Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Voices From the Gulf

Today is the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It's hard to believe. I remember sitting, totally riveted, in front of my telelvision that morning, watching live footage of the Super Dome getting torn to pieces with thousands of people inside of it. I think I was, like, 45 minutes late to work that day because I couldn't stop watching. For days afterward, I was glued to my TV, watching footage and commentary, and of course, raging inside at the incompetence and pathetic values of our federal government.

Voices from the Gulf is a collection of videos by people struggling to rebuild their lives in New Orleans. Take a look.

(Source: Americablog)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mormon smut

Gosh, with all the fun going on this week, and all the residual hangovers from fun past, and all the pranksters that may or may not be off the hook for all their silly pranks, well, this just seems like the next logical step.

I'm not complaining.

Taking out the garbage

I've been really excited about Dexter, the Showtime series that came out last year about the brilliant Miami forensics investigator who doubles as a serial killer in his spare time. The twist, of course, is that he only kills "bad guys," the other serial killers that prey on children; mutilate prostitutes and create internet rape sites; awful people who have fallen through the cracks or been freed on technicalities. As the voiceover in the pilot episode explains, with a murder solving rate of only 25% in Miami, it makes his job incredibly easy.

Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, the show seems built on a gimmick that it doesn't know how to stretch over a whole season. After having watched only the first 4 episodes, I'm ready to write it off. We learn through a series of painfully contructed flashbacks that Dexter Morgan was a foster kid taken in a by a grisly cop who noticed something sinister about the boy at a young age: he loved to kill. He had an insatiable urge to take life. But being a cop, this father didn't freak out, but did his best to try to get his adopted son to channel his impulses into something "positive." He tells him there are a lot of poeple in this world that get away with a lot of very bad things.

As an adult, Dexter claims to feel no emotion, and to be utterly perplexed by human feeling and interaction. He does the best he can to fake it with his family and new girlfriend (who, because of an abusive ex-husband, has no interest in sex and has serious intimacy problems, which suits Dexter just fine), but constantly feels his facade cracking. In the excrutiatingly pretentious voiceover that accompanies each episode, such as episode 4, which takes place over Halloween, he says things like, "People like to pretend that they're monsters. I do my best to pretend that I'm not one." He strikes me as vaguely atutistic in this way: socially retarded in a lot of ways (though very successful in his career), but methodical and obsessive when it comes to his work, and one of the best in his field (in his legitimate and non-legitimate endeavors). But he's clearly not autistic, and I think this is part of the problem with the show; there's no real reason or explanation for his behavior. It just is. But maybe that's enough, or maybe they'll get into that later, I don't know. Though the tension arising in the relationship with his girlfriend, who is starting to warm up to Dexter and wants to take their relationship to the next level, is somewhat engaging, it turns out that having a lead character that's admittedly dead inside, just doesn't do much to create drama. The voceover reveals too much most of the time, and acts, at least in my opinion, as a tradeoff for true development. Granted, I had this problem with Sex and the City when I started watching that show too, and I got over it. But at least Sex and the City was funny and came in satisfying, bite-sized 27-minute morsels. Dexter thinks people yelling a lot and having filthy mouths is proof of depth, but how can a character develop when there's clearly no growth inside? Other than that, it just becomes a not incredibly engaging cop drama, which I have pretty little interest in.

Maybe not watching past 4 episodes isn't giving it a fair shake, but that's a third of the season, and if it hasn't grabbed me by now, I figure it probably won't get a whole lot more interesting. I suppose it could go in some interesting directions by asking provocative questions about morality and situational ethics (moral relativism verus absolutism), but to accept the premise, I think you have to toss that aside a little bit. Having a lead character who perhaps feels a little conflict about his murderous urges, even though he's only taking out people that most people would agree probably deserve it, might add some desperately needed dramatic tension. As it is, he coldly tortures and kills each person in the same way (strapping them naked to a table, tightly mummified in Saran Wrap, while he hacks off body parts and saves one blood sample from a slice on their cheek for his personal collection), but literally thinks nothing of it.

I'm not sure what about this Dexter role would appeal to someone like Michael C. Hall, who so embodied the quasi-closeted, uptight emotional disaster that was David on Six Feet Under (keyword being emotional), it's hard to imagine him as much of anything else. I know that's unfair, but even in this stoney character of Dexter, I see hints of David. Like, if David Fisher had finally fucking lost his shit and gone ape-shit crazy (like he almost did in season 5), I could see Dexter emerging from that. In some strange way. Hall is an utterly watchable and compelling actor, and that's probably the only way I even got as far as I did in this series. It's too bad. I'd really like to see him in another role that's as complex, nuanced, flawed, and magnetic as David Fisher was.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Daily Show's Most Immature Montage Ever

I can't figure out how to actually load this video, so you'll have to follow the link. It's from the Daily Show's August 14th coverage of the Democrats' gay debate on LOGO. It's almost 6 minutes, but worth it.

The Daily Show's Most Immature Montage Ever!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Don't get mad, get even!

Today I went with a friend to see a $2 matinee of Hostel 2 at the Millennium Youth Complex over on the east side. (Incidentally, we arrived smack dab in the middle of the Friday Night Lights crew shooting something there. When we walked in, someone at the door asked us if we were there to be extras, and we said no; I really wish I’d had the foresight to say yes, but I’m sure they had a list or something anyway.)

I don’t care much for this new breed of horror film that’s become very popular in the last few years, otherwise known as “torture porn” by those hipsters in the know. I think “torture porn” is just about the dumbest label ever applied to any genre of film ever, by the way. I don’t quite understand why a film like Hostel gets stuck with such a simple-minded moniker, since that film contains about 2 minutes, tops, of actual violence, while a movie like, oh, I don’t know, A Nightmare on Elm Street, which came out almost 30 years ago, contains scenes of a far more savage and prolonged nature, and it’s hailed by pretty much everyone I know as a brilliant horror classic. I’ve seen only the first Saw movie, which I hated. I haven’t seen Wolf Creek, either of the Hills Have Eyes remakes, or Captivity. I saw Haute Tension, which I thought was awful, and I saw the Texas Chainsaw remake, which I didn’t think was awful, but didn’t think it was good, either.

What I realized watching Hostel today, was that I think the reason it gets such a bad rap by critics and bloggers the world over, is because it’s actually a good film. Which is also why, I think, I loved both Hostels, but hate all the other movies that get lumped in with it. (Or at least I assume I would hate them if I bothered to watch any of them, which I never will, because frankly, I just don’t care.) I find the buildup and tension in both Hostel films to be almost unbearable; in fact, the anticipation I find far worse than the violence itself, which is usually brief and quick (though, admittedly, pretty brutal). I think that’s the sign of a powerful and intelligent filmmaker, which I also think is what pisses everybody off about those movies. Roth does an incredible job of creating an atmosphere of such intense dread and foreboding, that my heart was beating out of my chest before anything even happened. And isn’t that what a good horror film is supposed to do? I also realized that Roth, at least in my opinion, treats violence with the gravity, and soul-crushing respect that it deserves. I mean, shouldn’t violence be unsettling and hard to watch? I find flippant portrayals of violence (such as those in Tarantino movies, for instance, or even in crap like Die Hard) to be far more offensive and cruel than anything in Hostel. You should dread seeing violence, it should make you quiver and shake and uncomfortable. I think Roth treats his characters with more humanity and respect than most horror films do. He gives them lives, and backgrounds, and makes you feel genuinely bad and upset at their suffering, rather than a participant in it.

Anybody who has an even rudimentary understanding of psychology knows that the root of anger is a feeling of helplessness. Which, I guess, is what so confounds me about the anger directed towards these crappy little stylized pieces of pop culture throwaway. Which is ultimately all that they are. They’re movies, for christ’s sake. If the people complaining the loudest about them weren’t also the same people lining up on opening night to be the first in line to see them, I might be able to take their righteous anger a little more seriously than I do, but I just can’t. What is it about Hostel, in particular, that gets people so fired up, and what is it about the existence of these films that makes people feel so helpless (although they’re all putting their money towards making more of them, so maybe they’re not that genuinely angry about them, after all, who knows)?

I haven’t learned a whole lot in my 30 years of life that’s very useful, but one thing I have learned is that anger without action is useless and eats at your soul. Anger left to fester will just make you hard, and cynical, and bitter and mean. Maybe getting out there and marching across downtown with your anti-war sign won’t mean a thing to the lunatic in the White House, but maybe it will just make you feel better. Maybe volunteering at a women’s shelter won’t make all the domestic abuse in the world go away, but it will make a difference in someone’s life, and it will make you feel a little more in control of a chaotic and scary world than maybe you thought you could. Maybe after your heart’s been shattered and you feel helpless, hopeless, and more bitter than you ever thought possible, helping people who can’t help themselves won’t bring your relationship back, but it can put things in perspective for you. I guess after almost 2 years of seeing the real-life horror of death and unspeakable suffering up close, it’s hard for me to get too upset over something so silly and inconsequential as a horror film. Sometimes it just helps to yell and scream and put your angst into something tangible, but sometimes something more is required of you. Sometimes you realize it’s time to get up out of your chair, and stop just reading and writing about the world, but actually start living and participating in it. This is the reason, ultimately, I feel that pundits and critics are some of the most useless people that exist on earth. If something like a dumb little trashy horror movie starring Hollywood actors gets you so excited and upset that you actually accuse the participants of having lost pieces of their souls (if that isn’t one of the most condescending and melodramatic things I’ve ever heard, I’m not sure what is), then maybe it’s time you started trying to make a difference in the world instead of sitting in your cushy hotel room or at your cushy job and criticizing everybody else who is.

Brad Pitt goes Global Green

Please forgive the second Brad Pitt post in a row, but I thought this was a story worth mentioning.

Tonight on Countdown, they did a story about how Brad Pitt has partnered with Global Green USA to help build environmentally sustainable low-income housing in the 9th ward of New Orleans.

According to Global Green's website: After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the inadequate response of the US Government, Global Green USA made a dedicated commitment to sustainable building in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. As part of that commitment, Global Green, in partnership with Brad Pitt, sponsored an international design competition during the summer of 2006, with more than 125 entries competing to design a zero energy affordable housing development in the Holy Cross Neighborhood of the Lower 9th Ward.

It was estimated that If 50,000 of the homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina were rebuilt according to the green standards of set by the design competition, residents of New Orleans would save $38 million to $56 million in energy bills every year and eliminate over 1⁄2 million total tons of CO2 – the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road.

The video on the MSNBC website is worth watching.

Really exciting TV news!!

Well, at least to me. Brad Pitt and Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy, are teaming up to create a drama on FX about a transsexual man.

Murphy co-created "4 oz." with "Nip/Tuck" writer Brad Falchuk, and they wrote the pilot together. Murphy, who'll direct the pilot, will exec produce the FX drama with Brad Pitt and Dede Gardner, with Pitt making his first foray into series TV.

Murphy will begin casting the key role of a married man with two sons whose life takes a radical gender turn.

Though FX has only agreed to 4 episodes thus far, Murphy still hopes to stretch the show over several seasons. The first season would deal with the revelation of the doc's decision; the second would revolve around him transitioning to female; the third would revolve around the surgery, and the fourth would consist of his new life as a woman and his attempt to find love.

Oh man, I'm really excited about the idea of this show. Nip/Tuck always had a lot of storylines involving transsexuals, which was great. I'm curious to see where 4oz goes with it all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's official: the only thing worse than being gay in Republikan Amerika is being poor.

This week, after George Bush told 4 million poor children and their parents to go fuck themselves and stop being so poor, at least 3 Republicans have shown that they still have a heart and a pulse after overturning a particularly insidious piece of legislation from Oklahoma from 2004.

...that's what Oklahoma lawmakers were striving for in 2004 with their chillingly titled "Adoption Invalidation Law," which targeted adopted children with gay parents.

That wrongheaded statute declared that Oklahoma would refuse to recognize "an adoption by more than one individual of the same sex from any other state or foreign jurisdiction." In other words, if a gay couple and the child they adopted in, say, California or Maryland moved to Oklahoma or simply drove through Oklahoma on vacation, they would not be treated as a legally recognized family by any Oklahoma official -- whether a police officer, public school teacher or judge.

Sounds un-American, doesn't it? It's also unconstitutional. That's what a federal court of appeals told Oklahoma on Aug. 3 in striking down the law. A panel of three judges -- all of them Republican appointees -- of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling that Oklahoma's anti-family law violated the U.S. Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause, which requires states to honor one another's judicial judgments, including adoptions.

I mean, if Okalahoma wants to hate on gay people (which they do), then fine. I don't know who in their right fucking mind would want to live in that ugly-ass, wasteland, vacuum of a state anyway, but to intentionally target little kids to suffer is just pathological. You seriously can't get much lower than that. That's like being mad at someone, so you decide to torture their cat to get revenge.

Beyond that, I'm actually left a little speechless.


I can pretty much guarantee that what I'm about to write is by far the most conservative thing you'll ever hear me say, but I really believe it: what I think the United States needs is a national sense of unity and shared experience, which I think can only be truly achieved through mandatory military service.

Yes, you heard me right, folks. I think the United States of America should implement a mandatory 2-year service requirement for all citizens when they turn 18. I think our country is so big, with so many cultures and regions and lifestyles, that it's almost impossible to feel or experience any sense of common heritage or experience anymore, and more than anything, I think that's what we need in the times we are living.

Obviously, that doesn't mean I think everyone should have to go fight in wars; that would be ridiculous. I know I, for one, wouldn't last 20 minutes in a real military situation now, much less when I was 18! And there are lots of people who would be physically incapable of serving in war. But there are other ways to serve: you could work in VA hospitals, you could be a driver, you could work in schools, you could go do service work in other countries like Africa. The possibilities are endless, and if I were in charge, that's what I would do.

This is the way things are in Israel, which is where I first heard of it. I'm sure there are other countries that require this as well. Apparently, though, Israel is having a hard time getting people to finish their tours of duty, as it were, and is now making examples of celebrities who don't complete their 2 years. The pop star Ivri Lider was recently barred from performing for troops for completing only one month of his service.

But three days before a gala concert for 10,000 soldiers Sunday night, the 33-year-old star was dropped from the lineup.

The abrupt cancellation was a result of the army's disappointing call-up this summer, which yielded the fewest draftees in five years. Worried Israeli leaders are now moving to stigmatize entertainers and other celebrity role models who have failed to complete mandatory military service. Lider, who was discharged from the army after serving one month, is one of the first to feel the backlash.

"The fact that those who do not serve in the military can become cultural heroes is worrying," Maj. Gen. Elazar Stern, the army's personnel director, told a recent meeting of state broadcast regulators.

Boy, it really worries me to say this, but I feel like what they're doing is right. And I love that in Israel, even celebrities have to do it. No one is immune.

Israeli pop singer Ivri Lider

Monday, August 20, 2007

Black eyes and broken hearts

Only someone who grew up in, or has spent a significant amount of time in, a small town (I'm talking 20,000 people or under) can really understand the strange relationships that form between and among people in that environment. People often find themselves friends with the most unlikely of people, simply because when there isn't anybody, as soon as you find someone you have even the remotest of connection with, you latch onto them. Or you're often thrust into unusual situations, or you're connected in the most direct of ways to someone through someone else you know. Rarely is anything random the way life in bigger cities tends to be. But even that randomness is often overstated, I think, especially in art. Movies like Magnolia, Short Cuts, Heights, or a myriad of other motion pictures, play up this scattershot effect in relationships, but it's usually totally contrived and unbelievable.

This, I think, is the blessing of the TV show Friday Night Lights. Obviously, it's rarely a show about football, and actually a show about relationships, and the people that play football, and the literal religion that it can be in small towns. (Which is another thing I think only people who grew up experiencing it can really understand.) The relationships in FNL are complicated, messy, and have real, lasting effects. Nobody gets an easy out. You have to give props to a show, much like Six Feet Under, that constantly pounds you over the head with how rotten everybody is, but refuses to judge, moralize, or condemn. In other words, the writers treat the characters like the flawed, but ultimately (usually) good-hearted people they really are. Just like in real life.

People make a lot of mistakes and hurt a lot of people in FNL, and seeing that it's such a small town, no one can avoid anybody else. It's all right out there, the gaping wounds and letters of shame. There's nowhere to hide in a town like Dillon, Texas, and everybody knows your story. And yet, the drama feels real. It never (well, rarely) feels contrived, and while the people of Dillon learn a lot of painful lessons about life, love and loyalty, the show doesn't shove it down your throat.

In the pilot episode, the town's beloved star quarterback, and the boy who's going to take them to state and fame, Jason Street, is plowed down in the season's first game and breaks his spine. We learn very soon after that he is paralyzed and will never walk again. (That's no spoiler; we learn that in the second episode, and it's strongly hinted at in the first.) The show never shies away from the painful reality of a strong-willed boy being struck down in the prime of his youth, with so much promise and potential. His own recovery and psychological journey is compelling enough, but throw in a small town in utter turmoil and despair, and the ensuing social fallout from people who ultimately care more about the game than about the players, and you've got the makings for drama of biblical proportions. The show does a great job of going from being a show about football in the first few episodes, to gradually expanding the plotlines to involve the more peripheral characters who have little attachment to the game except by geographic proximity.

A lot happens in the first season of FNL, considering there are 22 episodes, and it occasionally gets bogged down in its own melodramatic angst, but never for long. Bad, ugly and painful shit is always gonna happen, but how you react to it makes it dramatic or not. The writers of FNL know this, and usually go to great lengths to temper the drama with level-headed and mature reactions. Thus, for the most part, rendering it exciting, moving and sweet, instead of overblown and falsely sentimental. It figures that a show this smart, funny, insightful, and genuine is struggling so badly. The DVD's come out next week, and NBC is pushing them for $20 for the whole season. That's a steal. I can't recommend highly enough that you get it, and start getting to know the fascinating people of Dillon, Texas.

Old Joy

Old Joy is one of those maddening movies that only gives you enough to whet your appetite, but still leaves you starving and unsatisfied at the end. I don't have to have closure in my films, nor do I even need a coherent plot, or narrative arc, or character development. Necessarily. But I need something. Maybe a "mood" is enough. Maybe if you go into a film realizing that all you're going to get is some ambience loaded with meaning and significance, but not much else, then you don't expect much more.

Mark is married and about to become a father, but we have no idea how he feels about it, and maybe that's not important. His old buddy Kurt is a free-spirited quasi-hippy (and gay?) drifter who's terrified at the idea of commitment. To anything. We know this much: they have a history. They haven't talked in awhile. They decide to go camping and have extraordinarily unconvincing conversations about their bohemian pasts and people they used to know. Mark's wife constantly calls him on his cell, which makes Kurt's blood boil, and makes one suspect that Mark's wife is the reason they haven't seen each other in so long.

And that's about it. The only scene in the whole movie that really hints at any kind of conflicted past, or that there may be more to their relationship than what we're seeing occurs about 45 minutes in. They get naked together in some hot springs and at one point (POSSIBLE SPOILER) Kurt begins massaging Mark's shoulders. Mark barely flinches, and settles in to enjoy the pampering. This tender action hints at a physical (and emotional) intimacy that most "straight" guys I know don't have with each other. But then it ends and that's all we get.

Did they once have a physical relationship? Is Kurt gay? Did Mark's wife indeed come between them in this respect? There are so many questions raised (at least in my mind) that the filmmakers don't even begin to answer that it was just frustrating. I don't have to be spoon-fed, and a part of me likes the idea of having to pretty much write our own narrative, but.... But what? I'm not sure. I just wanted more.

If nothing else, Old Joy is a film about growing up. Or not growing up. Or growing up in different ways, neither one more or less legitimate than the other. But every decision requires a sacrifice, and maybe that's what the movie's about. It's also a film about a tenuous intimacy between men. An intimacy that is clearly sensual and almost erotic, but not overtly sexual, and I at least applaud the filmmakers for acknowledging that such intimacy not only exists, but is probably a lot more pervasive than most people are comfortable admitting. It is a film saturated in sorrow and memories. Strangely, though, not a lot of "what if's?". Both men seem comfortably settled in to their chosen lifestyles. It may or may not be working for them, we're given clues to indicate that either could be true, but again, nothing.

Old Joy reminded me of being at a party with a bunch of people you don't know, but they all know each other, and clearly have histories. You're never in one place long enough to hear a whole conversation, you just hear snippets. You're fascinated by the snippets, but have no context for them, so they don't mean much to you. And you want to jump in at some point, but you know you'd just be lost, so you don't bother, and just stand back and soak it all in. At the end of the night, you're still going home alone, but you realize you've just met a bunch of people you'd probably have a lot in common with and would love to get to know, but they're all leaving town in the morning and going their separate ways.

2 minutes of Hurricane Dean from space

Makes you feel pretty small, doesn't it?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I know it probably seems like I'm making this up, but I swear I'm not.

My brush with fame continued at work today, as two more Friday Night Lights cast members actually came through my line. They were together. It was Julie and Saracen's Grandma.

When they walked up to the register, "Julie" tossed a container of cheese from the salad bar onto the register and said, "I don't know how to weigh that." Beat. "It's cheese."

Thanks, Captain Obvious. And though I very nearly did, I still didn't say anything about the show. I did, however, make a resolution to myself that if this guy, this guy, or this guy come in, I'll simply have to tell them how much I admire their jobs. Because they're my favorites. Also, "Julie" has really big boobs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

He's not quite as cute in real life, but I still wouldn't kick him out of bed.

Today at work, Scott Porter came through my line. I tried to play it cool (which I think I mostly managed), except that I wrestled, throughout the entire transaction, with whether or not to tell him that I just started watching Friday Night Lights and think it's one of the greatest things ever. But I ended up not, because I didn't want to be that guy, but I did totally stare at him the whole time. I think it was probably pretty clear that he knew that I knew who he was.

Nevertheless, I was very excited.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The real irony is that I've spent my whole life trying to get away from these people, and now I can't stop watching a TV show that's all about them

While we were at Barton Springs this morning, Bryan and I once again started talking about Friday Night Lights, the show. So I finally got his DVD of all the episodes, loaded them onto my computer and started watching.

Holy shit.

No wonder nobody watches this show. I didn't even know network TV could be this good. I just sat and watched 5 episodes in a row, pretty much non-stop. I'm only quitting now because I have to be at work at 8am tomorrow. I think I could probably keep watching it all night. I've pretty much bawled into my pillow 3 times already. I recognize so much of Austin, and there's some very familiar music. I figured it was a great show; I've heard nothing but good things about it, but I had no idea it would be like this.

Wow. I can't wait to come home from work tomorrow and start watching it again. I'll definitely have it done in time for season 2. Which I'm already eagerly anticipating.

More on Plastic

Tom's recent rant on plastic bags, along with last week's Salon article about how plastic bags are about the worst thing to happen to the environment ever, has inspired me to write my own rant about the little bastards, and despite all the horrible things I do to the environment, this is the one issue that fucking kills me. It kills me because it's so easy to stop doing. According to Salon, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year, which use 12 million barrels of oil to create. Not the mention the environmental havoc they wreak once they've already been created. And I say it's easy to break this cycle, because not using bags at the grocery store isn't even a sacrifice; it's simply a change of habit. Using cloth bags is so much more sustainable, cheaper, they're more durable, and your conscience is free. At least as far as that's concerned. Though I'll admit I never gave this issue much thought until I started working at a grocery store. The amount of bags used is literally staggering.

People want their milk jugs double-bagged. They want their meat wrapped separately from the rest of their groceries, despite the fact that their meat is already wrapped in paper and sealed in plastic from the meat department. They want a bag for their lettuce they just bought, even though that's all they have, and the lettuce is already in a bag from the produce section. They want their greeting card in a separate bag from their goceries, even though their purse slung over their shoulder is the size of a duffle-bag and probably mostly empty. Or they have to have their apples and their bananas kept separately. When I committed the greivous sin of trying to put some dude's apples in a plastic bag already containing his bananas the other day, he literally said to me, "Oh, God, don't put the apples in the same bag! Those bananas will be so bruised I won't even be able to eat them by the time I get home. Goodness." And he shook his head. (And, by the way, both the bananas and the apples were already wrapped in produce bags.) So I glared at him a moment, took a deep breath, and gave him a separate bag, being extra careful to drop his apples in another bag so they hit the belt harder than they should have. And he didn't make any more eye contact with me the rest of the transaction. I hope I ruined his whole day.

But this is the kind of shit I'm talking about. It's totally neurotic and absurd. And don't even get me started on my latest obsession, which is water bottles. Fuck!! It's never-ending. There was an interesting recent article in the NYT about the environmental devastation bottled water is wreaking.

Again, at work the other day, this lady was buying about 10 six-packs of bottled water (each of them in their own separate plastic bag of course, even though they're totally easy to carry by themselves), and I finally said, "Maybe you should invest in a water filter so you don't have to buy so many bottles." She wasn't too pleased, but whatever. (Yeah, I'm probably gonna get fired soon....) Taken outside of the context of my job, these things bother me, but I don't get so angry about it. I think what sends me over the edge at work is the sheer magnitude of it, the numbers that I see. And that's just in one store!

Like I said, I'm no environmental saint, and I know that. But things like bags (both plastic and paper) have such an easy solution to them. People scream all the time about federal environmental regulations and laws (which are important), but there is so much average citizens can do everyday do to reduce waste. Not using bags at the grocery store is only one tiny step that's not even difficult and doesn't even require any sacrifice (because God knows, Americans don't want to have to sacrifice anything for any reason). Even in all this security, war on terror bullshit, it's astounding to me that so few people address the real gorilla in the room, which is fucking oil! I bet all those nutjobs that are nazis about American security are also the last ones to be willing to give up their huge houses, SUV's, and convenience of plastic bags at the store, and bottled water at the gym. Nobody wants to make those connections.

And along those lines,there's a little interview with John Edwards in Salon today that I really liked, about the environment specifically. I truly don't understand why everybody thinks that guy's such a phony. He seems the least phony to me of the whole bunch. Man, I really like him.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Because being gay and being a murderer are totally the same thing

A mega-church in Arlington, Texas that had offered to hold a funeral service for a deceased Navy veteran, withdrew their offer after discovering that he was gay.

Mr. Sinclair, 46, died Monday. He was a native of Fort Worth, a Navy veteran who served in Desert Storm helping rescuers find downed pilots, and a singer in the Turtle Creek Chorale, said his mother, Eva Bowers. He did not belong to a church.

His brother, Lee, is an employee and member of High Point, a nondenominational mega-congregation led by the Rev. Gary Simons.

When Cecil Sinclair became ill with a heart condition six years ago, church members started praying for him out of love for his brother, Mr. Simons said Thursday. And when Mr. Sinclair died of an infection, a side effect of surgery intended to keep him alive long enough for a heart transplant, a member of the church staff was immediately sent to minister to the family, he said.

Both the family and church officials agree that the church volunteered to host a memorial service, feed 100 guests and create a multimedia presentation of photos from Mr. Sinclair's life.

But the photos that the family selected alerted church officials that there might be a problem with the service, Mr. Simons said.

The issue was not so much that Mr. Sinclair was, from the church's perspective, an unrepentant sinner, he said. It's that it was clear from the photos that his friends and family wanted that part of his life to be a significant part of the service.

The pastor said that he could imagine a similar situation involving a different sin. Perhaps a mother who is a member of the church loses a son who is a thief or murderer, Mr. Simons said. The church would surely volunteer to hold a service, he said.

"But I don't think the mother would submit photos of her son murdering someone," he said. "That's a red light going off."

What would Jesus do, indeed....

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Like toy soldiers....

It seems that yet another GOP rising star has fallen into his own web of hate and hypocrisy. Indiana republican Glenn Murphy, the elected head of the Young Republican National Federation, is resigning after being charged with sexually assaulting a 22-year-old man while he slept.

In a shocking police report filed by the Clark Co. Sheriff's office, Murphy is accused of sexually assaulting another man on Saturday, July 28, 2007, while he lay sleeping in his bed. The alleged assault of the 22-year-old man took place in the Jeffersonville, Indiana home of his sister following a Young Republican party in which both Murphy and the 22-year-old man had been in attendance. The victim's sister had urged both men to spend the night at her home because of the amount of alcohol the two had consumed during the party. The victim awoke in the morning to find Murphy performing oral sex on him according to the report. When the victim asked Murphy what he was doing, he responded: "He was holding his dick with one hand and sucking my dick with his mouth." The victim then pushed Murphy away, gathered his personal belongings and left. Murphy was later confronted with the charges by the victim's sister according to the report. The sister says Murphy admitted to her that he performed the sex act on her brother.

From the blog Advance Indiana:

Murphy, who also serves as chairman of the Clark Co. Republicans, has been viewed as a rising star in the Indiana and national GOP. His consulting firm has advised congressional candidates like that of former U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel (R). He is fond of using divisive wedge issues, such as gay marriage, to promote his candidates. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels once said of Murphy: "Glenn Murphy is one of the most well-respected Republican leaders in Indiana. His media savvy and grassroots skills helped transform Southeast Indiana from a Democrat stronghold to a Republican growth area. He shoots for the 'impossible', and more often than not, he succeeds.

One more down. At this point, it's almost tempting to feel sorry for these people. Nah....

Glenn Murphy

Tipping point? I doubt it.

But it gives me chills that the subject of healthcare is even becoming such a critical factor in this presidential election. Forgive me for being cynical, but if there's one thing the Bush Legacy of Terror has taught us about politics, it's that not only does the will of the people not have to translate to political action, but with a minimal amount of coercion, the lazy American public can fairly easily be convinced to vote against their own best interests.

Nevertheless, the people are angry. And that's as good a start as any.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hard Candy

I think the reason why a movie such as Hard Candy makes me so angry is because it takes something that is truly horrific, like the kidnapping, torture and murder of teenage girls, into a tawdry, immoral revenge drama. It's a sad state when, by the end of the film, you find yourself sympathizing more with the villain than with the presumed "innocent" protagonist. What's worse than that to me, though, is the fact that it offers no hope or consolation, just a convenient murder, carried out renegade-style, by a 14-year-old girl who's obviously got her own set of problems already. The fact that the director thinks it's fair to offer up a teenage girl's humanity in the service of "all of the girls who have been molested all over the world" is worse than unimaginative and cruel, it's repulsive. After carrying out unspeakable torture, and, as I mentioned before, revenge killing, the girl walks away, presumably unscathed, back into her previously normal life.

Admittedly, I had a small crisis of conscience while watching the film, thinking to myself, why is it that I find this so upsetting, but I will go to my grave defending a movie like Hostel, that not only happily turns the tables on the aggressors, but makes you gleefully participate in their own torture? Well, for starters, Hostel never makes a claim that the revenge doesn't affect those participating in it. They take revenge out of necessity and survival; they don't entrap and premeditate their aggressors' killings. Hostel at least takes a stance; it's firmly in the court of the victims the whole time. Hostel is at least removed from reality; it exists in a fantasy world that's so over the top and ridiculous that it's totally unbelievable. Whereas Hard Candy exploits child molestation, something that happens every day in every city in America, so that a screen writer can obviously create a dialogue and sick fantasy out of their therapy sessions.

How two truly credible, talented and such watchable actors like Patrick Wilson and Sandra Oh got mixed up in this sordid, z-grade piece of shit is also beyond me. They must have owed somebody somewhere a really big favor. Now they owe me a really big favor.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Last night

If I look a little drunk in these pictures, it's prolly cause I was. And it was, like, 2 in the morning.


Charlotte, David

Goddamn. I love those guys.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Lights will guide you home.

There are only 2 official days of camp left. It alternately feels like I've been here forever, and like I just arrived. So, in memoriam, I wanted to collect a few of my favorite highlights from the past 9 weeks of camp. These probably won't mean anything to anyone but me, but here goes:

1. The wonderful people I have met, and the friendships forged, that I do truly hope I keep up with. I have met some of the most humble, welcoming, intelligent, down-to-earth, open, good-hearted, funny, and all around irresistible people here. And I know that if I'm ever in South Carolina or Tennessee, I'll always have a welcoming place to lay my head.

2. The $2 nightly drink specials at Hannah Flannagan's, the local Irish pub in downtown Hendersonville. Which we visited frequently. And which we nicknamed Flannery 'O Connor's.

3. David saying to me at one point, "You try to act all tough and hard, but I know, in here," he taps his chest, "you have the heart of little puppy dog. You're not fooling anybody."

4. A little boy just randomly walking up to me and saying, "You should be a counselor." When I asked why, he simply replied, "Because you'd make a really good one."

5. Mills Dog (what am I gonna do without seeing his smiling face and funny waggy butt
bounding up to me every day??!?)

6. Spending a whole day out on the lake with five 10-year-old boys, tubing, skiing, wakeboarding, and jumping off cliffs, and having more fun than I can remember having in ages.

7. On that same trip, being intimidated by a boy named George into jumping off the cliff, when I was terrified of doing it. He stood behind me and said he wouldn't let me walk back down, and he wouldn't jump until I did, so I may as well go ahead and do it, so he could get back to swimming.

8. Stealing Max's pair of $100 sunglasses and holding them for ransom, and him having no idea that I had them. And making him do ridiculous things to get them back.

9. Realizing how rewarding it truly is when a kid decides they like you, and they go out of their way to talk to you, or they actually come up and compliment you, or confide something in you. Because they don't talk to anybody they don't want to talk to.

10. Me and Charlotte rolling on the floor (literally rolling, clutching each other) laughing so hard we were crying, watching David and Joey do their impressions of people at camp. And then when we finally tried to leave to go to bed at 2am, having David say, "I just want to see you guys laugh one more time before you leave."

11. Tearfully confessing to David, in his office the second week of camp, how miserable I was, and him taking me seriously, and making me feel a lot better. That was the beginning of the love.

12. Laughing through the tears (my favorite emotion).

13. Driving back from previously mentioned bar at 1:30 in the morning with Charlotte, singing "Fix You" by Coldplay at the top of our lungs and laughing hysterically.

14. White-water rafting for the first time with a bunch of 8-year-old girls, and having the raft guide throw me out of the raft purely for the girls' amusement.

15. Having Trey, one of the head counselors at boys camp, run up and tackle me, and say, "Ryan, my baby, where have you been?!?" when I got back from leave that one time.

16. Getting over my fear of the boys, and having that be one of my most rewarding accomplishments. Because that meant I could just have fun with them, and begin to appreciate them for who they truly are. And some of them were fucking amazing.

17. Numerous venting sessions at night that never ended in anything besides uncontrollable laughter.

18. All the awesome road trips I got to go on, and how much of the mountains, lakes and rivers I got to see.

19. Impromptu dance parties in the dining hall during dinner.

20. Getting to go kayaking for the first time and not rolling one single time.

And, on an un-camp-related note, but still of the utmost importance, getting to spend so much time with Matt & Angela in Asheville, and being so grateful that I got to know Angela, and add yet another amazing friend and ally to my life's list.

I'm sure I've forgotten something crucial, but that's what I can think of right now, off the top of my head.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The times, they are a changin'

Apropos to my previous column, I found an interesting little write-up regarding how the Clinton, Obama and Edwards campaigns are promoting their upcoming historic Human Rights Campaign "Gay Debate." Though I'm not actually all that interested in the debate itself (I already have a pretty good idea of where they all stand on the issues I care about re: the mo's; I think it'll just be more softball questions and vague answers), what does interest me is how they're putting the word out, and what kind of parties they're having beforehand.

Clinton, apparently, is holding a $50 a ticket shindig at West Hollywood, gay hipster hell nightclub The Abby (and I can say that with authority, because I've been there). I think it's cool that she chose an actual gay nightclub to host it.

Obama and Edwards are both having parties on La Cienega, with notably less overt gayness.

The blog Good as You has a rundown of each candidate's website advertising. It's worth a looksy.

One more (BIG) strike against Hillary

At one point, even just a couple of months ago, I said I would never, ever vote for Hillary Clinton for president, no matter what. Well, in that time, she has gone on to dissuade my fear a bit, and she's actually said and done some things I really liked. However, I read on Politico today that Obama favors lifting a ban on federal money for needle exchange programs, while Clinton still wants to stick to the safe status-quo:

Obama was quick to say at his July appearance he supports lifting the ban on federal funding for needle exchange. Clinton, by contrast, performed what King called "an interesting waffle" at her April 23 event.

The differences in their answers reflect their different relationships to a hot-button issue of the 1990s, which has since cooled and faded from the public debate. Clinton linked herself to her husband's 1998 compromise between public health activists and anti-drug crusaders, while Obama sided solidly with the advocates of what are seen as "preventive" services.

In the unusual 1998 compromise, Clinton Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala announced that the administration's scientific review had found needle exchanges safe and effective -- but that the administration would nonetheless maintain a federal ban on funding them.

That reveals so much about them both, doesn't it? I'm impressed with Obama. This more than makes up for his pretty skittish (dare I say "spineless") committment to human rights. I like to call myself a 3-issue voter: environment, health care, and "human rights," i.e., gay rights. Probably in that order. And everything that those things entail.

This is a huge boon to Obama in my book. Way to go.

PREVIUOSLY: Needle Exchange