it is sad that small-minded religious zealots are spending their time trying to dictate their "faith" (read: incredibly peculiar beliefs) to everyone else, but what raises this instance above the sad but mundane, is who showed up to help Mallory argue against the Potter books.
"“I’m a true example of how Harry Potter books can open your life to witchcraft,” said Jordan Susch.
Susch says she read the first Harry Potter novel when she was in the fourth grade. Two years later, she says, she and her friends were practicing witchcraft.

“We wanted to know if spells, potions and curses worked. By the seventh grade, I was so depressed, I set a date to kill myself,” Susch said."
Wow. Could she be the only person in America who became a Goth kid after reading Harry Potter? Usually people who are against the Harry Potter books argue for banning them on the grounds that, basically, they just don't like them, but rarely do the opponents of childhood literacy actually find people to testify that the books actually made them practice witchcraft. Way to go, Laura Mallory! Obviously, I'm all for keeping the Potter books on public school library shelves, but I have to ask myself, what if a parent was trying to get the Left Behind books banned from public school libraries? I guess I'd say let the libraries stock the Left Behind books, too. But I don't think it's fairness the evangelical Christians are after.

I used to think that if you were fair-minded with fundamentalist types, they would be reasonable in turn; as if reasonableness and fairness was all they wanted. I don't believe this is the case. The fundamentalist activists take advantage of the secular person's sense of fair play by saying, for example, when intelligent design was being ripped a new one by evolutionary scientists, "Just teach the controversy." Our own President echoed this line. Which seems innocent enough, on the surface. Why not allow public schools to talk about the debate between religion and science? It's newsworthy, right? But then you realize the fundamentalists have duped you into inserting the precepts of Creationism into a public-school curriculum. Whoops. Well, they didn't fool enough people with that bunkum, so they've got a new scam, and this time it's in Georgia, and this time, it's the law. Let's teach the Bible in public high-schools!

"A bill that allows public high schools to offer classes on the Bible sped through the Georgia House today [March 23rd], passing overwhelmingly with no debate.

The legislation, which passed 151-to-7, would allow high schools to form elective courses on the history and literature of the Old Testament and New Testament eras. The classes would focus on the law, morals, values and culture of the eras."

Like intelligent design, it sounds innocent enough on the surface. The Bible and its stories are woven into the fabric of our culture. Why not give students who maybe didn't have Sunday school a secular grounding in the"Good Book"? Well, because this is just another attempt on the part of fundamentalist activists to get religion into schools with the express purpose of evangelizing 13-18-year old high-school students in our public, taxpayer-supported schools. This is a sad, and constant fight against the darker aspects of our natures. In most parts of the country, the Scopes Monkey Trial woke the citizenry to the idea that evolution maybe isn't crazy, and that Creationism maybe is. That was 80 years ago, and here we are, having to fight these same battles over and over again. It's dispiriting to say the least. When is Georgia going to make some good, We're-Not-Retarded news? And if they do, will the national media care?

Anyway. A long post, I know -- lots to say over the course of the past week. All right. More tomorrow, though not as much as today.

Monday, April 17, 2006

While We Ponder on the Meaning of Stonehenge, I Declare A Hiatus Week

Ah. Stonehenge. This is a picture Peggy took of this famous gathering of rocks while she was in England. Mmm. Traveling.

Anyway, yes, it's true. Hiatus. I'm going to disentangle myself from the blogosphere for five days that I'd otherwise be all up in its business. Also, I'm going to try and think up some interesting things to write about upon my return, (though I expect that at this time next week, I'll be feeling similarly bereft of ideas. Mmm. Bereft.) Anyway. I'll be back with a fresh post on April 24th. But, if you want some new content to read on the Inanities until then, please feel free to post remarks, questions, topics for discussion, or whatever random, inane thing you want in the comments section of this post. Or you could take a break, too. Anyway. See ya in a week.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Parting the Waters? More like Parting the Forests! ('Cause the book's a 1,000 pages long. That's a lot of dead trees is what I'm saying.)

I've been reading Parting the Waters over the past few days. It's the first volume in Taylor Branch's 3-volume biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the powers that be have given it about every award you can give a work of history like this. The deaths of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, and the release of the third and final part of Branch's MLK trilogy, Canaan's Edge, got me interested in the subject of King in particular, and the civil rights struggle in general. I picked up the first two books in the trilogy and I've just now started into the first one. As a reader, I'd avoided biographies for a long time. I'm not sure exactly why; maybe I thought they were mostly dry recitations of dates and place and know now that great biographies can be every bit as absorbing and compelling as great novels. It's good, I think, to fill in the skeleton of American and world history I got from my public-school education with the muscle and sinew I get from biographies like this. Anyway, I'm not going to go into book report mode because I've only gotten through 150 pages of the massive tome that is Parting the Waters, but I'm already enjoying the hell out of it. Another 850 pages of eye-popping race-on-race action await me!

Well, it's getting on to midnight. I got to work on my Literary Smackdown entry so I can post that thing before too much more time passes.

Have a great weekend. I'm out.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Short Post Wherein I Briefly Discuss My Difficulties With a Certain Samsonite Office Chair. (Yeah, they make chairs, too.)

My office chair is busted.

I came into my office yesterday morning, sat down, and felt suddenly as if I was sitting on a wooden board balanced atop a flagpole. I lifted the release lever and lowered the chair. After a bit of finagling, my chair is now permanently descended to its lowest setting, and I now look like a child (albeit a large child with a double chin and thinning hair) sitting at a big boy desk and pretending to work. Not far off from reality actually.

Something very tiny and grease-covered did fall out of the bottom of the chair when I knelt down to examine it yesterday, but because I couldn't see where the hell it was supposed to go, and was irrationally offended by the congealed oil getting on my hands, I threw it out. I think this chair may be forever broken. Sad. It was good while it lasted. Anyway. Thought I'd keep everyone apprised of this dramatic development in the ongoing Crane storyline. Like it or not, more blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Readers of the Inanities Debate Global Warming

Interesting discussion happening in the comments from yesterday. Thought I'd offer a sample in today's post and then add my one and a half cents. Yesterday, I wrote that I'd like to see a Frontline episode laying out both sides of the global warming debate. In response, Heath wrote:
"I'd like to see [opposing sides in the global warming debate] use definitive, scientific proof bolstering their opinions as opposed to them making quotes about statistics we have no way of proving. In the end, I really do not know which side to side with. I want to think global warming is real so we can get off our ass and react to changing it, but the skeptic inside me wants to disbeleive anything that may be politically driven."
Shawn came back with this:
"To me, that really confuses what ultimately should be a simple argument that needs no very special episode of Nightline to resolve: do you want to do nothing and hope there is no such thing as global warming, or do you want to make an effort just in case? ... We don't need a real debate, because there shouldn't even be a debate! Special interest groups have made a no-brainer decision into something that somehow makes people conflicted..."
Hinesy wrote: "the problem is, [global warming] isn't a dramatic effect, like the tsunami a year and a half ago. It's just this slow creeping death that is easy to we ignore the shit out of it. It's silly."

Papadeas weighed in with: "How politicians play this is a different ballgame. I believe they are very biased and, on one end, side ideologically with industry, and on the other play Cassandra without hard data and stats to show the ignorant public."

Craig wrote: "There should be no debate. Pollution is bad, whether or not it's starting hurricanes and whether or not doom is imminent. Let's clean it up, a-holes."

Finally, Heath posed this question: "My point is, if the lines being drawn on what is considered adequate and accepted amounts of pollution, which they most certainly are, who gets to decide. You know, I've heard answer number zero everytime I ask this, yet I see everyone tap dancing around it while flaunting their ideas of absolution. Then who, pray tell, decides? WHO?!"

For me, I think the government decides. It's the government's job to protect the public from things like this, so it's their duty to get educated on the issue of global warming (which is where climatologists come in) and work to fix the problem. If the folks in charge (i.e. Bush) are only talking to one side on the issue (i.e. Michael Crichton), and censoring people in their own government when the message is different than theirs, than we Americans are, once again, dealing with dangerous incompetence. I mean a NASA climatologist came out and said something drastic needed to be done in the next 10 years or global warming's end run would be irreversible, and the central sentences in his conclusions were rewritten by some 25-year old Bush flunkie to make them more equivocal. Just because our government is being horribly run at the moment, doesn't mean we should revel in its current weakness and say it should forever be ineffectual. When the American government works well, it is a great thing.

To offer a taste of the opinions being offered on the conservative side of this issue, I give you this: On "This Week with George Stephanopolous", George Will cast aspersions on the global warming uproar by a) citing America's supposed panic about "global cooling" back in the seventies and early eighties, and b) complaining that if something like the Kyoto treaty were signed onto by all of the industrialized nations, the world expenditure would be one trillion dollars for something that, according to him, may or may not have any basis. Will says that, at any point in planetary history, the earth is either warming or cooling. I think the climatologists would agree with him, but what I think Will is conveniently omitting from his pithy observation is how fast the planet's temperature's rising. That's what's got all the eggheads in a tizzy. I think spending 1 trillion dollars worldwide to get ourselves out of danger on this issue, isn't that big a deal, especially considering that, all by ourselves, we've spent a quarter of a trillion dollars on the Iraq war. Our old friend and teacher Dr. Lacy poo-pooed the idea of global warming by citing the fact that on a timeline of planetary history, the length of time humans have existed is relatively microscopic, and the length of time we've been capable of measuring the temperature worldwide barely atomic. Obviously, Lacy was taking the long view of things by saying, in essence, the planet can take whatever we dish out. (Which begs the question, "But can we humans take it?") But I can't imagine that all of these climatologists shouting dire warnings at us are taking the short view. I read recently that about 187 million years ago, global warming was not only a real thing, but killed off nearly every living thing on this planet -- making the dinosaur extinction pale in comparison. Average temperatures were well into the 100's. What the geologists/paleontologists don't know is what caused the warming.

I think part of the reason doubt still exists about global warming is the media's often abyssmal record on accurately predicting global-scale calamities. I remember when acid rain was going to change the landscape of this country. Made the covers of Time and Newsweek. Supposedly, the acid rain would wreak havoc by defoliating trees and doing bad things to my skin if I was ever caught out in it. More recently, I was told by all so-called responsible media outlets to stock up and take shelter for 'Y2K'. Neither ever materialized. Maybe I'm being short-sighted and naive by suggesting global warming transcends this kind of bad reporting from the media, and a group-think herd mentality on the part of scientists, but I suspect I'm not. I think global warming's a very real thing.

To correct the problem, the onus is on governments to regulate businesses. Fareed Zakaria suggested (on the same "This Week" show I alluded to earlier), taxing the amount of carbon a plant puts into the air. The more carbon a plant puts out, the more they have to pay the government. If the government offers businesses the choice: operate cleanly or give us money, I guarantee you the company will start operating cleanly. Heath asks "who decides the acceptable level of pollution?" and the answer is, again, our government, or at least they should. And if the government shouldn't have the power to decide acceptable levels of pollution, than who should? No one? Should that question be left to the free market?

Anyway, I love reading everyone's opinions on this issue. Keep 'em coming. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Trailer for "An Inconvenient Truth" is Up

Fresh up at is the trailer for the new global warming documentary called An Inconvenient Truth. It's a documentary about Al Gore's travels around the country telling Americans about the growing threat of global warming. I'm looking forward to the movie, but the trailer's a little heavy with the title cards and the faux Day After Tomorrow weather footage for my tastes. I'll be seeing this when it comes out in May, but I'd really like to see a documentary in which both sides of the global warming debate lay out their views, and each side has a chance to debunk the other. If the debate on global warming is truly over, as some have said, than why are there smart people in the world who still believe it's bogus? Why hasn't the work of all of these Nobel prize winning climatologists been enough to convince the doubting conservatives? I think a good hour and a half on Frontline would do the trick for me. Put George Will and Michael Crichton and Dr. Lacy in front of a camera and ask them, "Why do you think this isn't happening?" And then put in some of the luminaries like Gore, the guy from NASA who thinks we have 10 years to stop the slide before it's too late, other leading lights from the climatologist community, and see what they say to refute these other guys. Or, hell, put them all on Oprah in the same room and see what happens. Anyway, enjoy the trailer.

Monday, April 10, 2006

On the Brink of Failure, A Plot to "Game" Some Film Students is Saved by a Good (and Observant) Samaritan. A Wynnsong Story.

This weekend I watched David Fincher's The Game for the first time in a couple years. It holds up really well. I flipped to the station it was playing on right as Douglas's character was walking into the CRS offices for the first time. As soon as I saw the CRS abbreviation (which, for those who don't remember, stands for Consumer Recreation Services), I laughed, remembering back to those couple of weeks during my junior year in film school when we were all weirdly fixated on The Game.

When I first saw it at the good ole' Wynnsong, I was pretty freaked out. After the film let out, the first person I saw in the glare of the lobby lights was Tim Donner. (I think he was there to watch some movie Hickman was setting up for an after-hours screening.) Tim, having already seen it, asked me something innocuous like, "What did you think?" And I must have looked at him suspiciously because he asked, "Are you okay?" laughing a little nervously, as Tim was wont to do. Truth was, I wasn't okay, exactly. I was paranoid and suspicious. I felt like, somehow, Tim Donner was in on it, even though I didn't know what 'it' was. Coming out of that movie felt like waking up out of sleep. I hadn't come to my senses yet so Tim Donner asking me what I thought of the movie seemed like another strange extension of The Game; I felt like he had ulterior motives. I love it when a the reality of a movie can supplant the reality of your regular life, even if for just a little while.

The story the movie reminded me of specifically was this one:

All the way back in 1997, the Heath Bloop Wars were in full swing. I don't remember what Heath did to Matt Gray, but Matt was itching to pay Heath back in full. An opportunity presented itself when we learned that Heath, Shawn, and Heath's girlfriend at the time, Teanne, were off to see some random weekday matinee of The Game together over at the Wynnsong Theater. I believe they were on their way out to the theater when Matt and I first conceived our nefarious plan. I'm not sure with whom the idea originated, but Matt and I wanted to recreate for Heath (and Shawn and Teanne) that weird, hazy feeling of paranoia that Matt and I felt when we first saw the movie, but, more maliciously, we wanted to focus our efforts on Heath. If everything succeeded brilliantly, we'd have Heath turned into a blathering paranoid nutball in a strait jacket in no time. Or at the very least, we'd have him legitimately worried. We didn't have much time (the film's running time of 128 minutes to be exact), so we set to work.

To begin, we needed some people neither Heath, Shawn or Teanne would recognize. We recruited some first-year film students we found on some dorm hall or another, and told them the plan. Somewhat amazingly, they were game and agreed to help us. We drove over to the little house Danny McBride shared with Fradley and... (who was it? Sieb? Lucius?) Anyway, the four of us told Danny our plan and he agreed to let us borrow his videocamera. It was low on charge so we had to hang out for a little in Danny's dark dark house while it recharged a little. Satisfied we had enough charge to do what we wanted to do, we drove (in two cars) to a Burger King on the other side of I-40 from the Wynnsong, and realized we had some time to kill before the movie let out. Matt and I bought those first-years some BK lunch and made conversation for a bit. Then it was time. The first-years got into their little blue hatchback and headed for the theater, and we headed back to campus.

A little while later, when Heath, Shawn, and Teanne got back to the dorm, they had an unusual story to tell. Matt and I just so happened to be on-hand to hear them tell it. We affected an attitude of disbelief as the three of them told us what happened to them after the movie let out.

As they told it, they were coming out of the movie and getting into their car when some random moviegoer pulled up beside them. "Hey," the good Samaritan said. "I think those guys are filming you." At which point Heath, Shawn, and Teanne looked to see two unkempt young men, one with a camera perched on one shoulder. Upon being spotted, the mysterious film crew dropped immediately back into their little blue hatchback and took off out of the parking lot. Heath, Shawn, and Teanne drove after them, but were waylaid by a inconveniently-timed red light. The hatchback got away.

"Wow," said Matt and I. "That's frickin' crazy." And this wasn't entirely just us enjoying delicious dramatic irony. Things had not gone according to plan. Our plan had been for our first-years to videotape our Trio of Victims without being spotted. We would then deliver the unsettling videotape they produced to Heath, probably by slipping it into his mailbox at the film school. It was after Heath took the tape back to his dorm room and viewed it that we expected to hear the hilarious fruits of our labor. But we hadn't counted on the good Samaritan factor. If we thought there was any chance that Heath, Shawn, and Teanne, our Trio of Victims, would suddenly become Marauders for Truth running down our naive accomplices, we may have reconsidered using those guys. When we caught up with the first-years again, they told us their story. "They saw us," they said, sounding a little shaken. If I remember right, they were pretty freaked out when their quarry started driving after them. Turns out getting spotted wasn't the only screw-up. The camera's charge lasted all of 20 seconds before it died and so the videotape we got was essentially useless. If it weren't for that meddling good Samaritan, the whole thing would have been an entirely wasted effort.

So even though we didn't get the bloop we planned, we did succeed, even in a small way, to extend the paranoia of The Game out of the theaters. At least for a little while. I forget how soon after that happened we eventually told them our part in it. After that, Heath got into it by sending a videotapes(I can't remember what was on the tape itself, only that there was a tape with a white piece of paper taped to it with Heath's old circular insignia on it written in red marker), and leaving keys where I would find them. On one, Heath had written, "Don't make a motion." Man, did that make me laugh. Didn't Heath write 'CRS' in weird places all over someone's room? So many that, months and months later, the guy was still finding 'CRS's he hadn't found yet?

Anyway, we had some good times with CRS back at the SOF. Good times. Obviously, if any of the participants want to chime in with their recollections or corrections, please do.

All right, that's it for today. More tomorrow.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Finally! America's Going to Get What They've Been Clamoring For: Student Films in Prime Time! Whoo-hoo!

This is Steve. According to news released today, he and Mark Burnett are going to produce a reality show called "On the Set", which will be, essentially, the wannabe filmmaker equivalent of "American Idol". Here's the story. The winner will get, according to the article, a "development deal" with Dreamworks. Big whoop. At least on American Idol, the winners are assured at least one produced album. A development deal is in no way a guarantee anyone's going to make your movie. The grand prize might as well be a chance to pitch your feature idea to Spielberg for 5 minutes after the series finale has finished taping while Spielberg's waiting for his car. I don't think I'll be tuning in. One, I feel like I've gone through that process already (except stretched out over 4 years instead of a single TV season), and two, to me, there's nothing more nauseating than listening to self-important film directors talk about their work. I think there'll be lots of that on the show. Anyway, do any of you think you'll watch?

In other news, I saw Inside Man yesterday, and it was excellent. Twisty without being overly clever about the fact, characters who talked and acted like real people, and filled with great performances. When it was done, though, I was glad to have Peggy there to help explain the end to me. It's a good time at the movies. Not as awesome as V for Vendetta, but I think that's probably an unfair comparison because it's unlikely there'll be another studio release this year as fun as V for Vendetta. There was one thing I didn't like about Inside Man -- the music was absolutely terrible. I don't know if Spike Lee said to his composer, "Yeah, I really want the music to sound like the score for a low-rent early-seventies cop show," but that's what it did sound like. Awful.

Anyway, that's it for me. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Discussion in the Comments Spills Out Onto the Blog Itself! Free Speech Rights on Campus: How Much Free Speech is Too Much?

There's an interesting discussion going on in the comments from my last post. I thought I'd bring it out into the daylight for today's post.

Heath started things off by asking what the limits of free speech rights were, especially on college campuses. Here's a taste:
"It's the Liberal New York Times University, folks, and it's ridiculous. Did the Dems forget that "liberty" has the same root word as "liberal"? I mentioned this to Paul the other day, and he retorted with "but, would you think it was right if a neo-nazi hung a swastika on campus?" Would I think it was right or would I think they should have the right? I don't think it's right. I do think they should have the right."
I said that it is a college's right to restrict certain kinds of speech in order to maintain a safe, unintimidating learning environment. A sample:
"I actually do think students should have the right. But students all over the country already have the right to say racial slurs and unfurl a big Nazi flag out of their dorm room windows at every college in the country. But the institutions who house or seek to educate those students, have the right then to say they can't do that without consequence. They have the right to expel those students, or call the police to charge them with hate speech, should the circumstance warrant. If the question is should students have the right to say racial slurs and hang racially offensive banners WITHOUT PENALTY, than I would say no."
An anonymous commenter wrote back with this:
"Shouldn't all potentially offensive material be penalized, as well? Why stop at things that are only racially offensive? Everything is offensive to somebody, who gets to decide what people are allowed to say or what banners can only be hanged WITH PENALTY? Is it as simple as mob rule? Should all minority opinions be shouted down or physically stomped by the angry majority?"
A sentiment Heath echoed with his response. To these rebuttals I am a little stumped, I have to say. I've been trying to come up with a well-reasoned answer for anonymous's slippery slope argument, and it's impossible without sounding like an elite and a prig. It's not near as fun to argue against some forms of speech as it is to argue for all of it. But I don't think it's an all or nothing proposition. If a public college bans KKK members and neo-Nazis from demonstrating on campus does not mean they are also banning all other forms of speech. It would appear that when a college does restrict speech on campus, it is when hatred against a particular minority is what fuels that speech. Though even that policy, as mild as it might appear on the surface, can be misused by overzealous university officials.

Heath mentioned a libertarian professor named Alan Charles Kors. He wrote a book called Shadow University. You can read the first 10 or so pages of it here, on You can read most of something called 'The Water-Buffalo Incident" in these pages. The incident was this: a guy at Penn state was writing a paper in his dorm room. Outside, below his window, a sorority was being loud and distracting. He leaned out and told them to be quiet. Five minutes later, after they hadn't quieted down, he leaned out again and said, "Shut up, you water buffaloes!" The loud sorority girls were black, and he was accused by the school of violating Penn's "racial harrassment policy". The author, Kors, ends up being the kid's advisor in the matter, but the free sample of his book ended and I don't know what happened to the guy. (But I do wonder if Kors would be as outraged if the kid had actually called those girls by an actual racial epithet instead.) A similar incident, though fictional, is the basis for a Philip Roth novel, The Human Stain -- a professor asks about a couple of absent students he's never even laid eyes on before and calls them "spooks". Turns out the students were black and he's forced to resign for being a racist. Another example: Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard University, suggested in a speech that part of the reason women are underrepresented in the math and science fields may have to do with biology. It took a year or so, but he was eventually forced out for having said it. The faculty gave him two or three votes of no-confidence.

But are these examples the exception or the rule? Are universities in this country, in their zeal to provide a safe and unintimidating learning environment for ALL students, repressing the free speech rights of the FEW beyond all reason? Besides a series of antecdotal evidence, I don't think it is happening, but maybe I'm wrong. It seems to me that, more often than not, most universities are tolerant of free speech -- but when the university perceives that some minority groups on campus are being persecuted for race, creed, or color, they do step in to enact penalties. Sometimes they do so overzealously (as with the water-buffalo kid), but instances like that, I think, are the exception to the rule. Am I the only guy out there who isn't a total libertarian on free speech? Anyone want to chime in?

But anyway, well-reasoned points by both Heath and anonymous. Thanks for the good comments. More tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A Quick Recommendation

If you're even moderately interested in Al Franken's ongoing campaign to destroy Ann Coulter as a credible source of opinion for anyone, read this, and then read this. Fun stuff.

Outgoing Congressman and Soon-To-Be Felon Tom DeLay Talks to Chris Matthews, For Which Matthews is Disturbingly Grateful

This clip of a short conversation between Chris Matthews and Tom DeLay is fascinating and not a little revealing of the too-cozy relationship our press sometimes has with the powerful. (Just scroll down to the photo of Tom DeLay and, if you can hold down your gorge, click on his picture to watch.) HuffingtonPost put it up a little while ago.

It's a 30-second clip from the set of Hardball taped before the show's begun to air. They don't think what they're saying will be heard by the public, so this clip is them "just talking". There aren't any real bombshells in this clip (aside from a line about Hillary Clinton from DeLay), but what's interesting to me is how beholden and grateful Matthews feels to DeLay for giving him "the scoop" on DeLay's resignation announcement. (Matthews announced he was the first with the news and is clearly very proud of the fact.) "I owe you one," Matthews says to his bound-for-the-slammer guest, and then says, I guess figuring just "one" didn't go far enough to fully account for his gratitude, "I owe you two."

I wonder what Chris means by this. By owing him "two", does that mean he's going to help Tom paint his house one day, and then wash his car? Help him move? Or does he mean that he'll go easy on him on Hardball when the jury comes back with a guilty verdict for DeLay? Or that after Tom serves out his eventual slap-on-the-wrist prison term, Chris Matthews will talk up his re-election chances when he tries to return to Congress? Or maybe, if something really awful comes out of the trial, Hardball will either softpedal it, stay neutral on it, or ignore it altogether, you know, in deference to Tom. This kind of arrangement seems a little too clubby for me, and diminishes, I think, the role of the press as fair and independent critics of those in power. How can we be assured that Matthews (and others in the press) will be good-faith critics of government for the American people when it's obvious they'd give their first-born child for a good "scoop" or a big "get". I don't know. Maybe it's just Matthews. He's been saying increasingly weird things of late, things like Joe McCarthy was right about a Communist infiltration of our government and culture. Ann Coulter-type stuff. I'll keep an eye out.

Also, DeLay does reveal his own misogyny when Matthews starts talking about some focus group surveys regarding leading Democratic contenders for President in 2008. About Hillary Clinton the focus group said, "she's a know-it-all". In the clip, DeLay responds by saying, "Nothing worse than a woman know-it-all." Yikes. Aren't all "know-it-alls" equally annoying, male and female? I guess that Tom, (like most southern Republican politicians of the fundamentalist Christian variety), prefers that his women know "just enough and nothing more." Why do I get the sense that when DeLay says he doesn't like female "know-it-alls", he really means "smart women"?

Anyway. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cleaning House, Mamet's "The Unit", McTiernan Busted, and Diet Coke Doesn't Cause Cancer!

I cleaned my apartment today. I don't mean I just picked up my dirty clothes off the floor and made the bed -- I pulled this place apart and put it back together again with nothing more than good ole'-fashioned elbow grease (and a variety of cleaning products). I mopped, I scrubbed toilets and bathtubs, dusted, scrubbed and sanitized counters, windexed mirrors, vacuumed, sterilized the cat's bathroom and eating area, and then I did laundry on top of all that. I'm not saying all this because I want everyone to give me a cookie, but because this is just about the only thing I did today. I have not a thought in my head. All I can think about is the sweet oblivion of sleep between fresh clean sheets. So I'll talk about the one thing I did that wasn't cleaning, and then two things I read on-line just before I started this post. Then I'll be done. Let's begin.

As I was folding underwear, I watched the last half hour of the new David Mamet-produced TV show on CBS called "The Unit". It's actually not bad: Dennis Haysbert (the black president from "24") is always fun to watch and the writing's not bad. Though it has that "CBS look" which sucks. I think Les Moonves must have seen a desaturated episode of "CSI" and said, "I want all of my 1-hour dramas to look like that!" And so they do. I don't get it. These shows have big budgets, talented DPs, why do they still insist on making their finished image look like every other show on that awful, fear-mongering network? Why do they make it look only as good as "TV"? HBO's stuff looks like it could play in a theater, most of the time Lost looks as good as some studio releases, so what's going on with CBS?

Also, before I get to the reason for the Diet Coke photo, John McTiernan, the brilliant director of Die Hard, Predator, and Hunt for Red October, was charged yesterday with lying to the FBI. It has to do with that whole Anthony Pellicano wiretapping thing that's been going on in Los Angeles for years but had been way to boring for me to actually follow. But now this makes it interesting. McTiernan was one of the top directors back in the 80's, but totally lost whatever mojo he had by producing utter crap like The 13th Warrior and Rollerball. I don't want to prejudge anything, but it looks like he's still chugging along on the downward trajectory of his career because he's working on something called Crash Bandits (not to be confused with the PS game "Crash BandiCOOT") which is described as "an action-adventure ... which involves the hunt for treasure aboard a plane downed in the jungle." National Treasure meets Predator sans alien? Doesn't sound like McTiernan's triumphant return to decent filmmaking. Oh well.

And finally, like manna from Heaven, this story falls from the sky into my life. It takes the fear away, and makes me want to live again. Aspertame, the sugar substitute in Diet Coke that makes it a low-cal drink, does not cause cancer. I'm in the clear, dudes! I read this on-line a little while ago and announced to Peggy, triumphantly, "I can drink Diet Coke without fear!" To which she said, "You've been drinking it anyway." To which I said, "Yes, but with fear!" I don't have to be afraid anymore. I can drink liters of the stuff everyday without worry some pulsating tumor is going to appear on my neck years down the line and cut off the flow of blood to my brain. This is great news and I thought I'd share.

All done. More tomorrow.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Cincinnati, Red as All Get Out, Loves Them Some Bush. Also, Barry "The Incredible Bulk" Bonds, Should Get Out of the Game

Today was the opening day of a new season of Major League Baseball. And you know what that means: the Commander-in-Chief gets to throw out yet another ceremonial first pitch. Bush got a standing ovation in Cincinatti, Ohio when he came out to the mound to do just that in the Reds' home ballpark today. A standing ovation. Nationally, this dude's got 36% approval, which means if Bush were magically able to throw out a first pitch in that mythical place called Anytown, USA, only about a third of the people would have clapped. But in Cincinatti, he gets a standing O from about everybody. You know, you hear stories about how red Cincinatti is, but it takes something like this to really drive home the point: these people are conservaTIVE. (Sorry, Shawn -- I feel for you. Though I'm sure, if Bush were to take the mound at Turner Field here in Atlanta, he'd get a standing ovation, too. If you're white and hail from a southern state in this country, percentage-wise anyway, it's a likely thing you're a Bush-supporter.) But, even still, it looks like Bush and his handlers, even in Cincinatti, were worried about a tepid response from the opening day crowd, so, accompanying him out onto the field, were "two injured soldiers and a father who lost his son in Afghanistan." Try and boo that, Cincinatti. I dare you. Sometimes I think Bush is more afraid of being embarrassed than I am, which is saying something.

Anyway, the other part of the MSNBC story concerns fans' first reaction to Barry Bonds coming to the plate in the regular season since a new book detailing his steroid use came out (the Giants' season opener was down in San Diego). He got himself some boos from the crowd, and deservedly so. One fan even threw a syringe out onto the field. Fantastic. The aforementioned book, entitled Game of Shadows, was written by two San Francisco Chronicle sportswriters, and it apparently lays out in exacting detail years of steroid abuse by Barry Bonds (as well as Jason Giambi) at a place called Balco. Last week, Bud Selig, the Commisioner of Baseball, hired former Senator George Mitchell to run an investigation into the allegations made in the book.

I know some of this urgency on the part of the MLB stems from the fact that Bonds is only 6 or 7 home-runs away from breaking Babe Ruth's record. That'll be a big black eye on baseball if The Incredible Bulk breaks it, and Selig is, I think, trying to keep it from happening. But how sweeping is this supposed house-cleaning going to be? Are they just working to get Bonds out of the game and then relax? Are they going to get his record straightened out? My main question is this: what about Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa?

They were obvious steroid users, too. Sammy Sosa took the "no ingles" defense when he testified before Congress, using a translator to deliver his non-answers, and Maguire did little better by answering Senator's questions about his own steroid use with, "I'm not here to talk about the past." Which is basically like pleading the 5th without actually using those words. So Maguire and Sosa get to keep their crazy, steroid and HGH-fueled homerun tallies but Bonds is likely to get run out of the sport altogether? I'm not saying Bonds doesn't deserve it, but why is it that Maguire gets to escape a similar fate?

Is it because neither St. Louis nor Chicago have super reporters that can spend 15-months on the trail of their pharmaceutical misdeeds like Bonds had? Or, in Maguire's case, is it because he's retired from the sport and not a threat to sacred cows like Ruth, and later on Aaron? I think part of the reason storm clouds are swirling over Bonds's head right now is because nobody likes the guy. He's been a miserable sonofabitch to any fan brave enough to give him an opportunity, he's surly with reporters of all stripes, distant and uncommunicative with his teammates, and now he's trying to beat the Holiest of All Holy Records by cheating with steroids. Could part of the reason Maguire and Sosa are, in all liklihood, going to escape the wrath of Major League Baseball be because they're nicer guys?

The punishment that's almost assuredly coming to Bonds won't be MLB's attempt to scapegoat a single player for the sins of the entire sport; it'll be more like karmic retribution. Maybe years of being a sonofabitch are about to come back and bite him in the ass. But putting Bonds aside for a moment, if Selig and Major League Baseball were really serious about wiping the slate clean after the Steroid Era, were really serious about setting the official record straight, they'd investigate the nice guys who cheated, too. The cheating nice guys being Maguire and Sosa (among others). They're just as famous as Bonds, their records are just as tarnished. If it's possible, I hope the investigation Mitchell is leading can pinpoint the time these guys started using and either asterick the hell out of every stat after that, or erase them entirely. In short, yeah, get Bonds out, but be serious and get the other guys, too.

Also, great news: Tom DeLay's not running for re-election. I guess fighting all those felony charges is going to take more time than he expected. Darn. All right, I'm out.