Tuesday, July 28, 2009

declining entertainments

I was excited to hear that Guy Richie was going to direct a Sherlock Holmes movie. Even better, Robert Downey, Jr. would play Holmes, and the movie would have a big budget and a great cast.

I am a fan of Guy Ritchie. I haven't seen everything he's done, but I liked Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Snatch was hilarious. And I highly recommend the recent RocknRolla. This movie is awesome in the best Quentin Tarantino tradition; not quite as good as Pulp Fiction, but close.

Sherlock Holmes is one of the most revered characters in literature, and for good reason. I've read the complete collection several times, going back to when I was kid. The characters, plots, and stories as a whole are clever, subtle, and richly detailed. Holmes himself is brilliant, stubborn, devious, witty, sophisticated, damaged, brooding, whimsical, tenacious, ethical, loyal. And tough. Definitely tough.

What he is not, however, is the James Bond of the 1880s. Or John McClane with a British accent. Or Neo downloaded into a Victorian version of the Matrix. Anyone who's ever read a single Sherlock Holmes story knows this. Why, then, when I see Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes trailer, am I assaulted by images of Robert Downey, Jr. in acrobatic, jump-cut, bullet-time fight scenes? I mean, sure, Sherlock Holmes got into some altercations. He boxed a couple of guys. He ordered Watson to take criminals into custody at gunpoint. But he's not a comic book superhero! Seriously, WTF?

This movie will suck. I don't think I even have the heart to watch it. And while we're on the subject, I've read Prince Caspian several times (ok, maybe several dozen times), but I somehow never realized I was reading the talking animals version of Saving Private Ryan. Thank you Walt Disney Motion Picture Corporation for pointing out what has apparently been a severe error in my reading comprehension.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"the highest standards of excellence in higher education"

So says the Texas Tech University mission statement. The university has made great strides in accomplishing "high standards of excellence" with its most recent hire: Professor Alberto "Judge" Gonzales.

I received multiple reader emails requesting a comment/post on this topic. I'm not sure I have a lot to say about the subject that wouldn't immediately come to the mind of anyone who: (1) isn't the most partisan of Republican bootlicks, and (2) has been paying the remotest of attention to the news of the last several years. (Not to mention regular readers of this blog.)

I mean, after all, a search for the term "alberto gonzales perjury" returns 42,600 results. The Judge is a perfect example of an apparatchik. He was responsible for facilitating all manner of criminality during the Bush administration, including the marketing -- on completely false pretenses -- of a war that killed hundreds of thousands, the wholesale subversion of at least half of the Bill of Rights, the near-complete conversion of the Justice Department from a publicly-minded, justice-seeking organization into a political tool of sociopaths bent on ridding the U.S. government of everyone who might harbor some dissent against Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority", and -- last but not least -- the bureaucratization and normalization of torture as a legitimate tool of what was -- formerly, at least -- a country which stood as a beacon of freedom and human rights. The Judge is an evil little man, without principles, who sought only approbation from his bosses and who didn't mind that he was, in the process of securing pats on the head, ensuring pain and suffering for many and dishonor for all.

While he was George W Bush's yes-man in Texas, he performed the function of writing "slapdash, incomplete and inaccurate" memos in support of executing 57 death row inmates (100% of the cases he "investigated") while ignoring "glaringly obvious" evidence that would have shown innocence or incapacity on the part of those folks, um, killed on the basis of his memos. This man is a piece of shit, the likes of which haven't been seen at the highest levels of U.S. government since at least Spiro Agnew.

A fact which is understood well among all law firms, law schools, universities, and non-governmental organizations (none of which would hire him), and, well, people in general, with the notable exception of, apparently, Texas Tech University. Full disclosure dictates that I identify myself as a graduate of one of the, er, professional schools associated with TTU. Am I ashamed of this hiring? Sure. Just as ashamed as I was when they recently hired Karen Hughes to give their commencement address. Just as embarrassed as I was when they recently hired Karl Rove to give the commencement address at their law school (look: forget about the fact that he's a slimeball who got GWB elected (twice!) and cemented abject cynicism as the SOP in our country's electoral politics: the dude isn't even a fucking lawyer!). Texas Tech is a lower rung academic institution which apparently believes that a good way to further its influence and reputation (rather: notoriety) is to pay money for the (academic?) services of thoroughly discredited has-beens who made their names destroying our great country in furtherance of nothing more noble than the disgraceful political agenda of the most despicable presidential administration in the history of the United States.

This isn't quite the same as Boalt Hall hiring John Yoo. Because, let's face it, that was a school that actually had a high reputation to uphold -- or tarnish, as the case may be. TTU is a podunk backwater institution that arguably has little to lose by hiring persons of questionable backgrounds (Bobby Knight, anyone?) in order to increase its visibility. Still, though, I can't imagine that this pleases its faculty much -- however right-wing they may be on the whole. Because aggressive war, warrantless surveillance, perjury, general criminality, and torture aren't really what I would consider partisan issues. And one thing even the lackluster students who attend school at such a place should be entitled to expect from their teachers is that they haven't spent the last several years publicly disgracing themselves and making a mockery of our country's values and legal traditions.

So, shame on you, Texas Tech. Here's hoping your funding gets cut, your enrollment goes down, and your football team goes 1-11.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Bible Spice. Caribou Barbie. The Snowbilly Grifter.

Besides getting some sun, drinking margaritas, watching fireworks, the pool, and all the rest, I've spent a good deal of my holiday weekend watching Sarah Palin's latest train wreck. I've seen a ton of great snark, though I've neglected to bookmark or collect any of it, so you'll have to find it for yourself. My recommendation is to watch her speech ("unbalanced" doesn't even begin to describe it), read the Governor's official Facebook transcript (you won't see more random ALL-CAPs usage, misused quotation marks, or greater proliferation of exclamation points anywhere outside of an eighth grade girl's diary entry), or -- if you've got several hours to kill -- go read the wonkette comment threads.

Anyway, I don't feel like I have much to add to the whole thing that hasn't already been said. Except this: my prediction is that Sarah Palin will *not* resign as Governor of Alaska. Or at least not on the time frame she promised us that she would. And, in true Palin fashion, she will deny that she ever said she was going to leave office. You see, this is all a big misunderstanding, because the librul media that intentionally misinterpreted her strong, clearly, Christian-American words in order to make her look bad and smear her good name.

Don't believe me? Just wait.

UPDATE: Heh. I beat Josh Marshall to this by about 12 hours. Though he doesn't actually think it will happen; he's just highlighting the possibility based on the fact that "we're dealing with a deeply erratic and probably mentally unstable person who does lots of completely whacked things at the drop of a hat."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, USA

For most Americans, Independence Day is mostly just a good excuse to put on a good drunk and get a sunburn. Which is pretty great. I'm no different, but I've gotten into a habit of re-reading the Declaration of Independence around this time of year.

It's a still a good read, and it's fun to try and put yourself into the mindset of the guy who wrote it and the people who signed it. I think of them as basically really pissed off, proud of what they're doing, and very scared -- all at the same time.

One interesting thing is how the middle part -- a list of grievances -- builds up. It starts out by mentioning a few things that almost sound nitpick-y, like "imposing Taxes on us without our Consent" and my personal favorite: "He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records..." Heh.

And there's a long list of this stuff, some of which is pretty important but mostly falls into the category of complaints against bad governance... and then they finally get around to this: "He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people[!]"

Anyway, the best parts are of course the beginning and the end:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Full text here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Lazy Blogger, Part CXXVII

Some stuff I've found during the extended hiatus (stuff which, I'm hoping, works well with minimum effort, in terms of addition commentary (i.e., thinking, effort, etc.), on the part of your humble blogger):
1. Eschaton nails the anti-abortion crowd:
The broad anti-abortion movement isn't just anti-abortion, it's anti-sex generally and most importantly anti-women having agency over their bodies and sexual activity. This is not true of all anti-abortion people, but it is true of the anti-abortion movement.

Lots of people are squishy about abortion, though I firmly believe the vast majority of people in this country are pro-choice for me if not for thee, but those involved in the anti-abortion movement don't just care about embryos and fetuses, they care about punishing women for unapproved fucking.
I have some stuff to add to this, but unfortunately too lazy right now. Sorry.

2. Check out this graph. Does it strike anyone else as somewhat important that along about the time the trend line deviates dramatically upward is along about the same time we as a species discovered the magical properties of fossil fuels? Think about what fossil fuels are, as manipulated by human ingenuity. They are force multipliers. They multiply our work by hundreds, or thousands, of times. They are basically the only thing we've found so far that will do this. The discovery of how this works, and subsequent discoveries building on this basic discovery, have allowed us to thrive far beyond what we could have done without it. And yet, by doing so, we are to a great extent poisoning our collective living space, and nearing the point where it (our living space) will no longer support us. But not only that, these fuels are non-renewable and will run out before too long. Not saying it's a bad thing, just saying... what if it's a somewhat singular discovery -- i.e., one that won't be repeated again anytime soon?

3. One of Sullivan's readers does a phenomenal job of exactly capsulizing the mindset of a great big swath of conservative dumbfucks:
Part of Sarah Palin's irresistible appeal to her fundamentalist base is her ability to look at the camera with utter conviction and declare black to be white.

The ability to lie well is a valuable part of the fundamentalist psychology. My son isn't gay, he just hasn't found the right woman! Those rocks aren't 50 million years old, they just look like it as a test of our faith! My sexless marriage isn't foundering, it is filled with God's spirit! The minister isn't molesting little Maria, they're just very close! It isn't torture, it is being tough on terrorists!

Fundamentalists can recognize a truly audacious and talented liar from miles away. Instead of running the other way, as you might expect, they gather around the powerful liar, for they know that their own lies will be respected and protected by a leader who understands the paramount importance of preserving their whole system of denial.
I wish I would have written that.

4. Here's something I should (and maybe will) do a longer post on. But it is so outrageous that at present I really can't do anything other than rage incoherently about it. The short version is that Ft Worth police conducted a "bar check" on a bar that had been open approximately 1 week. You know, go in, make sure they're abiding by the terms of their liquor license, check to see if they're overserving people, etc. They end up beating the shit out of several patrons, arresting those and a few others, and generally terrorizing everyone in attendance. One of the victims is intensive care with a life-threatening head injury. As it happens, this was a new bar catering to the male homosexual crowd. Surely just a coincidence, no?

Though I'm generally against "hate crimes" laws, this is exactly the reason people want them. I tend to think we could handle this kind of thing with regular laws -- like aggravated assault, attempted murder, and the like. But when the cops are the perpetrators, they somehow never get held accountable. Their superiors circle the wagons to defend them. The citizenry turns a blind eye and assumes that the police chief is telling the truth when he says "these faggots made sexual advances on my officers -- they deserved what they got" (not an exact quote). To my mind, this is no different than what happened to Matthew Shepard. Except that, as a mitigating factor, the victims here actually were afforded medical attention. But as an aggravating factor, this was done under the color of law. By our "public servants". Let's be clear: the cops who did this are bigots and brutal thugs. Rather than collecting paychecks from the public treasury, they should be breaking rocks at Huntsville and, in their spare time, getting some special attention from the other TDC occupants: large, mean, temporarily homosexual prisoners.

Via Sullivan (check the links).