Monthly Archives: April 2010

‘Kick-Ass’ kicks it; ‘Funeral’ is DOA

Film reviews

Wanting to get away from it all, I decided to see a couple of mindless movies — “Kick-Ass” and “Death at a Funeral” — this past week. Here’s how it turned out:

‘Kick-Ass’: ‘Batman’ meets ‘Kill Bill’

Chloe Grace Moretz, Mark Strong

Chloe Grace Moretz portrays Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass.” Here she is about to hit the film’s big villain.

“Kick-Ass” is violent, the critics warned.

No problem. I’ve seen the “Kill Bill” duo several times.

“Kick-Ass” has a little of this, a little of that — “Batman,” “Watchmen,” “Spider-Man,” “Kill Bill,” etc.

And that’s OK. “Kick-Ass” works.

In “Kick-Ass,” the adorable Aaron Johnson (my Internet research shows that he was born in 1990, so I suppose that I’m not a pedophile after all…) plays a comic-book fanboy who decides to try the super-hero thing out for himself. He invents Kick-Ass, a very amateur, green (literally and figuratively), ninja-like “super-hero.”

He soon is joined by the father-and-daughter team of Big Daddy and Hit Girl, played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz.

Most lethal of everyone in “Kick-Ass” is Hit Girl, which isn’t very believable but which is entertaining nonetheless. The violence that the purple-wigged Hit Girl visits upon her victims is so over the top that you can’t take it seriously. She’s like a little Beatrix Kiddo of “Kill Bill.”

The scene in which Hit Girl’s father teaches her how to endure bullets alone makes “Kick-Ass” worth watching, but the subplot in which Kick-Ass (who, like Spider-Man was, still is in high school) gets the girl he wants only because she thinks he’s gay (and that he thus is “safe”) also works.

Hit Girl and Big Daddy are way out of Kick-Ass’ league — after all, Big Daddy has had the resources and he and Hit Girl have had the time to polish their act, whereas Kick-Ass has had neither — but “Kick-Ass” still more or less works, even with the mismatched super-heroes (unlike “Watchmen,” which, with its grossly mismatched super-heroes, is a mess).

The “super-hero” of Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, isn’t really a super-hero at all, but is a gangly, awkward rich boy playing super-hero. However, “Kick-Ass” ends on a note that indicates that there will be a sequel in which Red Mist plays a larger role — and perhaps actually becomes more of the super-hero that he wants to be.

“Kick-Ass” is pretty good for mostly mindless entertainment. Roger Ebert hated it — he gave it only one star, acknowledging the good performances by Johnson, Moretz and Cage but lambasting the movie’s use of such a lethal 11-year-old girl (who at one point in the film takes a pummeling herself by an adult male) — and while I usually agree with Ebert, I have to disagree with him on this one.

“Will I seem hopelessly square if I find ‘Kick-Ass’ morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point?” Ebert asks in his review. The answer is that yes, Ebert is square, at least on this one, and that the creators of “Kick-Ass” fairly apparently don’t believe that the over-the-top character of Hit Girl should be taken any more seriously than should the over-the-top character of Beatrix Kiddo in “Kill Bill.”

Yes, “Kick-Ass” is violent. That’s why it’s rated R. And that’s why it is titled “Kick-Ass.” You are warned.

I can agree with Ebert on one of his criticisms of “Kick-Ass”; Ebert notes that apparently in the world of “Kick-Ass,” “you don’t need to be great at hand-to-hand combat if you can just shoot people dead.”

True, there is too much shooting by Big Daddy and Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass,” and shooting is rather unimaginative and just too easy, which is why the vast majority of super-heroes don’t go around shooting people, but at the most use blades, if they use any actual weapons at all. But given Big Daddy’s background as a former cop, it at least doesn’t violate the logic of the storyline, and it doesn’t ruin film.

If you liked “Kill Bill,” you’ll probably like “Kick-Ass.”

My grade: B+

‘Death at a Funeral’ is dead on arrival

In this film publicity image released by Screen ...

Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock and a gagged dwarf (Peter Dinklage) — so it must be funny, right? Wrong…

I had high hopes for “Death at a Funeral.” Roger Ebert liked it, giving it three and a half stars out of four. Good comedies are as rare as are good horror films, it seems to me, so when a comedy gets Ebert’s thumbs up to the degree that “Death at a Funeral” has, there’s a good chance that I’ll catch it.

I didn’t see the original “Death at a Funeral,” which came out only three years ago and was directed by Frank Oz, so I can’t compare it to this year’s “Death at a Funeral,” which was directed by the normally good Neil LaBute (whose “In the Company of Men,” “Nurse Betty” and “The Shape of Things” I liked) but is stillborn due to its (um, literally) shitty script.

The best director and the best actors can’t do much with material that isn’t that funny in the first place.

Not only are the “comic” set-ups in “Death at a Funeral” not that funny, but they’re used relentlessly repeatedly throughout the film.

The idea that the dead family patriarch had a down-low same-sex sexual affair with a blackmailing dwarf is beaten into the ground, even though Peter Dinklage, who plays the down-low dwarf, has been good in other films.

James Marsden, whom I know mostly as the character of Cyclops from the “X-Men” movies, probably should stick with drama. I certainly don’t mind seeing him mostly nude, as we do in “Death in a Funeral” (although I also hate him for having no apparent body fat whatsoever), but the shtick over his inadvertently having taken a hullucinogen instead of Valium grows tiresome quickly — yet it persists throughout the movie.

Loretta Devine as the matriarch and widow does the best that she can with the script that she was handed, but her character’s constantly hounding the character of her daughter-in-law about wanting to be a grandmother is trite and isn’t any funnier the 10th time than it is the first or second or third or…

Danny Glover is utterly wasted in “Death at a Funeral” as the wheelchair-bound codger Uncle Russell, who only hurls profanities and hits people with his cane. Har har!

Zoe Saldana (who played the blue-skinned, cat-nosed heroine of “Avatar”), as the wife of Chris Rock’s character, also is among the cavalcade of tragically wasted talent in “Death at a Funeral.”

The likeable and talented Rock also does the best that he can with the script that he was handed, as do Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan, but I had to ask myself several times throughout the movie why these stars agreed to appear in the movie, assuming that all of them had read the script.

A corpse falling out of its casket and Uncle Russell shitting all over another character’s hand while on the commode, and this shit-upon character having shit (diarrhea, to be exact) prominently visible on his shirt for the rest of the film — well, those things just don’t make me ROLF.

If I thought that those kinds of things were funny, I’d watch television, and that’s what “Death at a Funeral” feels like: a 30-minute sitcom episode — a mediocre one, at that — spread out over an hour an a half.

To be fair, I heard plenty of people in the audience laughing. But then again, most people love to watch TV… (I know that I’m a minority on that one.) I always hope that when people laugh at an unfunny movie, they’re just laughing because they paid to laugh, and God damn it, they’re going to laugh! But I have the sinking feeling that their laughter during “Death at a Funeral” was genuine, which seems to me yet another sign of the imminent collapse of the American empire.

I’m not alone in disliking “Death at a Funeral.” Yahoo! Movies has a critics’ roundup of the film in which Ebert is the only one of 10 critics who gives it an “A” (well, an “A-“). Only three of the 10 critics in the roundup give it a “B”, four give it a “C”, and two give it a “D” — with the average of the 10 critics’ ratings being a “C+”.

Ebert, who always has been one of my favorite film critics, if not my favorite film critic, seems to be losing it. He actually writes in his review of “Death at a Funeral”:

Consider the scene when Uncle Russell eats too much nut cake and is seized by diarrhea. And Norman [the character played by Tracy Morgan] wrestles him off his wheelchair and onto the potty, and gets his hand stuck underneath. Reader, I laughed. I’m not saying I’m proud of myself. That’s not the way I was raised. But I laughed.

Um, it wasn’t funny… Shitting, like farting, almost never is funny in a movie.

And while Ebert was aghast at the 11-year-old Hit Girl being pummeled by an adult male (whose pummeling of her is meant to demonstrate how evil he is and whose pummeling of her is in reaction to her own slaughter of several of his men), Ebert apparently found the treatment of the gay dwarf in “Death at a Funeral” to be hilarious (“They’re only human,” he says of the dwarf’s binders who try to conceal his accidental death. Um, but is the dwarf?)

I don’t know about Ebert as of late — Alzheimer’s?

Not only is Ebert out of synch with his cohorts in regards to “Death at a Funeral,” but in Yahoo! Movie’s critics’ roundup for “Kick-Ass,” Ebert is the only one of the 12 critics to give it a “D”. Only two of the 12 give it a “C”, five give it a “B”, and four give it an “A”, for an average of a “B”.

It might be time for Ebert to be put out to pasture.

And let’s make sure that, when he finally goes to that Big Movie Theater in the Sky, his body doesn’t fall out of the casket, or that we find out that he had a dwarf on the down low on the side all along.

Because that shit just isn’t funny.

My grade: D+

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Whitey fights the inevitable coming of the Brave New World of the ‘fifth race’

A sign in protest of immigration bill SB1070 ...

Associated Press photo

A sign, photographed at the state Capitol in Phoenix today, urges a boycott of Arizona in light of Arizona’s white Repugnican governor having signed a law that enables mostly white law enforcement officers to make those who appear to possibly be illegal immigrants prove their citizenship status. I support a boycott of the God-forsaken red state of Arizona, where I unfortunately was born and lived for the first three decades of my life. Below are photos of Arizona’s white Repugnican governor, Jan Brewer (who was not elected but who took over Democrat Janet Napolitano’s term when Napolitano was named the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security), surrounded by mostly white law enforcement officials, at a press conference surrounding her signing of Arizona’s new draconian, racist, white supremacist law yesterday in Phoenix. (Memo to the blue-eyed devil Brewer: Your attempt to look like Britney Fucking Spears at your age is way beyond pathetic. Please, for the love of God, stop.)

Jan Brewer

Jan Brewer

Associated Press photos

Just yesterday I was discussing with a right-wing co-worker of mine how United States history has been so whitewashed (emphasis on “white-“). The right wing, which busily has been rewriting U.S. history for some time now, presents U.S. history as the valiant trumph of the white man over the difficult terrain of the “New World.”

Much less emphasized or even left out altogether in this “history,” I told my co-worker, are the facts that the white empire in what is now the United States of America was built upon land stolen from the natives, whom the white people decimated, and upon labor on the stolen land performed by people abducted from their native lands and enslaved (and by their progeny, who were born into this slavery).

Oh, that is just the history of the world, my co-worker dismissed the white man’s evils on this continent; throughout history, peoples have conquered other peoples, and thus lands have changed hands. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles and that’s just how the ball bounces.

Funny, though, that the wingnuts don’t use that same oft-used right-wing excuse for the evils of U.S. history to take a more universal look at how the racial demographics of the United States are changing now.

When justifying and dismissing the wrongs that white people have committed, that’s just the way the world works, the wingnuts argue, but they can’t handle the fact that the face of the United States of America is becoming less and less white.

Backasswards Arizona’s* new law, which makes it a crime to breathe while brown, is a textbook example of how whitey is terrified of “the other” and is a case in point of how this irrational, racist/white supremacist fear is coming to a head.

It is racism and it is white supremacism.

I’m white. My parents are white. I was raised white. I know whitey.

So when whitey claims that whitey isn’t being racist, I know when that’s bullshit.

If Mexicans (and others from Latin America) didn’t speak Spanish (or, as “President” George W. Bush at least once called their language, “Mexican”) but spoke English, and if they looked Anglo, there would be no problem with them crossing the border.

It is the fact that they are different from whitey that is the problem. They don’t call them “aliens” for nothing; they might as well be aliens from outer fucking space.

Fact is, far more of my fellow whiteys than Latinos have fucked me over in my lifetime, and I’m just fine with a Latino “takeover” of the United States of America.

Latinos are (in no certain order) nicer. Humbler. Less materialistic. More artistic. More grounded. More generous (even though they usually have much less to give than does whitey). More spiritual.

Latinos are incredibly hard-working, and so it’s incredibly fucking ironic that the same white baby-boomers and senior citizens, who sooner rather than later will need underpaid and overworked Latinos to take care of them when their obese, bloated bodies relegate them to their motorized scooters and oversized hospital beds, should attack their future caregivers. Stupid.

At least the Latino takeover of the United States of America (or much of it, anyway) has been gradual and nonviolent. The Latinos are supplanting whitey more slowly and much more bloodlessly than whitey supplanted the natives of what now is the United States. I can’t say that whitey karmically deserves to have been let off the hook as easily as whitey thus far has.

I, for one white, look foward to the Brave New World, the Brave New World in which there are fewer and fewer white faces because the races are mixing it up.

For the most part, I agree with the late Mexican philosopher José Vasconcelos’ essay “La Raza Cósmica” (“The Cosmic Race”), in which he advances the idea of a “fifth race” in the Americas, a race that is comprised of mixed-race peoples; this “fifth race” contains the best of all of the races.**

Racism is bullshit. We’re all members of the species Homo sapiens, just as all cats are members of the species Felis domesticus and all dogs are members of the species Canis domesticus.  To state that one race of human is better or worse than another is to assert an opinion, a preference, not a fact. If you state that German shepherds are better than poodles, that is recognized as only an opinion, a preference, as both are dogs, yet racists buy into the myth that one race of human being can be superior or inferior to another.

Every human being is my fellow human being — yes, even the white wingnuts whom I don’t claim as my own, the white wingnuts who, in their ignorance and their evil, ironically make me prefer peoples of other races. (Yes, the white supremacists have a name for white people like me: “race traitors.”)

Even biology (I know, the wingnuts hate science) dictates that genes that remain isolated make for a genetically and biologically weaker group of individuals. (This genetic weakness sure would explain the fucktarded white supremacists who show up at “tea party” events with their grossly misspelled signs.) Mixing the genes of individuals from different populations, however, allows for provincial genetic disadvantages to get washed out, and thus is for the benefit of the species.  

I am one “race traitor” who is doing his best to help usher in the Brave New World of the “fifth race.”

I voted for the mixed-race Barack Obama (and any problems that I have had with him have had nothing to do with his race). I don’t tolerate racist hate speech to be spoken in my presence, but call the racists on their racism. Tomorrow I again will attend Sacramento’s annual Festival de la Familia, the annual fair that celebrates Latino culture. And I am thinking of brushing up on my Spanish, which I learned years ago and which should come in handy as the Brave New World continues to arrive in my lifetime.

And that is what the white disphits in Arizona and the other red states should be doing: preparing for the future, instead of fighting the inevitable. They can be part of the march of human history, or they can be relegated to the dustbin of human history (where they probably belong anyway).

*I lived in Arizona the first 30 years of my life before I moved to California in 1998. Although the majority of my relatives still live in the God-forsaken red state of Arizona, I have yet to step foot back there since I left there, and probably the only thing that ever will take me back there is a funeral. About the only good thing that I can say about Arizona is that it isn’t Texas, although as of late Arizona seems to be catching up to Texas. 

I heard one television commentator recently call Arizona “diverse.” No, it isn’t. It’s mostly only two races, white and Latino, with some Native Americans, most of whom are sequestered on reservations, and only a light sprinkling of those of African and Asian descent. California is diverse, a United Nations, and California’s history as once having been part of Mexico is still evident in the names of its largest cities, such as Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, its capital.

**Many of Vasconcelos’ assertions on the characteristics of the different races would be considered politically incorrect today, but “La Raza Cósmica” needs to be read within the context of the fact that it was published in the 1920s.

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Assorted shit

Finally, a brilliant move by the Dems

Apparently the Democrats are planning to make the Repugnicans’ refusal to go along with Wall Street reform a centerpiece of their November election strategy.

It’s a brilliant move.

Perhaps spurred on by the attention that Michael Moore brought to the subject in his documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” (which I reviewed here and which I just watched again on DVD), the Democrats have seized upon the fact that the Repugnicans prefer unfettered financial fraud to any regulations on Wall Street whatsofuckingever.

With so many Americans struggling financially, for them to see, graphically, what the Repugnican Party stands f0r — the interests of the plutocrats, the true elites — around election time should put a significant dent in any gains the Repugnicans otherwise anticipated they’d make.

The Repugnican Party’s insistence on aiding the already filthy rich at the expense of the rest of us should do at the ballot box for the Democrats what the unelected Bush regime’s constant reminder of the “threat” of “terrorism” did for the Repugnicans at the ballot box in 2002 and in 2004.

I’m starting to feel some hope that we’re going to have some change…  

Chuck Crist poised to pull a Benedict Lieberman

I remember the joke that Jon Stewart made when former Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman announced that he would run for re-election to the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate (under the newly formed “party” of “Connecticut for Lieberman”after he had lost the Democratic primary to opponent Ned Lamont: Stewart joked that Lieberman had announced that if he lost the Senate election, then he would start his own Senate. (Unfortunately, Lieberman won the 2006 election as an “independent,” but fortunately, this meant that he didn’t have to start his own Senate…)

That’s pretty much what it has come to, with power-hungry, egomaniacal baby-boomer (I know, redundant…) politicians refusing to take no for an answer and wanting to hold on to their power at all costs.

Repugnican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is featured in the excellent documentary “Outrage” as being a probable closet case, is considering running for the U.S. Senate as an independent because his Repugnican primary opponent, wingnut Marco Rubio, has overtaken him in the polls.

Under Florida law, Crist has until April 30 to decide whether to remain in the Repugnican primary or to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent, a la Lieberman. (Under Connecticut law, Benedict Lieberman still was able to run as an independent after he lost the Democratic primary, but Crist does not have that option. [I suppose that Florida can do some things right where the fairness of elections are concerned…].) 

Crist has indicated that he’ll do what’s best for the people of Florida.

Oh, bullshit.

Crist will do what’s best for Crist.

Those who choose to participate in one of the two major parties should accept their fate if their political fortunes fall. Running as an “independent” because one can’t make it in his or her chosen party anymore is one of the refuges of the scoundrel.

It’s no different from phone-tapping

It is lamentable that those making the legal decisions regarding the privacy of employees’ electronic communications (e-mails, text-messages, etc.) are mostly baby boomers (or even older people) who barely fucking understand today’s electronic communications.*

I wholeheartedly disagree that an employer’s mere warning that its employees’ communications may be monitored makes it legal for it to monitor its employees’ communications any more than tapping their telephones is legal (except in certain circumstances, such as at call centers).

And if I give you warning that I might punch you in the face, does that make it legal for me to punch you in the face? Since when does a mere warning make a follow-up action legal?

New communications technology does not mean that the privacy laws that already apply to telephones, for example, don’t apply to that new technology.

The U.S. Supreme Court is deciding this issue now, with new Justice Sonia Sotomayor seeming to be leaning on the side of privacy protection and most of the other justices leaning on the side of Big Brother. 

Fact is, as Sotomayor seems to have indicated, most employers who snoop on their employees just get off on snooping.

Tell you what: When all of us can read the employers’ electronic communications, then maybe they can read ours. 

Um, yeah.

*The Associated Press indicates that Chief “Justice” John Roberts and “Justice” Antonin Scalia apparently don’t even understand how text-messaging works, yet they are poised to rule on whether or not privacy law applies to text-messaging.

Bill Clinton: Can’t we all just get along?

Former President Bill Clinton is quoted by The Associated Press as having said that the United States has an image around the world of having too much political infighting.

God, I’m sick and fucking tired of hearing direct or indirect calls for a national singing of “Kumbaya.”

Much if not most of the opposition to President Barack Obama stems from the fact that he is presiding while black, for fuck’s sake.

I’m supposed to make nice with a bunch of fucking racists and white supremacists? Who hate me and who want to continue to oppress me because I’m gay?

I just don’t fucking think so!

The rest of the world can think what it wants to think.

And Bill Clinton can go kiss all of the wingnut ass that he likes.

I, for one, would rather die than to give the impression that I think that the likes of Sarah Palin-Quayle and Glenn Beck and their fascistic followers are anything less than satanic.

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The cliff swallows of Thunder Valley

Blogger’s note: I usually don’t write things like this — I suppose that with my background in journalism, I find these things to be a bit too fluffy — but fuck it; I thought that I’d give it a try…

Cliff-Swallows

An illustration of cliff swallows in the wild (click to enlarge)

My boyfriend and I often go out to eat. I suppose that’s what a lot of gay couples do. We’re not rich, but we can afford to dine out, we don’t have to worry about having any kids in tow, and dining out frees up our time from having to go food shopping and having to cook and wash the dishes.

We often go to a casino here in the Sacramento area, called Thunder Valley, that is within 10 minutes’ driving distance from my boyfriend’s apartment. I don’t like Thunder Valley, really, except for its huge internationally themed buffet. (Buffets are killing me, though. I’ve gained at least 30 pounds since I’ve been with my boyfriend for the past two and a half years, with our frequent trips to buffets. Asian buffets, an Indian buffet, Thunder Valley’s buffet…)

A trip through a smoky casino for me is like a trip through hell. Casinos are full of miserable, desperate entities trying to satisfy their insatiable addictions all at once: gambling, smoking, drinking — and yes, overeating at the buffet… If heroin were legal, they’d be shooting up at the casinos, too. (For the record, I’m not a big drinker, I never could be a daily smoker, and as far as gambling is concerned, I don’t even know what I’m doing and I don’t like to do things unless I’m good at them. But hey, you have to eat…)

During our last trip to Thunder Valley for the buffet, about a week ago, I noticed that the birds that build spherical nests of mud under the eaves of a tower that is located at the far end of the casino’s large parking lot were back in force.

“Mud swallows” my boyfriend calls them, but my Internet research shows that they actually are called cliff swallows. They build houses of mud, yes, and “mud swallow” is a more interesting name, but it’s not what they’re actually called. Wikipedia says of the cliff swallow:

Cliff swallows breed in large colonies. They build conical mud nests and lay three to six eggs. The natural nest sites are on cliffs, preferably beneath overhangs, but … man-made structures are now the principal locations for breeding….

European settlement provided many new nest sites on buildings, but the population declined in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the supply of unpainted barns declined. There has been a subsequent revival as dams and bridges have provided suitable sites.

These are the famous swallows whose return from Villa Ventana, Argentina every year to the Mission San Juan Capistrano in California on (or around) March 19 is celebrated with a festival. In recent years, the swallows have failed to return to the mission.

Like all swallows and martins, cliff swallows subsist primarily on a diet of insects which are caught in flight.

I Googled “cliff swallow Thunder Valley” and I discovered that the three-story tower-like structure at the far end of the parking lot of the casino was built specifically for the swallows (see page 9 of this PDF) — so that they wouldn’t continue to build their nests of mud on the huge casino building itself.

The cliff swallows of Thunder Valley have built dozens of their mud nests on the tower structure built for them in the casino parking lot. The mud nests — which, with their little entrances, remind me a bit of igloos — are so numerous and so close to each other that they indeed form a colony, as Wikipedia referred to, and the swallows’ colony reminded me of the gargantuan apartment complex that my boyfriend lives in not too far away, with hundreds of people all stacked on top of and around each other. (And the stucco exterior of his apartment complex isn’t so different from those nests of dried mud…)

For several minutes my boyfriend and I watched hundreds of the swallows swoop everywhere, leaving the colony in large synchronized groups like fighter pilots on sortees, and then returning to their little mud nests. They reminded me a bit of bats, and the thought crossed my mind that the word guano refers to both the shit of colonies of bats and of colonies of birds. What, exactly, was the mission of the swallows that my boyfriend and I watched leaving and returning to their colony at the casino in waves, I’m not sure; obtaining food for their young, primarily, I’m guessing, and perhaps also retrieving more nest-building material.

I was slightly concerned that with my boyfriend and I watching them right under their colony of nests, perhaps we’d get dive-bombed, as birds protect their young, but the swallows apparently felt safely far away enough from us that we posed no threat to their colony.

I wondered if perhaps the birds are endangered, and that’s why the casino operators didn’t just destroy their nests — which, with a power hose one rather easily could do, I surmise — and which are, admittedly, rather messy to a building, perhaps especially the muddy outlines that are the ruins of old mud nests from breeding seasons past, nests that disintegrated a time ago. But Wikipedia indicates that the birds aren’t endangered, that they have no protected status, so apparently the casino’s main concern has been that the birds just don’t build their rather messy nests on the casino’s main building.

Far from being a nuisance, I found the cliff swallows of Thunder Valley to be the most interesting thing about the casino — and while the tower-like structure in the casino’s parking lot was built for them, they apparently were an unintended part of the casino.

The cliff swallows of Thunder Valley are in stark contrast to the casino itself, a monster of artificiality, quite out of tune with nature, as are its inhabitants, smoking, drinking and gambling, out of tune with nature and with themselves.

I had instructed my boyfriend to park at the far end of the casino’s parking lot so that we could watch the colony of swallows, and indeed ours was the only car that far out into the parking lot. (People obsessed with gambling, drinking and smoking — and yes, eating — you see, don’t worry too much that they don’t walk enough.) Here are these incredibly cool swallows, just like at San Juan Capistrano, but people don’t go to Thunder Valley for the swallows.

While we human beings embrace our artificial environments, the cliff swallows of Thunder Valley will have none of our artifice. My boyfriend and I noted several artificial nests on the tower-like structure that were put there for them. These man-made nests are located significantly below the natural nests above them immediately under the tower’s eaves, which is where the swallows prefer to nest, more shielded from the elements, and these man-made nests are too geometrically perfect, which is what made me first suspect that they are fake.

When I then noticed the metal strip to which they are affixed to the tower, I definitively knew that they are fake, and my boyfriend and I, to our delight, saw not a single swallow enter or leave a single one of the man-made nests. The swallows would have nothing to do with them.

The cliff swallows, it seems to me, are smarter than are we.

P.S. Video about the 2008 construction of what many call “the world’s biggest birdhouse” at Thunder Valley Casino is here. I find the subtly (or maybe not-too-subtly) anti-environmentalist attitude of the typical casino-goer who is interviewed in the local TV news piece to be typical but to be depressing… Here is some close-up footage of nesting cliff swallows.  

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Nutmeg thinks you’re stupid

In this photo taken Tuesday, March 23, 2010, ...

Associated Press photo

Former online auction eBay CEO Megalomaniac Whitman, a billionaire Repugnican, apparently thinks that everything in life goes to the highest bidder. Thus far she has bid $59 million on the governor’s seat of California. 

Former California governor and current state Attorney General Jerry Brown today challenged his top two Repugnican opponents for the governorship to participate in three prime-time debates with him before the state’s June 8 primary election.

Of course his No. 1 Repugnican opponent, billionaire former CEO Nutmeg Whitman, has refused the invitation.

Nutmeg can’t hold a candle to Brown; she apparently is relying on the minority of California voters who are registered as Repugnicans and on the state’s “swing voters,” those who get their primary information about politics from television commercials and whose ballot decisions apparently are made by the Magic 8-Ball.

Brown can’t say it, but I can: Megalomaniac is relying on the dumbfuck vote to put her into the governor’s seat. That’s why she is spending tens of millions of her own dollars on ubiquitous TV commercials.

“Let’s hear the different ideas,” Brown said of his proposed pre-primary debates. “The key here: Is this a democracy?”

No, it’s not, not really; it’s a fucking auction, in which the highest bidder wins.

At least that’s what Team Nutmeg believes. Whether or not the majority of California’s voters also believe that in November will be interesting. 

Megalomaniac Whitman apparently will avoid all substantive challenges during her campaign, just as her fellow Repugnican Arnold Schwarzenegger did during 2003’s too-short gubernatorial recall election campaign. She’ll try to run out the clock, just like Schwarzenegger did, and rely on image rather than on anything like substance.

The image that Nutmeg is trying to project? That she’s a successful leader because she became a billionaire. And that you, too, if you emulate her, can become a billionaire!

Except that you can’t.

And except that it’s the plutocrats like Nutmeg who have put the state’s and the nation’s economy into the fucking toilet. To turn to the plutocrats to fix the problems that the plutocrats created is like returning to the same incompetent surgeon who botched your surgery to fix it: Stupid.

But Schwarzenegger and George W. Bush are living proof of the state’s and the nation’s voters’ ability to be so incredibly fucking stupid as to vote against their own best interests.

The No. 2 Repugnican in the race for this year’s Repugnican gubernatorial nomination, Steve Poizner, California’s insurance commissioner, has accepted Brown’s invitation for pre-primary debates, but Poizner will win his party’s June 8 primary only if Megalomaniac dies or pulls out or if something really unflattering about her comes to light between now and the primary (one hopes).

Team Poizner apparently did the math and figured that accepting Brown’s challenge could only help Poizner in his David-vs.-Goliath battle against Megalomaniac, while Goliath herself apparently figured that she safely could blow off Brown’s challenge because hey, she’s a billionaire, and she can just buy the dumbfuck vote. 

Brown should go ahead and have the pre-primary debates with Poizner.

Nutmeg’s conspicuous absence from the debates will prove to the state’s voters that she’s not ready for prime time — literally as well as figuratively.

Brown, however, is a pit bull (without the lipstick), and that’s what the nation’s most populous state needs.

The Sacramento Bee has quoted Brown as having said of Nutmeg that “millions and millions of dollars in an orgy of spending for TV commercials is not a substitute for an honest and open discussion,” and that he said of her refusal to debate him early:

Private corporations sometimes hide behind slick advertising campaigns, but it’s wrong for a serious political candidate to do the same.

I urge Meg Whitman to reconsider. Surely, if she believes she is good enough to be governor of California she must also consider herself competent enough to appear with her opponents.

A candidate for public office should not act like a used car salesperson who relies on misleading TV ads. Public service is a higher calling, one that demands integrity, openness and honesty.

I encourage Meg Whitman to join with Steve Poizner and me in three joint appearances. If she honestly believes what she says in her radio and TV ads, she should welcome the opportunity to answer questions, explain herself and then ask me whatever she’d like.

Our state is in serious trouble, and we need political candidates and public officials who are willing to face the voters, explain their ideas and give honest answers.

For a while there I was worried that Jerry Brown wasn’t being aggressive enough. For now, at least, I’m no longer worried.

Now, I’m only worried about whether or not a majority of the state’s voters will be smart enough to realize that putting a billionaire in the governor’s chair would be good only for the state’s billionaires.

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Kagan looks queer to me

Supreme Court justice to retire, Obama gets new ...

Solicitor General Elena Kagan is widely viewed as a leading candidate for the Supreme Court.

AFP and Associated Press photos

Quick! Is that a woman or a man in drag?

Looks more like a man than a woman to me. But it’s U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, said to be a possible nominee to replace the retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Yahoo! News reports today that “yesterday the [Obama] administration blasted CBS News for a blog post on its website claiming that [Kagan] is a lesbian, eventually getting the news organization to retract the claim and take down the post.”

I’m pissed.

What the Obama administration essentially is saying is that being non-heterosexual and/or non-gender-conforming is a bad thing.

Otherwise, why would the White House — which, it seems to me, has a lot better things to be doing for the nation — work to squelch a probably-true rumor that the U.S. solicitor general is a lesbian?

This action on the part of the Obama administration is not that promised leadership on achieving equality for non-heterosexuals and the non-gender-conforming. This action basically affirms the destructive myth that there’s something wrong with being gay or lesbian or otherwise non-gender-conforming — otherwise, you wouldn’t have a fit about it.

Fuck the White House.

Apparently the CBS News blogger is a right-winger with a dubious background that includes allegations of having plagiarized others’ work. But regardless of the source, Kagan either is or is not heterosexual, and my money is on the latter.

White House mouthpiece Anita Dunn called the allegation that Kagan is a lesbian an application of an “old [stereotype] to single women with successful careers.”

Oh, please.

Yeah, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno —

Associated Press photo

— who on “Saturday Night Live” was portrayed by Will Ferrell, for fuck’s sake, is/was just a “single career woman,” as is former Arizona attorney general and current U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:

Gee, I wonder if the White House will try to get me to take this blog post down for “outing” the obviously lesbian Napolitano…

(Napolitano, by the way, also is said to be a possible nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court.)

I’m fine with a lesbian on the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m fine with lesbians period

So why isn’t the White House? 

Why does the White House treat an allegation of non-heterosexuality as though being non-heterosexual were a bad thing?

That’s not fucking leadership.

That is cowardice and ignorance and a lazy pandering to bigotry and fear.

Keep on hoping for that promised change.

You — we — were punked. Big time.

P.S. I nominate current “Saturday Night Live” player Bobby Moynihan (pictured in drag below) to play Elena Kagan.

NBC image

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‘Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots’ are Benedict Arnolds waiting to happen

Why is it that some issues that widely were considered to be no-brainers when George W. Bush was “president” now widely are considered to be question marks, gray area, under President Barack Obama?

Case in point: The Associated Press reports that a 24-year-old sergeant in the Marine Corps took down but then put back up his Facebook page, titled “Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots”* — which, as its title indicates, contains views opposing President Barack Obama. And that he apparently did so as the result of pressure from his military superior or superiors.

The American Civil Liberties Union has asserted that the sergeant has his right to free speech, the AP reports. I tend to agree with the ACLU on most matters — even the ACLU’s defense of the Ku Klux Klan’s free-speech rights — but it seems to me that if any member of the U.S. military had publicly identified himself or herself with a “movement” that existed primarily to oppose “President” George W. Bush**, he or she would have been disciplined — perhaps even discharged. And that virtually no one (except, perhaps, the KKK-defending ACLU…) would have defended his “free-speech right” to be openly, publicly defiant against his commander in chief.

Talking Points Memo reports that the young-dumb-and-full-of-cum sergeant put out a press release misspelling Barack Obama’s name (why am I not surprised?), and that in the press release, the sergeant stated:

Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots in no way supports a military uprising or anything to that subject, further more we recognize Barak [sic]Obama as the Command-in-Chief and we do not support disobeying orders that are lawful with Constitution, and will continue to follow orders given to us…. We do understand that there is a time and place for expression and the military work place is not one of them.

and

[J]ust because we have volunteered to serve our country in a camouflage uniform we do not strip away our rights as Americans to express our opinion on the polices of the current or future administrations.

Hmmm. Except that the “tea party” “movement” is vehemently and virulently against President Barack Obama and that President Obama is the commander in chief.

We are to trust the word of the “tea party” “patriots” in the U.S. military that they won’t commit treason? Especially when, apparently, whether or not they commit treason depends upon whether they view an order given to them by their commander in chief as constitutional or unconstitutional?

Who, exactly, is going to determine such constitutionality for them? Constitutional law expert Glenn Beck or someone else from FOX “News”? Constitutional law expert Sarah Palin-Quayle? Or some other “tea party” leader?

Homosexuals in the military are a threat?

No, it’s dipshits like the “Armed Forces Tea Party Patriots” that are the largest internal threat to the U.S. military right now. And they’re not just a Facebook pagethey’re listed on teapartypatriots.org as well as being a branch of the “tea party” “movement.”

Yes, members of the U.S. military are allowed to hold whatever opinions they wish to hold. But strong opinions often lead to strong actions.

I, for one, do not feel safe with right-wing members of the U.S. military being active members of a “movement” whose primary goal is to oppose the “tyranny” of President Obama.

Obama is not a “tyrant” because one disagrees with his policies. Obama is the democratically elected president of the United States of America — and he was elected by 53 percent of the American voters, a higher percentage than George W. Bush received in the 2000 or the 2004 presidential election. (The 50.7 percent that Bush received in 2004 was even higher than the less than 50 percent that he received in 2000.)

I just don’t take these armed-and-dangerous wingnuts on their word that they won’t instigate a “military uprising.” And why is the founder of the group even bringing up the possibility of a “military uprising”?

This is scary — I hope that these Benedict Arnolds who call themselves “patriots” are rooted out before they commit treason. We’re fools if we just wait for their “military uprising” to happen.

P.S. Personally, I like the Facebook group called “Tea Parties Are for Little Girls.” It uses this as its avatar:

Tea Parties are for Little Girls

*I have found a Facebook group of this name, but it apparently was established by another individual, not by the sergeant.

**The so-called “birthers” question the legitimacy of President Barack Obama on completely erroneous grounds. However, there were very good grounds to assert that George W. Bush’s presidency was wholly illegitimate — and unconstitutional. What if a contingent of the U.S. military believed that his illegitimacy as president meant that Bush was not their legitimate commander in chief? What if they thus refused to, say, participate in the unelected Bush regime’s illegal, immoral, unprovoked and unjust — and, one might argue, unconstitutional — invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq in March 2003?

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