Friday, November 17, 2006

A Toast


Unless you act quickly you will probably miss your opportunity to purchase the wine pictured above from since they are having a "woot off" and things sell out fast. By the time I post this the wine may be gone.

I occasionally post quotes in my blog from Woot's ad copy which has a quirky sense of humor that I love. I was struck by their description of the white:
The 2005 Summertime White captures the fading luminescence of the season with a blend of old-vine French Colomard and Viognier. Sweet, sexy notes of nectarine and peach are spritzed with a metaphorical squeeze of lime to create the perfect counterpoint to spicy south-of-the-border cuisine. As the label illustration indicates, Jepson 2005 Summertime White is best consumed in a deck chair, under an umbrella, amid the orange hills of Mars.

I like to think of that deck chair among the orange hills of Mars as being occupied by science fiction writer Jack Williamson, who died this week at the untimely age of 98. Perhaps he is accompanied by The Girl From Mars and by Robert Heinlein, author of The Green Hills of Earth.

Friday, November 10, 2006


candygramA number of people I know are conservatives who either sat out the recent elections or voted for the Libertarian candidates (the libertarians were write-ins in NC this year.) They did so to send a message to the Republicans that they were fed up with them. My position is that you should vote in such a way as to maximize the likelihood that the actions of those elected will be beneficial for you, your family and your community -- and that any messages you want to send to the candidates should be sent through some other channel. All of which is to say, I held my nose and voted for Republicans.

Now that the election is over -- and everyone and everything for which I voted has been nicely defeated -- I have done my duty and can admit that I will not shed a single tear for any of the losers for whom I cast my ballot. I am deeply worried about the welfare of the country now that the party that cares only for power has replaced the party that cares mostly for power in the House and Senate, while we are at war, but let me make myself clear: It is a bad thing for the country that the Democrats have assumed the majority in Congress -- but that doesn't mean that the Republicans deserved to win. Clearly they did not.

So here is my message that I want to send to the Republicans:

I am tired of the shrillness and the polarization in American politics and I want it to stop. I don't care that the other guys started it or that they are another octave shriller than you are. Someone has to be the grownups in this and I expect it to be you.

Why on earth are you guys so obsessed with wedge issues that split your own base? I stand politically well to the right of 95 percent of the US population and yet, because there are one or two issues on which I differ from other strong conservatives, I constantly find myself lumped in with the "moderate" Republicans and on the wrong side of the Republican message. The campaign felt more like an effort to purge heretical Republicans than an attempt to get anyone but the "select few" to vote for the Republican candidates. As an example, I support a border fence and strong enforcement of the border, and at the same time, I support a guest worker program and a way for hard-working illegals currently in the country to earn the right to stay. We need to crack down on illegal immigration because, at its current level, it constitutes way too much of a good thing. The anti-immigration Republicans seemed to feel that they could "energize their base" by playing on their fear and resentment of illegal immigrants. Maybe they were right with some of their base but they were pumping a dry hole with me. The specter of hordes of Mexicans spreading pine-straw, flipping burgers and picking strawberries just doesn't scare me like it seems to scare some other Republicans.

The mainstream media have a double standard for ethics. When a Democrat takes money from agents of another country and hides it in his freezer with last year's freezer-burned turkey soup the New York Times will talk about how, on the other hand, he has been a champion of the poor and the oppressed. When a Republican appears at a fund raiser for an issue-based organization any funds raised will be suggested to be clandestine contributions to his campaign. When a Democrat goes on a Brokeback-Mountain camping trip with an underage congressional page he is praised for his courage in challenging homophobic Puritanism, but when a Republican sends a creepy and pathetic instant message the press digs their old Jeffrey Dahmer articles out of the archives, changes the name and runs them again. All of this means that life isn't fair. The press sets different ethical standards for Republicans... and so do I. You guys have been acting like a bunch of Democrats. This is unacceptable and must stop. I expect more from you.

And speaking of acting like Democrats, what's with all the spending? It's hard to buy votes from Republican voters. They have a long memory for taxes and when you hand a Republican a dollar that you have snagged for him out of the pork barrel he is likely to be struck by the sense that there is something familiar about it. Say, he will think, that looks a lot like a dollar I had in my wallet last April 14th.

Finally, now that you have p*ssed away your majority please play nice with the Democrats. They are coming into power having made promises, and raised expectations, that they would do a number of impossible and/or foolish things. Many of them are now looking for a graceful way to weasel out of those promises and to disappoint those expectations. Please help them. For the good of the country don't remind them of their agenda -- and for God's sake don't hold them to their promises.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My Halloween Costume Explained.

Originally uploaded by cspowers.
Have you ever seen someone walking down the hallway carrying a heavy bulky object and when you stepped into a doorway, to let them pass, you found that you have stepped into the doorway that they need to go through?

While you are studying the canned tomatoes in the supermarket does your wife ever point out that twelve other shoppers have queued up behind you waiting to get by?

Well it happens to me. All. The. Time. I have something of a genius for being in the way. I am big. I am absent minded. I tend to be hard to get around.

When my friend cspowers invited me to a Halloween party with the theme of "your inner super-hero" there was simply no quesion of who I should be.

O B S T R U C T O -- The Human Roadblock.

On the back of the flags on my hat it says "WIDE" and "LOAD".

The Teleospouse's Costume.

Originally uploaded by cspowers.
The H O T F L A S H -- Mistress of Thermal Incongruity

Monday, November 06, 2006

Election Day...


... is tomorrow.

See you at the polls. I'll be the one wearing this sticker which I have customized slightly to perfectly reflect my endorsement of the GOP.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Cheap Critic: Talladega Nights.


Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby is a very likable film with a good cast and a good heart. It stars Will Ferrell who shares the writing credit with fellow Saturday Night Live alum, Adam McKay, who also directed. Rather than write another summary of the film when there are hundreds of servicable ones available online I will simply quote one. Here is the summary that Cartman Kun wrote for the IMDB:
NASCAR stock car racing sensation Ricky Bobby (Will Ferrell) is a national hero because of his "win at all costs" approach. He and his loyal racing partner, childhood friend Cal Naughton Jr. (John C. Reilly), are a fearless duo -- "Shake" and "Bake" by their fans for their ability to finish so many races in the #1 and #2 positions, with Cal always in second place. When flamboyant French Formula One driver Jean Girard (Sacha Baron Cohen) challenges "Shake" and "Bake" for the supremacy of NASCAR, Ricky Bobby must face his own demons and fight Girard for the right to be known as racing's top driver.

Most of the castmembers are very familiar faces from television with John C. Reilly being the standout exception -- the token film guy. In cinematography, pacing and overall style the film owes a lot to television. This is particularly striking in the race scenes where a production crew with less of a television mindset would pull back, using wider shots to show more of the environment and count on the audience to focus on the action. The race scenes in Talladega nights are are shot tightly and simply with the camera always a participant and never an observer. The film is at the end of its theatrical release as I write this but with its TV roots it should work fine on DVD -- even for those with no fancy "home theaters."


In recommending this film I should confess to an idiosyncrasy of taste. There are a number of vastly popular modern comedies that I just don't like very much -- films that are funny enough but that are so larded with crassness and alienation that in the end you find yourself with nothing to like about any of the characters, or about the film itself. Talladega nights is not such a film.

Instead, it is a broad but affectionate parody of NASCAR and the redneckish NASCAR community. The film gets inside the heads of its subjects and, from that perspective, asks "what do we think is funny about us?" Ferrell and Reilly really nail their characters in loosely-scripted, mostly ad-lib scenes where half the actors are NASCAR luminaries playing themselves. The resulting comedy is broad enough to suit almost anybody -- our hero is contractually obligated to mention Power Aide whenever he says grace before a meal -- but with almost no bite of Switfean satire. If you are addicted to that bite, and cannot enjoy gentler comedy, then this film -- and most of Ferrell's work -- is not for you.

I've seen other reviewers complain that this film "offers nothing new," that the theme of a driver who loses his nerve and must face his demons to return to competition is old hat. I suspect that those reviewers miss the sarcastic bite that I mentioned above and that they simply find the film too bland. Of course the film follows the formula for a racing film. All good parodies conform to the rules of the genre they are spoofing. The best parodies are themselves good examples of subject type. Talladega Nights is quite enjoyable as a racing film. The racing scenes are well done and exciting. And of course our hero has an accident half way through the film and has to struggle to regain his nerve -- but that is not really what the film is about.

Talladega Nights is about the trancendent power of unconditional love -- the ties of family, romantic attraction and lifelong friendship that somehow cannot be destroyed despite the considerable efforts of our clueless, vain, greedy, bumbling, yet strangely likable "heros." None of the characters deserve to be loved -- but they are -- and the sport of stock car racing itslef also does not deserve to be loved -- it is loud and dangerous and highly commercialized -- but it is loved by millions. Perhaps this film does not deserve a good review. But here it is. Deal with it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

jokedoctorThe Joke Doctor

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Frenchman walked into a bar. The bartender looked up exasperation. "What is this?" he asked.
Funny, huh? ...? No? Sorry, I must have botched the joke. Let's call in Kate Zernike, the Joke Doctor from the New York Times. Here's what she might say:

Mr Haslup's prepared joke on his blog, The Teleoscope, on November 2nd called for him to type "An Englishman, an Irishman and a Frenchman walked into a bar. The bartender looked up in exasperation. 'What is this?' he asked 'some kind of a joke?'" In his delivery, Mr Haslup dropped the word "in."

First, I would like to apologize to the bartenders of America if my botched joke is interpreted to mean that they don't know the meaning of the word "exasperation" and can't understand it even if they look it up. As someone who has personally provided a certain amount of exasperation to bartenders across the country I know their familiarity with it firsthand.

Second, I would like to point out to Ms. Zernike that, while it is true that I left out the word "in", I also left off the punchline of the joke and the second omission does more damage to the joke than does the first.

For those of you who have not a clue what point I am belaboring, I am talking about John Kerry's botched joke and Ms. Zernike's analysis in the New York times in which Kerry's joke is repeated in a heavily redacted form while giving the impression that in his telling it he omitted only a single word. Of Kerry's joke she said
Mr. Kerry’s prepared remarks to California students on Monday called for him to say, “Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.” In his delivery, he dropped the word “us.”

This is true, as far as it goes. It is also a damnable lie. Assuming that Kerry's prepared remarks were prepared before he told the joke (and not as damage control after the fact) then he did omit the word "us." He also omitted the words "in a war" and "Just ask President Bush." You'd think that a joke doctor who did any fact checking at all would notice the omission of the punchline.

Poor Kerry. He has no sense of humor and it is painful to watch him try to tell a joke under the best circumstances. This time he bolluxed the joke and came out sounding like a pompous, haughty, elitist windbag making a snide and irritating joke about the troops in Iraq. I am prepared to give him credit for his claim that he misspoke. He intended to sound like a pompous, haughty, elitist windbag making a snide and irritating joke about the commander in chief of the troops in Iraq.

And as for the New York Times, there will be those who see this story as one more instance of the Times' pathetic eagerness to carry water for the Democrats but I am prepared to believe that it reflects a new policy. From now on all public figures will be allowed to change their quotes in the "newspaper of record" to show that they almost said what their handlers wish they had said. I guess it is too late to save Dan Quayle but this will be a big help for the president who occasionally fluffs a line or two.