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Back Again, with an Old Rant from April [Aug. 25th, 2010|05:28 pm]
[Current Mood |determineddetermined]
[Current Music |"Inside Man" Soundtrack]

Now that my current employer have modified their nanny-ware to allow access to personal blog sites like LiveJournal, I'm able to get back here and start ranting again. I'm in a bit of a hurry today, so here's a little something I wrote back in April about an incredibly stupid panel discussion I saw on ABC...

Better Late Than NeverCollapse )

Hopefully Coming soon: something about the Republicans' latest attempt to use anti-Muslim bigotry to distract everyone's attention from the consequences of their failed policies. Welcome to Weimar America. For a really timely reminder of said failures, look for God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise, Spike Lee's documentary about post-Katrina, post-BP New Orleans. Oil isn't the only thing they're hiding with dispersants.
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"Beyond Thunderdome" with a Bible, but Without Tina Turner [Jan. 22nd, 2010|02:05 am]
[Current Mood |irritatedirritated]

Thye Book of Eli is a bit like the Bible: if you try to read it literally, all you'll get is a useless mishmash of stock images of destruction and desolation (done in a photographic technique that another reviewer suggested be patented as "apocalyptone"), badly-dressed bad-guys lifted straight from Mad Max and Waterworld (couldn't they have stolen some badass eye-candy from Tank Girl?), and premises almost (but not quite) as poorly thought out as a Democrat's campaign strategy. Eli is not a science-fiction story, it's a parable.

Unfortunately, all those superficial flaws of the post-apocalyptic story-line conceal the fundamental flaws of a parable that pretends to be Deep and Spiritual and Righteous but ends up being nothing more than a parable of utterly empty religious self-righteousness.

The story starts with Eli (Denzel Washington), walking across a completely desolate North America, carrying the last intact copy of the King James Bible (more on that later), kicking ass like a Samurai cowboy when people try to kill him, but inexplicably refusing to take action when he sees innocent people being robbed and killed, even though the robbers are smaller in number and don't see him, because he thinks transporting a Bible to an unspecified location somewhere "west" is more important. And we're supposed to think of him as the good guy?

Then there's Carnegie, who's managed to cobble up a government for some surviving humans in a town in what used to be New Mexico, and wants to expand his control to a neighboring town or two -- which is what people will need if civilization and social order as we know it are suddenly destroyed. And we're supposed to think of him as the bad guy?

Apparently Carnegie isn't bad because he wants to conquer neighboring towns; he's bad because he wants to use the "beautiful words" in Eli's Bible to jazz up and justify his quest for power, and tries to kill Eli when he refuses to cooperate in this religio-political campaign.

And apparently Eli isn't good because he does good deeds (he doesn't do nearly as many as he could), or because he tries to actually use that Bible to inspire others to do good (he doesn't); he's good because he's dedicated his life to the single task of transporting the Bible to a location still unknown to him, without even asking what will be done with it after it gets there -- and without making any attempt to share or spread any of the Bible's wisdom with any of the clearly destitute people he meets on his way. I mean, Eli had a perfect chance to cut a deal with Carnegie's second-in-command (after he had chosen not to shoot Eli on Carnegie's direct orders), stage a coup, and impose some semblance of Bible-based order on the town; but instead he left the place to Carnegie's obvious misrule just so he could keep on walking west and bartering valuable gloves and tools for a canteen full of water.

Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome had the same stupid false dichotomy: the woman trying to restore order and get people producing what they need was the bad guy, and the self-absorbed nomad who didn't want to help in this necessary task was the good guy. Who writes this stuff, and where did they get their values?

And if Carnegie could take over one town without the Bible's "beautiful words," why does he suddenly need them to take over other towns? Couldn't he just take control of the local wells and give the people the order and civil society they need? And if the Bible's words were really that beautiful and useful, then why did so many people burn all the Bibles right after the war that "tore a hole in the sky?" And if the Bible wasn't available, wouldn't a few copies of the Koran do in a pinch? Did everyone burn the writings of Confucius as well?

I don't regret seeing this movie; but the more I think about it, the more I wonder why it was made at all. And it wasn't really "made" so much as thrown together: a disorderly heap of images, cardboard-cut-out characters, poorly-thought-out ideas, poorly-plagirized plots from other movies, false and senseless conflicts between bogus notions of "good" and "evil," and a worse misuse of Denzel Washington's talents than I ever thought possible.

Seriously, folks, I've seen Denzel in Inside Man, Crimson Tide, Deja Vu, American Gangster, and Pelham 123. He has a unique persona that's part dorkiness, part confident menace, and lots of solid authority. Whether he's playing a bureaucrat/technician, a gang leader, or a mutinous missile-boat XO, his characters simply take over whatever scenes they're in and rally the viewers to get behind them. As Eli, however, he has absolutely no such authority, and his persona is ignominiously buried under a ragged beard, a badly-written script, and a moldy puree of mushy fake spirituality. And no, having Denzel kick more ass doesn't make up for the loss.
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I Am a Total Federal Triangle Homeboy! [Jan. 11th, 2010|12:51 am]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |determineddetermined]

So now I'm working (indirectly, as a contractor) for the US Department of Commerce. I take Metrorail to work, and get out at the Federal Triangle station. Which means I'm an FDR liberal who has to walk through the Ronald Reagan Building to get to the Herbert Hoover Building -- the perfect metaphor for the direction our once-great country has been taking since 1981.

So where does the "homeboy" title come from? My father used to work in the same building, and so did my mother's mother. And it hasn't changed a bit since they walked those halls, from the grand old lobby (and a pretty nice Christmas tree, I might add) to the floor tiles to the identical blah brown doors and brass doorknobs to the stuffy air in the stairwells, which apparently only gets circulated during evacuation drills.

All over the building there are photographs of the building when it was under construction in 1930. Apparently it was the first building in the Federal triangle to get built, and was, at that time, the biggest (as in, hogging the most land) building in the world. (The Pentagon would not be built until sometime in the 1940s, and it doesn't look half as classy inside.)

While the Hoover Building is well-designed in a sort of Federal-Classical style, respectful of its history, and rationally laid out in a proper rectangular floor-plan, the Reagan building is just crap: the ground floor is nothing but ballrooms and meeting-rooms, all polished floor-space and no useful function (the kind of corporatist interior space that gets shot up in the Matrix movies, and booked by slimeballs like the Heritage Foundation for their self-congratulation-fests); the exterior only half-assedly tries to match the Federal Triangle architecture all around it; there's no right-angle anything, and it all seems to center around a sort of triangular/pie-slice banquet space whose apex is a grand stairway down from the street level; the colors are all off-white, grey, and an amazing variety of shades of naff dull brown; and there's a profile of the Great Communicator himself, with a Great Communication of his that I can't remember because it's so empty of substance...something about the unlimited power of a nation that lets individuals do their thang. Oh well, I guess I should be grateful it wasn't a Bush Jr. quote. (Of course, they'd have better quotes to mine if they just renamed it the Margaret Thatcher Building.)

It's not the greatest job I've ever had, but it's far from the worst. The worst part of it is that Commerce's nanny-ware blocks access to all "social networking" sites, including LiveJournal; so I can't even read other people's LJ posts, let alone post my own. I mean, WTF do they expect me to do there -- work?

During the interview for this job, I found out my boss is into science fiction; so I emailed her a copy of Solidarity, or, How to Gerrymander One Solar System for Two Species in Three Inconclusive Summit Meetings, a novella I wrote in the 1980s, gave up on when the USSR ceased to exist, and am now rewriting because for some strange reason it suddenly seems like the thing to do. She thanked me profusely for sending it to her. That was in September, and to this date, she still hasn't actually read it.

I'll have more rambles about such diverse topics as Avatar, the radical right's descent into insanity and infantilism, the Christmasaturnamithreidkwanzannakayulestice seasons (this year's and last), my latest attempted novel, and maybe a bit about my trips to Paris and Rio de Janeiro. But not tonight -- I have a mountain of email to catch up on, and most of it looks like bad news.
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The LA Fitness Murders: Another Manifestation of Right-Wing Madness and Malice [Aug. 7th, 2009|12:11 pm]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Mood |anxiousSo what else are they hiding?]
[Current Music |Don Henley, "Dirty Laundry"]

Joan Walsh caught this tidbit, among others:

In a related tangent, I was stunned by Editor and Publisher's report that AP, the New York Times and other news organizations quoted liberally from Pittsburgh health club murderer George Sodini's diaries, but left out his racist diatribes against Obama. The diary in fact began the day after Obama was elected, and Sodini wrote, "Good luck to Obama! He will be successful. The liberal media LOVES him. Amerika has chosen The Black Man." He then goes on to complain that white "hoes" are choosing black men over him. In the last four months we've seen three mass shootings -- the Pittsburgh cop killings, the Holocaust Museum murders and now this -- in which the murderer has ranted crazily about Obama. I worry with good reason that the Sodini assault won't be the last.

Whatever happened to "If it bleeds, it leads?"

When two major media outlets as established and respected as the AP and New York Times choose to cover up such clear evidence of the dangerous insanity infecting our culture, that can be taken as proof that the insanity is no longer isolated; it's mainstream.
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Birthers, Death Threats, and the Rising Tide of Antidemocratic Hatred [Aug. 5th, 2009|12:03 pm]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |Reality]
[Current Mood |predatorySo when do we attack?]
[Current Music |Pink Floyd, "In My Head"]

Salon has this handy source for refuting all of the idiotic claims of the Birther Movement (BM) impugning Barack Obama's eligibility to be President. It won't do any good, of course, since these morons, like all other conspiracy-buffs, simply ignore contervailing evidence and go on repeating the same long-disproven allegations over an over again. But at least you'll have gone on record with a refutation.

Current de-facto BM "leader" Orly Taitz (who seems to harbor doubts as to whether Obama's mother is really dead) had a rather revealing meltdown on MSNBC, in which she seemed to say (among other nonsensical non-sequiturs) something like "Who cares about Ann Coulter? She is not an Israeli!" Then, a little later she tells her MSNBC hosts "You will be done, you will not be on TV for too long..." All of which led me to wonder whether Taitz, who was "responding" to MSNBC from Tel Aviv, might represent part of an effort by Israel's current right-wing government, and/or AIPAC, to incite hatred against a President whose support for Israel is less than Israel's right-wing religious zealots are accustomed to getting. Israel's far right made a hero of the guy who murdered Yitzhak Rabin; so we really can't expect them to be any more respectful toward another country's elected leaders.

A more disturbing manifestation of the insanity that still grips the Republican Party can be found in this article:

WASHINGTON - A new book about the U.S. Secret Service reveals that threats against President Barack Obama increased 400 percent over former President George Bush and that the agency may not be able to handle the extra load.

Obama reportedly receives more than 30 potential death threats a day.

(And why is the Secret Service "not able to handle the extra load?" Because they've been chronically understaffed since they were rolled into Bush's brand-new consolidated "security" service, the DHS. I warned against this sort of consolidation here. Once again, the Republicans' claim that they're "protecting Americans" is proven a lie. But I digress...)

Seen in a vacuum, the birfers' wild, attention-hogging accusations can easily be viewed as yet another bunch of loons desperately embracing yet another unhinged conspiracy theory; but this particular group of loons are not operating in a vacuum: they're being coddled and pandered to by a Republican Party in the grip of the irresponsible radical right; and their paranoid delusions -- and all-but-explicit refusal to accept our current elected government as legitimate -- are part and parcel of the entire pattern of delusion we've seen in all factions of the radical right since 1993, from the militia/survivalist loons, to the breathtakingly unhinged hatred of Hillary Clinton and even Clelsea, to the David Koresh sympathizers, to the "pro-life" terrorists, to those who routinely equate lawful dissent with support for large-scale terrorism, to the Republican operatives now inciting mobs to disrupt town meetings to prevent Democrats from talking or listening to their constituents.

The Republicans are no longer a "loyal opposition," and have not been since 1993; they're nothing but Nazi thugs, bigots and con-artists in fancier suits, shamelessly disrupting any adult debate -- and any democracy -- that they can't win. The Secret Service are already feeling the consequences of this infantilism; and soon, if we don't take a stand to defend what we've won so far, the rest of the country will be feeling them as well.

SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT TO THE BIRFERS: if any of you birfers find this site and think you can gum it up with your pathetic nonsense, please be advised that a) my readers are educated enough to see through your BS; and b) I will NOT give you yet another forum to repost the same long-debunked stories you've been pasting everywhere else. You don't listen to us, so we in the real world won't be listening to you. And I will not allow my blog to be used to incite or justify violent action against our duly-elected President. Go fuck yourselves.

UPDATE: I have just received the following correction in the comments: You misheard her. She did not say 'Ann Coulter is not an Israeli' she said 'Ann Coulter is not an attorney.' So instead of stupidly pulling rank as an Israeli, she stupidly pulled rank as a lawyer, despite her obvious ignorance of the law and her abysmal inability to answer a single common-sense question.

My questions about the possible loony-Israeli-right/AIPAC connection to this fake-controversy, however, still stand.
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This Isn't a "Reboot," it's a "Shortout" [Jul. 21st, 2009|09:40 am]
[Current Mood |disappointeddisappointed]
[Current Music |A song by William Shatner. Or Leonard Nimoy...]

I watched the latest Star Trek movie some time ago, and wanted to write about it after my thoughts about it had cleared. Unfortunately, here it is, many weeks later, and my thoughts are still as muddled as when I left the theater. I've come to the conclusion that this is, quite simply, a hopelessly muddled movie.

To begin with, the scientific/technical inconsistencies were completely over the top, even by Star Trek standards. If you want a good exhaustive list of all the specific things this movie got wrong, this post and the hundreds of comments following is the place to go. I don't have the energy to deal with all this in detail, but I will simply say this: in the original series, most of the fanciful violations of known physical laws were there because, quite simply, none of the stories could have taken place without them. We needed "warp drive" to get to other solar systems, "subspace communication" to keep in touch with the rest of the known Galaxy, "matter-transporters" to go places not served by airstrips or spaceports, "phasers" and "photon torpedoes" to do just the right amount of damage without having to wait for missiles or artillery rounds to get to their targets, "communicators" because we didn't know to call them "cell-phones" yet, "tricorders" and "sensors" to find out what was going on without wasting too much air-time with CSI-style detective work, and "Class M" planets and humanoid aliens all speaking English because there wasn't enough money for better effects. And besides, the series' original creator, Gene Roddenberry, wasn't in it to write science-fiction in the first place; he was in it to write about socio-political issues, and only had to cobble up the space-future stuff to get the socio-political commentary past a media establishment of post-McCarthyist wimps. So it made perfect sense for this series to sacrifice technical realism for the higher goal of telling stories that drove home messages.

It should also be mentioned that the original series came out during the 1960s, when it looked to most of us like science and technology really could do just about anything; when it really did seem that sooner or later, we would indeed be travelling faster than light and solving all manner of problems by taking all manner of unrelated gizmos and connecting them with duct tape or subspace channels in new and ever-more-wonderous ways.

Today, we roll our eyes and laugh when a guy with a hair-holder for eyes says something like "If we use a spoo circuit to reroute enough fleem plasma into the warp-core, we just might keep the containment field going long enough to get out of the Neutral Zone." But let's face it, that's only a more fanciful expression of how we use, and invent, technology to solve real problems on the fly; and how real people did indeed solve life-and-death problems both in modern war and in real space travel (note the use of duct-tape and three-ring binder covers in Apollo 13).

In the latest movie, however, all the gizmos and inconsistencies simply got out of control, right along with the unending noise, insane camera-work, and excessive bash-'em-over-the-head nonstop-shoot-'em-up action. In the original series they served the plot, which served the specific message; in this movie, they completely overwhelm the plot, which doesn't seem to serve any coherent message.

And once, I got the impression that the makers of this movie were going out of their way to mock the technical-realism criticism. I can't help thinking that the water-processor scene in engineering was a direct homage to the banging-metal-plates-of-death scene in Galaxy Quest. (What other purpose could that scene have served?)

It was certainly a lot of fun seeing all the old characters in their earlier years as they were just getting to know each other and finding their proper places aboard the Enterprise. That's pretty much the whole purpose of this movie; and quite frankly, as good as it was, it could have been a lot better with a bit less action-for-action's-sake packed into it like drunk football players in coach seats on an already-overbooked flight. The people who made this movie were trying way too hard to substitute action for character-development, and it showed. And it was kind of sad, since they had good actors playing very interesting and well-loved characters at what must surely have been a very interesting time in their lives. The actors, and characters, would have shone more brightly had they had more believable problems to solve, and more believable situations in which to show their stuff.

I consider myself a stickler for technical realism; but as long as the overall story and characters are believable, I'm willing to tolerate a few lapses for the cause. When too many such lapses combine to make the overall story implausible, that's when the story becomes crap and I start to tune out. This movie couldn't stay internally consistent even in its first third, which to me shows extraordinarily poor writing, lack of imagination, and unwillingness to stick to some semblance of reality. And it was reality, dressed up in futuristic costumes, fake ears and prosthetic foreheads, that made the original low-budget morality-play known as Star Trek, worth watching: they cut corners on the science, but never on the reality of human life. In this movie, however, that reality, that striving for relevance, has simply been overwhelmed and shouted down by people who really didn't seem to have anything to say.

As for specific characters: my second biggest complaint on this issue is that they had James T. Kirk, not just as an arrogant punk, but as a self-destructive arrogant punk; which is not a good quality for a starship commander to have. And how does such a punk get himself promoted to captain of a ship to which he wasn't even officially assigned? If he got away with that, it's no wonder he got away with violating the Prime Directive so many times since.

But my biggest complaint was about the treatment of Uhura. The Enterprise communications officer was: a) a woman of wit, education, culture, dignity, and honor; and b) one of the first, if not the first, major African-American characters in a major American TV show. Her importance as such, and the fact that Martin Luther King Jr. went out of his way to recognize it, is a major bragging-point for hard-core and soft-core Trekkies alike. While Zoe Saldana did an excellent job of playing the younger Uhura, the scriptwriters did an absolutely wretched job of writing for her. For starters, a romance between Uhura and Spock, apparently well underway by day one of the Enterprise mission, was simply not...logical -- and the chemistry just didn't show on screen. (And don't Vulcan males get horny only once every seven years?) But worse yet, in my opinion, was the brief scene, right after Spock sees his entire homeworld destroyed, and his mother along with it, where Uhura flatly tells Spock the she'd do "anything" to make him feel better. It sounded like an overt sexual come-on that was totally inappropriate, poorly timed, and utterly beneath either Uhura or Spock, even in their less mature years. These are two very educated, classy, dignified and articulate characters, both elite in their respective societies; and whatever intimacies or consolations they might share would be verbal long before they got physical (and would be neither verbal nor physical on the bridge of a starship when both were still on duty and dealing with a military crisis). Even if we're to believe Uhura was a ditzy bimbo in her youth, the magnitude of that particular unprecedented disaster would have left her speechless; and she would not have presumed to make such a rash-sounding and insultingly clumsy offer in response to it.

As much as I enjoyed this Star Trek movie, I would have enjoyed it more if the producers had shown a little more understanding of what made the original series, and subsequent spinoffs, so great in their own right; and had had less desperate desire to use the Star Trek name to add luster to yet another sci-fi shoot-em-up. Loud noises and over-the-top effects are not necessarily "revitalizing."

And no, they didn't "reboot" the franchise, they pretty much destroyed it: after a rock-'em-sock-'em battle of this magnitude, with such high stakes, at the beginning of the Enterprise mission, what can anyone do for an encore? If you're going to top all previous movies and TV spinoffs, don't do it in a prequel.
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Wailin' Palin Quits Again [Jul. 9th, 2009|10:45 am]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |here]
[Current Mood |predatoryReality bites at last!]
[Current Music |Pink Floyd, "In My Head"]

Ed Brayton has this post discussing reactions and analyses of Sarah "Bible Spice" Palin's sudden and disorganized resignation as Governor of Alaska. (Her resignation speech is here. It's so badly written, so incoherent, and so transparently infantile and dishonest that I found it physically painful to read.)

In the comments section, I found this well-written and brilliant analysis by a commenter named "ice9," which I reprint here in full with his/her permission, with only minor edits: (emphasis added) HereCollapse )

And here's another comment from one of Ed's readers:

Last Line EPIC Fail: It was NOT McArthur [who] said "we're not retreating, just advancing in another direction" - it was Marine Gen. Oliver P Smith.


A perfect ending for Sarah Stupid

And here's a post by Andrew Sullivan, linking to his previous reporting of Sarah Palin's numerous lies.

And just in case there were still any doubts about how laughably thin-skinned and cowardly intestinally challenged Palin and her supporters are, here's a letter from Palin's lawyer, released the day after her resignation speech, threatening to sue anyone who dares to talk about possible investigations of criminal conduct on Palin's part. It's perfectly okay for Palin to accuse Obama of "palling around with terrorists," but mentioning that Palin might someday be charged with a crime is actionable. Got it?

These people aren't just hypocritical and irresponsible; they're downright infantile, possibly to the point of making Michael Jackson look mature, needle-tracks and all. (Hey, at least MJ was actually still working when he died.) And speaking of infantile, check out peaceful_fox's notes on those delightful "Tea Parties" showing the world what "Real America" is all about.

UPDATE: Joan Walsh of Salon has an article about Bible Spice's latest lies about those pesky ethics complaints that alllegedly cost Alaska millions of dollars. Hint: they cost less than $300K, and they weren't orchestrated by Democrats.
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Obama Statement on Iran, and Other Bits of News [Jun. 23rd, 2009|03:43 pm]
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Mood |curiouscurious]
[Current Music |"Sahara Lounge"]

Here's President Obama's statement on recent developments in Iran, as prepared for delivery ans passed on by Salon War Room: Behind the CutCollapse )

I am especially pleased by his mention of the practice of "using old tensions to scapegoat other countries." There's been a lot of that coming out of the Middle East since the 1970s, and it's only made things worse, for both the locals and the rest of the world. It doesn't do much good when it comes from America's radical right either.

Other news, trickling out of places like this, indicate not only evidence of ballot-box-stuffing (as in, more votes counted in a district than voters residing in that district), but indications that at least a few of Iran's mullahs are taking the side of Mousavi and the protesters:

What can be confirmed is that the Council of Combatant Clerics – which includes in its members Rafsanjani and Nateq Noori – have backed the protesters. Khamanei is going to lead Friday prayers in Tehran. If there was a speech, we'll have a translation availble here within the hour.

The time they are a-changin'. Or at least getting crazy.
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Our Hollywood Moment...Okay, It's More of an Ellicott City Moment... [Jun. 9th, 2009|11:30 am]
[Tags|, ]
[Current Location |here]
[Current Mood |creativeACTING!!]
[Current Music |"Firefly" theme]

Last Sunday morning, my partner and I got an unpaid gig as extras in a low-budget "Firefly" fanfic/spinoff titled Browncoats: Redemption. I have no idea what the plot is, other than the scene we were "in," in which the owner of a ship makes a typically dodgy deal with the kind of typically dodgy character who appears and drives most of the conflicts in the original series. Here's a quote from director Mike Dougherty, from the above Web site:

We got tired of complaining we weren’t going to see anything more from the ‘verse and went off and made our own. We got Joss Whedon’s blessing, created new characters, and set them in the world left in the wake of the events caused by the crew of Firefly at the end of the film.

The movie is scheduled for a 2010 release. Look for a cafe with bits of decadent-Chinese-looking decor, and me (in a brown suit, red shirt and William Morris tie), my partner (in a really cool-looking black jacket with red, orange and yellow embroidery), and two other guys smoking a hookah and drinking alien umbrella-drinks just to the left of the main action. Maybe you'll see us, maybe there's another couple of extras at a table in front of us, blocking your view of us (damn them, can't they see we're better dressed?!), or maybe the whole scene will end up on the cutting room floor. Hopefully they'll have decent CGI of smoke coming out of our mouths (we couldn't actually smoke anything because the scene was filmed in a non-smoking cafe). You'll never know until you pay for a ticket, which is okay, since it's all being done to raise money for the following organizations:

Equality Now
Kids Need to Read
The Dysliexia Foundation
The Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center
Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation

(For more information, go to the above URL and click on "Our Charities.")

And best of all, our fifteen minutes of fame are yet to come! Don't blink or you'll miss 'em.
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Angels and Demons and Agnostic Harvard Symbologists, Oh My! [Jun. 8th, 2009|11:08 am]
[Tags|, , ]
[Current Mood |highThe pre-movie hookah helped...]
[Current Music |Catholic heavy-metal, of course]

Okay, I finally saw Angels and Demons, the sequel to The DaVinci Code, in which Symbology Professor Robert Langton (Tom Hanks) is once again called upon to solve a problem for the Vatican using clues that were literally under their noses the whole time, but that they couldn't do anything with because they'd forgotten 90% of their own organizational history, and were doctrinally bound to ignore the other 9%. I suppose Langton could have told his reluctant-but-admiring clients something like "Guys, your own libraries, archives and museums are right next door, why do you have to fly me here from Boston?" Or he could have got all Kanye West and just said "Homeys, this shit is basic!" But that would mean there would be no movie, and no hilariously implusible chase scenes through the Vespa-clogged romantic cobblestone streets of Rome; so off we go once again to give our tourists more cool places to look for the next time they go to Rome. And besides, Langton is a slut for a good symbol-chase and the Church has become a slut for Langton. And let's face it, we, the American movie-watching public, are sluts for action movies that take place in scenic places like Rome. (If Rick Steves wants to make his travel videos more popular, he needs to put more chase scenes and gunfire into them. Just grab a hot local babe, grab a taxi, and force your wife to hire a local PI and chase you at a high speed past whatever monument, museum or other point-of-interest you want to show us. But I digress...)

The movie begins with all of Christendom mourning the death of a "progressive Pope," and right away I'm rolling my eyes and yearning for the believability of a Bourne movie. And it only gets worse from there. Yes, there is a Large Hadron Collider; yes, it's in Switzerland; and yes, there was some controversy about the alleged theoretical danger involved in its activities. But no, they were not trying to create antimatter and store it in a magnetic containment field; nor would this have anything to do with "new energy sources," for obvious reasons; nor, to my knowledge at least, is antimatter considered particularly crucial to understanding the "moment of creation."

And no, the magnetic field required to contain any significant quantity of antimatter cannot be generated by a device that can fit in a backpack. And no, a battery that can fit in your pocket would not be sufficient to power such a force-field for one second, let alone a day. (Although it would have been absolutely hilarious to see Langton and his hot -- excuse me, "high energy" -- particle-physicist partner leading some spiffily-dressed Italian cops on yet another chase to find a drugstore in central Rome that was open late and had the right size of battery to power an antimatter containment field. Good luck explaining that to a Sikh pharmacist. I hope those coantinment fields don't need size "C" batteries -- they're hard as Hell to find, especially during severe weather when people need them to power radios and the Illuminati are conspiring to keep them off the shelves long enough to blow up the Vatican.)

And no, there's no generation-spanning secret society called the Illuminati. That Order was founded in the eighteenth century, and busted not long afterword by the Church and secular authorities, along with its founder Adam Weisshaupt. And if you're living in the present day, and you're dumb enough to imagine/create/join/revive such a "secret society," and think you're doing something significant, then you're too dumb to infiltrate the Vatican hierarchy. Just join the damn Church and pretend to be a cleric; don't mess it all up by pretending to be part of an ancient global conspiracy pretending to be clerics.

And no, there's no way in Hell anyone, or any group for that matter, can kidnap four Cardinals from the most secure parts of the Vatican, imprison them, brand them, and then set them up for elaborate executions in public places all over Rome (even public places closed for renovation) without being caught long before they complete the setup. That kind of thing only happens in stoopid horror movies like Untraceable.

And yet, after the first three-fourths of the movie takes us deeper and deeper into the realm of total impalusible nonsensical bollocks, there's a not-quite-predictable plot-twist that suddenly causes the basic story to make sense. Not the antimatter or Illuminati bits, of course, but the basic conflict between two warring mindsets, both of which turn out to have been horribly misrepresented, and not without any fault of their own, either. I won't add any spoilers this time. Go see this movie. You'll only regret it up until the end.

This movie is much better put together than The DaVinci Code -- which (like the book) was, let's face it, an idea-film first, with a totally ridiculous religio-historical detective story cobbled up to provide "action." This time, people who get paid to write action stories are in the game, and have given us a much more plausible story to follow, without the encumbrance of ideas and insights that, brilliant though they may be, just don't work that well on the big screen. Oh, and the scriptwriters don't have to make up some new fake-techno-jargon "solution" at the very end to get themselves out of the corner they wrote themselves into.
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