Too High a Price

Look at this, denizens:

I hadn’t even had these sunglasses for two weeks before they broke. What irritates me even more than the fact that they broke is the fact that these were replacement glasses for a pair of similar ones that broke in nearly the same place after I’d only had them for about the same stretch of time.

Before you ask, the two sets of glasses in question were from different stores and were produced by different companies. Both were deceptively solid feeling, especially when considering how inexpensive each pair was. If I were to average their prices together, they could come out to about a tenner each.

I know what you’re thinking right now: “So what’s the big deal, Loba? You throw more than that away on books and DVDs all the time! Just buy a new pair of glasses and move on!”

I would. But I can’t. See, this happens with too much frequency for me to simply let it go and move on. And, no, I’m not talking about just sunglasses. I know I have a large head, but it’s not big enough that it snaps sunglasses on a bi-weekly basis.

I’m talking about product quality in general. When I was a wee pup, money was…well, we were okay, but we weren’t the Rockefellers. Because of this, my parents taught me the importance of taking care of what I had, because there wasn’t a guarantee that there would be money enough to replace whatever it was that was broken. They taught me well and to this day I’m quite possibly one of the most anal-retentive people you will ever know in regard to the care and maintenance of my belongings. I take pride in the fact that I can make things last until they unravel or disintegrate from excess use. If it rips, I can sew it. If it breaks, 8 times out of 10, I can fix it.

The thing is, I’m finding myself fixing more and more, or getting stuck with crap like these glasses that aren’t even worth the effort to fix them (especially since, on closer inspection of both pairs of glasses, I found other fissures preparing to snap just like the first fissure to go). And I know it’s not because of my misuse. I know how to take care of things, to make them last. So what is it, then?

Greed.

This isn’t a new gripe here at the lair but it’s obviously something that’s not going to go away. And the “it” is greedy corporations trying to maximize profit from minimum…everything. Minimum amounts of materials of the lowest cost (and subsequently lowest quality) being put together by the lowest-costing workers who would think that “minimum wage” was a promotion in comparison to what some of them are facing where they’re indentured. But what do you get when you work the “minimum” across the board with what you produce? Maximum profits lining your pockets.

Greed, Mr. Gekko, can bite me.

I’m so sick and tired of shoddy merchandise. I want…no, I expect a higher standard of quality from the things I purchase. Is that so effing wrong?

Scream 4 Me

I always had a thing for ya, Sid!

WARNING: Original trilogy spoilers ahead. No Scream 4 spoilers though.

Do you know the last time I went to the theater to see a movie, denizens? No? Let me give you a hint.

Yep. Haven’t been to see a movie since that stupid blue alien movie. I get the sneaking suspicion, at least based on the movies that I have rented from Netflix in between then and now, that I really haven’t missed anything. I’ve pretty much given up on renting movies, actually. Right now? I’m learning what I missed at Cook County Hospital and those wacky doctors in the ER. By the time I’m finished, I think I just might be able to fake my way as a doctor.

(Yeah, and a few more episodes of EastEnders and someone might actually mistake me for a Brit…pbbt.)

So what could possibly have lured me back to the theater? Only the opportunity to recapture an essence of my adolescence that I hold so very dear. See, if memory serves me correctly, there’s only one movie that I have seen more than twice in a theater. And, again by my admittedly wonky memory count, I do believe that I may have actually seen this four times in the theater (although I think it might have only been three…I’ll have to ask Captain Morgan the next time we get together, since he seems to hold most of my brain cells at this point in the game). It’s the horror movie that I have seen more than almost any other. In fact, I believe The Silence of the Lambs is the only movie that I have seen more…although A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween are pretty far up there, too (original versions only, of course).

The movie in question would be Scream. I love this movie so very much. I still think it’s one of the most innovative takes on the horror genre to come out of Hollywood. I love the fact that it was written by someone who obviously possessed a serious passion for horror. Kevin Williamson did something brilliant with that original screenplay…something that the horror movie industry desperately needed. He brought fresh meat to the horror altar and, in doing so, altered the genre in both wonderful and terrible ways. The slew of copycat flicks that followed (some even flowing from Williamson’s own fingers) was intriguing at first but inevitably frustrating when I realized that we were in for the long haul with Scream knockoffs. Then came the torture porn era and all bets were off as far as I was concerned. Blood and guts don’t bother me, but I cannot abide watching someone be tortured. I know. Weird, right?

I also love the characters, especially Sidney Prescott. I once wrote in a book review that very rarely did I wish a book character was real. Same bodes true for movie characters. However, I wish that Sidney was real. Minus being a lightning rod for psychos and the messy truth that if Sidney considers you a friend, you’re more than likely not going to make it to the end credits, I think she would be quite the awesome person to know. Plus, what can I say? I have a soft spot for the broken ones.

As for the original two sequels? I remember actually finding the opening of Scream 2 repulsive. What seemed so innovative and provocative an opening in the original movie (seriously, was anyone not set off-kilter by Drew freakin’ Barrymore dying before the title card?) was uncomfortable and even mildly offensive in the second. First, it had already been done (to extraordinary effect), so doing it again felt cheap; and second, placing it in such a public place felt so exploitative and…vulgar. Again, this is another of my strange proclivities. Scream 3 felt weightier and more promising to me than 2…but the ending was so anti-climactic and disappointing. I think it was because I was expecting it to go a completely different way…those damned red herring doppelgangers! However, the presence of Parker Posey was definitely a bonus, and there were a couple of genuinely chilling moments that made it worth the effort.

Of course, I own the special trilogy box set on DVD. I even owned three different copies of the original movie on VHS, including a weird double set that contained both the movie and a second copy with a director/writer commentary. I think it was some kind of failed attempt to make VHS competitive with DVDs. It was clunky and a bit redundant but it was also my first experience with a commentary track and I admittedly was hooked in by the newness of the idea.

So was it any wonder that I would make my way back to the theater to see the return of this franchise that so overwhelmingly won my heart so many years ago? True, I was irritated beyond belief when I first heard about the fourth movie. It was supposed to be a trilogy, dammit! Plus, I was incredibly surprised when I heard that Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette all signed on for the fourth movie. Hadn’t Sidney, Gale, and Dewey been through enough?

When Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were also confirmed, I admit that hope sparked within me. It had been more than a decade since we’d paid a trip to that world. Perhaps in that time, they’d found new inspiration? A way to breathe freshness into a franchise that, the last time we saw it, limped over the finish line, beaten, bludgeoned, bloodied, but still standing?

Um. Yeah.

As a self-referential parody of the original franchise, Scream 4 is brilliant. In fact, I found myself laughing out loud several times. Honest, hearty, uncontrollable laughing. Probably not what Craven and Co. were going for though, you know, considering the fact that this was not marketed as a parody at all. And that’s a shame. Because as a straight-forward horror movie, it definitely did not cross the finish line this time. There’s no way it could, really, when it was dragged down every step by the inexorable weight of the original franchise resting completely on its shoulders.

What started out as a franchise designed to be reverent of the horror genre as a whole has now apparently been rebooted to pay obeisance mostly to its predecessors. Whether it was scenes played out in ways almost identical to those earlier movies or characters designed to fit the mold of the “Randy” or the “Tatum” or even the “Sidney” from that original film, Scream 4 spent more time evoking memories of the trilogy than it did in actually telling a new story. Sadly, however, there wasn’t really much of a “new” story to tell. And what story there was was wholly ridiculous and made me keep asking the same question: Why the fuck would any of the original characters ever go back to Woodsboro?! Go ahead, watch Scream 4 and see if you’re not asking this over and over as you watch it…I dare you. I double dog dare you!

Also by evoking memories of the original, and undeniably superior, films, all Scream 4 made me feel was a burning desire to re-watch the originals rather than continue watching this new offering. Add to this the heavily predictable nature of the story (there is no new thing under the sun or the Ghost Face mask) and…well. It was just disappointing. I will say this: There was a twist at the end that I didn’t anticipate completely and that I think had the potential to make this an amazing reintroduction to this franchise. To pull this off, however, something would have had to have happened that I honestly anticipated happening…but that didn’t.

Okay, I lied. I said I wasn’t going to include spoilers for the new Scream movie. I am. Right now. So cover your eyes for a few minutes. Or I’ll just mark the text in white so you can’t see it unless you highlight it.

So Emma Roberts, who plays Sidney’s cousin Jill , is the killer. Right here was the twist that I wasn’t completely anticipating…and I’m admittedly irritated by this. I let myself be lulled into complacency by the fact that this was Nancy Drew…and Julia Roberts’ niece. And Julia Roberts is always the good guy, right? [Insert character description here] with the heart of gold, right? So wouldn’t her goody-two-shoes, Nancy Drew niece be the same? Good job on deceptive casting here, that’s all I’m saying.

But why is Jill the killer? Because she spent her childhood listening to nonstop talk about her unlucky but also famous cousin and now she wants her 15 minutes of fame…and she’s willing to kill to get it. Willing to kill her mother (played by Laura Roslin Mary McDonnell, still suffering from a horrendously noticeable mouth droop since her BSG-era face lift). Even willing to kill her cousin. Yeah, she stabs Sidney. In places that regular people wouldn’t have survived. I have to admit, when she stabbed Sidney, I had a horrible “Oh god no” moment…same moment I felt when Sidney’s brother shot her point-blank at the end of Scream 3. Yet again I thought, “Wow, they’re really going to kill Sidney.”

Sidney Prescott, however, is a fucking cat. And she’s now down 4 of her 9 lives. Not to mention that now she’s had to kill her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s best friend, her boyfriend’s mother, her brother, and her cousin. That’s enough negative karma to haunt her through her next 30 reincarnations. Also, apparently it’s a very bad thing to have any kind of relationship with this woman. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

I never thought I would say this, but I think letting Sidney live was a mistake. She should have died in this movie. Even better? Her cousin should have gotten away with her plan. See, Jill had her two best friends killed, possibly stabbed her mom (I’d have to see the movie again to be certain on this part), stabbed her accomplice, shot her boyfriend, stabbed her cousin, then convincingly set the scene so that it looked like she’d been attacked, stabbed, and nearly slaughtered as well by the “real” killers. There’s even a wonderful Heathers-like moment involving a glass table. It was great. And ended with Jill purposely mirroring in a very unsettling and morbid way how Sidney had fallen after she was stabbed. Dewey and his deputies arrive, clear the scene, find the bodies, and then we see Jill being wheeled out on a gurney while a gaggle of reporters chase after her, asking her questions about what it feels like to be a hero, blah blah blah.

That is where the movie should have ended…with Sidney dead at the hands of a villain who is being heralded as a hero. Think about where that could have taken the franchise! Our beloved Sidney gone? And her killer now the “star” of the Woodsboro drama? Sick, twisted, and totally unexpected…everything the original movie was, only better. Just like one of the characters states at one point: The whole point of a reboot is to be better than the original.

In the end, though, Williamson wimped out. Not only did Sidney survive, all three of the original players made it through…even though Gale did get a nasty shoulder stab and Dewey was nearly bludgeoned to death by a teen wielding a bedpan. Yeah, oh that I was making that one up.

Okay, spoilers over. Disappointment, however, remains.

Truth be told, though, I’m glad I went to see this one. I have missed Sidney Prescott very much. I’m just sorry we only get together under these horrible circumstances. Seriously, how much trauma can one person go through in one lifetime? Plus, any chance to see Neve Campbell and Courteney Cox together again? Bonus times bonus to infinity. Although, Courteney Cox doesn’t look at all like herself anymore. Too much tweakage has occurred in the 11 years since the last movie and she’s now starting to look like a caricature of herself…and this absolutely breaks my heart. But it is what it is and soon every woman in Hollywood will look just like Madame.

I can’t wait. o_O

Do I think this movie should have been made? No. Do I think it’s gotten the franchise off to a promising reboot? No. Do I think they should do two more? Please, no. Had things turned out differently with Scream 4, I’d probably feel differently. As things stand, however, I don’t really see much point in continuing. This wasn’t a reinventing or reinvigorating of the franchise. It was instead an exercise in reminding its audience of how amazing the original movie was…and how each subsequent iteration fails that much more to even come close to that original greatness. I think perhaps the best bit of advice might have also been one of the better lines from what was, in the end, a rather disappointing script. It came from Sidney herself (but do forgive me, I must paraphrase): “One thing to remember when doing a reboot: Don’t fuck with the original.”

Even better? Don’t constantly bring up the original. You’re just going to remind people how unlike the original your latest sequel really is.

I will say this, however: I did enjoy the poster art. Clever, concise, and simple…even if I do find the use of the “4” as the “A” to be a little too cutesy and l33t for its own good.

Randomocity

I was actually going to name this post “Random Task” and include a photo of said character from the first Austin Powers movie. Then I read this article and…well, yeah.

Pardon my French for a moment, but what the fuck is wrong with people? And this article is more than 2 years old, which makes me even angrier that I have quoted his character during that time, while completely oblivious to the fact that he was part of such a heinous crime.

Can’t blame the character or the movie…but still.

I’m rambling now. I feel rambly and random (thus why I thought invoking Random Task would be funny). Last week was a blur of travel and work that has left me feeling quite off-kilter and extremely tired. It didn’t help much that we lost an hour of sleep this weekend, thanks to Daylight Savings Time. The good thing? Evening walks are now coming back into play. I’ve missed walking. I’ve missed the rhythmic movement, the welcome ache, the inevitable numbness.

I miss a lot of things. I miss being able to come here on a regular basis. Work has been a hot mess lately, though…not in a bad way. Just in a busy way. Busy is good. But I miss the lair.

I miss being able to come up with poignant posts. I feel as though I’ve lost something, some intrinsic ability to write more than surface-level mediocrity. I don’t feel invested enough in anything to reach a more meaningful depth of analysis or intricacy.

Okay, that’s not completely true. I did write this a while ago, about the young man arrested for shooting Gabrielle Giffords:

Alleged Tucson gunman Jared Loughner has mental problems.

Problem.

He was a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation. He was an intricate, unsettled question. He apparently required a solution.

The only problem I see is with the use of a poorly chosen, and consequently damaging, turn of phrase.

See, contrary to the belief of some who have spoken about the recent tragic events in Tucson, I believe very strongly in the power of words. After all, if we don’t invest in the strength and meaning of words, how else do we communicate our beliefs, desires, needs, aspirations? What happens when words lose all meaning?

Words have unlimited power. The power to heal. The power to wound. The power to label erroneously. Jared Loughner did not have mental problems. Jared Loughner was fracturing right before the eyes of friends and family from the unrelenting pressure of mental illness.

Illness. An unhealthy condition of body or mind. Synonyms include disorder, disease, malady, sickness. Trouble.

Jared Loughner was falling deeper into trouble of a plainly identifiable kind. If only more people were paying attention. If only those who were paying attention had done more to help him.

But his was a problem instead of an illness. He required a solution rather than treatment. The solution was to ignore him. Ostracize him to the fantasy world that was spiraling out before him in a discordant diaspora of disconnectedness, isolation, and obsession.

It’s so much easier when the signs of illness are physical, tangible, visible. High fever. Flushed skin. The diabetic sweetness of breath or the sickly stench of gangrenous flesh. Milky opaqueness of cataracts, paralysis. These things we believe because our senses never lie.

There is no tangible evidence of actual mental illness, nothing we can hold up to the light and nod in confirmation and say decisively, “Yes, look right here, his mind is broken. We’ve found the problem.”

The brain is a complexity that we will never understand. Whether you believe it is a gift from a higher power or an evolutionary marvel, there is no denying that we are not our hair or eyes or mouths or limbs. We are our brains. We reside in the tangle of synapses that fire away, generating our opinions, our personalities, our beliefs, our fears.

Damage all else, but I am still me. Damage my brain and who was I? And who will I become?

Something misfired in Loughner’s brain and he began to transform. Had his metamorphosis been more Kafka-esque, more might have been done to help him.

This is not the first time a mental illness has been allowed to spiral into a tragic and irreversible melee. And, sadly, I do not believe it will be the last. Why? Because we shun what we do not understand. And we do not like to take on problems that we cannot solve.

Instead, we vilify. We emblazon Loughner’s disturbing mug shot across front pages and television screens and comment about how “Hannibal Lecter takes a better mugshot.” We ascribe hatred and vitriol to our opinions of him.

And in our responses, we fail him. We fail those he killed. We fail those he injured.

We fail.

In his speech at yesterday’s memorial gathering, President Obama said that these shootings had opened up a national conversation on “everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems.”

Has it really? Perhaps. Or is it instead a conversation that flares and fades in the spark of a gunshot, swallowed by the ephemera once the eulogies for the latest round of victims have ended and the judgments have been cast?

Six people died and 13 people were injured. A congresswoman continues to struggle to come back from the precipice of a bullet through her brain. We cannot let this be yet another incident in a long trail of violence attributed to minds allowed to shatter without intercession.

We must do better for those who are mentally ill. Not problems. Ill. Jared Loughner gave all the indications that those around him needed, to know that something was going horribly wrong within his mind. Instead of trying to reach out to him, people instead withdrew from him. Feared him.

Playwright David Henry Hwang wrote in M. Butterfly, “Now I see — we are always most revolted by the things hidden within us.” We look into the eyes of madness and we see what could happen to us…and we loathe it. We loathe that our brains, these magnificent, complex machines, could betray us so easily, so inexplicably…so unstoppably. We cannot explain it. We cannot stop it. We cannot reverse it.

These are things we don’t wish to see. And so we look away. We ignore the obvious…and then we find ourselves right back where we have stood far too many times before.

I really hope that President Obama was serious about restarting the national conversation about mental health issues in this country. I hope that this is the lesson that will finally penetrate through the layers of hatred and divisiveness that have permeated American politics in recent years. That this will be the moment of clarity that we need to finally move forward in reaching out to each other with open hands rather than with fists clenched around pistols.

Why didn’t I post this when I wrote it? I’m not even sure anymore. Maybe because it felt too raw, too personal. Too empty. Too much. Too little. Never enough.

I’m not making much sense now, though. But I do miss coming here. I do have things to write, things to post. Not a lot of depth probably…but that’s okay, right? At least for right now.

I”ll be back like Arnie. I promise…

The Stakes Are High

First, a flashback to a post from my Angry BloggerTM days, originally titled, “imagined conversation edition”:

I went to bed relatively late last night. I had to work on something for the office, and I find that I must succumb to my creative muse, no matter what time she visits. Needless to say, it was after midnight before I finally settled down and tried to fall asleep. I was wired on enough Cafe du Monde to hold sleep at bay, but not without creative consequences. I imagined the following conversation that I would love to have with any Hollywood exec:

Me: Hey, why is it that you guys can’t come up with anything new?
Hollywood Exec: We’re coming up with new things all the time.
Me: You do realize that this year is barely halfway over and you guys have already released three movies based on old TV shows.
Exec: But we gave them all new twists!
Me: New twists that made them all lousy. What next, Mr. Ed played by a camel?
Exec: (eerie silence)
Me: That’s not something you should be writing down, by the way.
Exec: Well, we are considering a movie based on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Me: That was a movie first.
Exec: Right! We’re proposing a movie based on a television show that was inspired by a movie. And we’d like to cast Kristy Swanson as Buffy. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.
Me: What’s the matter, did Sarah say no?
Exec: Well…she said that she would like to broaden her acting selection.
Me: Plus, she’s busy filming Scooby Doo 3, isn’t she?
Exec:
Me: Right. Then there’s the inordinate number of books being turned into movies.
Exec: But those are often excellent adaptations of very original stories.
Me: I agree. But they aren’t original on your part. Neither are the movies based on video games, Japanese horror movies, cartoons, comic books…and sequels don’t count either.
Exec: But the sequels-
Me: Are usually to movies that were based on ideas that came from somewhere other than you! Then, of course, there’s the one original idea that is then passed among the studios like Paris Hilton’s video at a sperm bank.
Exec: Well…actually, that sounds like a great idea for a movie. Can we buy the rights to that?
Me: No.
Exec:
Me: Anyway, so which one of you guys was the first to hit on the airplane concept? Which came first: Flightplan or Red Eye?
Exec: I’m not at liberty to say, for legal reasons. Although, between you and me, we were first.
Me: Right. But the other guys got bigger star power.
Exec: Hey, it’s not always in the actor’s hands. A big portion of the success is all about the writing.
Me: My point exactly.
Exec:
Me:
Exec: Hey, how about a mockumentary movie about a blogger trying to uncover the truth about lame movie ideas?
Me: How about I hang up now and go buy stock in Amazon.com. I think a reading revolution is just on the horizon…

Obviously, I should stay away from too much caffeine before bed…

I wrote this back in 2005. I was striving to be as silly as I could be.

Now, a link: Buffy remake is going ahead and Joss Whedon responds.

No word yet on whether or not my “silly” suggestion to cast Kristy Swanson again has also come to pass.

Sigh. I might have to destroy all traces of my blog if Mr. Ed the camel ever comes to the big screen…

Restoring Sanity

There’s definitely something rotten in Denmark, denizens. But don’t say that to these TEA baggers. They’ll start lecturing you about how Denmark is one of those evil Socialist countries. And Socialism starts with an S…just like Satan. Who is obviously Obama, because he is trying to turn America into a Socialist country by wanting things like universal health care so that American families don’t go through the horrors like my family has gone through at the hands of Capitalist doctors who, when they no longer saw the profit in treating my mother, sent her home with the instructions to my father that he should “let nature take its course.”

Obviously, this is a touchy subject for me. But I think it should be a touchy subject for anyone possessing even a shred of reason. Think about what happened here in D.C., denizens. On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we witnessed what could quite possibly be considered a nail in the coffin of that dream. And I’m speaking about both rallies, which were each divisive in their own ways. Beck and his predominantly White followers versus Al Sharpton and his slightly more diverse but still predominantly Black opposing rally (and neither side seeming to get the sad irony of the situation at all). How could anyone look at these events and for an instant believe that King’s dream could be anything but close to DOA at the feet of Abraham Lincoln’s monument? His vision was for a blending of colors, a coming together of beliefs, opinions, ideas. Judge me on the content of my character, not the color of my skin.

Somewhere along the way, we became incredibly derailed.

Beyond the issues of race, however, is the offensiveness of the wording of Beck’s clarion call to his brainwashed masses. Restore America. Restore Honor. Turn America back toward God.

What does all of this mean? Making certain that you’re allowed to continue to make second-class citizens of fellow Americans for the “crime” of not conforming to the questionably translated beliefs of your unproven god? Or that you be allowed to deny something as basic and deserved as good health to those who cannot afford it…not because they’re not trying but because they can’t find the work they need to give them access to health care. And why is that? Because politicians have unilaterally, and in many instances bipartisanly, sold out the American blue-collar worker by allowing corporations to outsource jobs to the lowest bidder. Whatever it takes to make sure they win the most at playing this Capitalist game, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Damn the blue-collar workers as well.

So stand around like little sheep, spewing your Beck-prepared and Palin-approved jingo dingo lingo while wearing your Communist Chinese-made American flag shirts and hats and fanny packs, waving your Communist Chinese-made American flags, sitting in your Communist Chinese-made American flag folding chairs (but keep damning Cuba for its evil, evil Communist ways!). Wrap yourself in Old Glory and hide your true purpose behind the stacks of dead soldiers you conjure in your liturgy, never once mentioning the erroneous and debatably felonious war (started by your last president to hold office…you know, the same president that drop-kicked us into the middle of this ever-widening sea of debt with his “fiscal conservative” spending sprees and his unending wars) for which they were killed. Stand up and spout the Pledge of Allegiance when the lemming call comes for you to do so.

Never mind that the pledge was written by a self-acclaimed Christian Socialist. See? There’s that evil “S” word again. The pledge’s author, Francis Bellamy, believed that the tenets of Christianity and Socialism were interrelated philosophies. I wonder how long Bellamy could have stood on stage at yesterday’s rally before Dreck’s…sorry, I mean Beck’s bleating hordes booed him off.

I bet they would be more forgiving of Bellamy, however, if they were allowed to do his original salute for the pledge. The original salute wasn’t placing your hand over your heart. It was instead quite similar to what would soon enough become famous as the Nazi salute. Ironic, isn’t it? Okay, probably not. It’s all good, though, just as long as you slap in “under God” thanks to all that jingoistic McCarthy panic of the 1950s. And click your heels together while you say it. Then you’ll be back home in your Communist Chinese-made Republican utopia.

I wish I could give this more thought. Wait. No, I don’t. I still don’t quite understand what has happened to us as a country. But I must admit that I am losing a great deal of respect and hope for us all. And it has nothing to do with restoring honor, whatever on earth that is code for this time. It’s about my continued wish for restoring intelligence, reason, and integrity, traits that have become almost completely extinct on both sides of the fence, both among the politicians and the people.

It’s been a very long time since I felt anything more than apathetic disdain toward the downward spiral of stupidity being propagated in this country. I have to say, though, that this rally has sparked within me a great deal of anger and disgust. And fear. Fear that we are locked into goose-stepping toward utter brainless chaos, led to the slaughter by our emotions since it’s obvious that we sacrificed our intelligence a long, long time ago. Does anyone else feel the same as I do? Could there possibly be as many people as me, as equally upset and afraid at how easily we as a country can be manipulated by those who have motives far more sinister and ulterior than the patriotic pabulum that they spoon-feed their followers? What if we all got together and rallied in Washington? Could we make a difference?

Fall of the Fourth Estate

What has become of journalistic integrity in this country?

There was a time when I couldn’t start my day without absorbing as much news as I possibly could. This was predominantly during my Angry BloggerTM days, although I continued to be a voracious news hound during that lull in between those blogging days and now.

I still read and listen to a great deal of news, but not with the same insatiable need. Truth is, I think that my distrust of media outlets has outpaced my desire to be in the know regarding transpiring newsworthy events. I hate that this is the case. I hate feeling uninformed. But I hate the feeling of being manipulated even more.

The distrust began a while ago, although I definitely think it came to a clanging, crashing crescendo during the 2008 presidential campaign. I continue to believe that the coverage of this campaign was offensively manipulative on many fronts, abandoning real news for editorialized irrelevance and pandering to the most inconsequential coverage because it was more entertaining.

Call me curmudgeonly (and I’m sure many of you will), but I don’t want to be entertained by my news. I want to be informed. But when you find that you have to go to personal blogs or Jon Stewart to locate the facts that are missing from mainstream media outlets, it becomes glaringly obvious that there’s something failing within the machine that might become irreparable if it’s not addressed soon.

But when did the machine first begin to fail?

I think the diagnosis is many-layered, but I believe that the problems first began to arise with the arrival of 24-hour news coverage channels like CNN and later MSNBC and Fox News. Here was an idea that had the potential to provide viewers with unencumbered access to the most up-to-date and thorough coverage of news as it happened. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Unfettered access to the truth!

What we got, instead, was a gradual blurring of the lines between honest news coverage and editorializing that has reached insulting levels. Don’t believe me? Turn on any of these round-the-clock news channels and see what’s playing. More than likely what you’re going to find is opinion rather than news. Even when actual journalists are present on some of these shows’ panels, they’re providing their opinions on matters on which they report for other outlets.

It’s reached a point at which we’re not even allowed to come to our own opinions. Prime recent example: News coverage of a local crime that occurred last week started with the news anchor sitting next to a graphic that stated, “Disgusting Act.”

True, the incident in question was quite disgusting. But I don’t need you to tell me that. I need you to provide me with the facts of the crime and let me make up my own mind. Period. That is, after all, your job. To report the news.

However, opinion has somehow cloaked itself convincingly enough that it now mingles with the sheep, whispering its distracting song into the minds of anyone willing to listen. Why? Because it’s being sung by a “news” outlet? Printed in a reputable newspaper?

Do such things even exist anymore? Perhaps, but I believe they are slowly being eradicated by the instant gratification demands of the online generation, combined with features like “Post a Comment,” which more often than not are nothing more than thinly veiled cesspools of racism, ignorance, and intolerance. With the “anonymous” function, most comment sections on news sites inevitably tend to devolve into the modern day equivalent of wearing a hood at a cross burning. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s a White face beneath the hood anymore. Anyone can be hateful! It’s as easy as the click of a mouse button!

It’s exhausting and frustrating and overwhelming all at once. And it’s not going to get any better. True, I know several journalists who strive to remain true to that mythological creature known as “journalistic integrity.” But they, too, seem slated for the inevitable march to extinction, replaced by sensationalism and emotionalism disguised as news.

I’m not naive enough to believe that journalists must be complete blank slates. I know that journalists have their own opinions, their own beliefs, follow their own convictions, and make up their own minds. But they shouldn’t be trying to make up my mind or anyone else’s. Report the news. Nothing more. Nothing less. And if you find that too difficult a beat to walk, perhaps you should consider switching to another line of work. I hear Sarah Palin is putting together her own discussion panel on Fox News…

The Cure for What Ails Us

As I was driving to work this morning, I heard a news announcement that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is considering retirement. The soon-to-be-90-year-old Justice Stevens is the oldest member of the Supreme Court, where he has presided as an Associate Justice since 1975.

The thing that struck me about this is the longevity factor. Seems that other than our entertainment elite (minus those who decide to speed up their mortality through various nefarious means), our government seems to be better than the Fountain of Youth for its upper echelon. Fellow retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will soon turn 80. Former South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond was almost 100 when he finally passed. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd? He’s now the Senate’s oldest member at 93 years of age. How about presidents? Ronald Reagan was 93 when he died. So was Gerald Ford. Richard Nixon made it to 81. Bush I is on the downward slope toward 90, this year turning 86. Bush II and Bill Clinton, both a spry 64, can expect quite a bit more time on their hands, if the longevity of their predecessors is any indication of what they can expect. Hell, even the Dark Overload himself, Darth, er Dick Cheney is still rolling merrily along at 69 (which is, ironically, both his age and the number of heart attacks he’s had in the past decade).

Add to this the relative stability of the health of our political representatives along with all the obvious teeth whitening, Botoxing, and face tweaking that’s going on there, and what does all this prove? To me, it proves that those in political service to this country are getting something that the rest of us are sorely lacking: excellent (and in the vanity instances, excessive) levels of service and attention from the health care industry. Our politicians are guaranteed some of the best health care that this country has to offer, no questions, no waiting, no refusals. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself: Here’s the homepage for the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. Go ahead and take a look. I’ll wait.

Done? Okay, let’s continue. Now, in all fairness, this is the same program that is offered to all federal employees. The difference? Well, I’m assuming that the Speaker of the House or the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate isn’t going to go to just any doctor. They’re going to go to the best. Best doctors. Best service. According to FactCheck.org:

In addition, members of Congress also qualify for some medical benefits that ordinary federal workers do not. They (but not their families) are eligible to receive limited medical services from the Office of the Attending Physician of the U.S. Capitol, after payment of an annual fee ($491 in 2007).

Not a bad setup, if you ask me. And the coverage? This federal health insurance program covers from 72 to 75 percent of the premiums.

By the way, if you haven’t already figured this one out, since these are all government workers, We The People are the ones fronting the money to pay for all of this. But you knew that already, right?

So, here’s what I really don’t understand. Why aren’t the members of Congress, who are receiving these enviable medical benefits thanks to the people who A) voted them into office, and B) pay their salaries and their premiums with our tax dollars, bending over backward to make sure that we get the same benefits they do?

I don’t care if I sound totally naive on this one. I’m serious. Why aren’t they right now working toward making sure that everyone gets the same medical coverage that they enjoy? Did they at some point decide that we commoners don’t deserve it simply because we’re not morally deficient enough to want to be politicians? Does being politicians make them think that they are somehow more deserving? Or maybe I’m just assuming too much and, really, it’s the initial selling of their souls at the outset of their careers that grants politicians such enviable longevity over us mere mortals.

I know that I’ve been relatively quiet about this entire topic thus far. And I’m being a bit sarcastic/funny in my take on it now. Really, though, this is something that I take quite seriously. The last decade has been unusually unmerciful to both sides of my family. I’ve lost a significant number of relatives in this time frame (of course, any loss is significant to the ones who are losing), many due to serious health-related issues, and I currently have a critically/terminally ill family member who is not faring well at all at this present time.

And what are the health care professionals doing to aid in this present case? Barely stabilizing said patient before discharging them with little more than a wave goodbye and a “Don’t let the gurney hit you in the ass on your way out the door.” This patient is no longer able to get out of bed of their own volition. No longer able to walk, to tend to themselves without assistance. Doctors haven’t even given a concrete prognosis. But you can bet they make sure to submit their paperwork to the insurance company for their payments.

Meanwhile, doctors did everything short of bathe Strom Thurmond in the blood of sacrificed virgins to keep him going. And I’m willing to bet there isn’t one member of Congress who would ever be discharged from a hospital anywhere at any time with the same lack of regard from their medical staff that we’ve witnessed in our case.

And why? Why aren’t the American people getting the same level of care? Why are we getting consistently shafted when it comes to our medical coverage and the treatment we receive when we’re ill? And why isn’t our government taking the current health care reform debate seriously? Why, instead of pandering to talking heads and bloviating about socialism and death panels, aren’t they taking a serious and honest look at the current system (which is blatantly FUBAR) and trying to make it something that will actually work for the American people?

Oh. Wait. Could it have something to do with the billions of dollars that health care-related organizations are shelling out to these politicians? Head on over to OpenSecrets.org and you can take a look for yourself how much money these organizations are funneling into politicians’ pockets. Money they’ve bilked, incidentally, from people like you and me. Like the nearly $30 million that pharmaceutical companies donated to both parties back in 2008 (including more than $1 million they donated to Senator Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign). Or the nearly $10 million they’ve already donated this year. Or the more than $250 million the pharmaceutical manufacturers spent last year on lobbying.

OpenSecrets points out this obvious truth:

The pharmaceutical manufacturing industry stands to lose if President Barack Obama’s plan to institute a public health insurance option succeeds. A government-run plan, because of its size, would have considerable negotiating power to draw down drug prices.

Guess that’s why they’re working so hard to grease the palms of as many Congressional “leaders” as they possibly can, on both sides of the aisle. For example, Republican Senator Richard Burr from North Carolina has received almost $100,000 in contributions from pharmaceuticals this year. Burr also happens to be quite a vocal opponent of health care reform. Democratic Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut is slightly ahead of Burr on the pharmaceutical donations, so this is indeed bipartisan. Dodd also happens to be the senior member on the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which, according to Dodd’s Web site, “has jurisdiction over our country’s health care, education system, employment, and retirement programs.”

Hmm.

How about insurance companies? OpenSecrets writes this:

Insurance companies staunchly oppose the idea of a government-provided health insurance option, which President Barack Obama and most congressional Democrats support. These businesses fear that implementing a “public option” will eventually lead to “single-payer” health care, which they say would mean the collapse of their industry.

Guess that explains why the insurance industry has already made more than $14 million in contributions this year. Rob Portman, Chris Dodd, Chuck Schumer, Earl Pomeroy, and Barney Frank are the top politicians receiving this money. Interestingly, all but Portman are Democrats.

How about health professionals? $27 million in donations so far this year. Harry Reid, Tom Price, Blanch Lincoln, Chris Dodd, Arlen Specter, and Ron Wyden are the top five recipients here. Hey, look, it’s Dodd again! And it’s all Democrats at the top of this list, minus Price!

What does all this mean? I don’t know. Call me jaded, but I can’t imagine that these industries are shelling out such large sums of money to support reform that they fear will cause an end to their steady plundering of the Golden Goose. So they keep doling out the cash and all we’re getting is petty bickering and obfuscating jingo dingo lingo to draw our collective attention away from the simple, glaring truth that not one member of Congress has to go through the bullshit or suffering that we peons must go through regarding health care.

Maybe that’s what should change. Maybe if we changed it so that politicians had to contend with the same treatment we get, had to deal with the same coverage issues we all face…maybe then we’d be getting a little less obfuscation and a little more serious action.

Yeah, right.

I have so few hopes regarding our political system, but I honestly had hopes about Obama’s focus on health care reform. Never mind that I’m firmly of the opinion that it’s too late for reform and time for a tabula rasa approach (yeah, who in Congress would be willing to do that?). But I had hope in this instance. Instead, we yet again have deferred to name calling puerility and a whole lot of commotion to go…nowhere. Will something come from all this? Maybe. I’m not holding my breath though. I’d hate to pass out, hit my head, and require medical attention.

Jackass Democrat: Eric J. J. Massa

Another fracking moron in politics

It’s been a while since I visited this topic, eh? Truth is, there are enough jackasses in the Democratic party that I could do one of these posts every day for the next year…and still be nowhere near finished.

[Don’t get all uppity, GOPers…you’ve got more than your fair share of jackasses.]

Actually, though, today is a bit of a bipartisan effort, since Representative Eric Massa was originally a Republican who switched parties because of his opposition to the latest Iraq war. That’s all well and good. Massa does deserve some respect for standing by his convictions as well as for serving his country (he’s former Navy).

However, his recent behavior chips away massively at any respect reserves he may have previously stockpiled. Massa was part of the 2008 coup by the Democrats to take control of Congress, becoming a freshman representative from New York, that awesome state that’s given us such classic politicians as Rudy “I like to dress in drag and fuck around on my wives (but not at the same time…yet)” Giuliani and recently disgraced governor and winner of the New York Chapter of Hookers and Hos’ 2009 “John of the Year” award, Eliot Spitzer-Swallows.

Anyway. Back to Massa. Again, he’s a freshman representative, which means he’s still in his first term. Most politicians don’t resign after one term. Most should, but most don’t. So, of course, there’s going to be curiosity. Massa gave as his reason for resigning the fact that his previously diagnosed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma had returned and he wanted to resign and deal with that and spend time with his lovely beard wife, Beverly, and his children.

Problem is that he received this diagnosis back in December. He continued to run for re-election until his resignation on March 3. Dude, that’s slow, even for a politician.

Of course, then Massa changed his mind. It wasn’t really because of his diagnosis. It was because there might have been a teeny tiny little ethics investigation going on pertaining to some of the things that he had been doing during his first term. Just minor things, really. Nothing to get overly concerned or curious about.

“No, no, seriously, it’s nothing! Stop trying to look behind that curtain! Wait, did I say there was an ethics investigation? No, I meant, there should be an ethics investigation! Against all those mean bully Democrats who are roughing me up in between sessions because I wouldn’t vote for Obama’s healthcare reform. They’re terrible and not nice and Nancy Pelosi stole my lunch money and Harry Reid keeps giving me atomic wedgies and so I’m going to take my toys and go home. See? That’s the real reason right there! No need to keep investigating!”

Oh, but wait. Could it be that the real reason that Massa resigned is because of allegations of sexual misconduct involving some of his male staffers? Allegations that include sexually aggressive language about wanting to “frack” a male staffer (or as sexually aggressive as one can be when they include the word “frack” as a part of their vocabulary; seriously, don’t do that…it gives us honest geeks a bad name), as well as this incident, in Massa’s own words on his recent appearance with Glenn Dreck…er, Beck: “Not only did I grope him, I tickled him until he couldn’t breathe and then four guys jumped on top of me. It was my 50th birthday.”

Wow. I may have just vomited in my mouth a little. Oh, and Glenn, you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself when you apologized at the end of this show for wasting an hour of America’s time. Trust me, bucko, this isn’t the first time you’ve done that.

So, there you have it. Yet another desultory ass clown from the American political desert. I’m so glad he switched to the Democratic party before all this came out. Not that there’s really that much difference between the parties anymore anyway, but I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever a Republican politician is found for having sexual proclivities that their party is supposed to be so adamantly against. Now I not only have to contend with the fact that Massa finally imploded after he became a Democrat, but he also is apparently a Battlestar Galactica fan. DAMMIT.

Fracking douchewanger.

GenX-cessive: Millionaire Matchmaker

Pimpin' ain't easy, Dawg

Don’t you just hate it when you finally make your millions and you’re all set to settle down with a gorgeous gold digger but you simply haven’t got the time (or personality) to go out there and snag one for yourself?

Have no fear! For a hefty fee, you can hire Bravo’s latest reality star, Patti Stanger (and her bodacious and completely real ta-tas), otherwise known as the Millionaire Matchmaker. What does she do for that fee? Verbally abuses a bunch of rich douchebags who typically have nothing else going for them beyond the fact that they have a million+ in their bank accounts, finds out what they’re looking for, and then berates them for their tastes.

She then gathers together a bunch of girls looking to bag themselves a rich douchebag, tosses out any girl who fails to pass her physical appraisal (but not before berating them for being too fat, too frumpy, too tacky, too manly, too matronly, too stupid, too whatever it is that she can find wrong with them), keeps the ones who look “exotic” or “classy” (which are apparently Stanger’s code word for “silicone tits” or “Botox Barbie”), and verbally abuses them as well as a means of coaching them in how they need to look and dress if they want to snag the millionaire in question (because who cares what you’re like on the inside?).

Then Stanger and her staff hold a little soiree in which the millionaire gets to mingle with Stanger’s herd of call girls, picks a couple they find the most aesthetically schwinging, does “mini dates,” and then narrows the choice down to one. The rich douchebag then gets verbally abused by Stanger some more before taking their choice on the “big date” to find out if it’s really a match made in heaven Beverly Hills.

What this show should really be called is I Pimp for Rich Douchebags.

Could you imagine the uproar that this show would have caused if, instead of Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker was a guy? Yet, because it’s a woman doing the pimping, that somehow makes it better? I don’t know. I don’t really feel all that much better or particularly empowered watching a woman berate other women because of how they look as she selects millionaire-grade breeding stock. Should I? Should I be rooting for these women, hoping that they can bag the millionaire and secure a life of luxury (or at least secure a few awesome dates in which they fly off in his personal jet for a picnic in Maui)? Is this the ultimate victory of all that bra burning and marching done by our predecessors in the fight for women’s rights? The right to unabashedly pimp your own for a massive fee?

True, sometimes the millionaires are women. But they are few and far between. And it doesn’t really make me feel any better knowing that there are just as many men as there are women who will gladly line up for Stanger’s pimp call. This isn’t the equality I was hoping to see in my lifetime.

This show actually makes me root for the recession, if only to diminish the number of people who can join Stanger’s “Millionaire Club”…which, in turn, would diminish her clientele and get her off the television that much faster.

You Really Shouldn’t Take That Out In Public

I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things (I’m sure you hadn’t noticed). And most of the time, my opinions go against the “popular” opinion (again, really?). I know, therefore, to keep my honest comments about these things to myself. It’s how I’ve survived as many football seasons as I have without being defenestrated by pissed-off Redskins fans.

Sometimes, though, I forget to keep my facial expressions in check. Sometimes, my autonomic response system is simply too fast for my brain.

So, to the grown woman in the airport on Friday who quickly hid her copy of New Moon under her coat when she saw how I was looking at her before my brain could set my facial expression back to “neutral”: Good. You should be embarrassed to be reading that shit.

[I hope you all know that I’m crying a little on the inside for actually being happy that I discouraged someone from reading. That goes against everything I hold dear about literature.

Oh, wait. It wasn’t literature. It was a Stephenie Meyer book. Never mind.]

dude_twilight