Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Scientology Article

Slate posted an article by Mark Oppenheimer today in which he writes that while it may be very weird, Scientology is not a cult. Okay.

He says,

Scientology is no more bizarre than other religions. And it's the similarities between Scientology and, say, Christianity and Judaism that make us so uncomfortable. We need to hate Scientology, lest we hate ourselves.

Superficially, I'll put a gigantic maybe on this claim. It's not that I'm sympathetic to any organized religions, but Judaism (and Christianity and Islam by lineage) stems from oral history traditions, folk tales that are in some ways indistinguishable from other mythologies of the time. These stories were used to cope with the wider world, to understand things that were not immediately understandable. Most moderate people in these traditions accept these stories as myths. The miracles and sensational aspects of these histories are not necessarily taken as fact. Of course, there is a a gigantic inherent difference between Scientologists and Jews - the Jews were enslaved and persecuted. Religious belief, or at least spirituality, becomes a necessity in times like these, lest people slide into nihilism. Scientology (and Oppenheimer himself makes this point) resembles a Pyramid scheme.

However, I do think people who claim that Israel has a divine right to exist and takes precedence over all countries are batshit crazy, as much as I think people who think the papacy speaks for God are nuts. People who burn down buildings over cartoons, likewise, crazy. The Church of Latter Day Saints was started by a charlatan. But none of these religions feature of a divine alien figure who bears a striking resemblance to King Bowswer.

Monday, July 30, 2007

NFL Post

From Peter King's article on Roger Goodell:

When Goodell talks to players, he often mentions how it's a privilege to play in the league, not a right. He says that stance "has resounded more with fans than anything else because I think that's how the fans look at it. I met a TSA screener at Reagan Airport and he said, 'I like what you're doing. I think I like the fact that you're asking people to meet a higher standard.'"

Fucking barf. Where does it end? I'm already extremely leery of the fact that Goodell suspends players who have not been convicted of anything (this, Peter King calls a "no-brainer"). Granted, these guys are idiots. But when does the NFL become a moral arbiter here? Where does the line for holding pro athletes to a higher standard end? The issue for fans who make statements like that "higher standard" line will go - judging from the daily letters to the editor in any newspapers' sports section - from Pacman Jones' ineffable ability to make it rain and allegedly shoot people to someone (black) doing an endzone dance.

The people who approve whole-heartedly of Goodell's efforts strike me as the types who can't stand "show-boating" players who dare to celebrate when they score a touchdown. You know, the types of people whose favorite player tends to be a white back-up wide receiver. The types of people who think due process is for pussies. There's an undeniable envy in people who complain about player conduct (and I'm not talking about whacked shit like slaughtering animals, I'm talking about trash-talk and the like) and assert they'd do it the right way; the type who are aghast at steroid use in baseball who say they'd be privileged just to play the game. Bullshit. I'm not saying they'd definitely use steroids, but there is no way to judge a situation like that unless you are a player who has to decide if he can naturally out-perform those who decide to shoot up.

It's probably easy to dismiss my abhorrence of the NFL as a corporation's conservatism, but I fucking can't stand people who think there's a "right way" to play a sport, a set of unwritten rules that govern things like not celebrating after a big play or running out a fly ball. People in St. Louis actually write in to the Post-Dispatch to complain about Albert Pujols not running out fly balls. They also write in telling him which stance to use in the batter's box. These people love the fact that David Eckstein runs to first after being walked. As the guys at Fire Joe Morgan like to point out, you can take the guy who runs to first, I'll take the guy who hits fucking homeruns.

Pro Sports are Machiavellian enterprises. Players in the NFL are treated like kings until injuries necessitate their getting crapped out of the league, when they can expect money troubles and a low life expectancy. Football requires an otherworldly willingness to inflict pain, an almost unfathomable sadistic streak. Players are basically mercenaries, a status solidified by free agency. Fans are just as capricious as the market. Short of breaking the law, I could give a shit what these players do.

Broncos Linemen Now Have to Talk to Media

But they still get to cut and chop block and generally imperil the careers of D-Linemen everywhere, right? Because all of those anonymous 1,000 yard backs got there without the benefit of notoriously dirty and illegal play on the part of their line, right? There should be a terrorist attack on Matt Lepsis.


Ingmar Bergman died. He was 89. I have seen "The Seventh Seal", "Winter Light", "Persona", and "Wild Strawberries". I think I'll go on a Bergman film festival route for my Netflix queue. First up, "The Silence". Stockholm Winter Week starts Wednesday.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Things I learned from Conservapedia

-It loves a straw man! Emphasis mine!

"The Equal Rights amendment passed Congress in 1972 but was ultimately defeated, falling just three states short of the required two-thirds majority on June 30, 1982. The majority of Americans felt that its passage would entail several consequences, including making girls subject to the military draft, the integration of single-sex schools, the possible recognition of homosexual marriage, and the revocation of laws that protect women in dangerous jobs, such as factory or mining work."

-It hates faggoty liberal grammar!

"Some of these [New Deal] policies were viewed controversially coupled with persistent high level of unemployment in the 1930s as a result and later US involvement in WWII."

-Barack Obama is a Marxist Leftist!

-Gay people beat each other when they're not fucking each other!

-Gay people are fucking crazy!

-Gay people are terrorists!

-Gay people were gay thousands of years ago!

-Gay people got their powers like the Fantastic Four!

-Gay people are pussies who complain too much!

-Encyclopedically speaking, the Iraq War is good!

-Ronald Reagan is the greatest president who suffered from dementia in office!

-Nixon was a patsy!

-McCarthy was a goddamn hero, you fucking pussies!

-McCarthy's censure was a brazen abuse of power!

-Michelle Malkin has well thought out stances on exactly three issues!

-Harry Potter hates Jesus!

-Conservapedia doesn't get irony!

-Science doesn't have enough non-science!

-Planned Parenthood makes its money off hot, teenage semen!

-Jerry Falwell was pro-apartheid, but anti-black communists!

-In his entire life, Alberto Gonzales has accomplished two things!

I love mainstream news

Of course in this report of an "exorcism" performed on a 3 year old girl, AOL news has a poll question of a) if you believe demons can possess a human and b) if exorcisms can get rid of demons. I wonder if they'll have a tournament to decide whether exorcisms are more "now" than child abuse.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two ideas for video games

My first idea is probably already in the works. It's a massive multiplayer online game of J.K. Rowling's world. Ideally, you would start off as a first-year student at Hogwarts (or even the Continental schools - and you could make one for America, if you wanted - but the most successful would probably Hogwarts, cuz that's where everyone wants to go) and you would have a series of missions on the grounds at Hogwarts, and you would also have to take one or two classes a day, like in the Rockstar game Bully, which was aptly described as "Hogwarts for assholes." But I wouldn't want just a warmed-over Bully knockoff; you have a chance here for a really cool, ingratiating game.

You'd start off walking around Diagon alley, getting all the necessary supplies for school, and here you'll meet your potential classmates. Then you'll take the train to Hogwarts, where you'll be sorted. The hat will give you a quiz, and the answers will indicate if you have the wit to be a Ravenclaw, the courage to be a Griffindor, the ambition to be a Slytherin, or the whatever-the-fuck to be a Hufflepuff.

You'll also have individual skills to build up, which will then suggest what kind of job you'll get when you're done - Auror (which will no doubt be the most popular), or Prank-shop owner, or blueblood death eater. That could be the biggest challenge - what happens after you "graduate". It could be pretty boring minding a shop all day.

The classes would be fun; for defense against the dark arts, you'd start off learning simple spells in your first year, then gradually learn enough to duel, then duel multiple opponents. If you develop a tendency to use the unforgivable spells, you risk becoming a dark wizard. In potions, you'd learn the ingredients that go into potions like those that transform or heal. Then, all of these ingredients will be available somewhere, scattered, on the school grounds to be used, if needed, in some of the missions. If you develop enough skill at potions, you'll have a memory bank that will show you how to create them. If you don't do them with all the necessary ingredients in the necessary amounts, the potions won't work or will have different effects. Like, if you misjudge the polyjuice potion, you become a grotesque amalgam of your character and whomever you're trying to look like. If you excel at muggle studies, you'll be more likely to become a good wizard.

I think the story would take place before the whole Harry Potter saga, so you'll have Snape as your potions teacher, Dumbledore as your headmaster, etc. This means it will really matter if you tend toward the dark arts or not. Of course, there would be a ton of other details to fill out and whatnot.

The other idea is basically like Madden NFL, only you start in 1990 or 1995 (or potentially earlier) and you have the same free agent pools (as soon as free agency really started) and same draft pools from those years. So, if you're the Bengals, maybe you don't draft Ki-Jana Carter in '95. But at the same time, maybe you do - because in this game, things like career-ending injuries don't happen - they're just statistically more likely for those players. Todd Marinovich might not be a bust - but you'll still have draft reports that he's a headcase. There'll be like a .05% chance that he'll be a superstar, a 15% chance he'll be a career starter, and a 90% chance he'll flame out spectacularly. Off the field problems will be weighted, too. If you're the Rams, you could still draft Larry Phillips, but there's a good chance he'll rape a bulldog on his offtime. And maybe Leonard Little does go to jail for killing that lady when he was driving drunk. Maybe, if you're the Chiefs, you talk Joe Montana in to playing one more year, where his head will actually fall off if he's hit by Bruce Smith. You could give Dan Marino the championship that forever eluded him. You could talk Barry Sanders out of retirement and he would break the NFL rushing record. The Bills could be the first four-straight-times Super Bowl winners. Michael Irvin could get busted for snorting coke off a five hundred pound hooker's ass. In any event, everybody wins.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Some things I like

Some positivity, for a change. Most of the time, I post about stuff that pisses me off because sometimes it's funny, but it also helps me blow off steam so I don't have a character go off on an ill-advised and preachy (and no less uninformed) liberal diatribe in one of my stories. But something this blog sometimes reminds me of is the Hater on the Onion AVclub site. The Hater should be a good source of schadenfreude. But really, it mostly expounds on hatred of easy targets, things that register on the irritation scale but should probably be taken with a grain of salt anyway. She sports an irrational hatred of Zack Braff, who should really just be ignored when he's not on Scrubs. I disliked Garden State as much as anyone else, because one can take so many long, languid shots of a clearly damaged person taking in a scene as it unfolds around him and quirky shit like gravediggers and a man in armor that doesn't really fit in but is just so zany that college girls will say, "That was so random!" but you'll just be like, hey, that's just like Scrubs but without an obvious comedic payoff! Wait, wait, positivity. So I say, live and let live, Hater. Live and let Zach Braff live. He's the Paul Reiser of our generation. Live and let live.

So, some things I like, the better with which to judge me:

1) The Nation of Islam Sports Blog. Tongue-In-Cheek but never out of character. Always, always, always read the comments to see which dipshit white kid doesn't get the joke. Has an ongoing correspondence with the just-as-funny gay mafia of Kissing Suzy Kolber. My favorite so far is a righteous interview with a stoned Mike Vick, whose answers are given by Big Daddy Drew of KSK. The best line from that is when Mike Vick says of Pacman Jones, "I saw him put a shoe in a bitch once."

2) Harry Potter. I enjoy the world Rowling has created. It's delightful. It's not revolutionary, Rowling's world or my assertion. Also enjoyable: the denial of those people who "suddenly" realize that the kids of the movie have "blossomed overnight" into attractive adults.

3) Neil deGrasse Tyson. The man is delightful. Why are those who study the ends of the universe so enthusiastic and fun, and those who believe in Creationism so crabby and unhappy? (besides the massive chip on their collective shoulder?)

4) Scott Rolen's home run the other night. First since, what May? April? I feel good for the man.

5) Eddie Argos.

6) Driving the Great River Road from Alton to Grafton. See historic Alton, the monument of the great abolitionist and brazen anti-semite Elijah Lovejoy, the same Piasa that Pierre Marquette saw on his voyage down the Mississip', the confluence of the Missouri and said Mississip', copious areas for outdoor fornicatin', and the destination of so many of my trips up to Grafton - the Piasa Winery. Also, you can take the exit in Alton to Johnny Vegas, get you a vibratin' cock ring.

7) Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain. Get lost in the nautical terminology, I don't get give a shit.

8) Listening to Brian Wilson's "Smile" on the 4th of July. There's not a more American piece of work out there. It's a lot catchier than anything you'll hear at the ballpark. Bonus points for borderline offensive lyrics about "the American Indian".

On a closing note, I wonder how the Mike Vick scandal would be going if Vick was not a talented player whose shortcomings began to make more headlines than his talents but was instead someone like Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or even Marc Bulger. Okay, all of those guys are white, which might be telling, I don't know, but they're all established as great quarterbacks and good guys (if also completely boring). Is he treated like Hornung after the betting scandal, or is he given the death sentence? Admittedly, it takes a different kind of personality to treat animals so savagely, but what if Vick's star was steadily ascending? What if there had been no flicking-off-the-fans and no water bottle with a secret compartment? Oh, and Marcus Vick doesn't exactly recommend Michael's character, either. What if Vick is a boring two-time MVP? At the very least, you'd have people pointing out whatever NFL charity work he's done in the past. I guess I'm starting to scorn those people jumping on the Vick hatewagon, the same way I scoff to myself whenever I see Nancy Grace with yet another interminable report on steroids in wrestling. Of course, this happens with any media phenomenon. I'm just waiting for someone with a good head on his or her shoulders to tell the Nancy Graces and the Geraldos and the Norah O'Donnells to shut the fuck up and let there be due process, much the way Tommy Chong did when he was on MSNBC about the Paris Hilton bullshit (or some other celebrity thing) and pointed out how Mel Gibson's sins have been quietly forgotten. Anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Some things that need to stop

1) The use of the word "devour" when applied to anything that is not the clumsy, utensils-free consumption of food. I absolutely hate it when people say they "devoured" books as a high schooler or whatever. It's piggish and unbecoming. Even the implication of it is bad: It is not done for any intellectual sustenance but a base, undiscerning urge to gorge on whatever is available. Also, it's a cliche.

2) The capricious use of capital letters to raise the importance of words in a printed sentence. Often seen in blogs. Glenn Greenwald is a frequent offender. It's Grammatically Incorrect. It's the written equivalent of making the quote marks signal with your hands. In a strange way, it's snobbish. Or presumptuous - at least, the way Greenwald uses it is.

3) The perfunctory use of "Heck of a job, Brownie" in any criticism, written or otherwise, of the Bush administration. This, too, is a cliche. It's short-hand for liberal contempt - which, trust me, I will never be short of - but it's the contempt, in my mind, of Dailykos liberals who unfailingly say "Faux news" or "Fox noise" and folks like Maureen Dowd, who will debase us all before her work is done.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sarah Silverman

It seems to me that Sarah Silverman is fascinating to her fans, like those at the New Yorker, for anthropological ends as much as her sense of humor. Comedy Central had a marathon of her TV show yesterday leading up to the "Secret Stash" showing of her stand-up special, "Jesus Is Magic". She's funny. I'll not go Christopher Hitchens and turn my nose in disgust because she tends to the scatological (and, of course, because she's a woman who dares to tell jokes), but much of the regard shown her stems from the fact that she's a pretty woman saying these things. Sometimes they're funny ("I was licking jelly off my boyfriend's penis when I thought to myself, 'I am becoming my mother!'") and sometimes they're bland (a joke about her seven year old niece coming out of the closet has her being punished by her mother - "no pussy for a week"), but they are never groundbreaking. But I guess there's no more ground to break in comedy - it's all been done in some form or another. I guess I just wish the critics would stop treating Silverman like the heir Lenny Bruce. Her act, like the acts of pretty much all of the successful comedians (save Dane Cook - his province is that of the douche bag call-and-response "Know what I mean?!!"), is built on meta-awareness.

The show is built around her being narcissistic and pretty much just a terrible person, which can be funny, but it wears thin after a while. I don't have qualms with her show being mean-spirited - I still think the greatest South Park ever is when Cartman has a kid's parents murdered and then fed to the kid - I have qualms with it being one-note. There are notable exceptions, mostly involving the gay couple (they get into a passive aggressive game of brinkmanship over Tab, and set off a homeland security scare by calling a fart a bomb), but those are relatively rare.

Why even write about this? Jesus Is Magic came out a while ago, and the show has been in reruns for months. I know why, I'm the David Broder of meaningless shit. He sees something he's unfamiliar with and then assigns it breaking news, since it's new to him, you see, or a new trend. I'll never forget when he said the first Spider-Man movie was disgusting because it showed firemen and policemen sitting by helplessly while Spider-Man saves people from a burning building. I guess that was a step up from when Broder saw MASH in '97 and called Robert Altman a "dirty, cocksucking communist."


You may wonder if, in fact, David Broder is the David Broder of meaningless shit. To that, I have no answer.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In a comment on my previous post, my friend Ashby asks, "Michael Bay vs. Carlos Mencia in a cage match to the death - who wins? More importantly, who do you want to win? Also, no mutually assured destruction, you fucking cheater."

I tried to write the fight from the perspective of both Bay and Mencia, but it hurt my brain too much. Of course, Bay would have been played by Will Smith, whose catch phrase would have been "I'ma blow this out." And his motivation would be revealed by a soft-lit flashback to when he was a kid, fishing with his father, Jon Voight. The father would have made a turgid metaphor about only going after big fish. Then, he'd die in a poorly choreographed gale. Bay would then smooth talk his way, with trite dialog and endless cliches, into the Hollywood big time, and then an arbitrary plot device would have him challenging Mencia to a death match. Of course, this Mencia would not be the Mencia we know, but just as big a stereotype. He'd be a Bay Stereotype, which means he'd speak predominantly Spanish (though I don't think the real Mencia actually knows any Spanish outside of 'Puta' and 'Cabron'), have a mother with an outsized personality who calls him at all hours of the day, but much like the real Mencia, he'd make flaccid jokes about jumping fences and working shit jobs. Whenever someone asks a philosophical question, our Bayian-Mencia says, "Hey, don't look at me, Holmes. I'm Mexican." I'm not even interested in how the fight would go. As with any Bay action sequence, the camera would be so fucking shaky that you couldn't make shit out, there would be moments of levity shoe-horned into supposedly tense moments, and the PG-13 ending would have a victorious Bay walking out of the ring, bloodied but unbeaten, with a smart-talkin', smokin'-hot, nameless starlet.

I couldn't think of anything for Mencia's version - other than it would be cribbed from any number of lesser-known Los Angeles comedians and he would make a number of jokes about how Mexicans are dumb, lazy, superstitious, gullible, and loathsome.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Saw Transformers. I... I don't know what to say. I had extremely low expectations. Not "Plan 9" expectations, or even "Zardoz" expectations, but certainly Michael Bay expectations, and for the life of me, I felt like I was experiencing a temporal fata morgana, watching the South Park parody of this months in advance. No, wait, it's not a South Park parody, because all of the ridiculous plot devices are telegraphed and everything is in it's place. Here, the government is both a shadowy, conspiratorial monolith helmed by stooges like Special Agent John Turturro, and the realm of patriots and straight-talkin' heroes like Secretary of Defense Jon Voight. The nerdy high school teacher who puts down stuttering, extremely punchable hero Shia Lebouf wears a necktie and has no spine. The heroic soldier has a wife at home, who just gave birth to their little girl, who might otherwise be known as "plot leverage."

There are a number of terrible, warmed over jokes in the movie, (Bumblebee actually pisses on John Turturro. They call it "lubricating". Go figure.) which become a sort of anthropological device for observing those in the theater who laugh at them. I'm being too cynical and mean-spirited... I'll say this in a different way, I laughed hardest when the second line of the opening credits read, "In Association With Hasbro".

To be enjoyable, this movie had to be over-the-top and ridiculous like "Face/Off", which is a bad movie but a spectacle nonetheless because it is not often that you see too tremendous hams like Nic Cage and John Travolta mimicking each other and firing a thousand rounds at each other without hitting anything, or hearing Nic Cage at his most lamenting say, "Ooohhhhh, Tito....."... And it's all there! You have fucking robots that turn into cars! How is this logical? They come from a planet made by a box! You can't explain this away like you can superpowers, so why try? Just do a big fucking deus ex machina: One day, our cars stood up and walked, and apparently began taking vocal emoting classes from Laurence Olivier. Oh, and paid close attention to the vernacular of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This movie had a chance to be awesomely, awesomely terrible. We needed goofy, batshit crazy , '80s anime-level plot devices, and we pretty much got Bad Boys on wheels.

Also, there was a preview for a new Rock movie where he plays the quarterback of a generic big-city football team and one day, cue record scratch and prepare "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", a smart-talking eight year old shows up and says he's her dad. This was actually the beginning of the South Park premonitions. I could imagine the doofusy movie trailer voice from the Rob Schneider episode doing the voiceover. I'm pretty sure the movie's title was announced as, "The Rock, in... Drr-dee-drr-dr-dee-dee-drr." And people laughed. Oh, how they laughed.