Sunday, February 29, 2004

Elect a God

The good folk at have a new feature which tracks the top gods. I know I have quite a few atheists who visit this page but at the moment all the top gods are Greeks (and Loki). How boring is that? Help push an obscure Aztec god up the charts.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

My Katie, My Kevin

I mentioned this on the Covington blog and realized that many people haven't heard this story (and I'm guessing most of the others don't have all the details).

Years ago as a grad student at UC, I met a girl named Katie. She was into many of the same stuff as me--Three Stooges, SF, Star Trek, general geek interests. She was also surprisingly good looking (horrible foreshadowing) with deep red hair and a great body. . .what could go wrong?

I was working on a public access comedy show and needed a sample hot babe so I asked her if she'd do a few parts. She played a nude model (not really but blocked to look like it--more foreshadowing) which pushed my "ask-out" button.

Things didn't go as well as I'd hoped. After a couple months, we'd talked a lot but had virtually no physically contact (more, more foreshadowing)--mainly going to dinner and movies (one of which was The Crying Game--horrible irony).

She turned out to be extremely religiously and yet hyper-PC which kept matters cool (not to mention with nothing going on but tight-lipped kissing). She was adamant about all non-Christians going to hell and she defined Christian as only those who thought exactly like her. A couple of fights and make-ups. Then she moved back to her parents at the end of the school year without a formal break-up.

A while later I began going out with another girl (now wife) and felt incredibly guilty if Katie would come back to town thinking we were still together. I asked about her to a UC grad student who taught with me at NKU and he said cryptically, "She's changed."

After a few months of wondering, I heard a mutual old friend mention "Kevin." "Oh, you didn't know." Uncomfortable pause.

Katie had mentioned that she'd been put up for adoption shortly after birth and never knew her real parents. That might have been because she had male and female genitalia.

No more guilt. Just feeling weird. Felt a little better about my new girlfriend already having a kid (all parts must be in order).

I never saw Katie's plumbing so I don't know how things exactly worked but she bought tampons and was well-developed so somehow estrogen must have been produced (Could she just have bought tampons as a ruse? Maybe.) I asked my cousin who is a doctor and he said, "True hermaphrodites are very rare but do happen."

As awkward as it might have been to find out, I wish we'd been more physical. I've filmed several naked men reading poetry and been in situations arguably as high on the alternative scale than hugs and weak kisses. Would I be a cooler person with a mixed/same-sex relationship? Does this mean people in Cincinnati can discriminate against me or do I have to do something bigger?

Who knows? Just one of the weird stepping-stones of my freakish life.

Last I heard, back about 1995, Kevin was going on for his Ph.D. He was dating a girl with a great body and deep red hair and as far as she knew, her boyfriend had always been Kevin.

Ah, Cincinnati.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Who Owns the Media?

Interesting piece on the media.

Funny about the "public" and "pubic" mix-up. I worked on the code of ordinances of Monroe, North Carolina (hometown to Jessie Helms) and scanned a long legal document into one of the files. Only the computer read the word "and" as "anal" midway into the section. I got in trouble but even my boss thought it was somewhat appropriate.

Four of the eight students in my 101 class came today. Three have turned in both papers. Three others have turned in one. I'm sure the two remaining still expect an "A."
Now in New York

A municipality in New York is allowing gay marriage (check out the gay GOP mayor at the bottom of the article).

Come on, Luken. Be the first in Ohio. (Yeah, that's gonna happen.)
Cost of Gay Marriage

I did my taxes a while back and took a hit by being married. When Article III came up in Cincinnati, many of the gay-bashers claimed that gays have one of the highest income levels of any demographic. If that's true, how much is the U.S. losing by disallowing gay marriage?

I would try to figure this out but I'm not sure where to start.
Passion Reviews

Via Rottentomatoes.

And what's the deal with calling him "The Christ"? Isn't this reminiscent of the "Batman" vs. "The Batman" debate?

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Sign Me Up

Another tidbit from Clifford Pickover, the supersitions/religious beliefs/voodoo science of a society in East African on the coast of the Red Sea and Indian Ocean requires fishermen to have sex with dead female dugongs.

By convergent evolution, the dugong's vagina is remarkably similar to that of a human.
Support a Terrorist Organization

On March 6, the Cincinnati Museum Center is hosting a celebration of Dr. Seuss's 100th birthday. Because it is "an NEA Project," no doubt the building will explode. Also the fanatics behind this event are actively encouraging children to read. Isn't education the enemy?
Wisdom of Will

Here's an excerpt of George Will's latest essay in Newsweek:

". . . exporting jobs that can be done cheaper elsewhere--"off-shoring," as to India--strengthens America. . . the export of jobs frees U.S. workers for tasks where America has a comparative advantage."

Okay, George, suppose I just lost my job on an assembly line, do I apply to NASA's jet propulsion labs? Did you think before you wrote that?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ralph's Next Move

What will Ralph try next. If attention is what he wants. . .
Andy Rooney Right?

The latest celebrity that God's spoke with. Although, he makes sense this time.

I just finished Clifford A. Pickover's The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, the true story of an English woman who claimed to have had 19 rabbit babies. In explaining how English society in 1726 could believe such a thing, Pickover quoted some other wide-spread idiotic beliefs:

"If a woman is normally developed mentally, and well-bred, her sexual desire is small. If this were not so, the whole world would become a brothel and marriage and family impossible."
Joseph G. Richardson, M.D. (Professor of Hygiene at the University of Pennsylvania) 1909

"Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for."
Martin Luthor, Works 20.84

"It has been proven that the pig is the only homosexual animal. As this perversion is most prevalent in pork-eating nations, it is obvious that it gets into your genes through the meat."
Tasleem Ahmed, Muslim missionary to Galaway Ireland.

Does that mean that if I eat a lot of dog food, I'll be hung like a horse? (uh, I mean even more so.)
Women Voters

A survey from Women's Voices Women Vote shows that unmarried women are the least likely to vote. My experiences teaching ENG 101 go along with this. For the argument paper, I no longer ask students which issues affect how they vote because so many answer, "Uh, I've never voted." (Partially why they keep raising tuition but that's another post.)

The daughters of Kerry, Edwards, Cheney, and Lieberman all worked together in NYC to urge women to get to the polls. The following might also help:

In 1996, North Carolina state representative Henry Aldridge fought against providing funds to allow women to have abortions after a rape, saying "People who are raped, who are truly raped, the juices don't flow, the body functions don't work, and they don't get pregnant."

Aldridge was successful-- funds were cut from $1.2 million to $50,000. He was later appointed as co-chair of the North Carolina House Committee on Human Resources, overseeing aid to poor families, day care services, and of course abortion funding.

Vote twice if you have to.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

New Stanley Kubrick Movie

What's death to a great film-maker? It looks like there will be at least one, possibly two new Kubrick movies. Apparently some of his old manuscripts were discovered and one of them, Lunatic at Large, is scheduled to begin production later this year. The other, God Fearing Man, isn't as definite but I'm sure eventually somebody will film it.

Probably not nearly as well as Stanley could have but it's something.
War Crimes

The Covington blog notes that some of the GOP are claiming that Kerry's reports of war crimes in Vietnam are untrue. "Good Americans wouldn't act that way."

This is an excerpt from an investigation of the treatment of Bosnian men at the hands of Serbian guards. At one point, the guards might have been good, decent people but war can do awful things:

The guards were often drunk and singing as they tortured, beat, mutilated, and slaughtered prisoners, and there was a particular taste for forced fellatio, forced sex with animals, and sexual mutilation. . . One prisoner was forced to bite off the testicles of another who, as he died, had a live pigeon stuffed into his mouth to stifle his screams.

From Ed Vulliamy. "Unlawful Confinement." Roy Gutman and David Rieff, eds. Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know. W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 1998.

Funny, the Serbians also claim that reports of abuse on their part are untrue.
Defend Me Please

Just got a campaign postcard from David Grossman, "The Candidate Endorsed by Conservative Republicans." Apparently Bill Seitz who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act for Ohio is backing him.

Bill says, "We're in a battle in Ohio to defend marriage and the family from an assault by homosexual activists."

Okay, I'm married, I have a family. How are homosexual activists assaulting me? Has anyone even offered an explanation or do they just like the sound of it?
For What It's Worth

Entertainment Weekly is giving Peter Jackson a 65% of winning best director and Return of the King 70% for best picture.

Lucas-fans will still bitch.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Feel Creative?

For $1,800 a company called faithHighway on will produce a commercial for Mel's Passion to run on "Christian and secular cable." The fee includes 20 seconds of footage and ten seconds from the sponsor.

Time to pass the hat?
Yet Even More Lies, Part XXXII

Do Bushites have the slightest degree of shame? Click here to find out.
Mmmm, Fecal Matter

What's that on your toothbrush? (The real thing not the urban legend.) And more.

Many scientists worry that parents are unintentionally breeding killer strands of bacteria that could result in untreatable Black plague-like epidemics.

Often when given anti-biotics, parents stop giving them to their children when the coughing, fever, etc. ends, often long before they're supposed to. Bacteria still living in the child grow immune to anti-biotics until germs that were initially mostly harmless become deadly.

I just realized that I only gave my son one of his anti-biotics this morning. This means I possess more biological weaponry than Saddam ever did. I'm heading for the fridge before the tanks show up.
A Lesson From China

In 213 B.C., Li Szu, a minister of Emperor Shih Huang Ti, talked him into burning all books except for a few dealing with medicine, farming, and divination. Li Szu claimed he wanted to break the chains that held back innovation (most think that he wanted to impose his own viewpoints as the cornerstone of Chinese literature and thought). Twenty two years later the decree was repealed and scholars began patching together what was left of their libraries. Over the life of the decree, at least 460 scholars died rather than comply and countless ancient works were lost forever.

I wish Ralph would read this, change the names to Ashcroft and Bush, and think about the future.
We Did Come From Monkeys!

According to Tibet's mythology, a virtuous monkey was forced to mate with an ogress which formed humans. There you have it—mankind is the bastard offspring of a monkey and the Yeti.

Sure explains a lot.

From the Mani bka'bum, as quoted in Richard Cavendish An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Bush To Destroy Universe

Well maybe not but we'll never know for sure without Hubble. Sigh.
Talk to Ralph

Want to send Ralph a message? Click here. Oh, and be sure to read the "Dear Anyone but Bush voter" letter he wrote on his home page.

Funny that he had the entire web site ready the very day he decided to run.
Girl Scout Cookies

Does anyone know what corporation backs the Girl Scout cookies? We just got a huge shipment and I started to wonder where the money goes.
God of Evolution

Creationists often claim that "Darwin said that men come from monkeys." Not really but why waste time arguing?

The Macouas People of Africa did believe this. Muluku, their chief god created the world and all within it. Like many African creators, he wasn't satisfied with his work ( notes that African creation stories contain many sad shakings of heads.)

Muluku tried to give tools to his version of Adam and Eve but they were too dense to use them. In frustration, he said, "Even a monkey could use these," and gave them to monkeys to prove his point.

When the monkeys did indeed use the tools properly, Muluku sighed, took the tails off of them and put them on the humans, making men into animals and animals into men.

There's no mention how well the Macoua take to evolution but it sounds like a good graduate thesis.

(from Turner and Coulter's Dictionary of Ancient Deities)

I found this passage in Richard Cavendish's An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mythology

. . . myths are stories, not histories. The events related in them did not really happen, yet they may contain truth of a different and deeper kind. Few people still believe, for example, that the human race is descended from Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, who lived in the beautiful garden of Eden and were tempted by a devious serpent. The story is generally agreed to be fiction, but fiction which is full of meaning. No longer accepted as literally true, as it once was, the story is felt to be poetically true. It says something profound about the human condition, something which cannot be stated as effectively in any other way. It is this which distinguishes the story from the mass of trivial fictions and entitles it to be called a myth. . . a way of telling a sacred truth.

"Few people still believe?" "Generally agreed to be fiction?" This was written in 1980 (in England). Could Cavendish have imagined that so many of the U.S. would NOT believe or agree today?

Still, it's a wonderful way of looking at myths.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

R.I.P. Reef

"There's no such thing as global warming. It's dead because, uh, Bill Clinton got a blow job!"
Article XII

I didn't expect to see this.
Passion is apparently hosting a showing of Mel's movie on the NKU campus, February 26 at 7:00. (The location is a little foggy--the posters say where tickets are available but not where the movie will be. Their website has a creepy registration process so I can't say more.)

Five bucks to see it plus "Discussion and FREE Pizza."

Road trip?
Uncanny Valley

How Gollum got screwed.
Roger's Picking the Hobbits

Ebert's Oscar predictions.
New Terms

I don't mean to come across as insensitive but is there any chance of replacing "African American" with anything else? In my experience, "African American" is more a term that white people use to show how understanding they are. The vast majority of people I know who are African American/Black/whatever, use "Black." Is this the media's attempt to avoid monosyllabic words?

I just had a student write a paper on Bessie Head's "The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses" which is set in South Africa during apartheid. She refers to the Native Africans (is this a real term yet?) as "African Americans." I also knew a guy from Egypt who is whiter than me but described himself as "African American" (and technically he was right).

How embedded is "African American?" Doesn't "Black" just sound inherently cooler?
Terminator's New Target

Why didn't I see this coming?
Missing NKU

Yesterday six of the eight students still registered in my 101 class actually came (one snuck out early). I still have a student who has missed the last four classes and hasn't turned in any of her assignments. I have to wonder where people like this get tuition money.

Today for midterms in ENG 200, 13 of 18 showed up. I don't think I ever missed a mid-term in college but at this point, I'm just glad it isn't worse.
Okay, I'm Feeling Better

Things have calmed somewhat at the homefront--conditions are dropped to orangish-vermilion. I'm hoping they get better once our tax refund hits. I e-filed this year and was surprised how quick it went. Sweet, sweet money, the answer to all that irks us.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Big Cat

Great, right after (well, a week after) I talk about the fake big cat picture, a real one shows up.
Monkey House

If you've never heard of Ota Benga, you've got to read this.
Attention, British swimmers. . .

It's big news that a piranha was found in the Thames. Nobody's saying it now but a few years ago when the BBC did a special on dangerous animals, they found no credible documented cases of piranhas killing a human, provoked or not. Most of the people bitten were fishermen (that evil fish snapped at me before I could kill and eat it). According to the old BBC report, piranha's got their reputation after Teddy Roosevelt saw a school of them "strip a cow in minutes." The piranhas in question were trapped in a pool of water after a tributary of the Amazon dried up and were at the point of starvation. Not saying that they're great bath toys but try a little perspective.
Jerky Driving

I am not the worst driver on the road. Only in Ohio.

I didn't have to eat any soccer players in the Andres but I have survived the past week. Not to go into elaborate detail but due to recent events I have switched to an anti-gay marriage position. Haven't the poor guys suffered enough? I have said too much.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Happy Day

Unlike yesterday, most of my students came to class--14 of 18 in Intro. to Lit. (with two contacting me in advance that they couldn't make it).

Difference between freshman and juniors.

Has anybody seen this before? My parents live in Florida and I've seen alligators but nothing this big (I think the record length for an American Alligator is only 19 feet).

Although some of the other pictures (the lion, bear, and head) are real, mixed in with the fakes (cat).
More Nuts

Hey, if you're going to be crazy, try to tie it into a religion, okay?

How cool would it be to live in a place called "Slaughterville?" (Actually, probably not at all.)

Friday, February 13, 2004

Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk

A couple good jokes.
Out Satan!

Wouldn't this make a great movie? Owen Wilson as the newly appointed exorcist and Willem Dafoe as his medical advisor.
Even more

Gutter politics

Cecil Adams looks at memes

In other words, don't bitch at Nathan. A meme made him do it!

I didn't think I'd get a chance to post today but only two students showed up for my class. Naturally they were the two who didn't need to be reminded about grammar, sentence structure, or any of the other points I had planned. I guess I still get paid but it was quite the experience.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A New Low

More lies.
Talking Beasts

I told myself I would stick a fork in my eye before I'd do another kids' movie post but something Nathan said forced my hand.

Nathan pointed out that the animals in Babe don't so much talk as communicate. When my dog jumps on my cat and begins sodomizing him, it's clear some communication is going on. In Babe, we get the communication translated to human speech. Considering that I based a novel on this, I'm in full agreement with him.

I hadn't considered it but (usually) the better "talking" animal seem to do this but the horrible ones restrict the power of speech to good animals (evil equaling carnivorous).

The Disney movie Dinosaur has one of the most amazing opening sequences I've ever seen, an incredible blend of CGI dinosaurs and real landscapes. Then they start talking and everything falls apart. The evil raptors and carnotaurs simply grunt and roar. They might be delegated as stupid brutes but they're the only dinosaurs in the rest of the movie that seem real. This is usually true in the Land Before Time series (unless the cute baby dinosaurs meet a cute baby T-rex or a singing crocodile).

In the Jungle Book, the tiger talks. In Tarzan the leopard doesn't. In the Jungle Book, the vultures talk. In Lion King, they don't.

Of course, how low do you go? Should fleas talk? Should a virus? Might be interesting to try.
That Monday Off Thing

Everyone I know has different ideas of "President's" or "Presidents'" day. This helps clear it up.
Ethics of Siamese Twins

A while back I looked into how Siamese (or conjoined) twins fit into the legal system. This came back in the news with the birth of the girl with two heads. Sadly, the operation to remove the second head failed and the baby died.

I've seen the legal end of this but what about morals? Former Surgeon General Koop once stated that doctors should attempt to separate all conjoined twins because even if they failed and both twins died, it would be better than living conjoined.

On the other hand, many conjoined twins have lived long, happy lives. Many religions feel conjoined twins with two heads have two souls (but what about twins with one and a half?) Stephen Jay Gould felt that it's impossible to pigeon-hole these cases but unfortunately sometimes that's what the legal system has to do.

Any thoughts?
The Truth is out!

I received this via e-mail. I would give credit to author but Google and other search engines can't seem to find it. It deals with an actor I'm not too fond of:

Though the list of Academy mistakes in this category is long and impressive, we have to go with Roberto Benigni winning Best Actor for his Italian Holocaust comedy "Life is Beautiful" (1998). We'll spare you the details of why "Life is Beautiful" is one of the most offensive, callous, self-serving, sappy films to ever dupe both the nation and the Academy (it received more nominations than any foreign film in history), for that is another article. Instead, let's focus on Benigni's hyperactive, megalomaniacal "performance." He plays an imprisoned father in a Nazi death camp who tries to hide the reality of the Holocaust from his son by pretending the whole experience is a game. Benigni doesn't give a performance as much as celebrate himself and his "clever" idea. He wants to be Keaton or Chaplin, but we see his jokes coming from miles away. He's mugging and winking at the audience the whole way through and the result is nauseating. His shtick was good enough to fool the Academy, however, allowing Benigni to embarrass himself (again) on national TV by running around like a madman while gushing such drivel as "My body is in tumult ... I would like to be ... lying down and making love to everybody." Nick Nolte, who was nominated for his performance in "Affliction," was robbed.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004


The same time this was in the news, there was a story about a Texas woman arrested for selling sex toys to a consenting adult.

Abject Idiots

In the running debate about religion, it's impossible to ignore the complete idiots. Imagine a moron who would find the following e-mail message inspiring:

So the judge doesn't even pretend to care about the law--nothing matters in his court but his religious bias. I'm sure the type of person who is too stupid to understand even the simplest of legal concepts ("I thinks them druggies are guilty until proven innocent") would get a big chuckle. It's hilarious when 96% of the population pick on the minority train of thought but, as Nathan has pointed out, when they're hit back, they cry.

I think Good Friday should be given as a holiday IF the percentage of workers who won't come in that day will affect overall production. I worked in an office where so many key people took vacation time on Good Friday that the workers who did show up (like me) couldn't get any work done (I'm not sure what everyone else did but my solution was Freecell). This screwed labor, management, and our clients.

In my opinion, holidays ought to be the days that would best suit the workers. If this led to some stupid days off like the day after the Super Bowl and Halloween, so be it.
Blue Tongues

I realize this is out of order but the post below made me think of another issue in Singapore's society. When my relatives made the move, natives asked if their dog had a blue tongue. They explained that it was senseless to try to bring a dog with a blue tongue (such as some Chows) into the country because they were considered a delicacy. Black-tongued dogs were tasty but not prime and pink-tongued dogs were the equivalent of American hot dogs (only you know what you're eating when you have pink-tongued dog).

Since their dog had a pink tongue, they were unworried. Then one day, the dog disappeared from their yard, only the cut lease remained. Nobody knows if the dog was eaten or just taken because it was a pest (it was a yippy little thing that never stopped barking).

One of my former students ate a dog in Thailand and said it was very good. He selected a puppy before the meal (like Americans do to lobsters) and they prepared and cooked it at the table. Considering the U.S. kills millions of dogs every year because no one will adopt them, I have no problem with someone else eating them. Better in some hungry kid's stomach than a landfill.

This may be decades late for some people but in case your idea of caning comes from The Simpson's Boot, what Singapore deals out as legal punishment is far worse than just a spanking.

Four of my relatives lived in Singapore in the 80s and they were warned to beware of anyone who walked with a peculiar gait. Canings can permanently affect the skeletal structure (effectively marking criminals for life).

Rush and some other people who didn't know much about the subject seemed to think that caning would be good for the U.S. Well, maybe they'd be fun to watch but they'd keep many ex-cons from even trying to go legit.

Tarring and feathering tho'--that's an idea just waiting to come back.
Religion and Oral Sex

Covington blog has a posting dealing with religion and weird sexual prohibitions. This brought to mind a legal case that I believe happened in Malaysia back in the mid 90s. Apparently a man was arrested for receiving oral sex but was eventually released because his partner stopped before ejaculation. This came out (as I remember) around the time Michael Faye, an American boy charged with vandalism, was sentenced to be caned.

Does anyone have any more information about this case? I'm starting to wonder if it was an urban legend (Snopes and truthorfiction don't have anything on it). It seems consistent with moral codes in Malaysia (and Indonesia). Singapore recently moved to decriminalize heterosexual oral sex based on the arrest and appeals of a 27-year old policeman but it doesn't look like Malaysia (or Indonesia or the U.S.) are inclined to lighten up.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Marge Schott's in trouble thoughts?
The New Nader?
I guess this shouldn't surprise me but Newsweek is reporting that Al Sharpton was financially backed in part by Republicans.
Top Grossing Movies II

Not as great as 1-10 but not nearly as bad as I would have imagined. SF and Fantasy still dominate:

11 The Lion King $328,539,505 1994
12 Harry Potter and the S.S. $317,557,891 2001
13 The Fellowship of the Ring $314,776,170 2001
14 Attack of the Clones $310,675,583 2002
15 Return of the Jedi $309,205,079 1983
16 Independence Day $306,169,255 1996
17 Pirates of the Caribbean $305,411,224 2003
18 The Sixth Sense $293,506,292 1999
19 The Empire Strikes Back $290,271,960 1980
20 Home Alone $285,761,243 1990

Yep, I've seen The Lion King and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone a few times. Honestly, it must be close to 100 times for each. I find it hard to be objective.

I wasn't even going to see Fellowship of the Ring but I got in a fight with my wife and wanted an excuse to stay out for a while. I'm very glad I did.

Well, Bob Dole liked Independence Day. Not much of an intelligent plot but it blowed up things real good.

Pirate of the Caribbean: I wasn't expecting much but it was better than any other movie made from a Disney World attraction. And it's nice to see that poor Orlando Bloom get a paycheck.

I didn't see The Sixth Sense until somebody told me the secret and ruined it for me. I would have never have guessed Bruce Willis was really a woman.

Home Alone is still in the top 20? I used to hate seeing Macaulay Culkin movies spring up every six minutes but now it's hard not to pity him.

Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and Attack of the Clones. Clones is the only movie of the top 20 that I haven't seen. One Jar Jar movie is plenty. Not that the Ewoks were much better. Still Empire Strikes Back forgives a lot.
After years of defending the male sex, I've finally come to agree with radical feminists. The world would be better off without XY chromosomes.

I can live with war, crime, and pro wrestling but after changing my son's diaper again today, I can't help but think a female-only race would be so much easier. . . to clean.

My four-year old daughter still isn't toilet trained but, even at twice the size of my son, she's no problem. Just remember to wipe front to back.

The male naughty bits would be a hassle even if the skin were smooth. As is, you can wipe for hours and still not hit every wrinkle.

I'm making a formal petition to God. By this time tomorrow, I'd like every man on earth switched over. I apologize for the inconvenience to gay men and heterosexual women but I can't take it any more.
I have a few postings in the works that are more compelling than my ravings on movies but my one-year old was up five times last night (his mom is out of town) and I'm half-coherent at best. Nothing quite takes the creative impulse out of you like getting up at 3:37 and rocking a baby until you see the sun rise. Note to poets and musicians: some sun rises are really ugly.

It struck me that if God really does hate homosexuals, how come they get to have all the sex they want and not worry about babies? And if homosexuality is a choice, how come I can't choose and stop worrying? I just chose and it's not working!

Monday, February 09, 2004

News of ROTK got me thinking about top-grossing movies. I wasn't sure what they were but was sure most of them were disgraces. It turns out they're not so bad (U.S. gross only):

1 Titanic $600,788,188 1997
2 Star Wars $460,998,007 1977 (and re-releases)
3 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial $434,949,459 1982
4 Star Wars: Phantom Menace $431,088,295 1999
5 Spider-Man $403,706,375 2002
6 Jurassic Park $357,067,947 1993
7 Return of the King $345,331,815 2003 (as of last week)
8 The Two Towers $341,748,130 2002
9 Finding Nemo $339,714,367 2003
10 Forrest Gump $329,694,499 1994

Like every other heterosexual male in 1997, my girlfriend yammered at me to take her to Titanic. Geek that I am, I enjoyed the beginning with the robotic excavation submarines but wasn't impressed by the main story.

My girlfriend (now wife) hated it.

Every time Kate or Leo did something physically or logically impossible, she snorted and yelled up at the screen. Around us the sobbing middle-aged women began to twitch and growl. I've seen Ozzy twice and never has a crowd seemed so menacing.

She also hated Forrest Gump. Again I wasn't awed by the movie but I didn't hate it either. When I teach Intro. to Lit., it's a good example of framing in a story, tragicomedy, and first-person narration. Lucky for me, we saw it on video so no Gump-fans beat me up.

The rest of the movies are all science fiction and fantasy (I include talking fish in the category of fantasy). I liked all of them but one.

I'm not as fanatical about Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings series as some people but I think they're beautifully filmed and constructed, and do as good a job with Tolkien's material as humanly possible.

Spiderman was faithful to the spirit of the comic yet not mired in some of the details that Stan Lee included back in the 60s.

Jurassic Park did a great job of portraying dinosaurs as real animals (or maybe I'm biased by my kids having watched Disney's Dinosaur one time too many).

E.T. seems dated now but I remember enjoying it very much back when it first came out. Again, my wife hates it so I haven't seen it recently. (And she actually liked Scary Movie. She should owe me for that.)

Finding Nemo is one of the few cartoons that actually seems to care about the story. When Disney presents previews of upcoming movies, they talk about the artistic style or the music or the actors. Pixar's motto is "Story is King." Plus, I love that Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres starred in the biggest movie of 2003.

I absolutely loved Star Wars as a kid (and by the way it was always Star Wars; Lucas just tagged on "New Hope" when they did the modifications). My step-daughter loved it when we took her to it instead of the remake of That Darn Cat. As moronic as the Ewoks were in Return of the Jedi, my love for Star Wars made me deeply anticipate the new movie in 1999.

My belief is that Lucas, stung by criticism of his flop Howard the Duck, was determined to create a character so bad that Howard would look brilliant in comparison. How else do you explain Jar Jar? I don't agree with Spike Lee and others who accuse Jar Jar of being a racist caricature. He's just plain horrible. Why? Why? Why?

Attack of the Clones sits alone on the shelf of the local library. I could see it for free whenever I want. I hear it's got Jar Jar. I let it lie.
I didn't mean to make this blog a vent for kids' shows but I'm rolling.

Gregory pointed out that the Pokemon game is pretty enjoyable. Actually most adults I know (including a few who have never played a Gameboy until they had kids) love the Pokemon Gameboy games (my wife has all but one version). I have no beef with the games, books, toys, or anything but the movies.

I'm not even sure if the Pokemon movie really would be so awful on one viewing. It's just whenever my stepdaughter did well in school and earned t.v. time, she picked Pokemon. Some movies can hold up to repeated viewings. Pokemon, uh, didn't.

(Also in fairness, the second movie--again bought by my wife--was much better than the first. Or maybe I've just seen it fewer times.)

Now my step-daughter is on a Harry Potter kick. While I was never a huge fan of the movies, they never came close to Care Bear levels. My wife (and I never really analyzed her behavior prior to this blog) also loves Harry Potter.

They've watched the first and second movie back to back twice in one day. I remember several weeks when they watched both movies at least three times a piece. I walk the dog a lot during these periods.

Just so I don't throw myself in the fundamentalist camp, I'm not condemning Harry just yet but the third movie is coming out soon. I'm very worried.
Mel might cut a scene in Passion

At what point did Gibson's splinter group break from the Vatican? "This regular Catholicism just isn't wacky enough!"
Janet Jackson's nipple and last night's music awards have got a lot of parents upset, demanding something be done about the fearsome problem of boobies in view of children (I think we'd better pass a law that women can only breast-feed in pitch darkness or infants will be traumatized).

Here's a solution. When my kids broke our last t.v., I got an older model that has only one auxiliary hook-up. I could either use it for the VCR and DVD or to the antenna (sure, I could have split the signal but that would cost $2.69 and a trip to Radio Shack). Since the only shows I like are The Simpsons and Sopranos (and the Sopranos aren't coming to broadcast television any time soon), my choice was clear.

If you do this, you don't have to worry about boobies and bad words and guns and such. Also your kids will soon get spoiled of not watching commercials so within a few months, even if they watch at their friends' houses, the ads will drive them crazy (unless they watch Sex in the City on HBO in which case, you're screwed).

Okay, it's not the perfect system but if parents have to get off their asses every 30 minutes to maintain an electric babysitter, it can't hurt.

(Oddly enough, we can still get the signal from the local CBS affiliate without an antenna. Thus, Janet Jackson's nipple did appear in our home but alas I wasn't paying attention.)

Sunday, February 08, 2004

I was planning something more detailed about the 100 top grossing movies but I got lost in a rant about Jar Jar. Still, it looks like Return of the King (now at ($351 million) will soon surpass Jurassic Park ($357 million). I guess it might reach Spiderman ($402 million) but it would be a stretch.

I was surprised that there are only two movies in the top ten that I dislike/hate with a passion. From my first sentence, you can probably guess one of them.
Welcome to the Rambler. Why the Rambler? Because I hadn't thought of a name until I was already half-way through the registration process.

And keeping with my unblemished record of poorly prepared and incoherent activity, here's a long-winded essay on a subject nobody really cares about.


Worst Children's Videos Ever

Being a parent provides many joys. Watching children's videos not one of them. True, there are many, many wonderful family movies: The Wizard of Oz, Spirited Away, Chuck Jones' Grinch (not the putrid Ron Howard version), anything Pixar has released. These are the exceptions.

Science fiction great Theodore Sturgeon once noted that 95% of anything is shit. He was right in general but woefully shy on "family entertainment." As the recent Cat in the Hat movie proved, no matter how bad a kids' movie might be, lazy parents will use it as a two-hour baby-sitter. Producers have no real incentive to even try to make a good film since parents take their kids to garbage. (Note: my wife bought all of the following movies, including Pokemon even after seeing how horrible it was in the theater.)

Animation legend Ralph Bakshi claims that most executives in charge of children's programming want to do something else, "move up" to sitcoms, soap operas, or another "more important" area of show business, and are only biding their time on "kiddie crap." This attitude explains the following atrocities:

5. Pokemon: The First Movie

August 6, 1945, the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
November 14, 1999, Japan unleashed Pokemon: the First Movie on the U.S.
Advantage: Japan

Japanese animators can create works of absolute wonder. Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and even anime like Akira all use a stylized view of the world to present animation as art. Pokemon is anime at the hands of Sauron: twisted, broken, devoid of all that is good.

Now that Pokemon has infested the world like the AIDS epidemic of the animation world, it's probably unnecessary to explain these poorly drawn, poorly written, poorly translated visions from some mediocre hell. But back in 1999 when I took my step-daughter to see this film, I was completely uninitiated. I may forget some day where I was on September 11, 2001. I will never forget my first dose of Pokemon, no matter how I try.

I could go on for hours about the god-awful plot, the absolute lack of characterization, or the overall artistic abyss that is this movie but I'll limit myself to a single point.

Apparently the goal of a Pokemon trainer is to catch wild Pokemon against their will, keep them as slaves, and have his captive Pokemon beat up other trainers' Pokemon. Okay, a hyper-sensitive type could complain that no real consideration is given if one of the creatures gets hurt. True, but it's a cartoon and I don't mind. But the movie's villain, Mew-Two, a upright panther with a huge butt, plans to do something hideous and unspeakable. He's captured Pokemon, made clones of them, and now intends to MAKE THEM FIGHT!

"Pokemon aren't supposed to fight this way," whines one of the characters, although she didn't seem to object when her buddy's yellow rat electrocuted several other Pokemon earlier in the movie. Apparently they're supposed to fight for human enjoyment, not for some feline version of J-Lo.

You could read racist, elitist, and all sort of other undercurrents in the movie but why bother? It's just plain horrid. And yet, God help us, it's the best on this list.

4. Gordy

Back in 1995, Hollywood churned out two talking pig movies. One of these was Babe, maybe not the greatest kids' movie, but entertaining and well-conceived. The other was Gordy.

While Babe has moments that are scary to small children, it's up-front and honest. Babe's story begins in a factory farm, giving the movie a dark feel from the start. Kids catch on quickly that bad things happen to pigs unless they can do some sort of amusing trick. By contrast, Gordy starts out light and goofy then twists to end up in the slaughter-house where the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre hung out.

Gordy is full of gags like the pig becoming a country-western singer and performing CPR (not at the same time unfortunately). I know you're thinking to yourself, "That's got to be funny." But it's not.

Once I was in a no-budget horror movie, playing a dumb cop who hassles the investigative journalist hero. As an element of comic relief, my character was eating powered donuts at the crime scene where a Satanic cult ripped the heart of a naked girl (again, unfortunately, not at the same time).

For the first take, I held up the powered donut and made a big show of it. Mike Fox, the director, stopped me. "If it's going to be remotely funny, it can't be that obvious." Gordy needed Mike Fox on production.

Think of the end of Dr. Strangelove when Peter Sellers needs a quarter to make the phone call that will save the world. In the face of nuclear annihilation, a soldier balks at having to shoot up a Coke machine to get the necessary change: "You're going to have to answer to the Coca-Cola company for this." He takes his ridiculous attitude with complete seriousness. Same with Monty Python's reaction to the Holy Hand Grenade or Leslie Nielsen with about anything. They don't seem to notice the absurdity of their surroundings. That doesn't necessarily make things funny but it's a good first step.

In Gordy, characters react, "Tee, hee, that pig just performed CPR. Tee, hee, did you in the audience get it?" This creates a humor black hole, and situations that you would think would have to be funny aren't even remotely.

The creators of Gordy claim they were not copying Babe. I believe them. Even a bad imitation of Babe would be better than the terrible mess that is Gordy. This film could be shown to PETA members to induce them to eat pork.

3. The Secret of NIMF II: Timmy to the Rescue:

Do I need to even describe the plot of this hideous sequel of the original Secret of NIMF (which wasn't exactly a masterpiece to begin with)?

What demented collection of idiots made up the committee that settled on a title like "Timmy to the Rescue"? Make no mistake: this is not some kind of sly parody; the movie really is all about Timmy going to the rescue.

Animator Don Bluth worked on the original NIMF and while it was rough and unbalanced, it's a testament to his ability that without his influence, the series devolved to this. Eric Idle appears in this movie and manages to cancel out all the originality and humor of Monty Python in less than 70 minutes. Dom DeLuise also appears. Need I say more?

Timmy to the Rescue is the worst offender in a genre of children's entertainment: the unnecessary sequel. In efforts to squeeze every potential nickel from an audience, studios crank out continuations of stories that by all rights should have ended with the original. True, this happens with adult entertainment (not just Deep Throat II: To Hell with Gag Reflex, but Men in Black II and Alien Resurrection) but even the worse movie geared to adults (and, yes, I'm considering Lucas) has some degree of respect for the original.

The sequels of Balto, Peter Pan, and Hunchback of Notre Dame took movies that were at the least adequate and reduced them to mindless drivel. Others like Jungle Book II and Cinderella II were the cinematic equivalent of digging up Walt's corpse and sodomizing it on video (for the record, Walt is buried in Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California, not cryonically preserved). Then there's the sickening Tarzan and Jane with animation so crude that my four-year old could do better with crayons on the back of discarded napkins. But I limited myself to five movies so let's move on to. . .

2. Digimon: the Movie

During World War II, the Japanese military conducted hideous experiments on POWs and civilians in a program known as Unit 731. One of their most monstrous practices was to rape a Chinese woman until she was several months pregnant, then vivisect both mother and fetus. The only explanation for Digimon is that the Japanese were trying to outdo themselves.

Digimon might not be a horrible imitation of Pokemon. It looks like it but I'll give them benefit of the doubt. Maybe it's possible to create something as god-awful as this without imitating an existing evil. Still, if Pokemon is the spawn of Sauron, Digimon is orc squared.

The scenario is so convoluted that before the story begins, two characters spend 15 minutes explaining the mechanics of Digimon and their backgrounds. It didn't help. Apparently Season 1 of the Digimon cartoon revolved around one set of characters and Season 2 had another. Neither group are compelling enough to carry even half a movie (and think about it, how compelling are Fred, Thelma, and Daphne?) but sticking with the same characters would have made the plot a little less painful.

Basically the movie is an 83-minute series of flashing lights and rhythmic chanting (or possibly what the Japanese consider rap—if so, damn, white folk have nothing to be ashamed of) with periodic fight breaks which are so poorly animated that they make Hong Kong Phooey look like Enter the Dragon. The only reason this isn't the worst of the lot is that the creators put some basic thought into the design of the individual Digimon, unlike—

1. The Care Bears' Movie:

Back in 2001, when Andrea Yates forced her five young children under the water of her bathtub, she became the second worst mother in America. The worst is my wife for buying the Care Bears Movie.

If you've ever seen religious programs for children like Veggie Tales, you know they can be didactic, sometimes to the point of pomposity. But no matter what you think of Christianity, at least it's something on which you can legitimately be didactic about.

The Care Bears try to be didactic about, uh, something. It's an hour and a half sermon about nothing; not a Seinfeld's funny sort of nothing, but a wasteland of sense, entertainment, and reason. And while the people behind Veggie Tales inject a certain degree of humor into their stories, the Care Bears are deathly serious about uh, caring (and again, not in a humorous way like I brought up in Gordy but a sick, obsessive vendetta). Even Jonathan Edwards, author of "Sinners at the Hand of an Angry God," would want to yank the rod from their asses.

Digimon is godawful for its seizure-inducing bastardization of post-modernism but Care Bears comatose-glacier pace is so much worse. I can't think of a war atrocity sickening enough to compare to Care Bears. It's like the entire history of man's inhumanity to man rolled into 73 minutes with a few decades of cruelty to animals as well. If scientists ever create a sentient species out of vomit and fecal matter, their theater may sink to the levels of Care Bears. But I doubt it.

Special mention: Anything with Scrappy Doo.

Lives there a man with soul so dead that he hasn't thought of Sauron's obvious influence on Scrappy? Using elves to make orcs, ents to make trolls, Scooby to make that sawed-off sack of shit.

I can't think of Scrappy without getting angry (by comparison, I can think of the above abominations with an even temper). Scrappy is personal. Saturday morning cartoons still had an air of magic to them when Scrappy came on the scene. Sure, there were cartoons I didn't like but it hadn't occurred to me that television execs could ruin something that I loved as quickly as Scrappy turned Scooby (which realistically was always pretty moronic) into a crap-fest.

At least Hanna-Barbera realized their mistake. Today, DVD cases and video boxes rarely mention Scrappy so unsuspecting consumers buy his garbage by accident. If there were any fairness in the world, any cartoon with Scrappy would be digitally altered, erasing and replacing him with any other character. Fred Flintstone, Jabberjaw, Apache Chief from the Super Friends: any one of them would be better than Scrappy. A Digimon, a Care Bear, Manson, Hitler, Satan. Anybody. Anybody. Anybody.