Wednesday, February 28, 2007


According to A.P., President Bush will veto the new "September 11 antiterror bill."

Yes, you've read that correctly. Bush will veto a bill. As you may know, that would be his second veto in 6+ years, after he put the kabbosh on a bill to fund stem cell research last fall. But let's read even deeper, shall we. Bush will veto a bill . . . which contains the words "September 11" and "antiterror" in its name!

I'm shocked. This would be like FDR vetoing a bit of New Deal Legislation, or Lincoln rejecting Congressional authorization to mobilize against the rebelling Confederate States. Because I'm not sure I've ever heard Bush speak about anything without referencing the day on which he failed us, or the all-encompassing "war" he declared upon a quasi-military tactic not long after that day.

So why, oh why, would he decide to veto this bit of legislatin'? Because the bill contains a provision that . . .
permits airport screeners to unionize.
That's it. Nothing more. No banning of the Bible. Nothing about forced abortions, or mandatory gay marriage. No oaths of fealty to Osama, or admonitions to pronounce "nuclear" as "nuke-lee-er." Nah, none of that. Just a chance to guarantee collective bargaining rights for the incompetent schmucks that make you take your shoes off at the airport.

That's as far as I'm gonna wade into the labor relations aspect of this stupid story. But I just want to hear the Administration's explanations as to why it's rejecting antiterror legislation. Why it's putting it's own ideology regarding labor & unions over National Security.

Afterall, we're At War, right?

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Ok. So I finally followed the advice of fellow bloggers, as well as the Orwellian "suggestions" that eminate from the world of Google. That's correct, I switched to the New Blogger.

And while I can now access comments using Firefox, I still can't access my own profile, or the profile of anyone else. WTF???

Whatever. Just ignore me as I mutter and moan and groan and grimace. Arrrggghhhh.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007


As you may have noticed, my "comments" function isn't working today. Blogger seems to be buggy today, in general. And, the ancient version I use -- let's call it BloggerClassic, as opposed to Blogger Beta or New Blogger -- is being affected in the comments arena.

So I will request that my teeming hordes of readers exhibit patience. Hopefully the comments will be back so you can commune & communicate. In the meantime, try to resist the urge to riot. Destroying things won't help anyone.

(Except Halliburton, which could earn billions rebuilding. But they never give me my cut, so fuck 'em.)
Update -- 4:40 pm: On IE, everything seems peachy keen. So don't blame Blogger, blame Bill. You know what? Blame anyone you want, just not me.
Update # 2 -- 4:49 pm: And the comments are still down when I browse with Firefox. This is what I was talking about last month. Fucking Microsoft.


According to Reuters, the results of a recent pan-European poll reveal that 87% of Europeans are "happy."

And in order to "remedy this historically inconsistent state of affairs," the leaders of Germany, France, The United Kingdom, Russia, and Italy have announced their joint, Five Nation Plan to begin a continent-wide war of destruction immediately.


Sometimes a story supplies its own punchline. This may be one of those.

Seems that a jaguar at a Denver zoo attacked and killed his handler yesterday. And no, that's not the joke. I'm irreverent, but I'm not a total prick. The "humor" comes from the names that zoo keepers gave to the killer jaguar and his "meaner" twin brother:
[the] twin was so mean that his handlers named him Osama . . . Osama was always the more dominant of the two, he was always rough with Jorge [the killer jaguar].
Yikes. And why did they name him Jorge, which is the Spanish variant for George? He was named for "President Bush." As zoo keepers explained:
[Osama] was always rough with Jorge. That was the relationship we saw between them. Jorge wasn't bad, really. I don't know what could have happened. Perhaps because he was so well-behaved, the trainer (in Denver) thought she could trust him. But you never know with wild animals.

Monday, February 26, 2007


1. Marty finally won. Good. Now let's never hear the words "Scorsese" and "Academy Awards" together again, ok? GoodFellas, no Oscar; Departed, Oscar? I'm supposed to use this information to form what conclusion, exactly?

2. Ellen DeGeneris did a nice job piercing the terminal seriousness, pompousity, and self-importance of the nominees. Nicely-done. And she did it wearing pants, which was also nicely-done for a number of reasons, most of which I'm not discussing here.

Scratch that, I'm not discussing any of the reasons.

3. Forrest Whitaker. Whoa.

Great actor, helluva career. I was happy for him that he won. But let's just agree that letting that man on television without a well-edited script may not be a good idea.

(And if he must appear without a script, how about a large dose of tranquilizer beforehand?)

4. Clint: less tranquilizer for you though.

5. Every male between the ages of birth and death knows there'd be no better fate on earth than just to be Jack. Icon of cool, every hot women in movie history at your choosing, front row seats at major sporting events, hanging with Scorsese & Coppola back stage. Little lacking in this man's life.

And then, as if such a life was not bounty enough, after turning 70, he can show up to a major, internationally-viewed media event with a shaved head and sunglasses. While making crazy faces and muttering occasionally.

And no one seems to find anything strange about it. That's a life. And, while I'm offering my opinions here, I believe in 2008 when he's inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rickey Henderson will reveal to us that he and Jack Nicholson are, in fact, the same person.

6. Jackie Earle Haley? Not sure he rocked the bald/sunglasses thing at quite the same level. But he nailed the "crazy face" part. And since he was a mutterer non-pareil in Bad News Bears 30 years ago, I'm saying we shouldn't give up on him just yet.

7. Ok. I'll admit it: I'm scared of Forrest Whitaker now. If someone called me up and said, "Forrest Whitaker thinks you're the best. He wants to meet you and discuss multi-billion dollar movie deals and screenplay ideas," I'm gonna have to pass. Tell him I have to shave or change my socks or something.

Did he maybe internalize the whole Idi Amin thing a bit too much? Maybe he really is more Charles Jefferson than Ghost Dog. (Which says something, doesn't it? My example of the non-scary Forrest Whitaker role is a professional killer.) Perhaps he's not the great actor we all think. Maybe he's just crazy.

If he shows up next year sporting the bald/sunglasses look, I'm not batting an eyelash.

8. Does Jack Black make people laugh at a funeral? Do people look at him between the eulogies and tears, and just start cracking up? I bet he looks funny when he sleeps.

9. Am I the only one who thinks that as the years go by Jodie Foster and Melissa Etheridge begin to look alike?

10. And speaking of Etheridge, how many fundies just fell over and died when she referred to her "wife."

But they shouldn't have been watching anyway. Why would they tune in for the night when liberal, elitist Hollywood celebrates itself. I don't watch the Daytona 500.


Surely you know by now. Here it is:

"1569," uploaded by "ericjcarman" on August 31, 2005:

Where mockumentary stage props go after they retire (aka, Banshees-Living-Well Zone).

Friday, February 23, 2007


The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same.

I assume someone famous is responsible for that quotation, but I'll be damned if I know who. And you know what? It's unimportant to our purposes to know who. The quotation itself is pretty unimportant, but I figured that leading off with a famous bon mot would lend an air of gravitas to the proceedings.

Or something like that. And why do "the proceedings" need this bon mot-gravitas loaner? I'm not sure about that either. Jeez, what's with the questions?

Anyway, there is a change afoot with the Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. It's been long in the making, I've hinted at it repeatedly, and today the chickens come home to roost (or the ducks come back to the pond . . . wait, or is it the fish returning to the barrel? The swallows to Capistrano?). You see, the thing is, I've pretty much run out of the very films that launched this ludicrous conceit in the first place: silly, cheesy, or pre-campy films of the 70s and very early 80s that I actually saw and liked as a kid. I've been doing this since August, and it's not getting any easier.

So, since the franchise has survived the journey into television, the introduction of movies that actually remained watchable into adulthood, a leap across the border into the 80s, and even the inclusion of a television Christmas special, the FSMOMYOTD now makes its boldest move yet: movies that were actually popular when they came out. Good box office, good reviews (potentially, but highly unlikely), cultural icons even. I can't hold out any longer. I want to, but I can't.

So, I plan to bring the same appreciation of goofy 70's hijinks, a love of the ridiculous and the sublime that moved me as a lad. Oh, and I assure you, these movies will continue to be silly. Very silly. Enough explanation, let's get to it. Ladies & gentleman, your new-fangled Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of the Day:

Smokey And The Bandit.

1977. The hair was long, the blouses were flouncy, the cars guzzled gas and occasionally went as fast as they sounded. And, believe it or not, CBs and Cowboy hats. And most unbelievably, Burt Reynolds. He was an A-list actor. He was the A-list actor. Anyone who was not alive and kicking in the 70s will have a hard time understanding how this mustacheoed, toupee-wearing, good ole boy was the biggest movie star in the world.

All I can say is this was the 70's. Explain the popularity of wide lapels, the Bay City Rollers, Jimmy "J.J." Walker, and white athletic socks pulled up to the knees, and then you can turn to Burt Reynolds. Til then, let's just roll with the facts as presented. Because as the 70s ended, and lapels got narrow, the Bay City Rollers went back to Glasgow or wherever the hell they came from, and socks drooped to the ankles, Burt's career turned towards the region of the country from which he came.

(That'd be the South.)

Hooper and Gator and Cannonball Run and Paternity. Yikes. And as we'll see below, it got even worse before P.T. Anderson rescued him in 1997. And come to think of it, while there were a few kids in school in '77-'78 with iron-on t-shirts featuring trucks and hot rods and CB expressions like "10-4 good buddy," or "we got a bear in the air and a beaver in the cab," or whatnot, by 1980 or '81 these were gone too. Man the seventies were a strange decade.

But back to the cars. It's funny. For about 15 years I've been the consummate New Yorker right down to owning zero automobiles since 1991. I know jack shit about cars built since 1990. But as a suburban kid, I was car-crazy. Couldn't wait to drive, and from about 6 until I turned 16 I looked at them, played Matchbox cars in imitation of driving them, rode my bike as if it were a car, read magazines about them, thought about which one I'd own (as if they'd be unchanged in 7 years).

And I liked Trans Ams. The Corvette was called a sports car, but by the late 70's they were looking cumbersome while still trying for sleekness. Camaros looked ok. But the Trans Am? The Trans Am had a spoiler. And a fake air intake on the hood. And a cheeeeeeeee-zzzzzzzzzy Phoenix/Pterodactyl painted on the hood. The Trans Am also painted its engine displacement on the car as well: 6.6 liters, which was about 400 cubic inches. It was the late-70's American muscle car. It didn't look sleek, it looked strong.

And I wanted one. Among the station wagons and 4-door Impalas, very little stood out in the late 70's. The foreign cars were somewhat rare and fairly crappy looking. Most of the American cars were crappy, period. Vans were cool only if custom-painted and boasting that convex, porthole window in the upper rear corner (and in my mind, every "custom van" had a burning joint and a naked chick in back. Being 1977, this is probably accurate). But at 9 or 10 years-old I couldn't really give a crap about most of that. I wanted muscle. I wanted to look at cars that looked fast: Mustang Mach II Fastbacks, for instance, which looking back now are the stupidest looking shit ever put on the road. Or Dodge Chargers. And of course Trans Ams.

And Burt Reynolds drove a black Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit. Once I knew that fact, it was my favorite movie. And then I saw it. And with car chases, smashed-up cop cars, pretty girls (including Sally Field, for crissakes, looking good. No wonder Burt added her to his collection at that time), hilarity from Jackie Gleason, and an impossible slow motion leap over a river from a rickety wooden bridge. Love, I tell you. Love. Not with Sally, not with Burt, not even with the Trans Am. But with the whole concept.

Which included, of course, The Great One being great. Gleason was funny in Smokey and the Bandit. Very funny. Since the late 70's, the only time I recall watching the entire movie was a hungover morning with some friends at the beach back in the summer of '94, I'd guess. Could easily have been any year between '92 and '97, but I'm sticking with '94. Whatever, doesn't matter. What matters is what we liked. Burt's goofy stylings? Not so good. Sally? We knew what the next 17 years brought, including the ever-mocked "you really like me" Oscar acceptance speech. Uh-uh. The car chases? 1977 film car chases aren't so hot when you're in your 20s. And hungover. Pretty silly.

But Jackie Gleason? Oh my. I especially liked his constant referrals to parts of his rapidly deteriorating police car as "evidence." None of his lines look very good as written (and they probably weren't), but man, did he sell them. Take him out of the movie and it's barely over the Cannonball Run line. But he was in it, so it's way over the line, and I'm writing about it in 2007. That's how these things go. Let's see who else fueled-up this baby. Smokey didn't have the huge cast we usually have, but some notable characters:

Paul Williams. He was ubiquitous for a few years there. One of those guys who always seemed to be on Johnnie. Or Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin. Guaranteed to appear (and probably perform) at the Oscars, the Emmy's, the Super Bowl, and the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Plus, he looked about 12 years-old, based on his height and boyish face. Which always made it hard for me to understand how he was considered some kind of musically important figure. (The fact that all his songs were sappy dreck also may have added to that.)

Playing his father in Smokey was Pat McCormick, who might have been 14 feet taller and weighed approximately 1,000 pounds more than Williams. And that was the joke, you get it? Big father, small son. Comic genius!

I never could figure out what McCormick was. Like Williams, he was constantly on talk shows and roasts and award shows, and all that jazz. But unlike Williams, who ostensibly had musical talent (and was distinctively short), McCormick was just tall, fat, and extremely unfunny. Anyone have any ideas here?

Joe Klecko was in Smokey. Which makes two FSMOMYOTDs in a row with NY Jets connections. As always, I tell you it's all connected.

Fred Lerner, who had years of work as a stuntman, later played the crazy guy in Dazed & Confused who tried to shoot the lads after they took down his mailbox. He was also a guard in Die Hard. Mel Pape managed to find his way into Smokey And The Bandit Part 3, as well as The Sting II. Amazingly, however, he appeared in Caddyshack, but not Caddyshack II. Bum.

Incidentally, Jackie Gleason, himself, was in Smokey And The Bandit Part 3 and The Sting II. But neither of the Caddyshacks.

Many of the third-rate nobodies who played the bit parts and uncredited roles in Smokey and the Bandit were also in some of Burt's "late career" flicks. Alfie Wise, for instance, was in Hooper, Cannonball Run, Paternity, The End, Stroker Ace, Heat, City Heat, and even the television show, "B.L. Stryker." Unfortunately for Hollywood's A list actor of the 1970's, he too appeared in all these projects. And also like Burt, Alfie Wise was in 1974's The Longest Yard. And I'm gonna guess that Wise was happy to parlay that appearence into constant work in the above-mentioned films a decade later. Burt? Not so much.

Scott Thompson played Arnold in Fast Times At Ridgemont High. You may remember Arnold -- the nerdy guy that Judge Reinhold hooked up with a job at All-American Burger. If you know your Fast Times, you know that Arnold was in the shitter, leaving Reinhold's Brad to fend for himself with the obnoxious customer and Dennis, his back-stabbing boss. It was a devastating moment in the film, leading directly to Brad's temporary tailspin, including the horrific "Pirate's Outfit" Episode.

That All-American Burger "firing scene" still makes me angry. Such injustice! (But -- and this would be one of the 5 greatest "Buts" in movie history -- Brad's tailspin also included his ill-advised decision to wack-off in the bathroom with the door unlocked. That scene contained no injustice. Just Phoebe in her bikini, dripping wet, her lucious body . . . you know I always wanted you, Mike. {Cue "Moving In Stereo." Lock bathroom door . . .})

Oh, you're still here? Ok . . . let's get back to the Smokey cast. Luckily, that bastard Thompson was paid back with a career's-worth of bad karma for his role in Brad's undeserved downfall: roles in Police Academy, Police Academy 3, and Police Academy 4. And perhaps worst of all, Casual Sex? With Victoria Jackson and Andrew Dice Clay.

Fuck with Brad Hamilton and get away with it? I don't think so.

Hank Worden managed to find his way into not only Burt Reynold's late-70s & early 80s career embarrassments, but Clint Eastwood's as well: Every Which Way But Loose and Bronco Billy, for instance. And it wasn't just Dirty Harry and a clownish orangutan. No sir. He also worked with The BeeGees, Steven Tyler, and even Keith Carradine: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.

But, to end on a high note, he was also in True Grit, The Searchers, Red River, Fort Apache and Stagecoach, so he also worked quite a bit with The Duke, predecessor of Eastwood & even Reynolds to a degree. His first film was 1935's Barbary Coast, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Edward G. Robinson, and his final work came in four episodes of "Twin Peaks" in 1990 & 1991. From Howard Hawks to John Ford to David Lynch over 55 years, with Wayne, Reynolds, Eastwood . . . and the BeeGees along the way.

I think we have to give Hank this week's "Wow, That's A Film Career" Award. Because Burt's not getting it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Well here's a headline you don't see everyday:
Two Clowns Shot Dead At Circus
Now, to the facts, as reported by Reuters:

1. It happened in Colombia. Colombians shoot their own soccer players, so maybe this isn't so weird down there. Maybe clowning is a top-10 "dangerous job" in Colombia, up there with cocaine cartel chief, police officer, and soccer player.

2. Shakira, who own the title "Most Dangerous Ass On Earth," is Colombian. I'm not sure that explains anything about clowns getting shot at the circus, but it seems important.

(Oh, and before you google "Shakira most dangerous ass on earth," I warn you that the only hit sure to match your search will be to this blog.)

3. Most importantly, Police Chief Jose Humberto Henao assured the press that, "The killings had nothing to do with the show the victims were performing at the time of the incident."

This will surely come as a relief to all Colombian clowns who are considered "good" at what they do. Up-and-comers still working on their clowning skills, however, may be less assured.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Straight from the "You've Got To Be Kidding Me Files," we learn from A.P. that now kids have a new way to learn about the dangers of obesity. And tips on how to avoid it! Just how are the children gonna get this knowledge?

By playing a video game, of course:

The game, "Body Mechanics," teaches youngsters how to avoid the ravages of being overweight. Gamers join a team of superheroes called Body Mechanics and war against the Evil Coalition of Harm and Disease, battling villains with names like Col Estorol and Betes II. The fighting takes place inside the body of Jack Decayd. If Obeez City is not contained, "Jack will die soon," says Neuro, the Yoda-like wise one who narrates the action. "I remember how it started. A few snacks here, a soft drink there," Neuro says in an ominous tone during the opening. "And before we knew it, the Evil Coalition of Harm and Disease was threatening us all." Neuro then makes his plea: "You must join the team of heroic Body Mechanics. They need your help in order to gain the knowledge necessary to save Jack's life. Only you can change how this story ends."

Just shoot me now.


Word from those in the know says that The Freedom Tower being built!

Yeah, right.

According to AP, New York's new Governor, Eliot Spitzer, has "signed off" on construction of the 1776 foot Freedom Tower.


For those not scoring at home, this now makes 1776 promises of "starting construction" in the five years and five months since the original towers came down. I don't care about promises or predictions. I just say . . .

Build Something! A tower, an office building, a 15 story apartment complex, a delicatessen, a T-Mobile shop, I don't care. Just get rid of that fucking hole in the ground.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I saw a pretty incredible film this weekend: Gillo Pontecorvo's Battle Of Algiers, from 1966. I'd heard a bit about it since it was "re-released" in 2004, hearing mostly how it was relevant to the current situation in Iraq. The Pentagon actually screened it in 2003. That's right, The Pentagon. In addition to its other strengths, the film seems to be a very accurate portrayal of modern, middle-eastern, urban guerrilla warfare.

The film works effectively on the political level, as an intelligent, carefully constructed piece of pro-Algerian propaganda. It's also a measured look at the tolls and trials of guerrilla warfare, from both sides. Issues of colonialism, terror and insurgency, torture, anti-terrorism tactics, the role of the innocent on both sides, all of these are topical & relevant today. The movie speaks to the viewer eloquently on those topics. Neither the characters on screen, nor we who watch them, have their intelligence insulted at any point. I can't think of another work of art that explores urban insurgency as well as Battle Of Algiers. And that's the real reason I'm writing about it.

Because the film is a Masterpiece. It's that good.

On one hand, the film captures everything through a near-documentary lens. When the film was released, Pontecorvo made sure to inform viewers that all action was staged, created, produced, acted-out. No newsreel footage. This message is needed. It looks like newsreel. The action seems real. The scenes of Algiers and its exotic Muslim quarter, the Casbah, are obviously authentic. You, the viewer, are there, you're in Algiers. It's an invigorating film experience. Hand-held cameras, in-your-face realism, almost all non-professional actors. It moves, it shakes, it breathes. It's a living film.

I'm not sure if anyone else has commented on this, but to my eyes, Fernando Meirelles seems to have studied Battle Of Algiers before making his amazing City Of God, one of my favorite films of this decade. The combo of camera-in-the-action photography, plus an almost cartoonish concentration on the action (as opposed to day-to-day banalities) reminds me of City Of God. And with its subtitles to introduce dates, locations, and other key facts, it even reminds me of Goodfellas, or the slew of 90's films that borrowed from Scorsese's filmic bible to move the action. Like Meirelles in City Of God, Pontecorvo takes a violent, ugly story and refuses to let you forget that bad things happen . . . to some very innocent people: women & children die, commit crimes, suffer.

But -- and this is one of the two or three keys to the movie's greatness -- like Meirelles' movie, Battle Of Algiers is exciting. It's fast-paced, stirring cinema. Hell, I'll say it: it's fun to watch, even as human tragedy plays itself out. The consequences aren't fun, but the film is. And even the realism of war is portrayed with a keen eye for the intrigue, the suspense, the literally explosive action. That paradox helps to drive the film onward. It's a thrilling ride through a tragic story.

And it is tragic. The violence is "cartoonish" only in that it's relentless, constant, ever-present. But unlike any cartoon, the suffering is real. Pontecorvo's camera captures torture, bombs exploding in civilian centers, homes destroyed, innocent civilians gunned down on the street in cold blood. But the camera is ever in motion, the eye into the characters' motivations is voyeuristic, the narrative doesn't slow. It's not a documentary or a news piece. It's a film, and a beautifully-made one at that. Which is why it's both ugly and stirring, fascinating & repulsive, romantic & cynical all at once. I don't really understand how Pontecorvo was able to pull it off. But he did.

One reason it works is the unabashed use of emotion. Some of the images, scenes, and set-pieces (think of the final scene if you've seen it) are aimed straight at the heart. Crowds, torture, children, the film makes use of the devices at its disposal. The music was composed by Ennio Morricone. Coming out the same year as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, this score evokes less pathos, and Pontecorvo utilizes it more sparingly than Leone (obviously!), but its aim at the viewer's heart is clear.

And beneath the gritty realism, the film has an epic quality. Much of this flows from that same unabashed emotionalism. Battle Of Algiers is a deeply romantic story, as all tales of Revolution need be. Regardless of your opinions about the politics of this chapter in history, you can't help but be shaken as a captured women yells, her voice quivering, "But in the Casbah, Ali LePoint lives!" The characters commit gruesome acts, embrace the horrible truths of war, but do them for emotional reasons. As the French Colonel observes, "The FLN [Algeria's Nationalist Movement] wants to throw us out of Algeria. We want to stay."

Coldly rational . . . in support of an emotional view of what belongs to whom.

Which leads finally to the very best quality in Battle Of Algiers: the unjaundiced, objective eye it turns on the two sides. Both the French paratroopers and the Algerian insurgents engage in almost cynical acts that result in the deaths of innocents. Yet the film insists on showing us that both sides are composed of heroic soldiers, committed to their duty in defending their cause and fighting "the enemy" with bravery and decisiveness. Colonel Mathieu, the French officer in charge of the anti-insurgency, sees the Algerians as a military enemy. In fact, one of the finest scenes occurs as he answers the French media's aggressive questions. While Pontecorvo clearly agrees with much of the anti-torture sentiment of the press, he is careful to "give the Colonel" a chance to explain himself:
"We aren't madmen or sadists, gentlemen. Those who call us Fascists today, forget the contribution that many of us made to the Resistance. Those who call us Nazis, don't know that among us there are survivors of Dachau and Buchenwald. We are soldiers and our only duty is to win."
He then asks the reporters the resounding question which leaves them scrambling for an answer: "Should we remain in Algeria? If you answer 'yes,' then you must accept all the necessary consequences."

This exchange follows Colonel Mathieu's expression of admiration & respect for the FLN leader, a man he captured, and has likely ordered to be executed. But this paradox is meant to shock you. Mathieu does respect him & he knows that the perfect counterpoint to his own view is found in the words of the captured rebel leader, as he responds to reporters' questions regarding the FLN's use of women's bags to hide bombs:
"And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on defenseless villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets."
Right? No. Wrong? What does that mean in war? Realpolitik rules the day, defeating morality & humanism in a rout. That's the concept that Battle Of Algiers understands better than any war movie I've ever seen. It's all "wrong." But so is the enemy. And give him the advantage in wrongness, and you'll lose.

In an astonishing sequence in the middle of the film, the camera follows three young Algerian women as they trim their hair, don Western garb, and stealthily enter the European quarter to plant high-powered bombs. At one especially wrenching moment, the audience -- knowing what's coming -- watches one of the girls calmly look into the faces of the doomed dancing teenagers, highball-sipping businessmen, and even a toddler with an ice cream cone. It's harrowing, but it feels real, in no way manipulated.

An amazing feat for a propaganda film. And of course the next scenes show the French paratroopers responding to the bombings with equally indiscriminate barbarity. Sympathy for the Algerians or not, Pontecorvo does not let us forget the astonishing toll of this kind of warfare. As should be clear, I strongly advise you to see this movie if you haven't yet. No matter what your feelings about the Algerian War, the current war, or war in general, you'll be moved. By the story, by the beautifully-filmed scenes, by the characters, and most of all by the film itself. This is a great one.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Happy . . . uhhh, President's Day. I never got this one. It's Washington's Birthday, but not really? Or it's Lincoln's birthday, but only the official celebration? Never made sense.

I've got nothing against a three day weekend in the middle of February (thought I'd give it up for an extra one in June), but I don't understand what we're "celebrating."

I really don't get it. Far as I can tell, Abe was born February 12, and George on the 22nd. Am I right so far? Then, we decide that whichever Monday comes most evenly between the 12th & 22nd will be a day off? Is that how it works? But what about this year, when one of the birthday's (Abe's) actually falls on a Monday. Why not have "Presidents" Day on the actual birthday if we're able? Why should this sound radical?

I open the floor to any and all thoughts from my geeky gang of readers. I really want to understand this, and I'd rather hear all manner of folk tales and urban legends before actually trying to look up the answer.


You know the drill.

"167-6754_IMG," uploaded by "Planet Janet 111" on November 11, 2006:

And you thought squirrels were a problem for your garden gnomes.

Friday, February 16, 2007


Sorry. No Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day today folks. Please feel free to choose (and even accept) one of the following excuses:

1. My dog ate it.
2. I'm hungover after meeting an old work friend last night.
3. I have no idea what movie to do this week.
4. My operating system crashed.
5. Al Qaeda

At any rate, I feel it's my solemn duty to supply you with movie-related comedy on Friday morning, so here's a great clip from the Marx Brothers' 1933 classic, Duck Soup. Make sure you watch from the 2 minute point on, for one of the funniest musical segments I've ever seen. Absolute craziness. Plus, Zeppo is in there, as is Margaret Dumont:

In one of those seemingly coincidental occurences that sprinkle their way across life, within of few days of choosing The Kentucky Fried Movie as FSMOMYOTD back in December, this arrived from my Netflix queue. And the line of comedy that inspired KFM goes right back to the Marx Brothers.

I'd never seen Duck Soup, and I'm amazed I made it this long. I saw Monkey Business on TCM a few months ago, and found their anarchic shenanigans very appealing, very funny, and so . . . somehow modern to me. And if you've never watched one of the Marx Brothers' earlier, Paramount films, you'll have to trust me: it's the embrace of utter chaos, a sense that at any moment, the whole thing could just careen off the road that's so appealing to a modern, comedic sensibility. Think of Elliot Gould's Trapper in MASH: always irreverent in the face of danger and authority. Groucho went down that road many years earlier.

Of course, like any gifted comics, the chaos is perfectly choreographed, planned to perfection. The anarchy and at time, meanness, of their capers, is infused by a joyous energy, as if to say, "Come on board; this is the most enjoyable ride you'll get today." Cool stuff. Duck Soup is really quite funny.

And if you haven't checked out the YouTube clip, I recommend it.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


So according to A.P., the test for United States Citizenship is changing. Instead of just a series of questions testing the applicants' rote memorization skills, the new test apparently will "make applicants think about questions." Because thinking is such a valued skill in 21st century America. For example, one of the questions will ask, "What does the judicial branch do?"

Interesting. The article gives three sample answers -- "reviews and explains laws," "resolves disputes between parties" and "decides if a law goes against the Constitution" -- but those are incorrect. The correct answer on the 2007 America Citizenship Test to the question, "What does the judicial branch do?" is "Elect the President."

I'm lucky enough to have seen a few of the other questions, and I give you a sneak peak. Hmmm, let's see, which one? No, too easy. No. How about this one:
14. The Constitution is . . .
a. America's chief legal document
b. George Bush's favorite toilet paper since Charmin went to "quilted."
c. A symbolic piece of parchment that looks really impressive as a background for websites, museum displays, and televised news stories.
d. One of three props in Dick Cheney's "White House Basement Satanism Festivals."
Damn, that is difficult. It does require thinking. It's got the "trap" answer, the one people get tricked into choosing (a), plus a couple that seem correct even if you're not sure (b) & (c). But since Bush doesn't shit from his anus, preferring to eliminate orally/verbally, (b) is also a trick question, & (c) makes the false assumption that "televised news stories" acknowledge the Constitution. The answer, therefor, is (d).

How about this one, this is tricky:
25. America is . . .
a. The City on the Hill
b. The Beacon of Freedom for the World
c. An ass-kicking military powerhouse
d. The force behind most of the world's economic growth
Damn, that's freakin' hard! A lot of people will answer (a), but that's clearly wrong: America is a country, not a city. Dumb-ass immigrants, learn the fucking language! And "Beacon of Freedom" can't be correct because it's a metaphor, and Americans don't understand or use poetic devices and all that shit. What is this, the British citizenship test? Finally, (d) looks good, but is incorrect: American-owned global corporations are the engine of economic growth. The correct answer is (c). It doesn't say anything about whose ass gets kicked.

Hmmm, no that's an easy one. How about this one, looks pretty tough:
71. Frederick Douglass was . . .
a. A slave
b. An abolitionist
c. The NBA's first superstar
d. One of three props in Dick Cheney's "White House Basement Satanism Festivals."
Once again, this is hard. In this case, because two answers are correct, it's just a matter of finding the best one. (b) is obviously wrong, partly because controversial topics like gay marriage, contraception, abolition, and other types of baby-killing don't belong on citizenship tests. A lot of folks would be tempted to answer (a), but that's because the damn liberals are always trying to blame the past. Slavery ended over 500 years ago people, when George Washington signed the Emaciation Promulgation. And while (c) & (d) are both correct, (d) isn't as good, because Cheney likes to keep things secret if he can. (c) is the right answer. And Frederick Douglass jerseys are on sale in the front of the testing section. They're available in red, white & blue; in black; in purple; and in honor of Black History Month, in red, yellow & green. Please buy one on your way out.
80. American Citizenship is . . .
a. A privilege
b. A right
c. Something we grant to mud people and heathens to supply cheap labor from time-to-time
d. Purely symbolic at this point, and we can & will take it away when we feel like anyhow.
Ok, that one was easy, I'll admit. I just wanted to show you that not every question was a brain-twister. (a) & (b) are obviously wrong because they deal with abstractions, and that kind of crap. What is this, the goddamn French citizenship test? And (c) looks correct, but it more accurately describes American policy about "illegal immigrants," something those taking this test understand easily. (d) is right.

Finally, let's look at this one:
94. The Executive Branch is . . .
a. The scientific term for the largest limb on an oak tree.
b. The name Americans use to describe the Noble Greatness of their Emperor.
c. One of the Three Parts of the Federal Government as defined in the Constitution
d. Coming to whack you over the head, motherfucker.
Man, they don't get any easier, do they? (d) is right, but is it as right as the others? No, so it can't be the correct choice. (a) may be right, but it sounds like science, and we Americans don't do that shit. Again with the foreign. What is this now, the Japanese Citizenship Test? (c) uses that term "Constitution," which we discovered in question 14 was a prop for the Vice-President's "White House Basement Satanism Festivals." Will you wacko-leftists stop with the obsession with Cheney & the White House basement already!

The correct answer, of course, is (b). Now please go to the swearing-in room, to take the oath of citizenship upon the picture of the glorious Emperor. And be prepared to give your fingerprints, your photo, a sample of your hair, an imprint of your face, and 1 oz. of either saliva, genital secretions, stomach acid or sweat. Thank-you, and please proceed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I fucking hate Valentine's Day.

Yeah, that's certainly a vestige of my lamer days in years past when I had no one upon whom to lavish expensive gifts, sicky-sweet chocolates, and $5 roses. But I've been married now for 7 1/2 years and you know what?

I still fucking hate Valentine's Day. More than ever.

Because instead of pining away, wallowing in my loserishness because I have no lady-most-fair to spend my money on in hopes of getting a little action, now I do have a lady-most-fair to spend my money on. And I still don't get any action on Valentine's Day.

Which feels normal after a long run of fallow February Fourteenths throughout my twenties. I actually had one very successful Valentine's Day, about 11 or 12 years ago, where I had the incredibly good fortune to have not one, but two lovelies awaiting my February affections on that chocolate-covered holiday. One was the girl I was . . . let's say, "dating" at the time. And the other was a "friend" who was so distraught at not having a V-Day beau that she deigned to hit the town with me that eve. It worked out rather well from my perspective, that much I'll say. The details were nice, but I won't enumerate them here. I'm a gentleman.

(And I also have an equal interest in my manly & virile reputation and my own honesty, so a conflict awaits if I start talking too much. Use your imaginations. I guarantee it's twice as exciting as the truth)

Anyhow, Mrs. Mike & I decided last week that we'd avoid the crap and "skip" Valentine's Day this year. I still got her a little gift that's more in the line of what she likes the other 364 days of the year, as opposed to what she's been programmed to want on this one day. Which is good, actually. That way if she forgets our "deal" and gets mad at me tonight for being cheap & unromantic it'll feel . . . normal. Routine.

And if I go to bed without showering her with my Valentinish love, well that'll be pretty standard as well. Either way, I can't lose.


A little humor to start you off today. This excerpt comes from Whoops, by Mike Sacks, over at McSweeney's (H/T Rickey Henderson):

To: All Staff
9:12 AM
Subject: Whoops, Sorry About That Last E-Mail! I'd just like to apologize for the last e-mail, which I sent to "All Staff." I meant to send it to my friend Alex Stafford. It was a mistake. Sorry.

- - - -

To: All Staff
10:14 AM
Subject: Clarification on Apology E-Mail! I want to apologize for not being entirely clear in my last e-mail. Let me try to be more specific: Originally, I was attempting to send my friend Alex Stafford (not All Staff) an e-mail on horses and how I've always liked to watch horses run. I then made a leap into the realm of the imaginary. Again, I do apologize.

I encourage you to read on. It's very funny, in a bizarre way. Especially if you like stories about horses, mythical horses, female co-workers in oddly compromising positions, and/or combos of all three.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


It's still too early for me to get into a full-fledged post about the Mets, but as pitchers & catchers show up, my mind does turn inevitably to those sub-tropical climes where said P's & C's start getting loose.

And here's what's on my mind: soon-to-be 41 year-old Tom Glavine; soon-to-be 141 year-old El Duque, John Maine, Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, Aaron Sele, and Chan Ho Park.

(The last two, by the way, haven't been any good at all since 2001.)

Anyone else worried?


In today's Curmugeon Alert, I have to ask "And this is newsworthy why, exactly?" AP is actually reporting that:
Middlebury College history students are no longer allowed to use Wikipedia in preparing class papers. The school's history department recently adopted a policy that says it's OK to consult the popular online encyclopedia, but that it can't be cited as an authoritative source by students.
Now, don't expect a line of Wikipedia-bashing here. I love Wikipedia, and I've never understood some folks' need to rip on it. It's a useful source of information, and with footnotes and citations, readers can determine for themselves whether the entries are reputable or not.

That said, above the middle-school level, when has an encyclopedia ever been an acceptable source in an academic paper? And Middlebury -- party school though it may be -- is a little bit higher than a middle school. It's college! College students have never been allowed to use Encyclopedia Britannica as a source for papers, so why the surprise regarding Wikipedia?

Though I'd love to meet the clown who used it in his paper.

(Hey, I admitted I'm a curmugeon here.)


Researchers claim that a brief, midday nap makes you live longer. Sounds good to me.

I'm the master of the work-place stealth nap. I just swing my chair around so it faces away from the door, slump down a bit so my head is below the chair back, and let 'er rip. If I can get up to close the door first I'll do so, but everyone knows that if you get up for any reason at that key "sliding into sleep point," you can lose your chance. And then you'll just be slumping with your eyes closed, without getting any sleep. No good -- not worth the lost time, not worth the risk of detection.

Incidentally, the turn-the-chair-around technique isn't only to avoid detection -- which isn't that big a deal when you think about it. No, no, no. It also helps to hide those embarrassing things we do when we nap: spasmatic kicking, head bobbing, drooling, snoring, farting, muttering, what have you. I mastered my method years ago when I had an officemate, so you can bet my skills are unparalleled. No bullshit: it took him months to realize what I was up to every time I spun that chair around.

The brief feeling of confusion & foggy-headedness in the momnets after you wake is unpleasant, but within about 3-5 minutes, I'm re-charged, and ready to rock the rest of the afternoon away.

And that ends this public service announcement.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Monday morning, Tom explains.

"1610.jpeg," uploaded by "starcityphoto" on August 12, 2006:

Highlander Hamish was indignant, and showed the skeptics exactly where clan ancestors gave him permission to wear a skirt when hiking through peat moss bogs.

Satisfied with his proof, the crowd now demanded evidence of the "no-underwear" & "brazilian wax" rules Hamish cited
and demonstrated repeatedly.

Friday, February 09, 2007


Friday. Ladies and Gents, your Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day:

Flash Gordon

Ten to twenty years before Hollywood caught the bug for making semi-campy to completely-campy comic book hero films, Flash Gordon came and went in a blink of an eye. As seems to be the case for most of these Friday flicks, this was a complete bomb when it came out, but has reached "cult movie" status in the ensuing 27 years. Now I'll admit I didn't see it when it was in theaters. But I caught bits and pieces on cable during the 80's, and I figure I've seen the entire movie in some piecemeal way. More importantly, I know I saw the coming attractions when it was in release, and this is an essential point: because, without question, I recall this line, when Flash introduces himself to whichever villain he faces:
Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets.
That's right. Thaaaaaaaat's right. New. York. Jets. And with that, let's set the stage: 1980. I was a Jet fan, a big one, with a capital J (and an E-T-S, if you're so inclined). The real Jets quarterback that season was none other than the Human Pick-Off, Richard Todd, a big, blonde goofball who tossed a whopping 30 interceptions as he led the Jets to a 4-12 record, including a shameful loss to the New Orleans Saints. The same 1980 Saints who sported an 0-14 record before coming into Shea Stadium, one day after my 13th birthday, to earn their sole victory of the season.

(And who quarterbacked the 1980 Saints? Of course, none other than Archie Manning, father of "Super Bowl" Peyton and "Back Foot" Eli. Incidentally, for anyone who cares, the following week saw my Jets beat the hated Dolphins at the Orange Bowl in the famous No Announcers game. And with that mind-numbing array of trivial trivia, that ends the sports portion of our programming.)

Flash Gordon should have been behind center on that squad. So you can imagine why I was excited seeing a coming attraction featuring a big, blonde goofball introducing himself as the Jets quarterback. I was psyched. I was impressed. Yet I still didn't see the movie. Why? I have no idea.

And too bad I didn't, as it actually featured Max von Sidow as Ming the Merciless, and the gorgeous Ornella Muti as his daughter, Princess Aura. It was campily funny, with some cheesy-good lines, and the crazy plot you'd expect from a 1980 remake of a classic movie-adventure series from the 30's, with Flash as a football player. As I said, I never saw it in one sitting, and even then I don't remember thinking much of it either way.

Oh, and did I mention that Queen composed & performed the score? Like I said, it's under the definition of "camp" in the movie dictionary.

And, as always, what an odd cast. Let's get to it:

I mentioned Max von Sidow. I also mentioned Ornella Muti (she'd be the gorgeous one -- I'm serious, do a google image search. Even when she has clothes on, you can see that she's got just an exquisite face. And the rest of her ain't too shabby either). She appeared mostly in Italian films, but somehow she found herself in 1991's ghastly Oscar, as the preposterously-named Sofia Provolone, mother of Lisa Provolone, played by Marisa Tomei. And who directed that disaster? FSMOMYOTD regular, John Landis.

Timothy Dalton, better known as James Bond #4, also appeared in Flash Gordon as Prince Barin. To my surprise, Dalton's acting career extends back to 1967, when he played the King of France in The Lion In Winter. He actually continued in a bunch of classically-themed films right into the early-70's, before branching out. And by the late 70's, the branching was successful as he appeared in an episode of "Charlie's Angels." Following Flash Gordon, he spent the next 7 years doing fussy BBC shit until he somehow got cast as Bond for 1987's The Living Daylights. I'm perplexed.

And so were viewers, apparently, as he did only one more 007 movie, before returning to the Masterpiece Theater-ish gar-bage.

Mariangela Melato, who played "Kala" in Flash Gordon, is best known as the rich bitch who's "tamed" & seduced by Giancarlo Giannini's working-class manliness in Lina Wertmuller's 1974 production of Swept Away. It's an odd movie, with nearly Marxist class-consciousness. It also exhibits a swaggering machismo, best exemplified by the positive view of the way Giannini slaps, hair-pulls, bullies, and fucks Melato into the "real" woman she always wanted to be, underneath her aristocratic trappings. And, as you may have noted, it was directed by a woman. Issues anyone?

It's actually a quality piece of work, even though some of the scenes where Giannini abuses Melato are pretty disturbing. I can't imagine it being on the list of films in a Feminist Theory 101 class. (As we know, Guy Ritchie remade it in 2002 with his wife Madonna in the Melato role, and Giannini's son Adriano as the working-class hero. And that's all I have to say about that.)

In this week's "No Fucking Way!" casting entry, award-winning playwright and screenwriter John Osborne, famous as one of England's "Angry Young Men," and author of Look Back In Anger, somehow managed to find himself in Flash Gordon as "Arborian Priest."

I have no idea.

As longtime fans of the FSMOMYOTD know, there's never been a shortage of midgets & dwarves here. From Charles Silvern in The Warriors, to Felix Silla in The Kentucky Fried Movie, we make sure to save a seat (at the children's table) for the little people. Why? Well, for a lot of reasons, but mostly for shits & giggles, because if you can't laugh at a 3-and-a-half foot tall guy, what can you laugh at?

Well, guess what? Playing "Princess Aura's Pet, Fellini," in Flash Gordon, was none other than Deep Roy, who ended up playing every goddamn Oompah-Loompah in Tim Burton's 2005 version of Willie Wonka. And though -- amazingly -- he didn't play one of those fucking Ewoks, he was in Return of the Jedi, as "Droopy McCool."

Three observations, then we'll move along: (1) Deep Roy would pretty much have to be the name for porn's first dwarf star, wouldn't it?; (2) Playing Ornella Muti's pet doesn't sound like a bad gig at all; and (3) anyone who tries to argue that the 2005 version of Willie Wonka deserves to be MENTIONED in the same sentence as the 1971 original is hereby banned from this site.

(And yes, I'm aware that I just mentioned it in the same sentence, but I can't ban myself from my own blog, now can I? CAN I??? Ok, and since we've settled that, no more on it.)

And you know what? We're not even done with the dwarves! Because in addition to Deep Roy's star turn as Princess Aura's pet, there were ten more dwarf actors who played . . . uhhhh "Dwarves" in Flash Gordon. Among these dwarves? Kenny Baker, who played R2-D2. And the other nine managed to share screen time in Time Bandits, the original Willy Wonka, Jedi, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Roger Rabbit, History of the World, Part I, and just about every other film Hollywood has made that foisted eternal, celluloid humiliation upon these unfortunates.

As I said a few months ago about Felix Silla: it's gotta suck being a dwarf.

And, guess what? It gets even weirder. Richard O'Brien was in Flash Gordon as "Fico." Richard O'Brien, you ask? Ohhhh, you know him. Think of a hump. And a strange way of walking. And maybe just a jump to the left. And then a step to the righ-igh-igh-igh-igh-ight. Put your hands on your . . . yup, Riff Raff. And you may know that O'Brien not only played Frankenfurter's handyman in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but he wrote its script & music!

I also see that O'Brien made his way into 1998's Dark City, which has a pretty impressive little cast of its own. I didn't see it, but it seemed to be well-received. Anyone? Nevertheless, that's not important here. What is important is that O'Brien played "Mr. Hand" in that one. And as any FSMOMYOTD fan knows, there is only one Mr. Hand, and he was played by Ray Walston, goddamn it!

Aloha, Mr. Hand, indeed! The man's a screen legend, can we let him rest in peace? Jeez, next thing you know some modern-day football player not named Lawrence Taylor is gonna start calling himself LT.

John Morton, who played "Airline Pilot," had the kind of acting career we've come to love & embrace in these posts. He was in a mere six movies, but those included Superman II, The Empire Strikes Back (as Dak, Luke's gunner), A Bridge Too Far (a film that included every actor in the history of film, which is 12 actors less than appeared in 1941), and even a FSMOMYOTD, The Gumball Rally.

Meanwhile, Morton's "Airline Co-Pilot" in Flash Gordon, Burnell Tucker, was also in Empire Strikes Back, as a Rebel Officer, plus the original Star Wars, The Shining, 2001: A Space Odessey, Rollerball, The Omen, and Superman. Oh my.

And, as if we weren't already prepared to drop to our knees in honor of that resume -- uncredited roles & bit parts notwithstanding -- I'd like to point out that he was in Lifeforce. So he got to see Mathilda May walk around naked in person.

Ok, now we can drop to our knees and meditate upon this career. Ohhhhhmmmmmmm.

Wait! Maybe too soon. Get up. Because John Hollis -- Klytus Observer No. 2 in Flash Gordon -- was also in Empire Strikes Back, Superman, and Superman II. But he's dead, unlike Tucker, so maybe Hollis can get a moment of silence as Tucker gets the genuflection. Oh whatever, do whatever the hell you want: kneel down, stand up, touch your toes, remain silent, scream from the rooftops, I don't care. You don't even have to wait for me to say Simon Sez.

(Just don't call anyone other than Lawrence Taylor "LT" and we're cool.)

Finally, we have Derek Lyons. He was uncredited as "Arborian Priest Assistant," meaning he acted with John Osborne in this one. Lyons was a true film nobody who nonetheless seems to have built an entire career playing uncredited parts in a bunch of movies we've all seen: Star Wars, Superman II (of course; that's the recurring theme of the day), Gandhi, The Shining, Quadrophenia, Top Secret!, and 47 others.

And as far as I can tell, he's not even a dwarf. Maybe he even got to play Ornella Muti's "pet" between scenes, without having to be three-foot-six. Who needs "credits" in that case?

Thursday, February 08, 2007


A few days ago, I discussed my deep sense of revulsion when I read that no fewer than 182 species of bacteria lived on my skin. Well, maybe I should reconsider:
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley said women who sniffed a chemical found in male sweat experienced elevated levels of an important hormone, along with higher sexual arousal, faster heart rate and other effects.
Seems that one of those 182 knows just what he's doing. Maybe those idiotic Axe ads are on to something after all. And perhaps that old-fashioned tradition of a shower before heading out for a night of parties and/or bar-hopping isn't the way to go for those single, swinging bachelors among us.

Take note, fellas.


I haven't even read the article, and I'm not terribly interested in what it says. But based on recent "events," this headline is bound to get everyone's comic gears turning:
Astronauts Start Third Spacewalk
Anyone wanna take a stab at filling in the news to fit the headline? Neither the blogger nor the readers here are easily offended, so don't be afraid to dig deep.


As the world contends further with some of the paramount questions of our time -- global warming, dependence on fossil fuels, and the pressures of globalization upon those two concerns -- help appears to be on the way:

The super-duper, splendid jumbo jet, the French-made A380 is readier than ever! So it's . . . actually ready? Not quite, but man is it gonna be good when it is. A few of its special features and amenities:
The interior is roomy, and economy seats leave ample elbow room in the 540-seat demonstration cabin fitted by Airbus . . . Airlines Qantas, Emirates and Singapore Airlines plan to go further, fitting the plane with fewer than 500 seats to give each passenger more space.
Ok, so far, so good. How about "the custom features planned by airlines" including "onboard casinos, beauty salons and even hot tubs"? Well, Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy admits that there may be:
"a little bit of hype. The reality will be lounges, the reality will be duty free shops where you can generate some extra revenue," although an unidentified carrier "has already installed a shower in first class."
It's not enough they get free drinks served by smiling young ladies, now they get showers? Do the flight attendants clean them? Leahy also told reporters that:
"We have a lot of interest in the aircraft, despite all the problems we had last year . . . It's a game-changing airplane. The only minor problem is that we couldn't build it on time."
Like the game-changing professional athlete who's only minor problem is that he's never healthy enough to play. I'm taking his word on the plane's success. Despite the delays that have left Airbus's customers in the lurch, Leahy told reporters that:
"All those customers, all of whom have cancellation rights on this program, have decided not to cancel."
Finally, as discussed by Airbus's chief engineer:

The A380 may be an "engineer-driven" program that "will not make a penny for the next 10 years," but that does not mean it will not be a commercial success for decades after that. "Like the 747, it should be operating for the next 40 years. The demand is definitely there — this isn't another Concorde."

No profits for 10 years, yet a commercial success. I want this guy to do my books. And my only question at this point: will we have fuel to fly the damn things in 40 years . . . assuming they're ready in 40 years?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


A.P. is reporting on the law suit & other legal wrangling surrounding unreleased tapes of Jerry Garcia recordings.

I'm not even gonna try to wade into the legal issues here. Not interested. But I find it very . . . sad: Jerry was part of a group known for allowing taping & trading of all the music they ever played live. As an unapologetic Dead Head in my youth, I know this is not the sort of thing he'd have wanted. Jerry made a lot of money, and never apologized for it, this is true. But he knew that the best way to make money on one's music was to get it played & heard.

Plus, capitalist though he might have been, he cared about The Music. I'm quite certain he felt that recordings belonged in the stereo, not in a vault.


Apparently, scientists have discovered a colony of rare birds, thought to be on the verge of extinction. And what species of bird is it? Vulture.

And in what country did the scientists find this colony? Cambodia.

No way, not me. Uh-uh, I'm not going there.

(I'm not. There are lines even I won't cross.)


According to food blogger Adam Kuban (someone get him a dictionary and a map), a trans-continental hubbub is brewing over the divisive question that has haunted Americans throughout our proud history:
Which state of the union invented the hamburger?
Yup. Seems that in a Second Civil War (or War of Northern Aggression for those of us stuck pre-1865), Texas state legislator Betty Brown and the friggin mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, John DeStefano, Jr., are exchanging slings, arrows, and wads of taxpayer dollars trying to convince the other to give up the fight & admit that the other state is the birthplace of the burger. According to DeStefano (who presides over a city that egomaniacally claims to be the birthplace of the frisbee, the padlock, football & pizza, as well as the hamburger):
It's a well-known and established fact that New Haven is the home of the hamburger. In fact, New Haven's claim to the hamburger is even supported and documented in the Library of Congress.
Yeah, great John, but it's even more well-known and established that your city is the home to urban blight, high-crime rates, insufferably snobby university students, and the last stop on one of New York's Metro-North commuter lines. And you don't even have a major sports team in your whole state. Plus, New Haven's where George Bush was born & Michael Bolton grew up. A 9 oz. burger made from ground rib-eye, oozing cheddar, and covered with fried onions and 4 strips of bacon ain't making up for those unfortunate truths, Johnny.

And Betty's from Texas. I'm sure we can find a few embarrassing facts to throw at her too. George Bush lives there now when he's not in DC, and I'm gonna bet that Bolton's been there at least a couple times.

As to the question of the birthplace of the burger, with competeing claims of New Haven in 1895 & Athens, Texas in "the late 1880's"? We're not exactly talking about the home of an architectural wonder, or the drafting of a legal document still binding to this day. Hell, it's not even the site of a famous sporting event or crowd-rousing speech, where the geeks among us (read: Me) can "feel the history," or something like that. No!

We're talking about a patty of ground meat that becomes rotten & maggot-infested in two days, let along 110 years. It's not meant to be revered as a relic. It's for eating. Immediately. Before it gets cold (and more importantly, before the goddamn fries get cold. I swear, if my fries are cold because of this dumb debate, someone's suffering for it, and it won't be pretty).

The real tragedy of course, is the inventor's failure to name the food after his own city, and not some place in Germany. The whole fight could've been avoided. We'd have The New Havener or The Athenian, or maybe even The Texan, which has a nice ring to it considering the ingredient. Simple.

As food blogger Adam Kuban could surely explain, there's no doubt as to the birthplace of the delicious Cuban Sandwich. Though he may stumble on the spelling.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


According to Reuters, there are 182 species of bacteria living on my skin.

I know they say it's normal and all that shit, but I think I'm ready to retch.


No, that's not Nick Nolte to the left, that's USN Captain Lisa Nowak of Houston, an astronaut who actually flew on a Space Shuttle mission last July. And why is she appearing in embarrassing mug shots across the newspages of America's home computers?

Well, let's just say this picture may end up being the least embarrassing thing in her life the past few days. Seems that Capt. Nowak has been charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence, and battery in a caper involving love triangles, unrequited affections, deep space affairs, and Depends undergarments. Confused? Me too, but let's take a closer look, shall we?
* According to Capt. Nowak, she and fellow Space Shuttle astronaut, Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, shared an involvement which was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship."
Uhhh, isn't that called "friends"? Not quite! I've studied Crazy Spurned LoverSpeak, so I can translate: Oefelein knew Nowak wanted his deep space bones, but rejected her advances, leaving her as little more than a space suit-wearing stalker in his life. Even though we've gotta assume these flyboys experience that sort of thing all the time, a triangle has three points, so there's more:
* Capt. Nowak believed Colleen Shipman was romantically involved with Cmdr. Oefelein, and when she heard that Shipman was flying from Houston to Orlando she sprung into action.
And what'd she do? Why the only thing she could:
* Nowak drove from Houston to Orlando -- wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop to urinate -- so she could confront Shipman.
I'm guessing that after driving 900 miles wearing diapers to confront a woman you've never met because you heard she was having an affair with the man you're obsessed with . . . well, there's little else to do to complete the spiral at that point. And Nowak did not disappoint:
* Sporting a wig and a trench coat, Nowak followed Shipman onto an airport bus to the parking lot.
After following Shipman to her car, the sordid tale finally took the direction we'd expect:
* Nowak first knocked on Shipman's window, tried to open the car door, and asked for a ride. Shipman refused, but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying. Nowak responded by spraying a chemical into the car.
Nowak claims she merely wanted to talk to Shipman, to understand the nature of her relationship with the popular Oefelein. Now I'll admit I often open conversations with complete strangers by spraying chemicals into their eyes, but I'm a New Yorker and you know how rude we tend to be. I'm not sure that's how they do it in Orlando.

And, of course, the following items Novak was carrying ain't gonna help her case either:
* a wig, a BB gun, a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600, and garbage bags inside another bag.
And come to think of it, I don't think the prosecuting attorney is planning to suppress the rest of the evidence cops discovered in Nowak's car at a nearby motel:
* a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves, an opened package for a buck knife, e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein, a letter "that indicated how much Mrs. Nowak loved Mr. Oefelein," Shipman's home address, and hand written directions to the address.
Ouch. NASA, baby! America's best & brightest.

And as if this whole tale wasn't bizarre & depressing enough, Novak is "married with three children." Anyone know a good therapist in the Houston area? Better schedule three different time slots for the next 10 years.

Monday, February 05, 2007


My head being even less clear than usual, a couple very brief thoughts on yesterday's game (if you have to ask, "What game," I advise you to skip this post):

* What the hell was up with that pre-game show? Not that I have any objections to a bunch of motley-wearing acrobats tumbling around the gridiron with balloons or anything, but is it possible that the perfect antonym to "American Football" is "French Circus"?

* And to complete the "Mike Tiptoes Precariously Close To Accusations Of Neanderthalia" portion of this post, weren't there a lot of ads yesterday that hinged around, let's call it, "Lifestyle" or orientation? If 2000 was the Dot-Com Bowl, yesterday may have been the Gay Bowl.

And there really isn't anything wrong with that. I'm just saying. Come to think of it, if it pissed off large swaths of red state America, then I like it. More French circuses, more men sucking the opposite sides of a Snickers bar. More of Janet Jackson's floppy . . . hmmm, maybe not that far.

* Has a quarterback ever thrown a more comical collection of horrible passes than Rex Grossman did yesterday?

* Peyton got the monkey off his back. Good. Now can we hear nothing more about him until next fall? And come to think of it, not just the monkey. Let's hear nothing more about Peyton either.

* Dungy coached a helluva run this post-season. With all the excellent regular seasons he's already compliled, he really climbed in the rankings this year.

* Less than two months til opening day. And then the real season that matters is upon us. Ohhhhh, yeah.


As always, Tom from If I Ran The Zoo organizes & explains.

"IMG_3459," uploaded by "The Chaninator" on November 7, 2006:

They call me Cash Money, homes, an' Imma' 'splain to you . . . What? 4 dollas ain't a lot? The hell it ain't. Imma' 'splain something else now . . .

Friday, February 02, 2007


Let's try to keep it lean & mean today. Try. So, in honor of leanness & meanness, let's let Dee Dee count it off, and get to it: One-two-three-four . . .

The Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day:

Used Cars

Oh, it's silly. But not because it was "bad," or "cheesy," or because it's especially dated. No, it's actually damn funny, and I highly recommend checking it out. I saw it as recently as two years ago, and as I did as a 12 year-old . . .

I loved it. Good stuff.

But it is silly, and therefore qualifies for this series, because of the plot: two brothers, the good one dies, the goofy dudes that worked for the good brother try to save his used car shop from the bad brother, blah, blah, blah. And the goofy dudes get caught claiming in advertisements that they have "miles of cars" on the lot, which they don't, so they need to get hundreds of cars onto to the lot by a certain time to avoid a lawsuit and loss of the shop, and you get the idea. Silly.

1980. Good year for comedy movies. But Used Cars wasn't a hit. And it fell into obscurity pretty quickly. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the hoopla surrounding The Blues Brothers, and following a few months after Airplane! But in much the same vain as those two, it's a very funny movie, very chaotic, very rebellious, and it comes from a very unlikely source: Robert Zemeckis, who later gave us the fun, but slick, Back To The Future movies & Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

He also gave us Forrest Gump.

That's really the stark comparison. Used Cars belongs on the grid of those late 70's/early 80's antihero comedies where anarchy reigned, authority figures were knocked from their pedestals, and halter tops were doffed with abandon. Unlike Forrest Gump or Marty McFly (or even Hoskins' character in Roger Rabbit), the protagonists in Used Cars aren't really "good" guys. They're selfish, they're petty, they're not trustworthy. But like Otter or Jake & Elwood or John Winger, they're also charismatic & funny & cool, so the audience sympathizes with them despite the trail of broken hearts, empty wallets, smashed cars, & humiliated innocents they leave in their wake. See the flick.

For instance (and once again, keep in mind this is Robert Zemeckis), here are a few choice quotations:
Rudy: You've seen how bad business is. We had nun; nuns, protesting in front of the dealership this morning.
Jeff: Nuns?
Rudy: Yeah. I had to get Jim to turn the fire hose on them.
Big Jim: Yeah. And I knocked them motherfuckers on they asses, too.
I'm not saying it's the funniest line in the movie. It's not. But that just about sums up the spirit. Reverential it ain't. 1980 may have an "8" in it, but the 80's hadn't quite started. And Zemeckis hadn't yet turned into the pussy we'd later get to know & hate. Anyway . . .

Let's get to The Cast: Comedy regulars (and FSMOMYOTD alums, from 1941) Joe Flaherty & Michael McKean. Also Betty Thomas, a name I remember seeing a lot of in those days, & uncredited, archival footage of Jimmy Carter, U.S. President at the time.

Kurt Russell was great as sleezy, womanizing, shallow & selfish used car salesman, Rudy Russo. I'm not sure that Russell ever really pulled off comedy besides this one. But you can smell the snake-oil through your screen. He oozes. It's good.

The great Jack Warden as good/bad brothers, Luke & Roy L. Fuchs. We lost Jack last summer, at the age of 85. But what a career: the sports fan-juror in 12 Angry Men; George Halas in Brian's Song; in Shampoo he played Lester, the man who saw not only his wife, but also his mistress & his daughter, fall under the spell (and into the bed) of Warren Beatty's wily ways; plus Being There, All The President's Men, and many others. Warden was always hilarious as he played that standard, angry-but-bumbling growler. In Used Cars he played his standard, angry-but-bumbling growler. Who uses an exceptional array of foul language. Laughs couldn't have been far behind. And they weren't.

Al Lewis, better known as Grandpa Munster, as well as a regular Green Party candidate for various N.Y. public offices including governor, was very funny as Hanging Judge H.H. Harrison. Imagine it, and I guarantee you're right.

Gerrit Graham also turned in an excellent performance as Russell's sidekick, the superstition-crippled Jeff. It's hard to believe he didn't do much else of note in his career, because if you've seen this movie you know he was quite good. Not a star, but more than enough to establish a solid career as a character/comic actor. Before Used Cars he had a couple TV roles in "Laverne & Shirley" and "Barretta," but no big movies to speak of. And after Used Cars, he did nothing that I can see. A few more TV roles here & there.

Wait, wait, what's this? Oh, he had an appearence in Police Academy 6: City Under Siege. I take it back; his career was a success.

David L. Lander was "Squiggy" on "Laverne & Shirley," where he was friends with Michael McKean's "Lenny," of course. And when you consider that Gerrit Graham also showed up on that one, we had ourselves a veritable L&S reunion in Used Cars. Schlemiel, sclemazel, hassen . . yeah, like I gonna try to spell that shit out. Right.

If memory serves me right (a very dubious proposition), Lander & McKean played a couple dumb & clueless technicians trying to break into the feed to a football game so Graham could wreak televised havoc on Bad Brother Warden's used car lot. Think of Bob & Doug McKenzie's turn as baggage handlers on the train in Trading Places (*** Update: or, as Otto Man suggests, think of Al Franken & Tom Davis, the guys who actually played the baggage handlers. Can I get a D'Oh!***). Same spirit. The boys hadn't come far from Lenny & Squiggy at that point. Yet 15 years later, McKean had established himself not only as a regular in Christopher Guest's troupe, but as David St. Hubbins, for crissakes!

And in 1994 & 1996, Lander played "Squiggy" on SNL. Oops. Can I have this career over again?

Meanwhile Penny Marshall became a director, while Cindy Williams . . . uhhh, Cindy Williams . . . . Any help? She still with us? The world of "Laverne & Shirley" didn't lead to egalitarian pastures. Anyone seen the guy who played Carmine lately?

Kirk's love interest in Used Cars was the fetching blonde, Deborah Harmon, best known for . . . well, she's not well-known for anything. She managed to find her way into episodes of "M*A*S*H," "Night Court," "St. Elsewhere" and others, plus small and/or uncredited roles in Bachelor Party & Back To The Future. But like Gerrit Graham, nothing much followed. Not even skinamax or the de rigeur Penthouse spread.

But . . . 1980 Penthouse Pet of the Year Cheryl Rixon was in Used Cars. And it wasn't for her acting talents, of that I can assure you. Want proof? Well, here's a line from the movie, as a young boy sees some interesting stuff on the TV screen after Graham's Jeff succeeded in tapping into the football game's feed:
Al's Kid: [pointing at the television] Hey look. Bare tits.
Bare. Tits. Two of the language's finer words. And even finer when strung together.

Within 3 years of Used Cars, Michael Talbot found himself in First Blood, Uncommon Valor, and lest you think he stuck only to testosterone-fueled flicks, in Vacation, as well. He played "Cowboy" in that one, which isn't ringing a bell. Anyone?

In today's "Well, that's random" entry, Alfonso Arau, director of the chick flick-disguised-as-foreign-art film "classic," Like Water For Chocolate, appeared in Used Cars as "Manuel."

No, I don't have anything else to say about that.

Woodrow Parfrey, another of the many actors I've never heard of, played an elderly driving instructor in Used Cars. Earlier on he appeared in Bronco Billy, The Outlaw Josie Wales, and Dirty Harry, which completes the Clint portion of his career. He was also in Papillon, and before that he played "Dr. Maximus" in Planet of the Apes. Plus, he was on dozens of classic television shows at one time or another: "Get Smart," "The Mod Squad," "Batman," "The Munsters," "Combat!," "Hogan's Heroes," the list goes on. Not bad. I must have seen him 30 times, yet I can't picture his face at all. Yet, you know that if I saw him on some random movie, I'd instantly "recognize" him as a regular.

Or something like that.

Dub Taylor played a character named "Cannonball" in 51 different westerns between 1939 & 1949! Talk about type-casting. He also managed to appear in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in 1939, Bonnie & Clyde in 1967, and Back To The Future, Part III in 1990. He was also in 1941, but since every other actor in the history of movies was as well, that's of little consequence.

Dan Barrows, whoever he is, managed to appear in Private Lessons and The Beach Girls in the early 80's. Ohhhhh my. I don't remember him, but I remember watching those two flicks. And I remember exactly what I was doing as I watched.

(Frankly, you could probably pick any moment of any day between 1981 & 1984 where I wasn't in class or asleep, and chances are I can tell you exactly what I was doing. It'd be a guess, but a very educated one I assure you. But with Private Lessons & The Beach Girls, I don't even need the crutch of "chances are." I know. And that ends the always popular "Mike's Teenaged Masturbation Habits" portion of our program. Now back to the movie.)

Barrows was also in the great Eating Raoul which, now that I think of it, has FSMOMYOTD potential written all over. Hmmm. Rounding it off, Barrows was in Billy Jack, which seems to appear in these posts as if by decree. Remember, it's all connected.

Marc McClure, who also saw action in Back To The Future as "Dave McFly," and the first two Superman movies as Jimmy Olsen, managed somehow to appear in both 1976's and 2003's Freaky Friday. I'm gonna go out on a limb and declare that's not the way he saw it all playing out when he was cast in the first one 31 years ago. No sir.

(And it's worse: he played "Boris" both times.)

Used Cars featured an actress named Jan Sandwich. That's it, nothing else about her.

No really, that's it. (C'mon, don't tell me I'm the only one who thinks that name is at least a little bit funny.)

Dick Miller, who played "Man in Bed" in Used Cars deserves a little digression here. I'm sure we all remember The Wolf saving the day for Jules, Vince & Jimmy in Pulp Fiction. Perhaps most of us recall that he and the boys brought the two tainted cars, and Marvin's headless body, to "Monster Joe's," a scrap yard somewhere in The Valley. And plenty of us know that The Wolf ended up taking Monster Joe's daughter for breakfast, as Jules & Vince went to the diner for a muffin & bacon, respectively.

And this has what to do with this Dick Miller guy, you ask. Well, who do you think "played" "Monster Joe," a character whose scenes were apparently filmed, but ultimately deleted from Tarantino's final cut? That's right, Dick Miller. And, of course, he was also in 1941. And so was Rita Taggert who played "Woman in Bed" in Used Cars.

Finally, Dave Adams deserves mention only because he was in Chopper Chicks In Zombietown, which may just be my favorite movie title of all time. I've never seen it, and I don't plan to. But what a title.

But I have seen Used Cars, and I plan to see it again if it comes on. And you should too.