August 30, 2006

Crushing on Mary Landrieu

The stereotype of the lusty Senator committing adultery with various groupies is pervasive in DC, and in American pop culture. However, that stereotype always conjures up the image of a silver-haired Senator in a suit -- in other words, a man. It is against this powerful stereotype that I must admit to having a thing for a Senator, but in my case it is the very female Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

I don't know what it is -- the blonde power coif, the prim azure suits matching friendly yet confident eyes, the pearly smile hinting of former beauty queen. Actually, I think it's the cheeks. The cheeks are healthy, outdoorsy, youthful. Those cheeks should be chewing a long piece of straw under a curled cowboy hat in a sunlit field.

I may have to move to Louisiana and become a flood victim.

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August 29, 2006

Gay Men and Guitars

I am continually fascinated by the Internet searches people undertake that yield my blog as a result. These can be seen on one's Site Meter page under "Referrals." Two recent searches that hit my blog were for "gay men" (because I recently wrote a post about Tom Cruise's antics containing one reference to the rumor that he is gay) and "guitar" (because I wrote another recent post about my electric guitar).

What I would like to know is the following: what on earth is someone searching for who does an Internet search for "gay men" or "guitar"?

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August 28, 2006

Bye Bye Bruno

Veteran character actor Bruno Kirby died of leukemia a couple of weeks ago at age 57. In characteristic fashion, his death was quiet. There were few or no tabloid headlines in the preceding days and weeks regarding "Bruno's Brave Battle For Life." His ability to meld into a movie's fabric prevented his death, and his career, from being so ostentatious. It is also part of what endeared him to moviegoers.

To me, the term "character actor" means someone who plays supporting, not leading, roles, and who is often typecast as a particular type of character (the best friend, the gay upstairs neighbor, the stern police chief, etc.) Often, movie viewers recognize character actors' faces but not their names. Bruno Kirby is regarded in this vein, although among film fans, his name was perhaps better known that those of other character actors.

Bruno's specialty was the Italian-American teddy bear with an inner streak of grizzly bear. He is perhaps best known for his roles as Billy Crystal's good friend in two comedy films, "City Slickers" and "When Harry Met Sally," where his high-pitched voice, youthful appearance and boyish charm tended to soften the blow of words and actions that were often outrageous.

Two other Bruno Kirby characters stand out for me. The first is one of his early roles, as the young Pete Clemenza in 1974's The Godfather, Part II. In one memorable scene, Clemenza, mouth full of spaghetti and meatballs, is incredulous as his young neighbor Vito Corleone, played by Robert DeNiro, boldly explains how they can confront a local crime boss. Kirby's facial expressions and hand gestures are priceless. Equally memorable is Kirby's turn ten years later in "This Is Spinal Tap." Although he appears in only a couple of scenes, Kirby creates a lasting character in Frank Sinatra-obsessed limo driver Tommy Pischedda, who calls rock and roll music "a fad."

In these films, and others, such as "The Freshman" and "Good Morning, Vietnam," the casting of Bruno Kirby was often a good bet that the film would contain many funny, surprising and magical moments.

Bye bye Bruno, and thanks for the memories.

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August 26, 2006

Big Box Intrigue

Spotted at a big box store yesterday: fiftysomething Asian male accompanied by a bevy of three tall caucasian beauties aged about 20-25. Standing near them at one point, I overheard them talking about whether to go to Mexico for the weekend.

Is this the real life Charlie and his Angels?

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August 25, 2006

Cruisin' For a Bruisin'

I'm breaking my "no celebrity news" rule twice in one month, but it has been that kind of summer. First there was Mel Gibson's drunk driving arrest and anti-Semitic tirade. Now we have Tom Cruise getting canned by Paramount boss Sumner Redstone for his off-screen behavior, which Redstone implies cost Paramount over one hundred million dollars in lost "Mission Impossible III" ticket sales. If we don't own a movie studio, should we care what Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson or any other movie actor does off-screen? The answer is, sometimes, and this is one of those times.

Normally, it does not matter to me what actors do off-screen, who they marry and divorce, what drugs they take, who they sleep with or what they eat for breakfast. That's why I refuse to read tabloids and gossip columns, nor do I watch any of the "entertainment" channels or segments on television that deal in this trash. But, as was the case with Mel Gibson saying Jews have caused all the wars in history in the midst of a war between Israel and Hezbollah, where world opinion often has life-and-death consequences, Tom Cruise's recent off-screen behavior affects me or people I know.

It wasn't Tom's jumping up and down on Oprah's couch. It's not the publicity that he helped generate regarding his marriage to Katie Holmes, coinciding suspiciously with movie releases for him and his wife. It isn't whether Tom Cruise is gay, although it saddens me if gay Hollywood leading men still have to enter fake marriages to maintain their careers. It isn't his private religious beliefs either.

It's the antidepressants, stupid. It's the June 2005 Matt Lauer "Today Show" interview, wherein Tom attacked Brooke Shields for taking post-partum antidepressants that she says saved her life, and wherein Tom launched into a tirade against psychiatric medication and psychiatry, calling it a "pseudo science." This from a guy who subscribes to a religion invented by a science fiction writer, some say as a joke to win a bet with fellow sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, that teaches that people have had past lives on other planets, and that mothers must be silent during childbirth.

I'm not here to trash Tom Cruise's or anyone else's religion. Whatever he wants to believe is his right. Trying to discover each show biz personality's values and beliefs and basing entertainment purchasing decisions on these would be a fruitless full-time job. But when Tom Cruise uses his celebrity to go on national television, ostensibly to plug his latest movie, and then uses that platform to foist his personal religious views on everyone else, I have a problem, especially when those views concern a mental health issue that is central to many people's lives and happiness. Tom Cruise has the right to free speech, but his freedom ends at my face. And I have the freedom over my discretionary spending, including which movies I will pay to see in the theater and rent at home.

See, I know people who take antidepressants. They tell me and I have seen for myself that the drugs help them. It's possible that, like Brooke Shields, one or more of these people might have contemplated suicide if not for those little pills. I don't want them to do that. I want them in my life. End of story. Fade to Black. Roll credits.

So Tom, if you want to get back into my wallet, get out of my face.

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August 24, 2006

Whatever Happened to Tracy Flick?

Did you know someone like Tracy Flick from the movie "Election"? Do you want to know what happened to her? I know, because I know someone like her now. She graduated, got married, had a couple of kids, and continues figuratively to pull down other people's campaign signs, due to some unrelated, unresolved anger.

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August 23, 2006

George W. Orwell

"Listen, we all recognize that there is violence, that there's sectarian violence. But the way I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war."
--President George W. Bush, White House Press Conference, March 21, 2006
So there's no civil war in Iraq, just "sectarian violence." How comforting. Apparently the George in the White House has been taking language lessons from another George.

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August 22, 2006

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I thought it would be just like typing. Playing the electric guitar, that is. I have no natural musical talent, but I saw those song books with the little diagrams over each chord showing where to put your fingers, and I figured, that's just like typing. And I'm a damn good typist. I thought, how hard can it be to play the electric guitar? The answer is, that hard.

Some years ago, I was friends with a cool, bass-playing office assistant where I worked. He was a big cheese in his church choir backup band. I must have made it known that I had an acousic guitar on which I dabbled a bit, and had always wanted an electric guitar. He presented me with a great offer: a Yamaha copy of a Fender Stratocaster, in mint condition, for a modest price, with an amp thrown in. I grabbed the offer without hesitation.

A few days later, I was greeted at the office by a mysterious object in a soft black leather case. Inside was everything that had been promised, and more. From the black lacquer finish to the white bridge cover to the rosewood neck, this was retro heaven. I bought a padded stand with a locking arm to hold it, and displayed it proudly in my living room, between the Twin Towers -- my cd tower and my right front home theater tower speaker. It was the best of both worlds -- a thirteen year-old's dream possession alongside the trappings of an adult.

But electric guitar playing is not like typing. With no natural talent, I would have to practice an endless amount of hours, giving up all other hobbies and interests, to get any good. I wasn't willing to do that. Unlike Bryan Adams, I was not willing to play it till my fingers bled. The guitar stood in the living room, lonely, mostly unplayed, its shiny finish blunted by dust.

Recently, I have been exploring a move across the country. In anticipation of the possible move, I decided that I must shed many possessions. Highest on the list are items that I no longer use. And that meant the guitar. Coincidentally, I saw a tv commercial for iSold It, a chain of locations where you bring your old stuff, and they put it up for auction on EBay, write the copy, take the photos, create the ad, ship the item to the buyer, and send you the check, minus their cut. Even more coincidentally, the object that the customer in the tv commercial brought to iSold It was ... an electric guitar. This was a sign from above. I carefully polished the guitar and placed it in its case for the first time in years.

I located the nearest I Sold It location, which is not too nearby in Gaithersburg. The place was like a pawn shop, only cleaner and less depressing. There was a counter up front, and a back area loaded with all kinds of stuff, including computers and even a truck tire. There were booths behind the counter, with white paper on rolls in the background, where items were to be photographed. It looked very professional, except for the college-age kid running the store and photographing a ski parka -- on the floor.

I proudly unzipped the case and showed him the guitar. I explained that I had done some research on EBay, and that what set my guitar apart from the others was its cherry condition. I expected that the guitar, stand, case and strap should easily be able to fetch at least $100. However, my hopes were dashed right away. The kid started shaking his head and said that there were tons of guitars for sale on EBay, and that they were difficult to sell. He got online, did some research and some more head shaking. He told me that, at most, the guitar would sell for $30-$40, which, considering the high shipping cost, did not make it worth buying. I thanked him and left, the guitar strapped to my back.

On the way home, I passed by a Goodwill location. Without hesitation, I pulled in, grabbed the guitar and stand out of my trunk, and handed it over to them. It was quite possibly the end of my childhood, my adolescence, and yes, even my dreams, all at once.

But I still have the acoustic guitar.

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August 21, 2006

Love Match Point

It's the summer, time for action movie blockbusters. This summer has been no exception, with "Superman Returns," "Miami Vice," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," and of course, the anti-blockbuster blockbuster, "Snakes on a Plane." By coincidence, however, writer-director Woody Allen's 2005 film "Match Point" recently arrived in my mailbox from Netflix. It's an interesting counterpoint to the blockbusters.

For those who have not seen "Match Point," it is about the little things in life that are also the big things: love, truth, fidelity, desire, ambition. Oh, and it stars Scarlett Johansson. But I dig her for her acting skills in addition to her looks, and she is perfectly cast here as the femme fatale. Jonathan Rhys- Meyers skillfully plays a slithery, upwardly mobile London tennis instructor, a type of role that Jude Law usually plays.

"Match Point" touches on themes of lying, cheating and infidelity that are familiar from earlier Woody Allen dramas such as "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors." A couple of times, remembrances of Allen's own sordid marital past intruded on my viewing experience, but not enough to detract from the many pleasurable moments in which I found myself smiling and saying "aha!" Obviously, Allen believes in the adage "write what you know," and he is a master of the subject, and the filmmaking process.

The cinematography beautifully captures a sometimes sunny but often gloomy London and English countryside. At just over two hours, "Match Point" is considered long for a Woody Allen film, but holds the viewer's interest through various and sometimes very dark twists and turns.

There's nothing wrong with entertaining summer movie blockbusters and plenty of buttered popcorn. However, if you want some filet mignon with your popcorn, a "Match Point" rental is just the ticket.

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August 19, 2006

The Perfect Cable TV News Story

"Our top story tonight: Generallissimo Francisco Franco is still dead."
--Chevy Chase, "Saturday Night Live," Dec. 13, 1975

My May 17, 2006 post entitled "Man Bites Gator" listed some "news stories" that have made their way to the top of the cable "news" channel charts. These included Baby Jessica, shark attacks, Chandra Levy, TomKat, the Runaway Bride, alligator attacks, etc. Little did I know that, just three months later, the decade-old JonBenet Ramsey story would crash its way back onto the cable channels' favorites list.

Accordingly, I wondered what would make the perfect cable tv news story.

It might go something like this:

Five year-old Joey Atherton accidentally falls down a mine shaft. The cable networks rush to the scene and begin wall-to-wall coverage. They call him "Little Joey," to distinguish him from all the big five year-olds out there. Rescue workers lower a McDonald's Happy Meal to Little Joey, along with a cup of coffee to keep him warm. Unfortunately, he burns himself drinking the coffee. Alan Dershowitz and Gerry Spence rush to the scene to provide legal advice to Little Joey and speculation to the cable networks. Michael Jackson donates one of his roller coaster cars from the shuttered Neverland Ranch to reach Little Joey. The car is filled with food water, blankets and a cell phone. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt escort the car down the shaft on their Ducatis.

While in the mine shaft, Little Joey is chased by voracious man-eating alligators. However, he escapes long enough for an on-air phone interview with Larry King , who begins the interview with "Underground Mine Shaft, you're on the air." Little Joey is confused by King's references to Steve Lawrence and Edie Gourmet, and starts to cry. The shaft fills with water, which brings voracious man-eating sharks. Little Joey panics and begins to drown.

Just then, rescue workers reach Little Joey and try to revive him. While he is on a respirator, President Bush and Senator Bill Frist rush back to Washington from their vacation homes to take charge of Little Joey's welfare. Senator Frist says that he has reviewed the video footage of Little Joey and, as a former doctor, is confident in his diagnosis that the lad will pull through. Bush says that, in case Little Joey does not make it, his stem cells may not be used for scientific research.

Little Joey recovers from his ordeal, but is kidnapped at the rescue scene by impostors dressed as paramedics. Larry King begins a nightly newscast leading off each program with the big story that "Little Joey is still missing." The newscast continues for over ten years. Even though King has since died of his thirteenth heart attack, he is propped up in his chair El Cid-style and continues his show. A walkie-talkie is implanted in King's throat, with Rita Cosby on the other end. Since their voices are identical and King looks the same dead as alive, viewers do not know the difference. King/Cosby interviews numerous retired generals, many of whom opine that, if Joey is found, he will soon be eligible to be drafted in the Iraq War, which by now is the longest war in U.S. history.

Little Joey, who is now six foot one, eventually escapes his captors. While wandering around in the Arizona desert, he is picked up by a weaving Lexus driven by Mel Gibson who, after being shunned by Hollywood, has started his own religion and lives with his followers in a nearby compound. Spurning Gibson's offer to become second high priest, Little Joey makes his way back home. After six months of tv interviews, book deals and movie deals, he finishes high school and enrolls at Brown University, where he is given an Amy Carter scholarship. For nine months, things finally quiet down. The cable networks' ratings plunge dangerously.

During the summer, Little Joey accepts an internship in President Hillary Clinton's White House. Soon after, the two are caught having an affair. The cable news networks park their Winnebagos on the White House lawn and devote 24 hours a day to covering the story. Secretary of Faith and Values Joe Lieberman resigns in disgust, and can be seen each night giving interviews to the cable news networks. His positive rating soars, and he contemplates running for the Senate once again. As a Republican. In Texas.

President Clinton diverts attention from the scandal by ordering FBI agents to storm the Gibson compound. Gibson is killed in the fiery blaze and is nominated for sainthood. Clinton narrowly survives an impeachment effort. Things quiet down again. Aside from the gloomy and thus non-tv worthy Iraq War, the War on Terror, and nuclear blackmail by the leaders of IranIraqistan and NorthSouth KoreaJapanistan, there is no news. The cable news networks grow desperate. Then they hit upon an idea. The public is once again ready for coverage of the Hunt for JonBenet Ramsey's Real Killer.

Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow.

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August 17, 2006

Stepping in Bear Sh*t

My July 26, 2006 post entitled "Grizzly Man" was a review of an engrossing documentary. However, I was not prepared for the onslaught of views of my post by people desiring to hear the tape of the Grizzly Man being killed and eaten by a bear.

As my post indicated, "Grizzly Man" is about Timothy Dexter a/k/a Timothy Treadwell, who lived among bears in the Alaska wild for thirteen summers and filmed his experiences. I wrote that, on the tragic day in question, Treadwell's camera was running but the lens cap was affixed, so that the attack on him and his girlfriend was captured on the audio portion of the video tape. However, the public has never heard the audio tape, and probably never will. Treadwell's friend possesses the tape, and has no plans to let her deceased friend suffer further indignity.

Unfortunately, according to Site Meter, I am getting slammed by searchers for the "Timothy Treadwell grizzly bear attack audio tape" or some variation thereof. I am averaging about ten such hits per day. Presumably, most of these folks are trying to find a site where they can hear the tape. Yech! Had I known this would happen, perhaps I would have not mentioned the tape in my post. It is really only a small part of this fascinating film.

Have any of you written posts that have resulted in unintended and even unwanted search hits?

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August 16, 2006

Silver Spring, Maryland Bumper Sticker

"WARNING: Driver Only Carries $20 Worth Of Ammunition"

Sorry the sticker on the SUV isn't more readable, but I shot the picture through the windshield while driving. A stick shift.

Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt.

I was thus not able to check whether the SUV also had the "Protected By Smith & Wesson" or "Mafia Staff Car: Keepa You Hands Off" bumper stickers.

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August 15, 2006

Tour de Montgomery

I was in Rockville and Silver Spring, Maryland the other day, which gave me the opportunity to sample these two redeveloped towns in lower Montgomery County. The flavor is decidely vanilla. Silver Spring boasts a redeveloped downtown, led by anchors Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute Silver Theater, both on the main drag, Colesville Road. A block off Colesville, near the intersection of Georgia Avenue, is Ellsworth Drive, which contains a pedestrian plaza and fountain, the Majestic movie theaters, and a collection of restaurants and shops that are unrivaled for yards around, or at least as far as the nearest shopping mall. On Ellsworth and around the corner on Fenton Street, the effect is more pre-fab than fab, with eateries including Potbelly Sandwich Works, Red Lobster, Macaroni Grill, Starbucks, Panera, Ben and Jerry's, Baja Fresh, and Chick-Fil-A. Well, at least they have Chick-Fil-A, which used to be somewhat rare this close to the Mason-Dixon line.

The shops include Ann Taylor Loft, Moto Photo, Storehouse furniture, Borders Books, Bombay Company, Next Day Blinds, DSW, Mens Wearhouse, Pier 1 Imports ... is it ok if I stop now?

At the intersection of Ellsworth and Fenton is Silver Spring's version of the village green, covered, fittingly, in Astroturf.

Ellsworth's one saving grace is Cakelove, the annex of the beloved DC bakery owned and operated by an ex-lawyer. The prices at Cakelove are startling, with cupcakes no larger than a child's fist going for $3 per, and 9" round cakes selling for $55 and up. Is my birthday coming up?

A few miles away, Rockville has undergone similar changes. Stretched out along Route 355, or Rockville Pike, it is centered by the original downtown. There, a similar Epcot Center-style redevelopment is taking place, with the Regal movie multiplex as the current focal point. Hmm, Regal, Majestic. Surrounding the Regal are, of course, another Potbelly and Ben and Jerry's, as well as Moto Photo. A few miles north is King Farm (Majestic? Regal? King?), one of the last farms in this lower part of the county, which was purchased by developers several years ago and turned in to housing for thousands. Near the north end of King Farm are some shops and eateries, including an outpost of Mayorga Coffee, the original being in downtown Silver Spring. While the Silver Spring Mayorga is dimly lit and somewhat grungy, the King Farm version is as sterile as a Jamba Juice store. To top it off, they play oldies music at high volume, which severely negates the free wi-fi experience.

Like vanilla, Ellsworth Drive, downtown Rockville and King Farm are pleasant enough, and leave absolutely no lasting impression. These developments represent the future of Silver Spring and Rockville, apparently. Maybe they represent the future of America. If so, I may consider moving to Canada for some diversity. Do they have Chick-Fil-A up there?

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August 12, 2006

Losing Their MoJoe

I was sailing on Oyster Bay, Long Island this past weekend, and, while tacking north, I thought about the Senate primary that took place a few days ago across the Long Island Sound in Connecticut. In that primary, upstart Ned Lamont defeated incumbent Senator Joseph Lieberman. It was a remarkable downfall for Lieberman, who has served 18 years in the Senate and who, just six years ago, was Al Gore's Democratic Vice Presidential running mate. Two things stand out regarding Lieberman's defeat. First, the reason why Democrats turned against Lieberman so violently, and second, the desperate Republican spin positing that Lieberman's defeat helps the Republicans.

As for why Democrats turned on Lieberman, it's not simply because he has supported President Bush every step of the way in the Iraq War. Lieberman took the extra step of questioning the patriotism of Democrats who, in good faith, opposed the war. Now, that's the job of Republicans, and they are doing it relentlessly. Democrats are the loyal opposition. It is their patriotic duty to criticize the President on any matter in which they believe he is not doing a good job, and there is plenty of evidence that the Iraq War is such a matter. According to current polls, 60% of the country, including many non-Democrats, share this view.

Democrats are pissed off at Lieberman because he takes the extra step of appearing self-righteous and attacking other Democrats. He did something similar when President Bill Clinton was caught fooling around with adult-age intern Monica Lewinsky. It is one thing to criticize Clinton for his foolish behavior. But Lieberman strode onto the Senate floor and delivered a lengthy, stinging attack on his President, going overboard by voicing his "graver sense of loss" about "the impact of [Clinton's] actions on our democracy" and so forth.

In the end, Lieberman comes off as a transparent political hack who attacks his own party members in order to appear morally superior. He's the kind of guy who, in high school, would have had the crap beaten out of him every day. It's surprising that it took Connecticut voters eighteen years to do so.

As for the Republican spin job on Lieberman, it is a similarly over-the-top effort that adheres to the following logical syllogism:

1. The Iraq War equals the War on Terror.
2. Joe Lieberman supported President Bush wholeheartedly on the Iraq War.
3. Ned Lamont disagreed with Bush and Lieberman on the Iraq War.
4. Therefore, Lamont is weak on fighting terrorism.
5. Since the Democrats chose Lamont in their Connecticut primary, the Democrats are weak on fighting terrorism.

In fact, White House Press Secretary and ex-Fox News commentator Tony Snow implied that Osama Bin Laden would be heartened by Lamont's victory over Lieberman.

However, it's easy to tear this syllogism apart:

1. The Iraq War is not the War on Terror. On the contrary, the Iraq War was a distraction from the War on Terror. The U.S. was attacked by Al Quaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden, not Iraq led by Saddam Hussein.

2. Ned Lamont and most Americans supported President Bush when Bush invaded Afghanistan to toss out the Taliban and try to get Al Quaeda, who were given carte blanche in Afghanistan.

3. However, Ned Lamont and the majority of Democrats in Congress opposed Bush's halting of efforts against Al Quaeda in favor of a totally unrelated and unprovoked war against Saddam Hussein. The opponents argued that the U.S. has a limited amount of troops, resources, money and military intelligence, and these resources must be devoted primarily to the enemies that attacked us and who continued to threaten us.

4. Since then, the opponents of the Iraq War have been proven correct. The Taliban are regrouping in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden has not been captured. Al Quaeda have not been defeated and continue to threaten us, as evidenced by the Liquid Prell terrorist scare a few days ago. Meanwhile, the Iraq War is a mess and has accomplished nothing except to strengthen Iran, unleash Shi'ite radicals in government positions in Iraq and Lebanon (Hezbollah), and foster more hate against the U.S., which creates more terrorists.

5. Accordingly, Ned Lamont is stronger on terrorism than either Joe Lieberman or George Bush. Karl Rove and the Republicans are going to have a difficult time trying to argue otherwise this November.

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August 10, 2006

High On A Concept

The movie "Snakes on a Plane" is being released next Friday. Part of what people find so amusing about this movie is that its title is the high concept phrase used to describe it. When I say "high concept," I mean a catchy phrase that screenwriters use to pitch their movie to studio executives, which (a) describes the movie in a nutshell, and (b) sounds enticing to the studio execs, so they will want to make the movie. However, it is virtually unheard of for a movie's high concept description to be its title as well, as is the case with "Snakes on a Plane."

This leads one to wonder, what would some of the most beloved films in history have been titled if the "Snakes on a Plane" high concept method of naming them had been employed? Probably, they would have had titles along the following lines:

The Godfather
-- Horse Head on a Bed
Jaws -- Teeth on a Shark
Forrest Gump -- Retard on an Adventure
The Passion of the Christ -- Christ on a Cross
Star Wars -- Hair on a Wookie
Harry Potter -- Geek on a Broom
Gone With the Wind -- Curtains on a Belle
Austin Powers -- Fat on a Bastard
Citizen Kane -- Snow on a Sled
Pulp Fiction -- Zed on a Marsellus
Scarface -- Powder on a Nose
Taxi Driver -- Cabbie on a Rampage
Birth of a Nation -- Sheet on a Klansman
Terminator -- Skin on a Cyborg
Working Girl -- Mousse on a Hair
Boogie Nights -- Prosthesis on a Crotch
Breakfast Club -- TP on a Shoe
Easy Rider -- Stoners on a Bike

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August 09, 2006

Suburban Maryland Bumper Sticker

"Greed Over Patriotism"

When you're losing the suburban voters, you're losing.

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August 08, 2006

Are You Ready to Re-Live 9/11?

Tomorrow night, Oliver Stone's new film "World Trade Center" premieres. According to the reviews, the film is a far cry from Stone's left-wing, conspiratorial view of the world. In fact, it is supposed to be a conservative, Hollywood-style, heart string-tugging portrayal of two police officers trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center, fighting for their lives. But I just don't think that I am ready to see it, or to re-live 9/11.

I was deeply affected by the attacks on September 11, 2001. I was born and raised in New York only a few miles from the towers. In the 1980s, I worked at CNN in the lobby of the North Tower. Then the Washington, DC area, one of the two targets of the 9/11 hijackers, became and remains my home. I was sent home in the mass exodus from downtown DC that morning, where I ended up watching the news with friends. I knew two people, including a former girlfriend, on American Airlines Flight 77, which was crashed into the Pentagon. I have another friend who made it out of one of the towers just 60 seconds before it fell. I have a cousin who worked on one of the high floors of the World Trade Center, who, unbeknownst to us, had a meeting out of the office on September 11. Our family spent the morning trying to locate him. He spent the day, and the next days, trying to locate, and ultimately attending the funerals of, many of his friends and co-workers. Several years after 9/11, he passed away at a very early age, and I am certain that the stress and sorrow he felt due to 9/11 contributed to his death.

I went to Ground Zero about two months after 9/11. I was surprised by the grey dust that still permeated windows, nooks and crannies for many blocks. I also remember the few World Trade Center building fragments, with their distinctive tuning fork design, that remained standing at odd angles like chips randomly stuck in a bowl of dip. But I was most struck by the acrid smell. I tried not to think about what components made up that smell. Some time after that, I was able to shift focus by having a letter published in the Wall Street Journal, about my fond remembrances of the towers in their shining heyday.

Coincidentally, I am heading to New York about twelve hours after "World Trade Center" premieres. The southern approach to New York City, whether by airplane, train or automobile, used to feature the Twin Towers as the first glimpse, a beacon welcoming me. Now Manhattan Island seems like a giant lying on its back, with no feet.

I won't be seeing Oliver Stone's movie just yet. It's still too soon.

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August 07, 2006

Fortuitous Fortune

Yesterday, I received this fortune cookie message:

Then today I spotted this bumper sticker:

Is somebody trying to tell me something?

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Pat Robertson Converts

Television evangelist Pat Robertson made an astounding conversion on the air yesterday. He now believes in "the global warming" and its man-made causes, especially the burning of fossil fuels. Here is the transcript of Roberstson's remarks with a link to the video, courtesy of Think Progress.

Robertson's conversion stands out from the conservative party line, espoused by President Bush and many of his flock, that either there is no such thing as global warming, or that there may be a global warming problem but its cause may be natural rather than human, thus we should not be taking any action on it.

Maybe Pat Robertson has become a believer in science, having read the numerous studies over the past years which point to a global warming problem caused by human burning of fossil fuels. Or maybe Robertson simply had a revelation that, if there is going to be a Second Coming of the Messiah, it won't be much of a party without a habitable planet for Him to come back to.

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August 06, 2006

Are Bloggers Trained Monkeys?

The count is up to three. That is how many requests I have received thus far to write on specific topics. The topics have varied widely, and are very interesting. They reflect the passion and creativity of the people making the suggestions. That's why I suggested to the suggesters, and here suggest again, that these folks start a blog if they do not have one, and, if they do have one, to write about their pet topic themselves.

Are other bloggers receiving these requests as well? If so, do you find it odd? Do other types of writers receive requests to write about specific topics from people other than publishers or editors who are paying them? Does Dan Brown receive requests to write books about UFOs landing in Vatican City? Does Robert Novak receive requests to out more CIA agents? (Actually, that's a bad example, he probably does, and is working on them now). Aren't blogs -- web logs -- supposed to be personal to the writer, like diaries?

Perhaps this is a form of flattery, but I am not so delusional to think I can write about a subject better than the suggester who feels passionate enough to suggest it.

So again, I politely suggest to the suggesters, no more suggestions, please. Unless you're paying for my services. Then let's talk.

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August 05, 2006

Tour de France Winner Landis Fails Second Drug Test

From the Associated Press -- "Floyd Landis was fired by his team and the Tour de France no longer considered him its champion Saturday after his second doping sample tested positive for higher-than-allowed levels of testosterone. The head of France's anti-doping commission said the samples contained synthetic testosterone, indicating that it came from an outside source."

Sad, sad, sad. If Landis really did ingest artificial testosterone illegally and was caught, that's sad. If he didn't, and is the victim of a plot to take away his title unfairly (recall the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal involving the French judge and the many unfounded doping allegations against Lance Armstrong after his Tour de France victories), that's even sadder.

When did sports become so impure?

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August 04, 2006

Are the Hummer Folks Clueless?

The folks at Hummer have been running a television commercial in which a mom is with her young son at the playground, and another kid cuts in front of the son at the slide. When the mom objects and politely says that her son was first, the aggressive kid's mom says "well now my kid is first." Then the first mom trades in her minivan for a Hummer, and is seen smiling behind the wheel before the slogan "Get Your Girl On" appears. The implication is that, by buying a Hummer, the mom can become as rude and aggressive as the mom who wronged her in the playground. Apparently, the Hummer-driving mom will be the queen of the road, refusing to let anyone cut her off or even merge into her lane. She will win every road rage battle.

Ladies, does this commercial appeal to you? Does it make you feel that, if you buy a Hummer and become this rude and aggressive, you'll feel powerful and happy? To me, this is a condescending and ultimately destructive message. Is it a successful one? You tell me. Hummer is made by General Motors.

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Post Office Adventures

Overheard at Bethesda Post Office on Arlington Road yesterday: A rather Kafkaesque conversation in which two men were complaining to the Supervisor that their oversized post cards (the type sent by galleries or restaurants to announce events) had been returned for insufficient postage. The men said that they had put first class stamps on the post cards. The Supervisor said that the problem was that the address labels and text were placed horizontally across the width of the postcards, so that they had to be scanned into the machines vertically, in which case they are considered oversized and require additional postage. She said that, if the address labels and text ran across the length of the postcards so that the machines could read them horizontally, they would not be considered oversized. She said that the process is done completely by computers, and humans are not involved. Isn't that exactly what Uncle Skip was talking about a day earlier during his Balducci's Tea Party?

But aside from the computer dependency silliness, what was really striking was the response by the two men. Rather than taking issue with the illogical system in which the computers read identically-sized postcards two different ways, they complained that one of their postcards had been delivered, therefore all of them should have been delivered. In other words, one had fallen through the cracks by mistake. This is a bit like going through a toll booth, mistakenly not being asked to pay, then going through the next day, not paying, getting pulled over by the cops, and complaining that they weren't required to pay a day earlier so why should they have to pay today. Obviously, these men are not glass-half-full types who should have thanked the Supervisor for getting at least one postcard through at a discount.

Even worse, one of the men played the false "stay calm" card. Even though the Supervisor was extremely calm and the men were the agitated ones, one of them falsely told the Supervisor to "stay calm." Isn't it irksome when someone does that? It must be a form of projection. To her credit, the Supervisor calmly and accurately told the men that she was very calm. If anyone was in danger of "going postal," it was the customers and not the Supervisor.

It's easy and cheap to criticize Post Office and other government workers. However, I don't know about DC, but I find that, in Montgomery County, Maryland, the Post Office employees are courteous, friendly and efficient, making the best of a system in which we all have to operate.

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August 03, 2006

Bethesda Bumper Sticker

1. "We are creating enemies faster than we can kill them."
I have been saying this for more than three years.

2. "Martin Sheen is my President."
Now that, I have not been saying.

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August 02, 2006

Balducci's Tea Party

My Uncle "Skip" is 82 years old and lives nearby. We meet regularly for breakfast. It occurs to me that I have been learning a lot from Skip during our breakfast sessions. Yesterday I learned about the pricing at Balducci's.

Uncle Skip says he was in Balducci's recently, the one near A.U. (that's American University to the non-locals). He has been going there for a long time, since it was the Sutton Glutton (that's Sutton Gourmet to the non-locals). It is located smack in the middle of the Land Where the Lobbyists and Defense Contractors Live. So he is used to the high prices that any business occupying this store charges. But he was not prepared for $2.99 per bag tea. That's no typo: it is $2.99 per teabag. If you buy a pack of 10, there isn't even a price break: it's $29.90.

I ask Skip if this was some special tea with gold dust or something in it. He says no. He says that he asked the nearest sales person whether the price was wrong. The sales person came back and said he checked the computer and the price was correct. Skip worked his way up the Balducci's chain. He kept asking each higher level employee, "Does this price make sense to you? It looks stupid." Each time, he received the same response.

Finally, with a small group of curious customers standing around, the final link in the chain, the store manager, made an executive decision: he gave Skip five teabags and told him, nicely I'm sure, to get lost. This didn't make Skip any happier. Now, on top of the stupidity of the tea price, Skip felt guilty about not being asked to pay anything. He says he has enough money to buy tea in Balducci's; he just does not want to pay a "stupid" price for it. To test his principle, I ask him whether, if the marked price was only $.02 per teabag, an obvious mistake in the other direction, he would keep quiet and pay the price, or tell the cashier that the price is mistakenly low. He says that he would say something, because, again, he just doesn't want to pay a stupid price.

Skip says the problem is computers. Having spent many years in business, he says that, nowadays, no one working in middle management at companies or retail stores, below the top level, can think for themselves. They merely consult their computers and worship whatever result the computers yield, no matter how stupid.

Skip may be onto something here.

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This Driver is Apparently Not a Fence Sitter

The back of this Green (what else?) RAV4 was loaded with the following:

1. "Vegetarians Taste Better" bumper sticker.

2. "Insatiable IS NOT Sustainable" bumper sticker. Uh, I don't think that's always true.

3. Peace sign over the second "O" in "Toyota" on the spare wheel cover.

4. The best variation on the Fish that I have yet seen, a fish with rocket tail fins, and the word "SCIENCE" inside.

5. Another sticker with the word "Stupid" in the phrase, but I forget what it said, and anyway, I think the point has been made.

Somehow, I don't think this driver qualifies as a Swing Voter.

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Punishment for Mel-icious Intent

Normally, celebrity news is an oxymoron. If a celebrity gets a divorce, has a kid or is caught driving drunk, what does it really matter? But when (1) one of the world's top movie stars and directors is caught driving drunk, whereupon he (2) launches into an anti-Semitic tirade, blaming Jews for all the wars ever fought, while at the same time (3) Israel is at war with Hezbollah, and (4) that movie star/director is slated to produce an ABC television movie about the Holocaust, then we're talking a perfect storm of news.

According to tests taken by Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies who pulled Gibson over, Gibson's blood alchohol level was .12, or 50% over the .08 limit. However, that test wasn't needed. It was obvious that Gibson was plastered when he asked the arresting officer, Sheriff's Deputy James Mee, "Are you a Jew?" Everyone knows that Jews do not become Sheriff's deputies. I can say that because I was raised Jewish. Maybe, maybe, if they serve a good coffee cake down at the station house.

Accordingly, here are the top ten punishments that should be imposed on Mel Gibson for his drunk driving escapade:

10. Mel should be prohibited from ordering in Aramaic next time he's lunching at Spago.

9. Mel should be force-fed Matzoh and Gefilte fish.
8. Mel should be locked in a room with the Governator, forced to remain silent, and to endure Ah-nuld's repeated enunciation of the word "Kull-i-forn-ia."
7. Mel should be forced to watch Oliver Stone's "Alexander" over and over. It's not Jewish, just extremely painful.
6. Mel should be forced to drink Manischewitz Concord Grape Passover Seder wine, then be put behind the wheel of his Lexus with the sheriffs in pursuit.
5. Mel should be locked in a room with Sylvester Stallone, forced to remain silent, and to endure Sly's repeated enunciation of the word "Yo!" See #8 and #7.
4. Mel should be forced to don a kilt, paint his face blue, and moon the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
3. Mel should be sent into the Thunderdome with Humongous.
2. Mel should receive a community service sentence of garbage pickup duty just like Boy George, but Mel's garbage pickup should take place in Haifa, Israel, where Mel can dodge Hezbollah rockets while scanning for Popsicle wrappers.
1. Mel should be circumcised, if he is armadillo. If he's helmet, he should be circumcised again.

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August 01, 2006

Bumper Sticker on a Benz

Happily, for the Benz driver, there are only two and a half years left of "THIS."

Note to GOP: if you're losing the Mercedes owners, you're losing.

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