Archive for October, 2008

What Sarah Should Have Said to Katie

Posted in The Dinner Table on October 29, 2008 by dvcmann

In this last terrible week of this presidential campaign, the one everybody keeps calling “historic”, it’s getting difficult to keep side-stepping all of the political poo piles that litter our daily lives, but this one in particular may go down as the defining moment of the Republican ticket ’08.  Warning:  It’s painful to watch.

Saracuda Vs. Perky

Anchorwoman Katie Couric’s “pop quiz” interview administered to Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin on network television completely tanked the momentum Palin had brought to the McCain campaign.  Up to that point, John McCain’s surprise choice for Vice Presidential running mate had whipped up the conservative base of the Republican Party almost to the point of speaking in tongues.  The religious right had their creationist and pro-lifer, so called fiscal conservatives had their reformer, and on top of all that she was, well…hot.  Nothing gets those family values types going like the naughty librarian look.  Suddenly the McCain thing wasn’t looking quite as sickly as it had only a few weeks before.

For their part, Democrats, or more importantly their proxy attack dogs in the net-root community, were loading up everything they had and taking square aim at the former beauty queen from Alaska.  She faked pregnancies.  She banned books.  She abused her power.  She was racist, an insult to feminism, and she was cruel to animals to boot.  To them, the mere fact that she wasn’t Joe Liberman was evidence enough that McCain pandered.  In spite of all this Palin had weathered the storm fairly well up to that point, until it was time to do the networks.

First crack was given to ABC’s Charlie Gibson who drew first blood when Palin couldn’t explain her stance on the Bush Doctrine.  In fact, it looked like she didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine was.  It turns out she’s not alone.  However, the recent Democratic primary race with Hillary Clinton had raised issues of sexism in politics and with all the journalistic posturing Gibson came across as a bully.  Those sympathies helped Sarah live to fight another day.  Unfortunately, her next big network appearance was with NBC’s Katie Couric, and it was going to be hard to paint Couric as a sexist.

The interview, taped and then aired over the period of a week on network TV, was described as “water torture” by some in the McCain camp – and they know torture.  When Palin settled into her standard talking points routine describing her disapproval of Roe V. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Couric pounced, asking the Governor what other Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with.  When Palin attempted to skirt the question with more rhetoric, Couric didn’t let go.  The answer provided was basically, ‘I’ll have to go look something up on Google and get back to you.’

Most people didn’t even see the actual interview but the damage was done.  The result was a candidate that looked like the bubble-headed faker the left so desperately wanted her to be and a boon to Saturday Night Live’s dreadful ratings.  It sucked the oxygen out of the Republican ticket and has allowed their rivals to maintain a narrow lead in the polls.

Here are a few SCOTUS cases that Sarah Palin should have mentioned in that interview – because they stink:

Dred Scott V. Sanford (1857) — In this case the court found that southern slaves were not citizens and had no rights under the Constitution.  And just for good measure, in their decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and the southern majority declared that the Congress had no right to ban slavery.  Assholes.

Plessy V. Ferguson (1896) — Established the “separate but equal” doctrine.  To his credit, one justice, John Marshall Harlan, dissented stating in his opinion that “The thin disguise of ‘equal’ accommodations…will not mislead anyone.” but it was enough to allow Jim Crow laws to restrict the rights of US citizens for a century after the abolition of slavery.

and on the flip side of that coin is:

Grutter V. Bollinger (2003) — Upheld the University of Michigan’s policy of considering race as a part of its admissions process despite previous court rulings that limited affirmative action.

Had Palin cited that one alone it would have triggered a mass orgasm in the conservative community, or at least the closest thing they can have to one.  And if that wasn’t enough:

Kelo V. City of New London (2005) — This case allowed the city of New London, Connecticut to take property from one private party, i.e. poor people who can’t afford lawyers, and give it to another private party, see rich developers FTW, using the government’s power of Eminent Domain and condemnation.

If it turns out that the race for President finishes as closely as it seems it might, then it all may come down to the missed opportunity to bring up any one of these cases.  There are certainly others in the court’s two century existence, but this would have at least kept Ms. Couric at bay, that is until she asked the governor how a bill becomes law.


If You Don’t Love Red Dawn Then The Terrorists Have Already Won

Posted in Cinema on October 9, 2008 by dvcmann

Just looking over the list of top box office films from that year brings back a flood of memories, all tinged with the painful heavings of puberty. Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Red Dawn, Revenge of the Nerds, Bachelor Party, Purple Rain, Footloose, Splash, Romancing the Stone, Police Academy, Gremlins, Beverly Hills Cop… It’s all like some sort of weekend cable movie marathon, and they were all released in the same year, MCMLXXXIV, George Orwell’s favorite twelve months, and the title of a Van Halen album – 1984.  And every bit of it was completely soaked in the scintillating sounds of the keyboard sythesizer.

Some douche from Slate recently spent what could have been his productive blog time instead attacking Red Dawn, one of the top 10 greatest movies of all time along with fellow ’84 alumnus The Karate Kid, as a bloodthirsty ode to conservative “nutterdom”.  I say fuck him.  Fuck him with a rocket propelled grenade, yo.

In that era of cinematic narcissism, all I can say is too bad there was no giant screen, color TiVo’ing, high-def plasma, DVD playing, LCD techno-altar in my living room at the time or I would have spent untold hours of my time defiling myself in front of a frozen screenshot of Kathleen Turner’s soaked dress in Romancing the Stone.  Instead, I think I wasted much of it.

Um…hang on a minute… There, I just ordered the collectors edition from amazon.

Don’t judge.  I will sweep the leg.  I’ll do it.

No, instead I pretty much spent that year watching re-runs of the A Team on a 13″ black and white with a pair of vice grips for a channel knob.  It all provided a convenient escape from the fact that my family had recently given up the charade of the 1950’s suburban promise.  you know, the billboard family with smiling parents and a super-green lawn.  Fuck, I wanted to be a Cosby kid.

Despite all that, some of my happiest memories are from sitting in dark movie theaters with my friends and family, watching john hughes movies; the smell of the popcorn, the textures, sticky floor and all.  I saw Return of the Jedi from the back row with a blond lolita that liked to flash me only because she knew I was terrified of her.  To this day, when the lights go down it sends me back,  and for all that, 1984 was a pretty good year.

The Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey

Posted in Cinema, Read This on October 7, 2008 by dvcmann

A “modern day” western parable set in and around a fictionally veiled Albuquerque, The Brave Cowboy is a tale of principle and friendship.  Abbey captures the contrasts between the Old West and the new in a rapidly expanding America during the Eisenhower administration. An incredibly prescient novel, it foreshadows the cultural strife of the coming decade and the Vietnam era.  The author has you cheering for the “anarchist cowboy” the entire time while  masterfully building tension to a full-gallop climax, all of it leading to an ending that will haunt you.

Published in 1956, the novel’s anti-hero theme would later become a staple of 60’s and 70’s cinema that could be seen in Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesey’s novel wasn’t published until 1962), and Cool Hand Luke.  There’s even a classic western chase through the mountains very similar to the one in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  In fact, The Brave Cowboy was made into a film in 1962 starring Kirk Douglas titled Lonely Are the Brave.  Douglas reportedly considered it one of his favorite films.  So not only does the book predate all of the movies mentioned, but the movie does too.

More info on Edward Abbey and his work can be found at, including biographies, history, quotes and an Amazon affiliate bookstore.

EDIT TO ADD:  Here is a gnarly piece on a Columbia University website detailing the social-political tie-ins of the movie and novel with McCarthyism, anarchism, french existentialism, Beatniks, Sam Peckinpah and, most shockingly, draws parallels with another story that at times is an almost direct adaptation of Brave Cowboy, the 1982 movie First Blood starring Sylvester Stallone; itself adapted from a novel of the same name published in 1972.

When you factor in all of the many different versions of both the screen play and movie that were and were not used for First Blood, the similarities are even more pronounced.  IMDB trivia and Wiki have details — including the fact that Kirk Douglas was originally cast to play Col. Troutman in Rambo, but quit because of, get this, the divergence of the screen play from the original novel.

Doing a little research, the author of First Blood, David Morrell, cites as his influence British author Geoffrey Household’s 1939 novel Rogue Male when he started writing the book in 1968.

um…we’ve got reading to do.

Suburban Farming

Posted in Organics & Sustainability on October 2, 2008 by dvcmann

Once the war with the machines is over we’ll all live like this.

* * *

The first one is a quick two minute Wall Street Journal Online report.

* * *

This next one is from a gardening program titled “an experiment in backyard sustainability”.  Some great ideas here.

* * *

No room for drains.

* * *