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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Alone?

Am I the only one looking forward to not seeing Beowulf? Every time I see an ad for the movie and all the attendant exclamations of greatness, I sit back and wonder why I seem to be the only one who doesn’t get it.

Beowulf looks like it was rendered in its entirety inside a game engine. The people and the monsters look like toys, the animation doesn’t look anywhere near the top of the animation heap, and the whole thing reminds me that if I want to watch bad acting and inhuman anatomy, I could just rent Conan--which is a movie that I actually like.

And, no, the prospect of a scantily clad 3d rendered Angela Jolie isn’t enough to pull me in.

In fact, the only thing that intrigues me is that Neil Gaiman is one of the writers, and Gaiman is brilliant. I think I’ll just watch 300 again and call it good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wait. What? Seriously? No way.

With a freakin’ basset hound? I mean, any dog would have been bad, but that just seems like an added level of difficulty that the act didn’t really need.

Castanon was dismissed as a volunteer at Denver’s Municipal Animal Shelter after being spotted in late September by an employee behind the building with the dog. Castanon was half-naked and coaxing the dog to perform oral sex, the police report said.

For the record, this is the kind of thing you never want to talk about on a first date.

Just sayin’.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Yep, It’s a Crush

I’ve never been there, but now I have a crush on Dublin.

This is why.

Luckily, Molly’s love for Edwards (and his magnificent hair) isn’t as oddly persuasive.

Zimbabwe Horrors, Part 1

The continuing crisis in Zimbabwe sometimes loses its human face. The numbers are abstracts, the horrors far removed. But the people suffering have names and the stories of their suffering are terrifying. Adonis Musati was a young man who died because Mugabe has utterly failed the people of Zimbabwe.

A Zimbabwean job-seeker who collapsed and died in Cape Town last week, is said to have succumbed to starvation.

Adonis Musati, 23, was a police officer in Chimanimani in eastern Zimbabwe, but the economic crisis led him to South Africa to try to support his family.

He had spent a month at the Home Affairs Refugee Centre, trying to get a work permit, reportedly with nothing to eat, sleeping in a cardboard box.

His family said they had learned of Adonis’s death on the internet.

There is no food, the money is useless, the jobs almost impossible to come by. There is precious little hope for the failed nation at this point and the exodus of those hoping to find jobs and food in neighboring countries grows. Countries don’t topple without effecting the nations around them; ZImbabwe’s slow motion fall will continue to fill countries like South Africa with needy, poor refugees who aren’t prepared to fend for themselves.

From another story:

Drive through the darkened streets of Harare at night - for there is no electricity - and you see hundreds of people walking purposefully at two and three o’clock in the morning.

They are the few who need to get to work - only one in five of the adult population still has a job.

They take up their positions on street corners waiting for a passing car or pick-up truck.

There is no petrol, and regular bus services are already a distant memory.

“I sometimes wait four or five hours to get to work,” said one office worker.

Staring in horror isn’t much of a policy suggestion when it comes to suggesting ways to help right Zimbabwe’s sinking economy. For that matter, with Mugabe still planted firmly at the wheel and looking to run, again, for reelection, it’s hard to imagine any policy prescription that could do much to change the situation. Until Mugabe is gone, ZImbabwe is lost.

Read the story.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

“To err is human. To air guitar, divine.”

Air Guitar Nation is hilarious. Not “laughing with you” hilarious, this is full on “laughing at you” stuff. A hard rockin’ documentary covering two American air guitarists doing their best to bring a world air guitar championship to the US with America’s first entry into the world championships.

Why funny? Aside from the obvious (c’mon, air guitar as a competitive skill?), there is the fact that some of these folks travel to Finland for a sort of air guitar boot camp where they are taught valuable skills, exercises, and awkward guitar god moves to help them win their championship. Leaving aside the fact that one of the students was wearing a Che t-shirt, focus on descriptions of former champion Zac Monro “state of the nation” address calling air guitar the last pure art form, an art that cannot be commercialized.

So, air guitar as an, ahem, art is not only a nearly talent-free zone in any normal reading of talent, but it is also an irritatingly pretentious talent-free zone practiced by people who take themselves far too seriously.

After a few shots of my wonderful Leopold’s Gin, watching these guys running in circles while exercising their windmill arm technique left me laughing hard enough to wake up the dog.

Her offended “boof” kind of put the whole thing into perspective, really.

No offense to Mr. Magnet, the Tobinator, or Mr. Metallizer, but if you don’t have a sense of the absurd in modern life before watching the movie, you’ll feel steeped in it afterward.

To their credit, some of the contestants seem to realize the ridiculousness of the thing (like the guy, Bjorn Turoque, whose quote I used as the title at the beginning of the movie and maybe a little less by the end), and that lends a sense of fun. I did feel a sense of jealousy when I watched C-Diddy, who admits to living in that talent-free zone I was talking about, autographing a cute girls breast who then gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

One of the oddest moments in the documentary--outside of the contests proper--is when Bjorn Turoque admits that he adopts alter egos because he’s not very good at being himself. I believe that the guitarist (who actually violates my talent free zone pronouncement) is Jean Luc Retard bassist for the New York band Nous Non Plus. While playing in a real band is, apparently, more satisfying than the air guitar, but the air guitar gig had given him more fame.

It’s when one of the organizers says that the competition is judged like an Olympic event and that it is less absurd to watch than figure skating that I want to start popping people politely upside the head. While they may have given the competition the trappings of a real event, the truth is that the contestants are just up there pretending to be playing guitar. This isn’t a sport; it’s escapist entertainment.

The first time I ever found myself at a drag show--with my lesbian friend, D, and another friend of ours from the goth bar days--I was shocked. It was a gay, lesbian, and transsexual beauty pageant, and it wasn’t the outfits, the politics, or the costumes that shocked me. It was that the talent portion of the competition turned out to be a lip-synching contest. I felt a little ripped off--real talent is your own singing, not vaguely pretending to sing along to pre-recorded music. Not unlike air guitar.

Figure skating may not be the height of Olympic competition for most people, but at least the skaters are actually being judged on their own actions. Air guitarists are being judged on how well they pretend to be doing the real thing.

Sorry, but one of these things is a talent and one of them is the wrong end of a joke.

For the record, the scores are compiled from the following categories: originality, charisma, feeling, technical ability, artistic merit, and airness. Airness is defined as “the extent to which the performance transcends the medium and becomes a higher form of artistic expression.”

Which sounds awfully stringent to me. I wonder if they have a point system for the more technically demanding windmill maneuvers.

“Air guitar is big business,” one woman says, who apparently didn’t get the memo about air guitar as an incorruptible pure art. “I really don’t think people realize how big air guitar really is.”

For old metal heads like me, though, the soundtrack eases the pain of some of the performances. Motorhead, Smashing Pumpkins, KISS, Priest, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, Queen, The Who, The Donnas, and David Lee Roth all pop up in little snippets as the guitarists flail and strut on the stage.

The contestants would be well advised to cut down a bit on the exposed flesh, though.

Seriously.

By the end, Bjorn Turoque’s determination to go to the air guitar championship in Finland despite his losses in both the East and West Coast Championships steps beyond the quixotic and right into the irritating regardless of the outcome. So does his offer to be a “sort of ambassador of air” to overcome the anti-American sentiment in Europe and show everyone how much we like peace, too. Likewise, the marginal political posturing of the Finnish originators of the championships (apparently, if everyone held an air guitar, no one would be able to hold guns or wage war) come across as laughable. But neither are utterly central to the film and neither get in the way of enjoying the thing.

Air guitar isn’t serious and it isn’t art and with the right attitude, it is fun, funny, and outrageous. Air Guitar Nation proves to be airy, insubstantial entertainment; it’s worth the rental but it won’t change any lives or illuminate any of the dark corners in your soul. After all, it is just air guitar.

This One Should Make Everyone Happy

This may be the perfect generic political post.

Broncos v/ Chiefs: The Ten Point Review

Yes, I’m stealing my own lazy method for movie reviews and using it for the Broncos game. My sense of guilt is overwhelming.

  1. It was nice to see the Broncos break their losing streak at Arrowhead where they had been winless since 2002.
  2. It was just as nice to see the Broncos win a game by more than three points and by more than a Jason Elam field goal.
  3. But, like victories over any of the AFC West teams this year--it is an amazingly weak year for the AFC West--there is a question as to how much it means. Does it mean that the Broncos are settling in to their new defensive schemes and replacement parts? Or does it mean that the Chiefs are even weaker than a lot of us thought?
  4. My money is somewhere in between those two points.
  5. On that last drive of the game, how many stupid mistakes would it have taken for the Broncos to let the Chiefs score an offensive touchdown? Because, I swear, with something like five offsides (including two lining up in the neutral zone infractions), the Broncos tried to let the Chiefs get there. It has to be painful for Chiefs’ fans that their team came away without a point. That was an ugly bit of the game.
  6. In fact, lots of sloppy, stupid penalties on the Broncos today.
  7. Offset by a handful of big plays and smart plays.
  8. Selvin Young looks an awful lot like a running back making a damned good case for taking over the starting role from a frequently hurt, lame duck Travis Henry who seems very likely to be missing a good chunk of this year and the rest of next year with another drug suspension. Young ran hard and ran well, showed good eyes and slipperiness with a nice little bit of speed. For an undrafted player, he definitely looked better than many might have expected in his first start.
  9. Cutler looked solid through most of the game, too, especially on some surprise running plays--I had thought they would keep him in the pocket for most of the game to keep him from aggravating his leg injury; instead, there were a number of what looked like called quarterback runs that were very effective. But that interception was ugly as hell. Either a tremendously bad throw or a phenomenally bad decision.
  10. After the first quarter, I’m pretty sure Chiefs fans were feeling pretty good--that first quarter was an ugly one for the Broncos with a combination of bad field position, unforced errors, and a mostly ineffective offense. One thing this shows, though, is that turnovers can really define a game. The Broncos mistakes were numerous, but turned out to be relatively small in terms of the effect on the game. The Chiefs mistakes--a handful of turnovers that led directly to at least 14 points--ruined a good opportunity for them to stay at the top of the AFC West.

Bonus Point: Welcome back to Priest Holmes. It was good to see him running again (although, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I was happy that he was on the losing side).

Update: Kindly linked by my twice-a-year football nemesis. Thanks, Nathan. You can also read his post on the game here.

I’m Afraid it Might Stunt My Manliness

But, you know, you might need it...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Gift Suggestions, Part 1

With Christmas not all that far off and all of you early shoppers wondering what to get me, I thought that it might make sense to put some suggestions out there. Useful suggestions for keeping the zomby in your life happy.

Gift Idea #1
You really can’t go wrong with a vintage Mustang. Say, perhaps, a 69 Shelby GT500 Convertible once owned by Carroll hisself.

That would be a great start. 

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lose by Any Means Possible

I think that we are seeing demonstrable, often positive changes in Iraq--changes that came from Iraqis weary of war and the excesses of thuggish “insurgents”, the creative leadership of General Petraeus, more troops, the the aggressive tactics of the surge. Iraq isn’t won, but these changes do seem to be creating an environment where the political victory can incubate. A real victory seems more possible now than it did less than a year ago; nothing is guaranteed, I realize, but if we continue to let the military do its job we can give the diplomats and politicians the time to do theirs.

Which is why I am surprised by this from Nancy Pelosi--a move that seems calculated to toss some red meat to the Kossacks and progressives, but which might just confound the general public.

“This is not a blank check for the president,” she said at a Capitol Hill news conference. “This is providing funding for the troops limited to a particular purpose, for a short time frame.”

The bill would set the requirement that troop withdrawals begin immediately and that soldiers and Marines spend as much time at home as they do in combat.

The measure also sets a goal that combat end by December 2008. After that, troops left behind should be restricted to a narrow sets of missions, namely counterterrorism, training Iraqi security forces and protecting U.S. assets.

I’ll be curious to see what support she gets from the Democrat candidates for the presidency--obviously Kucinich will like the legislation, but what will Edwards, Clinton, and Obama say publicly? This does seem to confirm that ensuring defeat is the policy of at least some of the Democrats’ leadership. Announcing to the world that we are no longer willing to support our troops or our mission will send a message of abandonment to our friends and encouragement to our enemies. Brilliant.

And, no, I’m not an absolutist. There is a time when a nation must face up to defeat and failure. You can’t fight a war forever. It’s just better to make that choice when you’re actually losing.

Read the story.

For the Record, 8 November 2007

Hillary Clinton might not want my advice--in truth, her best interests aren’t exactly my biggest motivator--so I’ll just address this advice to all the candidates and use her as an example.

Americans don’t like it when you’re cheap.

We really don’t like it when the fortunate--that’s all y’all--prove to be stingy. It best we imagine that you are thoughtless and rude; at worst we think you’re just a jerk.
So tip that damned waitress.

Look, I know that you probably have handlers to take care of bills and such, but their actions are a reflection on you. Tell them to remember to tip. Tell them to remember to put you in a good light. You are collecting a bigger paycheck than most of us, you are taking millions of dollars in donations (well, some of you would like to be taking millions of dollars in donations) from us, and leaving no tip isn’t what you might call endearing.

In early October, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s ‘Middle Class Express’ made a pit stop at the Maid Rite diner in Marshalltown, Iowa.

The New York senator, joined by local political luminaries Christie Vilsack and Ruth Harkin, enjoyed a famous loose meat sandwich and attempted to hand caucus cards to the Iowans inside.

Clinton also spoke to one of the diner’s waitresses, Anita Esterday. It was her first day on the job and she and Clinton shared a short exchange. Esterday, who has three jobs and works 12 hour shifts, said to Clinton “both of my sons have worked since they were 14 years old”; Clinton told her, “I’m proud of you.”

But, according to Esterday, that’s where Clinton’s gratitude ended as the campaign crew left with nary a gratuity for any of the hard working Maid-Riters.

“I mean, nobody got left a tip that day,” Esterday said in an interview with NPR after a visit by Senator Clinton.

This is serious stuff. Not tipping can lose you votes as quick as a $400 haircut (and, apparently, quicker than taking questionable donations from someone named Hsu). So, here is the rule:

We want you to be tight with the public’s money, but generous with your own good fortune.

Just sayin’.

Read the story here.

Update: More for the record, it appears that Hillary didn’t stiff the waitress.

Turns out, however, that the campaign paid $157 for the meals and left a $100 tip. Campaign spokesman Phil Singer said he doesn’t know what happened to the money, but Maid-Rite manager Brad Crawford confirmed to FOX News that the bill and tip were paid. He wouldn’t say the check’s amount.

Crawford’s wife then added all the workers, including Esterday, received their tips, and the members of the Clinton camp even helped out the workers while they were there.

“I think things got misconstrued ... everybody who came in was polite,” Mrs. Crawford said.

Which, that’s a damned fine tip. I applaud.

Read the story.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Government Theft and Destruction of Private Property

My friend, and an occastional reader of the site, Goatroaper forwarded me an email this evening and I’m not sure how long it has been floating around. I wasn’t prepared for how it would make me feel.

They’re letting the thugs get away with everything. And you’re coming to honest, good citizens and taking away their protection, and it’s wrong.

I wasn’t upset about Katrina in quite the same way that others were, but now I’m downright angry. In this lengthy video--which is also a sort of advertisement for the NRA--there are outlined numerous abuses of power and the individual rights of citizens.

I’m not what any reasonable person would call a gun rights nut. I’m an advocate, to be sure, but not in the same, absolute way that many of my friends are (and the debate about what our rights are is best held some other day). What government agents did in the wake of Katrina, though, has to count as an outrageous violation of individual rights to everyone, with the notable exception of the most rabidly anti-gun believers.

Gun rights aren’t just a matter of quaint constitutional interpretation. Gun rights and gun ownership, especially in times of serious crisis where the government agents cannot be relied on to safeguard citizens, is symbolic of what I consider to be one of the most basic of human rights: the right to self-defense.

People talk about rights in ways that confound me, to be honest. The right to a “living wage.” The right to unrestricted health care. These are just ways to say that they believe in their “right” to have someone else pay for their doctor visits and lifestyles. These aren’t rights as I see them.

The right to self-protection, on the other hand, isn’t reliant on anyone to give you anything other than the opportunity to keep safe your own physical being. It doesn’t get much more basic than that. In the best of times, the police can’t guaranty your safety. How safe should citizens feel when those same government agencies have lost control of a city and looters are running the show?

I’m a gun rights advocate all the time, but to see these officers leaving citizens essentially naked and unprotected in the face of Katrina’s violent aftermath is sickening. Hearing stories of them confiscating--and in some cases, destroying--citizens’ private property was grotesque.

Quick update: And, yes, this ties nicely into the “feel good story of the day.” It would have felt even better if the protagonists had aimed better and fired less, I have to admit. Updated update: Of course, on two minutes reflection, this is probably the real feel good story of the day. Makes me feel good, anyway.

The VRWC Isn’t Going to Like This At All…

I’ll be mocked by the Freeperazi wherever I go. I probably won’t get the Pat Robertson endorsement. I might have to turn in my decoder ring.




Your Inner European is French!



Smart and sophisticated.

You have the best of everything - at least, *you* think so.


Damn the luck…

H/T to Rob whose inner European is also much cooler than mine. Bastard.

Is Communism Dead in Africa?

The question posed by the Beeb to its readers: Is communism dead in Africa?. The reader responses are--as they always are to these open questions--entertaining and enlightening (if, at times, utterly maddening).

Communism is not dead in Africa or anywhere: it can not die. The question indicates a poor acquaintance with the prophetic propositions of Karl Marx: an essentially formless and therefore indestructible movement has been confused with socialism as a physical mode of political organization. Just as corrupted and obsolete socialist structures fell apart, so will the evil, exploitative and violent capitalist political infrastructures. Then a state of world communism and peace will usher.



Communism is never dead. When a new tyrant comes to power, communism is typically one of the tenets they grab hold of. Just look at what has happened in Venezuela. Communism always fails the people, but it never fails the leaders.



There was never really any communism in Africa. Some African nationalists pretended to be communist in order to get aid from the Soviet Union. It would never have taken root anyway. Africans love their freedom too much. Africans are also natural traders.

Communalism-yes. Communism-no.

This is, of course, just a small sampling of the opinions. What is most enlightening is the insight the answers can give to the minds of Africans--it’s rarely a friendly place for the west in general and for America in specific.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wired: Apple Fanboys Not as Crazy as Paulbearers

Today, Wired details how Ron Paul enthusiasts out-crazy Apple fanatics by a mile. Which I find, personally, gratifying, although I also wonder just how much crossover there is between these two groups.

Apple fans pummeled Kim for her story on the iPhone’s controversial security model, while Ron Paul boosters went after Sarah for her piece on a recent spurt of deceptive spam promoting the Republican presidential candidate.  Some representatives from each group got vicious, resorting to personal smears, sometimes laced with misogyny.
In other words, just another day at the office; smears and ad hominem attacks are an occupational hazard of journalism. But having two backlashes at about the same time provides us a rare opportunity to compare the religious fervor of two net-savvy cults of true believers.

While their methodology isn’t what you might call strict and seems to have tongue canoodling happily with cheek, the article will probably draw them even more hate mail. Truthers (who aren’t the totality of Ron Paul’s supporters, but certainly make up a good chunk of the most vocal contingent) aren’t known for their keen sense of humor, and the Apple fanboys are notoriously thin-skinned.

Good show, Wired!

Read the story.

Don’t Tase Me, Young Man

Reasonable use of the Taser? I mock, you decide.

Officials with the city’s Department on Aging went to Lillian Fletcher’s home Oct. 29 to make a welfare check, and called police when they saw Fletcher in a window swinging a hammer back and forth, police spokeswoman Monique Bond said Tuesday.

Officers arrived and in an attempt to subdue Fletcher one of them used their Taser, Bond said.
[...]
“My grandmother is easily confused,” Taylor told the newspaper, adding that the elderly woman can be belligerent but is about 5 feet 1 and no more than 160 pounds.

“I just don’t think they should be Tasing 82-year-old women. That’s ridiculous,” Taylor said.

Read the story.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mr. Answer Doesn’t Really Dig the Question. Just Sayin’.

The question (which wasn’t asked of the resident know-it-all):

Isn’t it about time that the swastika’s 12 year association with fascism was demoted to a temporary glitch and its far greater and more traditional symbolic meanings, such as eternality, universal order, harmony and the balance of opposites, were once again given priority? Even the word swastika originates from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘well-being’.

I’m sticking with “no.” Until neo-fascists stop using the symbol as a sign of racial hatred and until we can manage to disassociate it with the murder of millions and one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the planet, using it in graphic design seems a bit out of bounds.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Denver Broncos: Coming Together as a Team

It was good to see the Denver Broncos come together as a team today against the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, it was a brilliant team effort aimed toward losing.

Dropped passes, missed coverage, bad protection, injuries, turnovers, bad passes, anemic running, lackluster effort, odd coaching decisions, and even a missed field goal. About the only person who didn’t do his best to contribute to the loss today was Todd Sauerbrun, whose punting was actually damned good.

The Lions deserved the win and outplayed the Broncos in every way, but the nasty truth is that the score should have been far more lopsided. Against a truly good team--say a Patriots team who really love running up the score--this would have been one of those Nebraska v/ William and Mary of Southwest Missouri’s School for Young Women. The Broncos, as bad as they looked, probably looked better than they should have because Detroit spent most of the first half scoring field goals instead of touchdowns.

How bad are the Broncos? They were having a hard time winning when they had their starting team; now that they have lost a safety, offensive linemen, a couple wide receivers, and, perhaps, a quarterback, the Broncos have little in common with the team from last week much less last year. They have lost talent, leadership, and experience through injuries and off season personnel decisions leaving this team frequently looking lost and confused (especially on defense where they also saw a change in coaching and defensive philosophy).

So, back to the question: how bad are the Broncos? They’ll be fighting with the Raiders for last place this year, and that says an awful lot.

This season is shaping up to be the worst Broncos team that I’ve seen in years and this game is, undoubtedly, one of the worst that I’ve ever seen them play. It’s also a tragic waste of a season for some of the Broncos’ older players (Champ Bailey, for example). It’s become an accidental rebuilding season with very little in the way of promise for next year.

None of which changes the fact that I just had a great freakin’ week of vacation where I enjoyed sun, sand, and far more booze than was healthy. Big thanks to Don and Jerry for posting and keeping the place interesting while I was gone. In fact, it’s probably a more interesting place for my absence, which is about as painful as another Broncos loss.

But well spent vacation time. Yeah, that’s nice for me.

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