Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Here's a prediction for ya

Matt notes that John McCain, probably in preparation for a 2008 Presidential run, is starting to pander to fundamentalist Christian voters. Frankly, I lost all respect for McCain after he started cozying up to the Bush II administration. This was after the Bush campaign, masterminded by Karl Rove,1 ran a whisper campaign suggesting that McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter was the result of an interracial, adulterous affair he had with a black woman. I'm sorry; I realize that politics makes for strange bedfellows and all, but if anyone went after my family like that, they would be on my shit list never to get off it.

In the comments to Matt's post, prariebiker notes:

Giuliani is probably more electable than McCain. Most Rs are aware that McCain is merely a RINO2 and there is a substantial amount of bad blood between him and the heavy donors who pulled all their support out from under him during the 2000 primary.

If Giuliani does get the nomination, then that will prove once and for all that the Republican claim to being the "moral values" party is just a load of bullshit. Gay rights and abortion have been the points that Republicans scream most vocally about. The many gay marriage initiatives on ballots in 2004 are probably what got the holier-than-thou Christian segement of the population fired up enough to come out and vote (and therefore vote for Bush) in 2004.

If Republicans abandon that part of their platform -- and mind you, from their point of view that now means condoning the murder of babies -- then they will be putting political expediency in front of their precious moral values. They will be proving themselves hypocrites.

Really, that's what the Republican party and the right-wing media machine are and have always been about: power. Getting power and maintaining power.

1 That's speculation. The actual origin of the calls is and, barring some deathbed memoir, will always be unknown. But, come on, we all know who was behind it.

2 Wow. If the anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-creationism McCain isn't a "real" Republican, Good Lord, who is?

I don't get Christians

On this last trip, I got to listen to the radio a lot. If I can get NPR (which is most anywhere), I'm pretty much content, since it's usually interesting, and they actually go into depth in their news stories. They also cover topics other than the latest missing pretty white woman. Then again, NPR is staffed with only America-hating, baby-eating liberals, not real people.

Occasionally, however, I channel surfed just to see what I could find. The two constants I could almost always get on the radio, no matter where I was, were NPR and some sort of Christian radio. I actually listened to the latter a bit now and then, feeling a bit like an anthropologist visiting an alien culture. I just don't get the need of people to have their believe so continuously and constantly reinforced. Is their faith really that weak? To have one segment of the media 24/7 focused on reminding me non-stop of just a single idea would bore me, frankly, and I don't understand why people listen to it. Are they afraid that they're going to forget that "Christ Jesus died for their sins"? Or that only by following the "right" rituals and by worshipping in this proscribed manner (no, not in that manner, that's a heresy) can they avoid the everlasting torture that they so richly deserve and that their God of infinite love will be more than happy to bring down upon them?

The notion that the Christian media is constanly pushing isn't a particuarly pleasant idea, either. To be continuously reminded that you are unspeakably loathsome, and that no matter how hard you try to be virtuous, you are still lower than the slime that grows in a polluted cesspool isn't all that nice. This satirical blog post pretty much sums it up perfectly: (via Pharyngula) thinking those thoughts, you have chosen to be branded with hot metal and repeatedly, brutally sodomized. You have said, through your thoughts and actions, that you want to be chained down on a splintery rack, stretched, and shat upon by rabid livestock, while buzzards peck out your eyes. You said, "hey, mister. Would you mind putting me in an episode of twilight zone, where I slowly go into a psychological horror, despair and despondency, never to receive comfort from another human being? That would be great." Hey--that was you talking. Not me...

All you have to do is to agree with me, and your unforgiveable thought-crimes will be erased. Admit that your thoughts are vile, and that you are vile, and that you deserve to sit in a hot tub full of feces and vomit, and handed a large spoon, and you will escape the fate of someone peeling your skin off and forcing you into an iodone and lime juice shower.

It's a wonder that Christians have any self-esteem at all.

Maybe this isn't charitable of me. Maybe I'm making sweeping generalizations. But looking at it from my point of view as an outsider, this really is what Christianity, at its heart, seems to be.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I'm back ... but lazy

Details on the trip later

UPDATE: See below.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Isn't traveling fun?

So when the Nevada highway people saythat snow tires or chains are required, they really mean it. Going slow and in low gear really isn't an option. They will stop you and make you turn around. Now, if you're driving a rental car, snow tires are a bit problematic. (What to do, buy a set and then a new set of regular tires before returning the rental?) And then, when looking through the Nissan manual to find out exactly what tire chains actually are, only to find that the tires on the car are the wrong size to take tire chains... well, you can understand why I'm not in CA yet. And why I'm wondering how/if I'm going to get there at all.

UPDATE, 8:19: To make matters more fun, the interstate to the east is also closed. I can't go forward and I cant go backward. Excuse me while I go have a small nervous breakdown in my hotel room.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Travel notes

  • It appears that Wisconsin has not yet discovered the joy of cellphones. Nor has most of Nevada.
  • I'm amazed that is actually possible to make a cup of coffee taste like hot water.
  • Surprisingly, McDonald's coffee isn't half bad.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Yay, traveling

I have to go out of town for a while, so there won't be much (i.e. any) posting while I'm gone.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Why Brokeback matters

Brokeback Mountain didn't win the Best Picture Oscar, and only came away with three of the eight for which it was nominated. Various bloggers have lamented the fact that the two main characters were played by straight actors, and that even the gay aspect of the film has been played down. Seriously, next time a Brokeback trailer comes on TV, just try to tell me that you could come away from that with an understanding of what the movie was about. (The online trailers seem to be less ambiguous.)

It bears asking, then, what two out, gay actors in Hollywood would be better to play Jake and Ennis? Chad Allen was probably off filming End of the Spear. Ian McKellan is too old for the part. Rupert Everett is too tall and too British. To be blunt, Nathan Lane or Harvey Fierstein really wouldn't be right for the part. Sean Hayes still won't talk. There just aren't many butch gay actors, and none with the decent name recognition that Ledger and Gyllenhaal bring with them.

Even though Brokeback didn't win Best Picture, it's probably the movie with the most buzz circling it. Yes, all the late night comedy show Brokeback-ing jokes probably didn't hurt. But there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Anyway, the biggest reason I think this movie is quite important, even in this day and age, is that I suspect there's a lot of Brokebacking going on. J.L King's book On the Down Low and stint on Oprah opened a whole can of worms about married, otherwise-"straight" men having sex with other men, then returning to their wives. If nothing else, Jim West's recent excapades have shown that the closet is alive and well even to this day. Dan Savage took West to task for being a very anti-gay Republican while still having sex with men in secret. The hypocrisy is, of course, reprehensible, but the closetedness is understandable. We don't yet live in an accepting, loving world and coming out is still an emotionally difficult and sometimes even physically dangerous act.

Dan Savage said in a New York Times editorial: (emphasis mine)

[Playing straight is] precisely what Jack and Ennis attempt to do in Brokeback Mountain... These gay cowboys try, as best they can, to quit one another. They marry women, start families. But their wives are crushed when they realize their husbands don't, and can't, ever really love them. "Brokeback Mountain" makes clear that it would have been better for all concerned if Jack and Ennis had lived in a world where they could simply be together...

If they don't think Chad Allen can play straight convincingly for 108 minutes, do they honestly imagine that gay men who aren't actors can play straight for a lifetime? And if anyone reading this believes that gay men can actually become ex-gay men, I have just one question for you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?

Brokeback ends in the early 1980s, I think. Before AIDS, really. Before Matthew Shepard. Before that then-scandalous and now-ho-hum thirtysomething episode. Before anyone in rural Wyoming had ever heard of Stonewall, probably. Before Will and Grace, certainly.

I can't help but wonder how many real Jake and Ennis-es there have been. I wonder how many there still are now. And to any disapproving straight people that somehow find your way to my little blog, I must ask you: Would you want your daughter to marry one?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscars post-game wrapup

Just some thoughts.

  • Yes, we know 2005 was a slow year for the movies. Please stop begging.
  • Is this the first Oscar-winning song that contained the word "bitches?"
  • I did not know that Sean Penn had a brother, let alone that he had died.
  • Whenever the camera turns to people on these award shows, I always want to tell people, "You're not supposed to applaud yourself." Miss Manners would not approve.
  • How cool is it that the Brokeback Mountain article at Wikipedia was updated only seconds after it won Best Adapted Screenplay?

A wikiwar

John Bambenek's article over at Wikipedia has been nominated for deletion. It's interesting to note that a number of those commenting on the deletion page (both for and against) are anons or virtually brand new editors.

UPDATE: Things did not go well for John.

Oscars pre-game

Tonight is the Oscars award show (or, as David has called it, the gay Superbowl). Someone on CNN just commented that the movies nominated for Best Picture aren't exactly blockbusters and so their nomination is somehow surprising. That of course, assumes that the most popular movie is the most entertaining, which implies that the more loud explosions that an action film has makes it more likely to win Best Picture.

Personally, I'm rooting for Brokeback Mountain, though I hear Crash might be the dark horse to bet on for this year. But are these movies doing "poorly?" One of the highest-grossing movies for 2005 was Return of the Sith, which cost about $105 million to make, and grossed $380m during the first five months after its release. Assuming an average theater cost of $7, that's about 54 million people that saw the movie. (These are US-only numbers, and ignore DVD sales.) Now, 380 million bucks isn't chump change, but that gives the studio about 3.6 return on it's investment (ROI).

On the other hand, Brokeback has grossed $72m but only cost $14m to make, giving it a ROI of 5.1. Crash did even better, costing $6.5m to make, and grossing $55m so far, for a whopping ROI of 8.5. Capote and Good Night and Good Luck didn't do as well, and Munich might actually count as a flop, being $30m in the hole.

The Right is, predictably, pushing the meme that Brokeback is getting so much buzz becuase it's just another step in the Insidious Plot to Queerify America, another one of the their favorite memes.

But in popular culture, things are getting worse... This gay cowboy movie -- and it's going to win, you know, a lot of awards all over -- and their -- the media is pushing this like crazy... Why? Because they want to mainstream homosexual conduct. That's the goal.

-- Bill O'Reilly on The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly

So, I haven't -- going to see it. Gay cowboy doesn't interest me. I am going to go see King Kong. I suspect the people who make these kind of movies, though -- like gay cowboy -- would go to see a movie called 'The Gay Gorilla'. But that's the difference between Hollywood and mainstream.

-- William A. Donohue on MSNBC's Scarborough Country

Hollywood may, in fact, want to give every Oscar it can find to the first gay cowboy movie. But I think most people do not want to go into a darkened room with a tub of popcorn and munch away watching two guys get it on. I just don't.

-- John Gibson on FOX's The Big Story with John Gibson

No, I didn't see the film and I'm not at all surprised that out of seven [Golden Globe] nominations Brokeback walked away with four -- and some might say that's an indication of what the Oscar ceremonies might look like later on this year... I think what we're witnessing, Larry, is the homosexualizing of America.

-- Janet Parshall on CNN's Larry King Live

On its opening weekend, Brokeback had the highest per-showing average gross of any film ever. So it's pretty clear that someone, somewhere is actually out seeing movies like this one. It seems to me, for the reasons above, that making movies like this is also good business sense.

(See also: Conservatives quick to opine on Brokeback Mountain's "agenda," slow to actually see film, over at Media Matters, which is where most of those quotes came from.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

God must love Sci-Fi Friday

I got home last night only to find the cable (and Internet) out. Completely dead. "Dammit, it's Sci-Fi Friday!" Then at 6:59, it came back on. Just in time for the Stargate into section, with Ben Browder in just a towel. Apparently there is something better for him to wear than the Farscape-brand leather pants.

Now it looks like Patrick Stewart is returning to the small screen.

The second is the highly anticipated thriller Eleventh Hour, a high concept new drama in which Stewart plays Professor Ian Hood, a physics professor serving as a Special Adviser to the British Government.

With his Special Branch bodyguard Rachel Young, played by Extras' Ashley Jensen, Hood investigates and tries to solve disasters caused by modern science. Each of the four episodes covers a scientific hot potato - cloning, disease control, global warming and finding a cure for cancer.

Hmm. Sounds like it could wind up a great deal like the X-Files.

Doctor Who has been picked up by the Sci-Fi channel. Not that I didn't download and watch them a year ago, but it's nice to see them getting some play. (Jack Barrowman grew up in Joliet, who knew?) Now if only we can get Sci-Fi to drop the stupid movies with the poorly CGI'd monster of the week and replace them with old Doctor Who episodes, I'd be happy.

Lastly via Pharyngula, comes this quiz. I'm happy with my results:

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and don't enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Moya (Farscape)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What the hell is a lifestyle, anyway?

Matt over at It's Matt's World discusses a comment thread over at Illinipundit about Republicans, gays, gay Republicans, and marriage. Go read it; it's interesting.

The discussion over at IP started with a post from one of the IP guys decrying the reprehensible Judy-Topinka-is-friend-with-dirty-fags smear campaigning going on over at Cut-and-paste, if you want. I'm not linking that so as not to raise their PageRank.

I just wanted to comment on the sort of language coming from the comment Matt links to. Not that there's anything particularly unusual in the comment itself; it is the standard boilerplate text of the Republican Christian Right:

I love all people regardless of who, what, when, where and what lifestyle they live. But it does NOT mean I have to agree with the lifestyle.

There's a blog post I've been meaning to finish about words that have lost all their meaning and have become code for something else. "Lifestyle" is pretty much the top of the list. When right-wing Christians complain about the "homosexual lifestyle," I just want to throw my hands up in exasperation. What exactly does that mean? It brings up mental images of Stepford-esque queers all sitting around in identical slacks and pink shirts, sitting around drinking tea, and discussing how to best recruit your sons* into their irresistible way of life.

Let's be honest. The "homosexual lifestyle" as Republicans use the term consists of the following: being gay. Period. That's it. There is no other behavior or action or trait that means you live the lifestyle. The term applies equally to both a boring suburban pair of white dads raising an otherwise-unadopted, mentally disabled, African-American teenager and to a cigar-smoking leatherdaddy busy spanking his naughty houseboy. So basically, "homosexual lifestyle" is code for "I don't like what you do with your dick.*"

I also don't get the idea of "agreeing" with the lifestyle. That's another word tossed about in these discussions, as well. It's not like there's not an open question to agree or disagree with. No one is asking for their consent. The word "agree" is used in this context as a substitute for "approve of." In other words, it's a way for conservative Christians to be self-righteous and be judgmental without feeling like they are being self-righteous and judgmental, which is not something good Christians are supposed to do.

This is just another example of something that Matt pointed out elsewhere. Namely, this is a situation where people make arguments that are primarily based in emotion, in favor of a position that has significant and tangible effects on someone else's life.

(*) Yes, I realize that the "homosexual lifestyle" technically covers lesbians as well as gay men, but it's the specter of two men together that seems to really disturb these people. It's no coincidence that the site mentioned above features a man in a tight, colorful bathing suit next to Topinka on its main page, and the prominently-displayed movie starts with two men holding hands. Homophobia is not about being gay, it's about enforcing traditional gender roles.