Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Alito Sworn In

I report Samuel Alito's swearing in as the newest Supreme Court justice for the sake of closure. The Eye has kept a running tab on SCOTUS happenings from key decision like Kelo to the durm und strang surrounding Chief Justice Rehnquist's death and Justice O'Connor's retirement. In truth, talking about legal issues pains me of late and I'm glad it is over for now, as much as I would like to end the working liberal majority that Justice Kennedy is now going to have a hefty hand in.

I've thought about posting some thoughts offering a sense of closure for myself in that regard, but i have niether the strength nor spirit to do so yet. Well, for you that means more inane posts about science fiction and half naked celebrities. Heh. nah. i'll throw you some red meat in the coming weeks. If you want some ktchup with it, just ring for the host. He lives to serve.
My Soul

You Are a Hunter Soul

You are driven and ambitious - totally self motiviated to succeed
Actively working to acheive what you want, you are skillful in many areas.
You are a natural predator with strong instincts ... and more than a little demanding.
You are creative, energetic, and an extremely powerful force.

An outdoors person, you like animals and relate to them better than people.
You tend to have an explosive personality, but also a good sense of humor.
People sometimes see you as arrogant or a know it all.
You tend to be a bit of a loner, though you hate to be alone.

Souls you are most compatible with: Seeker Soul and Peacemaker Soul

(Via: Idle Mendacity)
Confirmed

The Senate has confirmed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court of the United States by a vote of 58-42. Hooray for originalism and the depature of Ronald Reagan's biggest mistake.
Indiana Jones and the Nursing Home of Doom

Continuing on the earlier theme of Hollywood unoriginality and sequels, there is at least one I would like to see. The fourth Indiana Jones installment has long been rumored and at various times in the last 17 years has been declared to be at varying stages of development. I can recall times when Sean Connery had signed on again, there was a script penned by Tom Stoppard, and Kevin Costner was in line to play Indiana’s brother--none of which was ever true or necessarily desired. Well, here’s where we stand now: there’s a release ate set for February 2007. There’s no script or anything even remotely resembling preprodution because Steven Speilberg and george Lucas’ schedules don’t gel and every party involved--not the least of which is Harrison Ford--wants someone to dump a backhow full of cash at their doorsteps in order to start work.

Ah, Harrison Ford. Born in 1942. Does that lay out some concerns? Not to Ford. Here’s what he said on a press junket promoting his new movie, Firewall:
"I can't tell you anything about 'Indiana Jones,' but I think you've just seen a film in which I perform physically to an extent [that will be] sufficient for 'Indiana Jones'. The audience is there, everybody involved is anxious to make the film again"
Does it make you a little wary when an actor as prominent as Harrison Ford has to reassure that his playing a role is a good idea? A lot of ‘80’s movie icons have stumbled in recent years and are either going back to the well, like Stallone reprising Rocky for a sixth turn, or given up entirely, like Arnold deciding to run California instead. Ironically, Arnold is the youngest of the three and the first to give up action roles. Ford as a 65 year old grave robber? Stallone as a 61 year old boxer? In some ways that seems like a pitiful attempt to recapture old glory.

I am reminded of Spencer Tracy in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Tracy was in his sixties at the time. The script called for all sorts of slapstick situations, but producers thoughts audiences would be turned off by the thought of such things happening to an old man. A blatantl obvious stunt double was used to add to the comedic effect to the already absurd concept. Well, in the coming months and years, you’re going to see the real thing on the screen without any sense of comedy. Perhaps it will work, and the advanced age of the characters will be factored in intelligently. But I have this gnawing feeling that our heroes won’t get a decent ride off into the sunset, but an implausible blockbuster tht comes twenty years too late.

There will never be another send off of an action star quite like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.
Chewbacca is a Wookiee

Chewbacca is a Wookiee who blogs.

Monday, January 30, 2006

End Alito Debate: 72-25

The Senate has voted 72-25 to end debate on Judge Alito's nomination. good thing, too. while i have not watched the debate on C-SPAN, I have occasionally turned it on for a few minutes to hear who's speaking. Apparently the Democrats were all reading from the same script, as I heard the story of the black teeenager who stole a purse with $10 in it and wound up being shot because he refused to halt when police ordered him to do so. Alito ruled the degrees of force used to stop a suspect were a matter for state legislatures to decide. The SCOTUS disagreed and overturned him. Fine, that happens on legal grounds. But trying to smear Alito as a uncaring racisr rather than a contientous jurist is absurd--especially when that is the only talking point they can come up with.

Kos and his acolytes are having a coniption fit.
A Little Too Enterprising

I haven't forked over the cash for season sets of Enterprise for two reasons. The foremost reason is that it was my least favorite of the Star trek franchise. The show would have to be way better than it was for me to spend the exorbitant price Paramount is asking for all four sets. Indeed, it is twice as expensive as season sets for shows that were cheaper yo produce. It’s greed on the part of Paramount, as they know gapless trekkies will pay most anything for a fix.

Despite this, I have caught an episode or two in syndication. It is not as pervasive as some of the other Trek shows have been. On my cable system, it is aired at 2:00 AM on Sunday morning by a local ABC affiliate. Thus far, I haven’t seen it on any other channel. Neither the Sci Fi Channel, nor Spike TV, who have plans to air all but the original, have picked up the rights. For some reason, the syndication package has begun airing the fourth--and lowest rated--season first. My guess would be they’d like to go ahead and establish why this show was so awful. The fourth season was made up of several three episode arcs in which the producers tried to cram the original intent of the show--that is, a prequel to the entire Trek universe.

Taking a second look, I am now realizing why this Trek failed as badly as it did. Yes, I’ve been vocal about how untalented Rick Berman and Brannon Braga were, but mre to the point is Enterprise dabbled too much in current events. Trek has always been a source for commentary. It does broad social concepts well, although it is often preachy. It has not done well when it has paralled society too closely. Case in point is the arc that is about to air in a week or two. It is the Vulcan coup d’tat storyline. I’m going to run through the broadest points of the story and you see how long it takes you to roll your eyes.

The Vulcans featured in ,I>Enterprise are not the hooey-gooey pacifists they are in subsequent Trek. Their version of Confucious, Surak, is not widely read yet, except by a small band of followers who are considered renegades. The Vulcans in charge believe--logically--that they are the superior race in the galaxy, and therefore the power and influence of the other races must be kept at bay. To that end, they are hamstringing Earth’s ezploration and have an ongoing conflict with the Andorians.

In order to keep the Andorians in line, the Vulcan High Commans concocts a story that the andorians are building a super weapon based on the design of the Xindi weapon that attacked Earth at the end of the second season. This lie becomes justification for wiping out the Andorrian government. The plot is stopped by Captain Archer and crew, while the Vulcan government is handed over to T’Pau, a female Vulcan an the leader of those who adhere to Surak’s teaching.

Did you catch all that? Have your eyes rolled out of your head yet? If not, let me straighten some things out. The leadership of Vulcans were neocons wishing to maintain Vulcan pace across the galaxy even I they have to bloody their knuckles doing it. Andorria was Iraq. T’pau was Hillary Clinton, savior who would end the neocon reign and restore peace and self-determination to the galaxy.

You see, Enterprise wasn’t the usual Trek escapism. It was The West Wing with pointy ears rather than pointy heads. That’s why it failed, and even Jolene Blalock in a skintight outfit couldn’t save it.
The Tao of Humps

Fo those who have been scratching their heads over the deeper wihin within the lyrics of the Black Eyed Peas' hit, "My Humps," look not further. The crack research team here at the Eye (consisting of a one eyed mysanthrope, a neurotic cat, and a hyperactic yorkie) have uncovered the startling truth. When Fergie sings about "My Humps" she is referring to her stomach:And now you know the rest of the story. Don't you wish you didn't?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Back to the Well

Variety has an article up noting a new Friday the 13th sequel is scheduled to be released on October 13th--Friday, naturally. That’s nine months away with no script, storyline, or actors in place. Not that these flicks are all that complicated. A lumbering guy in a hockey mask, some c list actors playing teenagers who go to an abandoned camp for Spring Break instead of Panama City like everybody else, and the occasional bare boobs when the action slows down. Mix liberally and you have a Friday the 13th movie.

I like horror movies just fine. I’ve even sat through most of the F13th series, although I can barely differentiate between them for the elements I listed above. Most were in the 1980’s and the genre has sputtered since then. Back then these film were grainy, low vusget gore. Now CGI has removed the dirty feel to them to the point I couldn’t care less about Jason, Freddy, Michael Myers, Chucky, et al. They’ve been making less and less cash over time with the only hit in recent years being the gimmicky Freddy v. Jason a few years ago. So why make a sequel no one wants?

I suspect Hollywood is doing so many sequels and remakes because its usual source of material--the publishing industry--has turned away from fiction to self-help book, celeb bios, and Left Behind claptrap. There just isn't much out there to gauge the success of beforehand and adapt into a screenplay. Hollywood is grossly paranoid about forking over millions for untested product, so they look towards the success of original movies to remake or create a sequel to.

Ironically, if you want better movies, you should read more.
Bob Woodruff Injured by Roadside Bomb

ABCNews anchor Bob Woodruff and a cameraman were injured by a roadside bomb early this morning in Iraq. The two were flown to the “Greeen Zone” and underwent surgery to remove shrapnel from head injuries. Both are in stable, but critical condition.

I wish the two of them the best of wishes for recovery. They are doing a dangerous job for very little thanks. Not as much as our troops are, granted, but worth noting nonetheless. So what’s the problem? On my daily trip the the photosphere, I note conservative blogs are largely silent about this incident. I chalk it up to the utter contempt my fellow conservatives have for journalism.

Conservatives complain that journalists are covering the good news in Iraq, like the successful training of Iraqi military forces. Well, Woodruff and his cameraman were embedded with the 4th Infantry Division, traveling with an Iraqi Army unit in an Iraqi mechanized vehicle trying to cover the success of said Iraqi forces and he nearly died doing it. Isn’t that worth noticing?
Sheehan Considers Challenging Feinstein

Cindy Sheehan is considering challenging Sen. Feinstein's reelection. This news should brings tears of joy to any conservative who has long since written off moonbat California politics as little more than entertainment value. If anyone can make feinstein look like Thomas Jefferson, it’s Cindy Sheehan. I really think she’s let the idea slip just to get the cameras back on her, but what a fun campaign the race would be.

First we have a perfect example here of why the Democrats have a tough time getting traction in elections--they can’t keep the craziest of their supporters off television. You can even extend that further and say they can’t keep their wackier blogger quiet, either. Perhaps it is because they fear losing grassroots support or maybe they actually do believe this stuff at heart, but the left doesn’t denounce its loonies like the right does. Pat Robertson says something stupid about Hugo Chavez or Ariel Sharon, but there is a chorus of GOPer from the White House on down saying they don’t agree with him. What about Cindy Sheehan adopting Bin Laden’s talking points? You hear a lot of crickets chirping from the left side of the aisle. I guess that makes some sense when you consider Bin Laden’s last audio message sounded like it was written by Paul Begala.

Second, watching Feinstein squirm at the prospect is almost as much fun as listening to her try to interrogate Judge Alito with legal jargon and concepts when she has absolutely no legal training whatsoever. Feinstein is being accused by Sheehan as a war supporter. The Senator’s response? A doozy. You see, she was duped by Bush, whom she considers a moron, but now she can’t support pulling out the troops because the job isn’t done. In other words (say this in a beach bunny, Valley Girl voice) “He tricked me!” Yes, she says she’s too dumb to know which battles need to be fought, but is also nuanced enough to understand when said battle is won. And this is a person California has enough faith in to reelect in landslides? Yikes.

Finally, one bright spot. If Sheehan runs, she will be flanked by the most far left crazies imaginable in the largest media market in the United States, there for all the world to see. If the 2003 recall election was a circus, this is going to be a traveling Disney World complete with sideshow freaks. We all know who’s going to be playing Goofy, too, don’t we? I don’t Feinstein will go further left--assuming that’s possible, but will simply ignore Sheehan. The big question is whether Sheehan can take enough vote away from Feinstein to be a spoiler. With a solid Republican turnout and Sheehan taking 6 or 8 percent of the vote from Feinstein, it is entirely possible that a moderate Republican could be elected to the US Senate. And the self-destruction of the Democratic Party rolls on…

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Robert Heinlein's Ideal Human Being

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly, specialization is for insects."
Comparison Elections

Say what you will about how the 2000 presidential election damaged our political system and cast doubt on the actual winner if you so desire. But bear in mind that our country has marched on in good health through three weeks of uncertainty and two subsequent elections without any significnt disruption. Bush didn't gather an army to battle Gore's troops on the plains of battle for the keys to the White House.

In comparison, the Palestinians know who won their elections, as stupid a choice as Hamas was, and after only a few days are on the verge of a civil war over the forming of a coalition government. It's not so much freedom on the march as bayonets and suicide bomb belts.

The best/wworst part? Fatah hates Hamas' methods, so i response they are adopting them in protest. Muslims: we party like it's 899.
Twenty Years Ago Today

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."--Pres. Ronald Reagan
We lost the space shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. Astronaut Ronald Erwin McNair was from Lake City, South Carolina, not far from my home. It was a big deal to have a local be in such an important, high profile position, so everyone here was watching when the unthinkable happened.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Battlestar Galactica--"Black Market"

Is BSG showing its jump the shark tendencies? Tonight reused the same opening of a 48 hours ago flashback od Apollo pointing a gun at a mafia kingpin and the rest of the episode was pretty much filler. I suppose one could consider it a breather after the last three arc intense episodes, but I was disappointed. It isn’t’ much of a stretch to think a black market has emerged in a rag-tag fleet of less than 50,000 people who are living hard scrabble, deprived lives, but the idea that such a mob is operating in such a confined area with no fear from the government is hard to swallow.

The episode is Apollo=centric and we get to explore further what’s driving him to be suicidal. In some flashbacks to Caprica, we learn he lost some he was in love with in the Cylon attack. Virtually everything in this episode is seen from his eyes as he tracks down the mob boss. We see in the opening how that goes down. There’s the whole, “You won’t shoot me. You’re nothing like me” moment just before Aollo shoots him. If you didn’t see that coming, you’re not cynical enough to leave you house.

There was no story arc advancement here. Nothing about Six and the resistance, who thanks to Baltar, now have a nuclear bomb. There was nary a mention of the Cylons. Even President Poslin looks none the worse for wear after being on her death bed last week. Come on, guys. This show has been great for a season and a half. What’s going on now? I appreciate character studies usually more than slam bang action, but doing so in stories that don’t affect the status quo is a cop out. It’s one of the circumstances Ronald Moore complained about on Star Trek--nothing too significant could alter the show’s dynamic in any particular episode. One of the virtues off BSG was the idea that anything could happen. Get back to that, gentlemen.

Rating: ** (out of 5)
No Filibuster for Alito

Now we know what Sen. Reid was up to--hiding out of the public eye to build up his courage to admit defeat. Look like Sen. Kerry will have to find some other way to distenguish his sputtering non-campaipagn campaign for 2008 other than being a flip=flopper and riding Sen. Kennedy's (alcohol drenched?) coat tails.
New IMDb Feature

Maybe I am far behind the times here, but I have just now noticed the IMDb has added a new feature. Now it lists individual episode credits for actors, directors, and writers. Now it is much easier to figure out if that guy at the produce stand in yesterday’s Banacek rerun was Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island without having to roll through three or four jumbled sections with scores of screen credits.

The biggie for me is the writing credits. Call me a esoterica junkie, but I am fascinated by the business of television writing. It is interesting to see how many writers pop in from other mediums, write and episode or two of some show, then disappear from television forever. Usually the ego can’t handle the collaborative effort. Since the writer is the lowest rung on the ladder, he can be rewritten by anyone--the director, producer, a star with clout, and often writing staff members doing so just to justify their salaries whether the script needs revision or not. Television is not conducive to individual artistic integrity.

Yet I am also fascinated by running across such television creators like Aaron Sorkin, J. Michael Straczynski, and David E. Kelly who have hundreds of scripts to their names in a relatively short period of time. There’s obviously a trick to it beyond selling out, although I am fully aware the scale fee for a sold script is in the five figures with guaranteed royalties until that fabled earthquake finally sinks California and takes the Writer’s Guild og America financial records with it. All that is is enticing enough to give up a little creative ownership.

Anyway, it’s a fun feature to play with. Now if the IMDb could just work on its accuracy, it really would be cooking with gas.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Democrat Senators on Alito

Sen. Robert Byrd, who would otherwise be at the forefront of opposition to a conservative nominee, is instead up for reelection in a red state and will vote for Alito. Sen. Clinton just got the results of a Gallup poll claiming 61% of her potential electorate definitely will not vote for her in 2008 so she has to shore up her base by making a fuss. Meanwhile, Sen. John kerry is continuing his perpetual and pathetic run for the presidency by trying to start a filibuster with Sen. Ted Kennedy, who is ni't the Minority leader but doesn't seem to acknowledge that fact.

So where is Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid? heaven only knows. All we can say is the lunatics are running the asylum. Maybe he got wise and headed for the hills.
Say It Ain't So, Jennifer

The blogospheresphere--even sites you wouldn’t expect--are buzzing about a tabloid rumor that Jennifer Love Hewitt is considering posing for Playboy I don’t consider Star to be all that a reliable a gossip rag, so I really don’t think this it rue at all. If there is an air of truth to it, well, I hope Ms. Hewitt reconsiders.

If the rumor is true, the stated rationale is that Hewitt is hoping to get meatier roles by being edgier. Well, this isn’t going to do it, hon. If you want to escape you teenie bopper image (one which has served you well, I might add) then you are going to have to branch out into dramatic roles, not show off your other Golden Globes. Neve Campbell went that route a couple of years ago by appearing nude in a movie. Do you remember the title of it? Neither do I. But I do remember her fondly from past roles which she was trying to get away from. She isn’t getting those jobs anymore, either. Walk a mile down the wrong path and it is incredibly difficult to find your way back.

Hewitt has a squeaky clean image despite some provocative photo shoots in the past. Showing off her naked behind She has a certain class--yeah, I know she’s been in some dumb movies--but appearing naked isn’t going to raise her status as a dramatic actress. It will just make a lot more dumb, drunken frat boys fork over the usual $4.99 to see another starlet sell out for their puerile tastes.

You may click to enlarge if you so desire.
Hamas Wins Majority in Palestinian Elections

Hamas wins a majority in Palestinian elections. Here we have the ultimate drawback of democracy: sometimes the people you don’t want to win, win anyway. It is an unfortunate consequence of “Freedom n the March” is that there is not necessarily a Thomas Jefferson or James Madison to take over. First elections don’t matter much in the gran scheme of things, as a democracy has troublesome growing pains. Bear in mind there is no functioning democracy until power has changed hands through the ballot box twice.

I can already predict Netanyahu will gain more support for the upcoming Israeli elections. If the PAA I going to take a hard line, the Israelis will respond in kind. It’s no stretch that the Palestinians are taking a hard line. Bush urged PA Prime Minister Abbas not to build a coalition with Hamas and give them an air of legitimacy. I’m not going to claim the Palestinians were primarily motivated by thumbing their noses at Bush, but that had to be icing on the cake. Of course, most were voting against the enormous corruptuion of the PA, which hasn’t improved much since Arafat’s death. It has gotten so blatant, even the EU has cancelled recent aid packages. Most often, the money winds up in Swiss bank accounts with PA citizens seeing little to no of it. Heck, even their suicide bombs are paid for by the Iranians and the Saudis.

That’s the rub here. Israelis (and Americans at a distance) are more concerned with whether suicide bombings will continue than with the make up of the Palestinian Parliament. Hamas’ terrorists wing has carried out some brutal attacks, but they also run a large social welfare state (again financed by foreign powers) for those who perpetuate the destruction of Israel agenda. What I am hoping for is a political maturing. I am not optimistic. In 2000, Arafat turned down the best offer the PA will ever get when Barak sold the farm for peace. Instead, Arafat refused and started on the course of suicide bombings instead. Will Hams, whose stane is to not recognize th nation of Israel at all, negotiate?

Not likely. The Istaelis and the Palestinians need to create a common economic market between the two of them to promote a more promising future for them both. Parents who realixe their kids have a bright future making money will be uninclined to strap dynamite to them and march them into crowded Israeli grocery stores. Arafat din’t have the sense to see that. Neither will the new government.

What does this mean for the US? Two things. One, aid to the PA may have to stop. It is against our policy to fund terrorist organizations and it ust blatantly became one. Second, this foolish notion that if we promote elections in Muslim countries, they are going to elect pro-Westtern governments has got to stop. Let’s be realistic at least about short term goals. They don’t like Americans in the Middle East and giving them a ballot box is only going to prove it, not change it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lost--"Fire + Water"

A strange, surrealist outing tonight involving the least interesting character as far as I am concerned, Charlie. Yet the imagery and foreshadowing bring up a lot of interesting points for speculation. In truth, it is just about all speculation, as neither the flashbacks nor the present day storylines advanced much beyond adding further rifts in already tortured relationships between Charlie, Claire, and her baby.

The episode opens with a dream sequence (yes, just like last week) in which Charlie and his brother Liam are children on Christmas morning. Liam gets a Voltron (who didn’t have one of those as kid?) and Charlie gets a piano. Evidently the gift starts him down the road as a musician--assuming you consider his band musicians. Hey, one of their songs was playing in a nightclub on Alias a while back, so they cant’ be all bad. Suddenly the dream swirches to thr present day. Charlie imagines the piano on the beach and hears baby Aaron crying, seemingly trapped inside. The piano is taken out with the tide and Charlie jumps in to save Aaron. He is standing on the beach holding Aaron wen he flashes back to reality. He has, in fact, kidnapped Aaron and the rest of the Castaways have stormed the beach to retrieve him. He gives the baby back and claims he was sleepwalking. Claire doesn’t believe him.

The interesting part of this sequence was the parallels with the story of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. While Charlie is holding a dripping wet Aaron in his dream, a dove flies overhead. The first Castaway he sees his Hurley dressed in robes as someone in the New Testament would. The theme reppears when Claire asks Eko to baptise her baby. Think how this factors in with the black/white good/evil theme that pervades the show. Waly is black and is being “protected” by the others. We are not certain whether he is good or evil. Aaron is white and Locke is quickly positioning himself as Aaron’s protector. At one point before a commercial break, locke seems enormously satisfied at a confrontation between Charlie and Claire which will no bout lead to Charlie’s banishment. This is the second time by my count that a parrallel between Aaron and Jesus has been made, the first being the appearance of a manger birth with three Castaways in the background as wise men. Does Locke know something about Aaron we don’t?

In the climax, Charlie starts a fire to distract the Castaways and kidnaps Aaron again. He is convinced he is saving the kid from something. Aaron is saved by Locke this time, who lies a serious smack down on Charlie. Now none of the Castaways trust Charlie. Locke also follows Charlie to his stash of heroin and takes it to be locked in the hatch.Jack stitches up Charlie’s face. They have tense words. There was always the feeling confrontations were going to emerge, but Charlie being the catalyst was a surprise. A nice twist, really.

A minor bit gets cleared up as well. Apparently it is no secret that Walt has ben seen in the jungle and that Kate saw a black horse. It just appears that everyone is so jaded at this point, none of them think it’s strange. It hasn’t yet been explained how Sawyer can be shot, marched iles through the jungle, recover, march miles through the jungle again, and now throw buckets of water on a fire with his injured shoulder all in a period of less than ten days. Tough guy, that Sawyer. Reminds me of…well, me. If I may stroke my ego a bit.

The rest of the flashbacks involve Liam’s drug problem and Charlie’s inability to help him. Liam’s family life gets destroyed, as does his career, before he sells Charlie’s piano and runs off to Australia. At least some of Charlie’s connection with Aaron appears to be abandonment issues with family. I’m even suspecting liam might be the father of Claire’s baby, with the connection being unbeknownst to Charlie and Claire. She gets a flashback episode soon. Perhaps we’ll see.

In the “B” stories, Jack and Ana-Lucia bond, and Hurley reveals he has a crush on Libby. When did this become a high school sop opera? We’ll have to wait two weeks before we see anything further.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
It's a Jihad, Charlie Brown

In Muslim heaven, holy warriors get 72 virgins who all look like Marcy, which evidently means they are all lesbians as well.
Celestial Navigation

Second star to the right and straight on until morning. That’s the way to get to Never Never Land. It is not, as is commonly assumed, the way to get to the Neverland ranch. I that case, you need to be a preteen boy, preferably one with a hard knock life, who’s morally bankrupt, greedy mother is will to let you remain unattended with a pedophile long enough to make case that notoriously unreliable California juries may or may not rule on with any intelligence. I’m not sure which of that is the fantasy and which is the reality anymore.

I don’t believe in astrology, and I never have. The stars be not thy destiny. I do appreciate how stars were useful in guiding sailors in times past. Naturally, it all gets taken to the extreme and a belief the stars can guide your life is born. The biggest problem with good intentioned people is they don’t know when to quit. Scratch that. It’s that they don’t know when to quit and they are at the mercy of the unscrupulous charlatans of the world.

Sometimes I feel like I am on a rudderless ship on a starless night somewhere in the rough seas. I know intellectually and spiritually that isn’t so, but the thought of it having no end in sight is a daunting one. Do you think life is a test for the afterlife? I’ve always thought it was to some degree, but now I wonder if it is not completely that way. God tested Job’s faith in the Old Testament as though that was a special circumstance. Maybe it was one story out of many to resssaure future generations that sort of life can happen to you, but don’t lose heart. Indeed, I look around at people I consider to be fine Christian people who are just as buffeted by tragedy as Job was. In some ways, I have embraced the idea of redemptive suffering--an idea that the less you enoy life on earth, the more willing you are to grasp nto spiritual things for a greater reward in heaven.

That sounded a lot greedier than I wanted it to. It is easy to become pious and judgmental when having that perspective. Here we go back to that “good people don’t know when to quit” business from above. I vote we modify the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” to ‘no one goes unpunished period.” What do you think? It’s succinct, all-inclusive, and puts everyone on their toes. I like it myself and won’t charge a penny in royalties for fair use. No need to look to the stars for the future. We can simply put that on T-shirts and bumper stickers, the modrn day disseminators of philosophy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Slogan to Get Behind

It is a dark reminder of two facts. First, the 20th century was the bloodiest in world history. Second, that contrary to popular belief, idealogy is deadlier than religion. We can toss in a third if you'd like and say that anyone wearing a Che "freedom fighter" shirt ought to get a one way ticket to a North Korean ghulag. i might even toss in a buck or two for the slow boat ride to Asia.
Run for President

You can run for POTUS in nifty little game. It has all the trappings for a real campaign, including issue management, occasional flubs and scandals, and fund raising allocations. It is part of Cable in the Classroom, so it is designed to be ejukayshunul, but don't let that scare you off from taking a spin.
IMHO UPN WB is a SNAFU DOA, OK?

Running a network is tough. Just ask the WB and UPN, both of which have floundered since their separate inceptions a little over a decade ago. The biggest hits on either network would have barely caused a ripple on the Big Four, much less the big three. So what is the logical thing for the two networks to do? Combine themselves into one network starting in September.

So far, it appears both networks will take the best of each others shows and arrange them on a new channel called The CW. You can tell they put a lot of thought into this. Iy sounds like a revival of the old Nashville Network which became the Testosterone Lunkhead Network otherwise known as Spike TV. You may recall that the old Nashville Network aired tractor pulls and fishing shows in between country music videos. It’s difficult to schedule a channel with more inane content than that, but bless their hearts, Spike TV executives pulled it off.

Who brings what to the table here is a good question. UPN has Veronica Mars and little else. The WB airs Smallville and Gilmore Girls, both long running, modest hits that are sputtering out. As mentioned above, none are truly hits by big network standards. UPN get solid ratings with its wrestling shows, which is too depressing to think about. American culture has bypassed the toilet and is calmly doing the backsrtoke in the sewers.

This new cpmbo network isn’t all that promising. I mean, who came up with the name, The CW? Are we going to call the network the COW in conversations? Do you know how many Cow Patty jokes are going to be made by critics reviewing their shows? If they go for that, they might as well call it The WC since its all going to the toilet, nee sewer anyway. Any related URLs have been snapped up, too. I wonder how they are going to fix that.

I don’t know. Maybe it will be good.
Feline Follies

I like cats a lot. They are independent, antisocial, and generally misanthropic although they do enjoy messing with people’s minds. This I can respect. It’s probably why I get along so well with the family cat, Boo. We seem to have a telepathic connection tht lets us both know when to socialize with each other and when to keep our distance. If only people were that intuitive. Some of that has changed since Christmas.

The cat and the dog get Christmas presents just like the rest of us. Last month, boo received a monogrammed (yeah, like the cat can read) back of catnip. Yes, they grow pot for cats. Used to be Boo would come into my rook at night, park it at the foot of my bed, and snooze while I typed away at my desk. Now Boo trots in with the bag of catnip and makes a commotion like I’ve never heard rolling around in delight like a plum fool. Do you know how hard it is to write with a live Cheech and Chong movie going on at your feet?

I just thought you'd like to know how I spend the wee hours of the morning. Not so much the tortured artst drowning himsel in controlled substances as much as mediocre writer amused by his pothead cat. Godd night and good luck.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Conservative Party Wins in Canada

Canada has elected a conservative government for the firt time in twelve years. Color me shocked. Even after the kickback scandal which took down the Liberal government and Prime Minister Paul Martin, I thought Canadians couldn’t bring themselves to elect a right wing government. Indeed they have not entirely done so, as the Conservatives will have to build a coalition with more leftist parties in order to govern. Loosely translated, that mean they will be jst like our GOP--in power but clueless how to use it.

Still, the Tories ran on a platform of lowering taxes, increase defense spending, and repair strained relations with the united States, all of which are good things for our country as well. It’s also a hoot that Stephen Harper, leader of the Tories, has appeared in public as a cowboy caricature, much like the current occupant of the white House. Considering how our leftists feel about Bush and taking into account Canada generally swings further left than the U anyway, I can imagine how much Canadian leftists are crying, wailing, and gnashing their teeth.

If anyone actually fled the US for Canada after Bush’s election, they have to be rather upset right now. Too bad Canadian emmigration runs more towards them becoming Americans than the other way around. A pity, really. They can have Alec Balfwin, Barbra Steisand, and Sean Penn with no protests from me.

On a more serious note, I am curious to see if social polict turns to the right. Canada has a bloated, inefficient health care system, incredibly loose drug legalization, and cultural issues regarding gay rights. I’ll bet there won’t be much if any change, but the issues will have to arise at some point anyway.
Jessica Simpson Has Nice Legs

This isn't part of that whole self-reflection thing I wrote about on Saturday. This is intellectual slumming by continuing my tradition of posting pictures of attractive women who are not nude, naked, or necessarily in a bikini but unsuspecting Google searchers rarely know the difference ntil it is too late. I'm crrently weighing new candidates to add to the roster. Stay tned. in the meantime:Enjoy Jessica Simpson now before she trns nto the next Pamela Anderson. You may click to enlarge if you deem necessary.
It Isn't Gladiators Fighting to the Death

...but we are more civilized than the Romans. Right? Anyone? For the macabre amongst us, you might like to sign up for Pursuit Alert It is described as this by its web site:
How do you find out when a chase is being broadcast live on TV? Some people rely on their friends to tell them about a chase, but with PursuitAlert™ service, you'll be alerte by a phone call or through a text message to your cell-phone or pager to live high speed chase broadcasts from Los Angeles TV stations. You can expect to see about 4 chases per month on live television. When you get the alert, you'll know a chase can be seen on your TV as it happens. This service now is totally free!
Not to mention morbid. Sorry for the rest of the country, but this seems to be exclusvely for enlightened liberal California thus far. Maybe if more of the country turns blue, we'll get to share in such high quality entertainment, too.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Moment of Silence

Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It has been 33 years and 30 + million lives snuffed out.
The West Wing--"Duck and Cover"

Tonight began the long anticipated downfall of the Vinick campaign for president. As expected, it was a Hollywood twist of fate brought on by unforeseen circumstances rather than a battle of ideologies between candidates Vinick and Santos. While it is clear most of the fallout (pardon the pun, as you’ll read in a minute) will fall squarely on Vinick’s shoulders, the writers muddied the waters by opening the possibility of regulatory failure. The result is the same--a deux ex machina that will carry Santos to the White house, deserving or not.

We pick up right where we left off last week. CJ and Pres. Bartlet have just been informed of a nuclear incident at a power plant in southern California. To relieve the situation, a certain amount of radioactive gas must be released. Bartlet declares a state of emergency and orders the surrounding areas evacuated. The gas released turns out to be above the safety limits and worse, a pip carrying water to cool down the reactor is leaking. A team of civilians must go in to repair it by hand although the radiation level is five times the safety limit.

Vinick realizes he helped get the licensing for the plant to operate decades ago and fears and backlash. He still believes nuclear power is safe and effective despite the disaster. He continually holds the line that federal regulation is to blame. Meanwhile, Santos sits on his hands in Florida, not wanting to politicize what could be a national tragedy. Bartlet opts to travel to a command center near the reactor the next day and has to bring the California congressional delegation,--including Vinick--along.

The two have a heated debate over nuclear energy and who’s at fault. The problem is there are no easy answers. Nuclear power is safe, cheap, and good for the environment compared to coal and oil. Solar energy is expensive and inefficient. There’s no time to resolve anything, as CJ enters the office and reports one of the repair crew has did of radiation poisoning. As the news spreads Vinick gets a black eye for his support of nuclear power in general and his role in the opning of that particular plant in specific. A number of states he was far ahead in become toss ups. Now the election is too close to call.

I have to admit this was an interesting episode. I do think sinking the Vinck campaign over such a summer movie plot device is cheap, but what the heck. Word just came down the pike this weekend that the show has been cancelled anyway. What impressed me is that this was supposed to have Katrina/New Orleans overtones but wind up being poignant because of the recent Sago Mine tragedy. This episode was filmed in November, but the unpredictable timing was spooky. It was a nice way to leave off the show before its Olympic hiatus and its short remaining run.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Double-Edged Sword

You may recall twenty or so days ago I summed up 2005 as an awful year. Yes, well the thesaurus doesn’t have enough synonyms for ‘awful’ for me to fully articulate how bad a year it was for me. Here’s the rub that I have finally come up with after three weeks o reflection. I can’t say that anything physically bad happened to me. Indeed, every but of the systematic collapsing of my life took place in 2004. That means the retinal detachment, the colon rupture, the not being able to graduate, the uprooting of my life, and this compulsive need to become even more of a recluse than I was before. Every bit of that calamity occurred between the chiming of the new year of 2004 and 2005.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m ever sitting on the couch in a remake of This is Your Life, I will wholeheartedly proclaim 2004 as the worst year of my life and bludgeon anyone all about the head and shoulders with a frozen leg of lamb who dares nominate any other year. But all of that was physical. A matter of being buffeted by fate and pain. Those are, although you don’t like to admit, easy to handle at the time. The problem is when the shock wears off and you have to pick up the shards, glue them back together again, then realize that tattered piece of junk is what you are going to be stuck with forever. The year of our Lord 2005 was all about that for me.

Bones mend, scars fade, and burns get salved, but emotional pain lingers forever. Now I don’t know a single soul that doesn’t live with pain. There are a load of folks out there who don’t seem to be cursed with self-awareness, but I am convinced it is a defense mechanism. Even the shallow know there’s a dark world going on around them with tragic, dangerous events going on around them out of their control. With that in mind, understand that I do not write tabout these explorations of my emotional and spiritual health with any sense of arrogance over my enlightenment. Far from it, because I’m not sure where that hammer bashing me down is coming from, either.

I do confess to having spent time in a unique 9for me anyway) period of spiritual warfare. It hasn’t been the kind I faced before going about my daily life, with the everyday temptations bidding me to give in and seeking redemption and forgiveness the many times that I did. This years has been different. I have not been burdened by studies, money issues, family issues, or any other daily nuisances that keep one from seeing the big picture. I’ve spent the year with a meager existence. The necessities of life have been plentiful, but I have limited my stimulation. Consequently, much of my time has been spent in prayer and meditation.

Let me clarify that. By prayer, I mean a thoughtful and honest seeking of an explanation for God’s will and the possible benefits of what has become of me for myself and others. By meditation, I mean my sinful nature has wondered what the heck my life was good for up until this point. I still seek answers with the former, and I’m not really proud of the latter. I’m not supposed to engage in the latter, I know, but I am aware that quite a lot of the Bible is people decrying what appears to be the absentee landlordship of God. I’m thinking about some of David’s Psalms in particular. I’m guessing those are in the bibl as an assurance that periods of despair over circumstances don’t amount to actually wandering through the shadow of death without Divine protection.

Whatever minor revelations I have received from the battles between the two have been valuable, at least for my peace of mind. I do not know how I can put the lessons learned into action at this point, but I do know that the urge to shake my fist at God hasn’t occurred to me in well over a year. A healthy sing, I imagine. I do see a daunting, lonely road ahead filled with limited possibilities. I realize it was always meant to be that way, and cannot lament the loss of a future I was never meant to have. I still feel emotionally battered by people and things that went before. Well, more of the Bible speaks of sins committed by man against man rather than sins against God. Is that not an indication that it being pounded by fists and slashed by tongues is to be expected even from the most devout? Have I not done my fai share? Indeed, I am reminded of things I have done, and by watching the obliviousness of their own cruelty, wonder how in th dark I am about old friends who remember me more for the wounds I inflicted than any happiness or warmth I gave.

I’ve spent much of the last year beating myself up over choices I’ve made and trying to keep from getting beaten up over the uncertain future. I’m not sure how much valu either one of those activities has. A thoughtful exploration of one’s life is never a bad thing and I can honestly say that up until recent months, I’ve never done so. Sure, I’ve playacted at it, piously sitting in pews during revivals and saying, ’Hallelujah” at just the right moment as well as drafting “insightful” essays and journal entries over the years. I never realized how spiritually and intellectually dishonest I was being. Now I do, although it’s too late to go back and fix any of it. That’s the pain I have to live with, but at least I know it’s my own fault. That realization has to mean something.

So the last twelve months have been a painful journey of self-discovery. I still have a long way to go towards preparing myself to carry on, but I realze that time marches on while I’m working at it. I still don’t much understand the whys and wherefores of the bad things that happened beyond my control and probably never will in this lifetime. I don’ undertand the cruelty of others, but I don’t understand my own capacity for it, either. It keeps me grounded to know that no matter how extraordinary I think my circumstances are, it all boils down to everyone battling the same demons. There is a cetain camaraderie and comfort in that, however small. It’s the idea that something that can be boiled down to a simple, common problem can have a simple, common solution. I imagine much a 2006 will be spent searching for it.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Battlestar Galactica--"Epiphanies"

Shades of some of Brannon Braga’s worst instances of “the miracle end/reset button” had me worried about the direction the show might be taking, but I’ll cross my fingers for the next few episodes. The resolution of the President Roslin storyline was disappointingly anticlimactic, but there were enough intense moments to make this a solid episode.

As it opens, President Roslin is on her death bed. The cancer has finally spread to the point she only has a few hours left to live. Adama is already on edge concerned about the imminent loss of his longtime friend when evidence of sabotage appears on a Viper. A new group of peace activists are pushing for humans to make peace with the Cylons The group not only sabotaged Vipers, but placed a bomb on another ship in the fleet, blowing a gaping hole in the side.

The frayed nerves and the desperation of the crew are clearly in evidence here. Adama nearly strangles the head peace activist once he is captured as Tigh looks on in satisfaction. In one of President Roslin’s last lucid moments, she’s orders Sharon’s Cylon/human hybrid baby to be aborted. Adama agrees to do so without hesitation--including a rather cold scene in which he informs the hybrid’s father, Helo, that he expects him to accept the decision for the good of the fleet.

Parts of this episode brought me back to Sharon’s statement last week that maybe humanity doesn’t deserve to survive. The humans are certainly committing some awfully nasty acts this week. Call it muddying the waters if you wish, but I am beginning to think the Cylons may be right.

The scene in which soldiers come for Sharon is one of the more chilling this show has featured. Ibt is done with no sound whatsoever and a stoic Adama watching as Sharon desperately tries to fight them off. She is finally sedated, and put on a gurney to be taken for the abortion.

I was expecting much more of an abortion debate than we got, which was a letdown. As gritty as the show is, I thought we might see a honest to goodness two sided debate on the issue, but we didn’t. other than Helo and some squeamishness from Blatar, it was considered a done deal. Pity, really. A missed opportunity. Baltar does come through in the nick of time to break up a confrontation between th soldiers escorting Sharon and Helo. He has discovered the hybrid’s blood may cure cancer. Paging Braga. Mr. Brannon Braga. Please come to the courtesy phone.

Needless to say, it works, and Sharon’s baby gets a reprieve. President Roslin also decides to work with the activists as long as they halt their terrorists activities. Baltar goes behind her back after feeling betrayed and gives their radical wing, lead by Pegasus Six, a gift--a nuclear warhead.

Not one of the better installments, but watchable. The miracle blood of the hybrid baby is way too much of a cop out. one of the elements that drew me to the show was the notion that anyone could die at any time. so much for that idea now. They can’t all be gems, I guess.

Rating: ** (out of 5)
Unshackled

Jerry’s baby blue but faded 1993 BMW pulled into the driveway after a 16 hour absence. The driver’s side door flung open and Jerry groggily stepped out. His grey suit was rumpled with his plain red necktie loosened halfway to his collarbone. These long days at the office were slowly killing him. He was only thirty-two, but looked a decade older. Somewhat unwisely, Jerry married his college sweetheart, Kim, just a few weeks after being accepted to law school. The two had a mad passion for each other at one point and a taste for the good life they thought would keep on coming, financed by an ever flowing stream of lawsuit revenues and settlements. It didn’t happen that way.

He has spent the last seven years crawling out of student loan debt and keeping a hungry eyed wife satisfied--or so he’s tried. These days he’s sleepwalking through life and legal briefs. Sixteen hours and day, five days a week, and often weekends, too. All under the hopes that someday he’ll reah the door that leads to a new life.

Jerry made a motion to slam the car door, but stopped halfway, remembering his briefcase was in the passenger seat. He reached in and groped for it. Now he was set to slam the car door. He didn’t care if it was after midnight--he needed the satisfaction of hearing it for himself. Jerry dug for his kets and unlocked the front door.

The house wasn’t much. Flunky lawyers aren’t all rich but but it was home. For the most part, it was just a place to sleep. Lim was usually a lump in the bed by the time he got there. He would often press his back to hers as they slept. That was as initimate as they got nowadays. Whether it was a matter of age or life getting in the way, Jerry did not know.

He opened the door and stepped in. The place was dark, as usual and quiet. Jerry made his nightly tradition of scanning across the darkened living room he never got to live in. It seemed apprpriate for him to only half see it in the dark, as though it were some fading dream. Tonight was different. There was a new shadow along the wall beside the couch, cast from the faint street light on the corner.

“What the..?” Jerry said out loud. He flipped on the light switch by the door and found a man sitting square on the middle of hi couch. The man was flanked by two large duffel bags.

“Who are you and what are you doing in my house?” Jerry shouted.

The stranger held his hands up as a gesture for Jerry to calm down.

“Relax, buddy. I’m here to do you a big favor,” he said in a smooth, even voice.

“How did you get in here?” Jerry angrily asked.

“Kim let me in,” he said.

The thought of Kim dawned on jerry for the first time. He looked towards the back of the house where she would be sleeping, but made no moves to go there. He didn’t want to take his eyes off the stranger.

“Where is she? What have you done with her?” Jerry frantically asked.

“To answer your first question, she isn’t here. To answer your second, I haven’t done anything to her. Like I said, I’m here to do something for you.” the man replied.

Jerry eyed the telephone sitting on the cell phone sitting on the coffee table between him and the intruder. He weighed making a dash for it. The stranger noticed this was racing through his mind.

“There’s no need to call the police,” he said.

“You’re trespassing--and probably breaking and entering,” Jerry replied.

“I’m neither, actually. Kim gave me a key.,” he told Jerry. The stranger reached tunder the duffel bag to his right and pulled out a file folder. He took out a piece of paper and held it up. “She also gave me a signed affidavits allowing me to be here. You may read it if you wish. It’s notarized and everything.”

Jerry slapped his hand over his mouth in exasperation. He couldn’t believe any of this was happening.

“This is still my house,” Jerry told him.

“Not really,” the stranger replied. He grabbe the duffel bag to his left. It was heavy enough for him to loudly grunt as he tossed it halfway to Jerry’s feet. It landed with a thud.

The bag was unzipped, but still partially closed. Nevertheless, Jerry could see the bag was loaded with cash.

“What?” Jerry was stunned.

“Ninety thousand dollars. Your half of the equity,” the stranger replied matter-of-factly.

“My half…of the house?”

“Yes. Kim would like to buy you out.”

“We hadn’t paid for the whole thing yet by a long shot,” Jerry aid as he bent down to examine the money.

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Where did Kim get this much cash?”

“That doesn’t matter, either. What does matter is that you take this generous offer and leave.” The stranger grabbed the large duffel bag to his right and tossed it beside the first. Jerry stood up.

“What is all this?” he asked.

“Your stuff.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Oh, but I am,” the strange assured him. “Kim took the liberty of packing your essential items as well as securing you as financially well off as possible.”

“This is insane!” Jerry shouted.

“No, this is freedom. Freedom for both of you. You can’t stand there and tell me you don’t want that.”

“This is my home! I’m married!”

“And happy with both, I know,” the stranger quipped sarcastically.

Jerry paused for a long moment and scratched the back of his neck. He always did that when he was nervous.

“Things haven’t been perfect, but what is?”

“What indeed. I don’t think perfection is what either you or Kim seek. Just happiness and peace. That comes with freedom.” the stranger said.

“The freedom of being thrown out of my house by my wife?”

“If that’s where it comes, yes.”

“Who are you?”

The stranger sighed.

“I’m a friend.”

“Of Kim’s?”

“And yours,” the stranger answered.

“I’ve never seen you before in my life. How could we be friends?”

“Because I am liberating you from the life you dread. I’m taking your place.”

“How is that being friend?”

“’Greater love hath no man than to give his life for his friend.’ Really, Jerry. You should read the Good Book. There’s lots of useful stuff in it.”

“”Like ‘thou shall not commit adultery’?” Jerry replied.

The stranger chuckled to himself.

“Yeah, that’s in there somewhere, too,” he said. “But don’t fear, I haven’t laid a hand on Kim.”

Jerry brow knit.

"I don’t believe you.”

“Ah, you are such a jaded soul. No matter. You can trust me, Jerry. I am a man of my word. But even if you don’t, you’re not going to get a better offer than what Kim has provided for you.”

“Provided for me? What about all the things I’ve provided for he?”

“Like what, Jerry? A ea of debt?”

Jerry pointed to the bag of cash.

“Obviously not!”

“There’s your problem, Jerry. It isn’t always about money. It‘s about life.”

“Life doesn’t come cheap, much less free! I’m trying to give her the things she wants!”

“And killing yourself in the process.”

“And killing myself in the process,” Jerry repeated. There was another long silence. The strange gave Jerry time to think before speaking up again.

“There’s a hole in her life, Jerry. A vacuum that’s sucking out every bit of joy. She’s found a way to fill it. Now she wants to do the same for you,” he said.

“This isn’t part o the plan,” Jerry said, almost in a whisper.

“Life is what happens when you are making other plans. Take your life back, Jerry.”

Jerry looked at the stranger for a moment while his words soaked in. Then he looked down at the duffel bag supposedly full of his stuff.

“This isn’t everything,” he said.

“Even victories have casualties. You have what you need. Leave the rest behind as a clean break.” the stranger said.

Jerry bent down again and grabbed a handful of cash. He tudying it for a moment, as if trying to determine if it was real or a figment of his imagination. He looked back up at the stranger.

“Why do you want to do this? What’s in it for you?” Jerry asked.

“We all have our own vacuums to fill,” the stranger replied.

Jerry tossed the cash back in the bag and zipped it up. Freedom. He could have the job he wanted. He would neither be a slave to debt, nor to an unhappy woman. He grabbed the straps to the duffel bag with th cash and looped it unto his right shoulder.

“You’re probably not getting what you bargained for in Kim,” jerry said. ‘She glittered for a time--”

“She glittered to you for a time, now she glitters for me Find what glitters for you now. All three of us can now pursue what we want.

“Kim and I are still married.”

The stranger reached into the file folder again and pulled out a document.

"Sign here and you’re free and clear.”

Jerry dropped the bag and walked over to the coffee table. The strange handed the document to Jerry, but he just slammed it on the table and dug inside his jacket for a pen.

“Not even going to read it? What kind of lawyer are you?” the stranger jabbed.

“An ex-one. Just like I am an ex-husband.” Jerry scratched his signature and tossed the pen away. He also reached up and yanked his tie off.

“Nice to see you now trust me,” the stranger said.

“Trust? Fellow, I pity you. You have no idea what you’re getting into with Kim.”

“Oh, but I do. The predictability of the married life I can provide. For you, lie’s one big adventure. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?”

“Who indeed,” jerry said. He grabbed both duffel bags and swung them across each shoulder. The thought crossed his mind how pathetic it was to be able to pack you life away in a single bag. Maybe this was the best thing that could ever happen to him. He assumed he’d find out shortly. Without another word, Jerry opened the front door and walked out or the last time.

Out into a new life.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wilson Pickett (1942-2006)

The R & B legend who wrote "Mustang Sally" has died of a heart attack in Reston, Virginia. I spent many, many night in recent years pouring briefing cases for class while Pickett's velvet voice played softly on my CD player. now that I think about it, it's one of the few peaceful memories i have of the last few years. I owe him a memorial just for that.

Godspeed, Mr. Pickett.

Fire & Water

Every single day
I got a heartache comin´ my way
I don´t want to say goodbye
But look at the tears you made me cry
I don´t wanna say goodbye, mama
But look at the way you made me cry, yeah
Every way this dies
You´ve got a heart that´s made of ice
That´s why I know
(fire and water has to make you their daughter)
You´ve got what it takes
To make a poor man heart break
A poor man heart break
Woman you turn me on
As quick as a flash, your love is gone
Baby I´m gonna leave you now
Ah, I got to make you believe somehow
That fire and water have to make you their daughter
You got what it takes
To make a poor man heart break
A poor man heart break

Instrumental Ah!

AAAWWWWOOOO!
I don´t wanna say goodbye
But look at the way you made me cry, yeah
Every way this dies
You gotta heart that´s made of ice
That´s why I know fire and water has to make you their daughter
You got what it takes
To make a grown man heart break
Oh, water, water has to make you their daughter
AAWW, you got what it takes
To make a poor man heart break, Aww!
(Water, that water, has to make you their daughter
You got what it takes
To make a poor man heart break..
Gwen Stacy Returns

Good news for old school comic book fan like me, even if it is going in reverse from the comics. Sam Raimi is going to introduce everybody’s tragic sweetheart, Gwen Stacy, in the third installment of Spiderman. If Mary Jane is the supermodel fantasy girl, then Gwen Stacy was the perfect girl next door. She was the one you trotted home from school with while carrying her books. Gwen was also the center of the biggest tragedy of Spidey’s life, part of which is a secret only comics readers shared, making her final story arc all the more poignant.

It was clear the only logical place for Peter and Gwen’ relationship to go was the altar. But wouldn’t that ruin the free swinging appeal of Spidey? The writers thought so, and in the most sought after Amazing Spiderman two parter of the post Silver Age, they decided she had to go. Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin personality reemerged and in his derangement, he kidnapped Gwen. He and Spidey battled on the Brooklyn Bridge, with the Green Goblin knocking her off. Spidey managed to get a webline on her, but unbeknownst to him (made made clear to the readers) the “bounce” of suddenly being snagged broke her neck. The conclusion of the story featured Spidey’s revenge and the Green Goblin’s self crucifixion that was swiped for the final showdown in the first Spiderman film.

So who is filling Gwen’s doomed shows? Ron Howard’s little girl, Bryce Howard:She’s got the look--cute, but not but not so hot that it would go to her head. If you hd asked me beforehand who should play Gwen, I would have said Kristen Bell. But I'm going to wait and see if Raimi can pull this off before casting any judgment. Gwen was supposed to be. I do find it interesting that they cast a blonde for Mary Jane and a redhead for Gwen, when in the comics the two are reversed. Well, since Gwen came was Peter Parker’s first love and Mary Jane the second, a lot of things are reversed. One that is being foreshadowed is how this is all going to end. Kirsten Dunst signed on for three films and has no desire to do any others. Will Mary Jane meet the same fate that Gwen suffered I the comics?
Who's to Blame for Iran?

I read with keen interest Charles Krauthammer’s misguided indictment of the European union’s efforts to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear ambitions mr. K, you may recall, is one of the oldest members of the Plan for a New American Century, and was sitting at his computer typing an editorial on invading Iraq before the south Tower even fell on 9/11. Part of the PNAC plan is to totally reshape the Middle East, beginning with Iraq and easing over to ian. The problem has been that Iraq was easy to knock over, but not so easy to pacify, as the PNAC had planned. By tying up the US militarily and diplomatically in Iraq, we left the EU to deal with Iran on its on.

Here’s the big problem with that. There are only two ways to deal with Iran: diplomatically and militarily. The two are not mutually exclusive. The Iranians aren’t going to come to the table for serious discussions unless they believe the other side will take a stick and whack them over the head if they don’t. They know full well France and Germany can’t do that. They also know Russia and China, heavily dependent on Middle Eastern oil, are going to stall any aggressive diplomatic acts, much less any military actions that might drive up the price of oil to $100 a barrel. The US still has the capability to wage a limited war in Iran, but I’d like to see you sell the idea to a war weary America.

(Not that they won’t try. Pundits are popping up all over the editorial pages. Talking heads our on TV. Soon you are going to see Iranian exile groups you’ve never heard of before leaving their luxurious London/ Zurich/ Paris hotels to appear on news talk shows to speak of the evils of the Mullah’s reign. Mark my words.)

So Mr. K blames the EU for the negotiations failures when it is the lack of teeth the US had that lead to failure. Why has the US lost its teeth in the matter? Two reasons that I can see. The first is the squandering of the public’s goodwill in Iraq. I supported the war and still do. I never believed the WMD argument, but I did support the idea of ridding ridding the world of Saddam and establishing a US military presence in the Middle East. But if we were going to pull this off, we should have had more troops on the ground and not declared victory so hastily. The borders should have been much more secure to keep foreign fighters out. Hd we done so, instead of dragging out this current battle against insurgents which is essentially a farcical game of whack a Mole, we’d probably be in better shape to twists Iran’s arm. We aren’t, and the american people aren’t going to go for an expansion of conflict and the cost in dollars and blood.

Second is the foolhardiness of the Bush Doctrine. The idea o preemptive strike sounds decent on paper, but is useless if not used in every threat. Take the Axis of Evil: Iraq, Tran, and North Korea. Iraq doesn’t have nukes, so the US overthrew the government. North Korea does have nukes and we have negotiated because of it. What does that tell Iran? Hurrry up and get nukes, because you are in the crosshairs. Don’t doubt that iran is and has been in the crosshairs of the neocons for a while now.

Would you like to see what‘s really bugging the neocons about iran going nuclear? Mr. K only hints at it--a nuclear Iran will be impossible for the US to attack, but James S. Robbins spells it our more blatantly
I am not concerned about whether or not the Iranians will be deterred. I am worried that the United States will be deterred. Even if the Iranians never use their nuclear weapons, they will have made themselves immune from attack. That would be just fine if they were likely to mind their own business.
The real reason is a fear the US will lose influence in the region and its ability to bully nations in doing things its way. This is the sad status of not only conservatives, but of politics in this country all together. We have long since forgotten George Washington’s farewell address in which he warned against foreign entanglements. There is a glimmer of hope that cooler heads prevailing, however. Robbins scoffs at the idea, but look at the opening paragraph of his editorial::
A friend at State says there is a buzz at Foggy Bottom — low level, but growing — that maybe it would not be so bad if Iran went nuclear. After all, deterrence kept us free from nuclear conflict through the Cold War, and India and Pakistan haven’t pressed the big button yet. If the mullahs in Tehran get the bomb, so what? If they use it, we will destroy them. They know that; thus, they will not use it. In fact — so the buzz goes — a nuclear Iran might help stabilize the region — Tehran and Tel Aviv can face off in a Middle Eastern mini-MAD, both armed to the teeth and each afraid to blink. Nothing says peace and stability like a Mexican standoff.
No, it’s not a perfect solution, but what is at this point?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Lost--"The Hunting Party"

Advertised as a Michael centered episode, with him desperate to find the kidnapped walt, that turned out to be a McGuffin for another character study of Jack. I’m not complaining, minf you. While Jack is not the most interesting character, he is slowly but surely turning to the dark side--if I may borrow a concept. We get a bit more insight into what happened between him and his wife, a little more info on the Others, and a hint that things are about to head into the long anticipated Lord of the Flies direction between the Castaways and the others.

The episode opens in flashback. Jack and his dad are consulting with a terminally ill patient who traveled all he way from Italy. The poor fellow needs a tumor removed, but the senior Dr. Shephard refuses to operate. That’s fine, the old man doesn’t want him. The story of Sarah’s miraculously gaining the ability to walk after Jack operated on her has spread. He hopes jack can do the impossible for him, too. Against his father’s better judgment, Jack messianic complex kicks in and he agrees to do the impossible surgery.

In the present day, Jack awaken from an apparent nightmare to find Locke on the floor unconscious. Michael surprises him from behind, too, holding a shotgun. Michael locks them both in a storage closet and heads off half cocked to rescue Walt from the others. They are shortly discovered by Kate. Jack, Locke, and Sawyer head off after Michael. Kate tags along for a moment, but jack forcefully refuses to let her go with them. It isn’t a pretty sight.

In flashback, Sarah reveals she thought she was pregnant, but the test came back negative,. Some obvious stress in present in their marriage. It any gets worse as the old man dies on the operating table and Jack realizes it was a mistrake to give him false hope.

The hunt for Michael lasts into the night when the party hears gunshots. Eventually following the sound, the party eventually runs into the leader of the Others. It’s the same bearded, grizzly Adams type that took Walt in the season finale. They all have a pow wow in which grizzly tells them this island belongs to the others. The Castaways have been allowed to live only because the Others have permitted it. Become too intrusive, and that will change. Jack says he’s bluffing, so Grizzly ups the ante--he has Kate tied up and will shoot her if the party doesn’t abandon their weapons and leave. Reluctantly, they do so. Jack seems fed up with Kate, in whom he already feels a sense of betrayal.

In flashbacks, Jack is heading back to his car when he runs into the old man’s daughter. He doesn’t know what to say. Neither does she, so she plants one on him instead. Jack doesn’t seem to mind. When he gets home, it’s a different story. He confesses to his wife what happened. He tells her he’s been a workaholic but things are going to be different now. Too late, though. Sarah reveaks she's been having an affair and storms off.

When the hunting party returns to the beach, Jack seeks out Ana-Lucia. Once she confirms that she was a cop at one time, he asks her a pivotal question: how long would it take to train an army? To be continued…

This is one of those episodes that exists completely as a bridge to other storylines. Even the encounter with Grizzly didn’t reveal much for this being the first time we actually seen any of them be reasonable and negotiate. In the past, they have been murderous and seemingly invincible. The epsode did have an overarching theme which struck a chord with me, namely, “who are we to tell anyone what they can and cannot do?” The question was asked by Locke to Jack regarding Michael, but it applied to Kate and a small scene with Jin and Sun in which Sun insists her husband not join the search party. Locke is the character I most identify with for reasons any fan of the show who knows me personally can attest to. Sometimes I can tell you what his dialogue will be simply by asking myself how I would act in his shoes. Interesting episode, even if it wasn’t all that eventful.

Rating: *** (out of 5)
SCOTUS Politics

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has unofficially polled Senate Democrats in the hopes of finding 41 willing to not only vote against Samuel Alito’s appointment to the SCOTUS, but filibuster. A Sullen Reid reports the odds at fifty/fifty. He’s being optimistic at that. The Senate will debate Alito’s merits in full session, but the charge to take down his nomination will be lead by Kennedy, Durbin, Boxer, and probably Byrd. (I say probably as he is up for election in the lightly red glowing state of West Virginia.) When the four of them are leading the charge, the battle is already obviously lost.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, this whole affair makes the Harriet Miers debacle look even stupider. Bush listened to his critics who told him he had to replace O’Connor with a moderate woman or a minority or the nominee would never get through. Bush took the safe route and picked a mystery woman with no paper trail to avoid any nasty accusations of Miers being a conservative. Fortunately he withdrew the grossly unqualified Miers and risked a conservative white male with a long paper trail--and Alito got through. There was no need for caution or a quota balance for the SCOTUS. A president can replace a moderate with a conservative. This realization will be quite interesting to see if action if Ginsberg or Breyer retire within the next couple of years as has been rumored. It will be even more interesting when another Democrat is in the White House.

In other SCOTUS news, the Court declined to rule on the New Hampshire parental notification of abortion statute on procedural grounds. That case will be back, and one wonders if Chief Justice Roberts knocked it down now so it will reappear after Alito takes the bench and the SCOTUS’ ideological balance shifts right. It’s another interesting thing for judicial watchers to keep an eye on.
Here We Go, Trekkies

It's William Shatner's famous Get a Life sketch from a 1986 episode of Saturday Night Live. Let me assure you from personal experience that comic book conventions are the exact same way Star Trek conventions are presented here.
Alleged Kidnap Plot Against Leo Blair Foiled

The Sun, which is a newspaper bird owners line their cages with when the parakeet is too discriminating to poop on the National Enquirer, is reporting an alleged plot to kidnap leo Blair, Prime Minister Blair’s youngest son. The kidnapping was supposedly planned by a radical wing of Fathers 4 Justice, a group promoting the rights of fathers who have been denied vistation rights to their children. The group denies it ever planned to use such tactics officially:
“If there are extremists on the fringes who could undermine all the work we have done, we would have to consider our positions and perhaps think about winding the group up.”
The group’s normal tactics have involved throwing purple powder on Blair in the House of Commons, dressing up as super heroes in public demonstrations, and climbing London landmarks--all of which go to prove these bozos are great dads who deserve access to kids, no?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Gonzales v. Oregon

The Supreme Court today ruled in favor of Oregon’s assisted suicide laws over the federal government’s assertion of power to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients kill themselves. As a Christian, Jeffersonian, and a pseudo-legal scholar, I have terribly mized in my opinion about the whole affair. I am not the only one. Here the left is applauding states’ rights while the right is claiming federal authority. Everyone is marching into hypocritical territory here while pretending they aren’t because of some higher principle. Maybe they’re right. Let me walk through it.

In Gonzales v. Oregon, the issue is whether the US has overstepped it bounds by asserting the Commerce Clause right of the federal government to regulate prescription drugs (which is settled law) allows the federal government to punish doctors who give terminally ill patients lethal doses of prescription drugs. Justice Kennedy, primed to become the SCOTUS swing vote after O’Connor retires, concludes in the majority opinion that Congress had no intentions of altering the federal-state balance. That’s definitely arguable, but the decision today is twinged with politics more so than legal reasoning.

This certainly isn’t the first time the SCOTUS has flirted with a broad interpretation of the Commerce Clause to pursue a political agenda. Certain justices have reasoned the ability of Congress to regulate interstate commerce allows for backdoor gun control regulation. You see, the Commerce Clause is interpreted narrowly when involved with the political left’s death fetish (abortion, euthanasia) and broadly whenever some other element of its agenda can be served. Couple that with the astounding ability to find brand new rights in the Constitution that no one seemed to know existed for 227 years, and you have one amazingly discerning SCOTUS.

But like I said, I’m torn. I’m a big state over federal government kind of guy in principle. As a Christian, I’m not found of the idea of assisted suicide, but even in my Calvinist ideas of predestination and skepticism about the existence of free will, I am wary of standing in the way o someone’s right to end his life if he so desires. Mt beef with Terri Shiavo was not that she was killed, but that we killed her without knowing her wishes. That has virtually nothing to do with the cae at hand other than Gonzales was viewed as a battlefront in the “Culture of Death” war. I’m not sure that it should have been considered that way. Bear in mind how often patients are assisted in death by doctors legitimately. Many terminal cancer patients die of morphine overdoses to control the extreme pain at the end of their lives. We don’t label that assisted suicide, of course, but that’s only a matter of degree. Doctors are well aware of the results of (necessary) morphine use in controlling pain related to cancer.

Nevertheless, Scalia’s dissent makes a good point that the federal government has the authority to regulate the distribution of prescription drugs for “legitimate medical purposes.” Suicide is not a legitimate medical purpose regardless of your position on the right to die. Morphine as a pain manager is. So how should one feel about the decision? Normally I side with Scalia and Thomas and from what I’ve seen, Roberts is on the same wavelength that I am. I’m also inclined to think that if you have less than six months to live anyway, you might as well ride it out. I understand it’s painful and expensive monetarily and emotionally. At the same time, tough decisions are made daily by doctors regarding life and death without any sense of malice towards a patient. I certainly don’t believe doctors are encouraging patients to do themselves in. It’s a heavily gray issue, but one I think people ought to freely choose for themselves. I have to side with the majority here, although I reall wish the issue wasn’t even necessary. That someone ever came up with an assisted suicide law in the first place says a lot about how fallen our culture is.
Who Was the Twelfth President of the United States?

It was David Rice Atchison, of course.
Golden Globes

Two favorites did well at the Golden Globes tonight: Lost and Reese Witherspoon.

Lost won for Best Dramatic series. It is the first genre show to be so honored since the X-Files in 1997. Lost has gone a step further and won the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series as well. It makes me a little wary that a couple of the actors have been nominated for both Emmys and Golden Globes, but have lost. (Excuse the pun.) While the competition has been fierce, that tells me that Lost is winning on the merits of its writing and production values, not the likeability of its stars. Popular actors can carry a show through a dry spell o two, but when the actors aren’t causing a stir and the material hit’s a lull, the show is not long for this world. That has to put the writers and producers under a tremendous amount of pressure.

Oh, and check out J. J. Abrams up there. He wrote and directed the pilot, but hasn’t been attached to Lost or Alias since 2004. His current duties involve cashing the royalty checks and making sure Tom Cruise doesn’t say something wacky while promoting Mission Impossible III. (Lotsa luck.) I can’t blame him for hogging the microphone. Given the quality of his other work (Eight Legged Freaks, anyway? You know, the only Kari Wuhrer film in which she doesn’t cavort nakedly?) this will likely be his only time on stage--unless the writers and producers come through under the aforementioned pressure.

Reese. Reese, Reese, Reese. What can I say? She’s on her way to winning an Oscar for portraying June Carter in Walk the Line I have to admit, putting aside my childish infatuation, I thought Reese was too glamorous to play Arkansas country woman June Carter. That’s not an insult. June Carter would have said the same thing. Nevertheless, I’m glad reese is getting some recognition for her work. She is about the only under thirty actress I can think of who manages to move in goofy films like Legally Blonde and meatier films like Vanity Fair. There aren’t many actresses who can pull that off. Scarlett Johanssen may be an heir apparent.

If I may conclude on a petty, jealous note--Ryan Philippe is a dope. Look at him showing up at the ceremony with no tie, his shirt unbuttoned two buttons like he’s Sonny Crockett. And that hair. Good gravy. It looks like he scalped a poodle and slapped in on. Reese is dressed to the nines and he looks just a step ahead of Kevin Federline. Obviously the royalty checks for that one decent movie he was in don’t go too far at Brooks Brothers. What does she see in that doofus, I ask you?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Why We Hate Lawyers, Reason #4,875

The great links they go to in order to collect their exhorbitant fees:
A lawyer faces a felony charge of kidnapping for allegedly abducting a client from his wedding celebration in an attempt to collect legal fees.

Police say Paula Allen, 51, took Rolando Castelan from his Dec. 10 wedding and then drove him around in handcuffs as Castelan called friends and family from a cell phone to scrounge up the money he owed his lawyer, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported for its Friday edition.
It just goes to show--lawyers may not all be rich, but they are generally sociopathic. Or something like that.
From the Department of Updates and Accuracy

Never let it be said I keep readers mislead and/or in the dark with my ramblings. I have follow-ups to a couple of previous posts. Let's see you get this kind of service from The New York Times.

First, Tarja Halonen, the Finnish presidential candidate and subject of a running gag on Late Night With Conan O’Brien, did not get the required 50% of the vote in yesterday’s election and enters a runoff against the conservative candidate. Finland can rest easy tonight knowing that American comedians do not in fact hold sway over its political future the same way Ameicans are certain little known German interpretive dancer Hans von Deedlebopper will not be successful in getting Tom DeLay elected president of the United states.

Second, I have a correction on a previous post. It appears the NBC press release listing Aaron Sorkin as part of The West Wing delegation for a spring press tour was in error. Sorkin is too busy involved in preproduction of his new show, Studio Seven on the Sunset Strip, to attend. It is still likely Sorkin will pen the farewell episode for the late John Spencer’s character and Santos VP candidate, Leo McGarry. Of course, after the first rumor not panning out, take this one with a grain of salt as well. I won’t even address rumors o Rob Lowe showing up as Sam Seaborn in a future episode.

Developing as always…..
Housekeeping

Alas, while being a loyal University of South Carolina alumnus and wishing to display my school colors, I never got the “garnet” part of “garnet & black” quite right. I settled on as close as I could come for about a year now mostly because it was a unique color scheme even if it was a little gaudy. But change is good. Therefore, I have altered the color scheme to a darker color that’s more contrasting with white font. I never much cared for the old San Serif, either. It was too small and often difficult (at least for me) to distinguish some letters. Century Gothic is right up my alley. I’m pleased with the new look. Anyone have an objection or suggestion to make things a little sharper?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The West Wing--"Internal Displacement"

Fox really did a number on me this week by premiering 24 opposite The West Wing. I think I have developed tennis thumb from switching between the two shows over the last hour. Luckily, I am from the I am from the listen to music/study/think about girls multitasking generation and have no difficulty in adjusting to the stress. The episode tonight didn’t require a heck of a lo of thought. It was a White House centered installment, which have been consistently bad all season.

Much like last week, we get a lot of soap opera mixed in with some leftist preaching from the pulpit. Bartlet’s son-in-law is running for office in New Hampshire. His daughter wants her father to make a campaign appearance with him to boost his chances of winning. Unfortunately, sonny boy has had an affair with the nanny and thinks that story might break and give all parties involved a black eye. CJ nixes the appearance, then decides to not tell anyone about the affair. That’s a tough situation, but I’m a little surprised CJ just let the thing go. Professionally, it is none of her business, but for the sake o TV drama, can you really just wrap it up that way? Apparently.

Writer John Wells continues the habit of keeping storylines mirroring real life as CJ lobbies on behalf of a United Nations resolution creating sanctions on Sudanese oil in response to the continuing genocide in Darfur. There is a twofold fear. First that China, who is more dependent on African and Middle Eastern oil, will veto the resolution. Second, that this will tip the balance in the standoff between Russia and China over oil rich Kazakstan. This storyline does go anywhere either, but anything that draws more attention to the very real and ongoing tragedy in Darfur is good in my book.

CJ and her longtime will they/won’t they reporter chum Danny are having dinner and seem on the verge of a serious marriage proposal when the long expected nuclear meltdown occur. At last we do have the first genuinely exciting cliffhanger that I can remember since Leo’s heart attack last season. Next week appears to be another White House centered crisis management episode, but the fallout (excuse the pun) is supposed to sink the Vinick campaign. Hopefully when we get back to election episodes, things will be a bit more exciting. I think maybe I just miss the old TWW too much to care about the Bartlet White House anymore.

Rating: ** (out of 5)

ADDENDUM: I may have implied above the episode was written by John Wells. It was not. The script was penned by Bradley Whitford, who plays former Bartlet Deputy Chief of Staff and now Santos campaign manager, Josh Lymon. "Internal Displacement" is his second teleplay fo The West Wing.