Friday, March 29, 2013

Marriage Equality

I almost titled this article "The Gay Marriage Debate", but I decided against it.  For one thing, I don't believe there is such a thing as 'gay' marriage.  If two people love each other, whether they are of opposite or same gender, and they choose to get married, that's a marriage.  Homosexuals don't pay gay taxes, don't put gay gasoline into gay cars, and don't eat gay food (unless it's quiche, which is pretty gay).  Therefore, they don't get gay married; they just get married.  Furthermore, I didn't feel the word 'debate' was appropriate, because as far as I'm concerned, there is no legitimate debate against same-sex marriage.

Of course, as with all civil rights issues, there are people who oppose equality.  They'll give a multitude of reasons, but anyone with half a brain and a quarter of a heart can see that the sole reason is bigotry.  There's no excuse, no exceptions.  There's no logical argument for the opposition to equality.  If you are against equality for any person or group of people, then you need to go peel that American flag sticker off of your vehicle.  (It's right next to your stick figure family, diagonally across from your support ribbon.)

Let's take a look at some of the bigots... er... traditionalists arguments, and why they're as bogus as... a thing... that's really bogus.  Sigh.  I feel dumber just considering some of these arguments long enough to write about them.

"It's against the bible."

My answer to that: Who gives a shit?  If you truly believe in the freedoms you're guaranteed by our constitution, then you shouldn't.  It's right there in the first sentence of the first amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."  This means that when someone's argument is "But America is a Christian nation!" the proper response is "Bullshit! Read the constitution."  Or if you want to be a little more classy than that, "Horsefeathers!  Familiarize yourself with the constitution of this nation!"  You can call them a rube, too, if you think they can take the sting that they'll surely feel.

It bothers me that so many people use their religion as an excuse to behave like bigoted hypocrites.  All religions teach "the golden rule" or some variation of it.  Basically, treat others as you want to be treated.  Yet, a lot of people of every religion seem to have missed that very basic lesson.  If you, being straight, can get married to anybody you want, then a gay person should be able to marry the person of his or her choosing, too.  That's fair.

And let's suppose for just a moment that our forefathers, in their powdered wigs and shiny pants, hadn't put the guarantee of religious freedom into the very first amendment of the new constitution they were drafting.  Suppose that the official religion of the country was Christianity, but that otherwise our society had progressed to the point it's at now more or less in the same way.  People love to tell you that  homosexuality is forbidden in the book of Leviticus, but what they don't typically mention is that cutting your hair or your beard, getting tattoos, or even wearing blended fabrics is also forbidden.  So, if you want to tell me that homosexuality is wrong, stop cutting your hair and shaving your face (that means no mustache waxing, ladies), have that tribal nonsense lasered off your arm, and throw out all of your comfortable 50 cotton/50 poly hoodies.  Then you can talk to me about why a gay person shouldn't be allowed to get married.

"It's against nature."

If nature made straight people, then nature made gay people.  End of story.  I had a collie named Kelsie growing up, and one time I saw her have gay dog sex with another bitch.  (Yeah, I know it's immature that I smirked as I typed that sentence.)  If having sex with a member of the same sex was against nature, nobody notified my dog.  And there were probably gay and bisexual cavemen.  I have no way to prove that, but you have no way to disprove it.

"It's not normal."

I'm assuming that people who use this line of 'logic' are saying that it's not a social norm for same-sex couples to wed.  But can somebody really be that blind to history?  At one point it wasn't 'normal' for a black person to wed a white person.  It wasn't 'normal' at one time for women to have the right to vote.  It wasn't 'normal' to not own slaves if you had a plantation to run.  It wasn't 'normal' to listen to rock and roll music, and before that it wasn't 'normal' to listen to jazz.

Things change.  Social norms fluctuate.  It's a cliche, but it's true: you either change with the times, or you get left behind.  When you open your mouth and hateful, bigoted garbage flows out like vomit from Katy Perry's mouth (or vomit from my mouth when I hear a Katy Perry song), rational people aren't going to want to listen to anything else you have to say.

"But if a man can marry another man, what's to stop someone from marryin' a cow?"

Yes, this is an actual idiotic comment I heard an idiotic hick make once.  Really, if that's your line of thinking, I'd have to guess that you have a secret desire to marry a cow.  And if that's the case, then you should be for gay marriage, since you apparently believe that two consenting adults of the same sex getting married will somehow open the floodgates of wackiness, and wacky marriages such as man and cow, woman and toaster oven, or female-type robot to genderless humanoid goat creature will follow.

'Consenting' is obviously the important word there.  Two men or two women can consent to marry one another.  A cow, no matter how much it seems to love you, cannot.  Therefore, it makes sense and is okay for two bros or two hos to get married, but does not make sense and is not okay for you to divorce your gross wife and marry that sexy, sexy bovine.  Go ahead and divorce your wife if you want, but leave the cow alone.

I think that's enough points and counterpoints.  Not that you need a counterpoint to any of those arguments, because those arguments are as flimsy as... a really... flimsy... piece of... something.  Dammit.  It was clear to me as I started typing this, and it became clearer still as I typed each paragraph, that the true reasoning is simple bigotry, and the things people site as their reasons are just after-the-fact excuses for the hate.

I have a lot of friends who support marriage equality despite what their own sexual orientation is.  I'm proud to see so many of them voicing their support on facebook and in person.  It's embarrassing to me as a human being that there are still so many people in our country opposed to equality.  But I do take solace in something that I heard Jon Stewart say years ago.  I have to paraphrase because I don't have, and don't where to find, the exact quotation, but essentially he said that any time in the history of our country that people have pushed for civil rights, those who opposed have eventually been overcome.

Even Bill O'Reilly agrees that those opposing same-sex marriage have no legitimate argument.  And when Bill O'Reilly is saying anything in support of what could be called a 'liberal cause', either the world is about to end or the 'liberal cause' is absolutely and clear-cuttedly in the right.  (My spellcheck claims "clear-cuttedly" isn't a word, but I'm not buying it.)

Come on, America.  It's time that equality applies to everyone.  That is, after all, an inherent part of the word equality, is it not?  It's time that gay couples should be free to marry, because (insert lame joke about gay couples having the right to be as miserable as straight, married couples here).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Holy wow!  This is my 20th blog entry, meaning I've been at this for ten weeks.  It seems a lot longer than that, yet it also seems a lot shorter because time is something that still confuses me.  Much like a weird girlfriend who makes you celebrate things like a ten week anniversary, I've decided to mark this special occasion with a special post.  And by "special post" I mean a post in which I somewhat cheaply just comment on all of my previous posts and reflect upon what I've done so far because it's late and I'm tired.  Did I really just type that?  What I meant to type was... um... a post in which I comment on my previous posts and reflect upon what I've done, because I used a super-blog-computer to determine what would be the perfect entry for this momentous time in my life.

Yeah, that's it.  Erase that original sentence from your memory, and enjoy my updated thoughts on the topics I've already written about...

1. Foreign Cars Are Tampons

This was the post that started it all.  I had been thinking about writing a blog for a while, and for some reason seeing an idiotic decal in Carbondale is what finally prompted me to get it started.  I really don't have much to say that I haven't said about that particular decal, but here's a bumper sticker story that may tickle your fancy, if your fancy is tickled the same way mine is.

I live in an area that you couldn't exactly call cultured.  Well, you could, if you considered 'cultured' to mean Budweiser, baseball caps with brims that are bent way too much, and good ol' racism.  A popular favorite adornment for vehicles in this area is the Confederate flag.  Quite a few people around these parts love to show their support for an unsuccessful country.  One day I pulled up behind a truck at a stop light.  There were numerous stickers on the truck, including two that were so close to each other that they were practically touching.  One was an American flag with "United We Stand" proudly stamped on it.  The neighboring sticker was the Confederate flag.  If I have to explain why this is absolutely moronic, then you need to crack open a history book. (Do you crack open books on those newfangled electronic book reading devices?  Is that how they work?)

2. Why Welfare Drug Testing Won't Happen

This still hasn't happened.  This still won't happen.  Take this with a grain of salt, because I haven't seen a link to a story that proves it, but I heard a rumor that when drug testing for congressmen was introduced as part of the bill, the bill was immediately withdrawn.  I'd love to believe that story because heavy drug use would at least explain why our representatives are unable to get anything done.

3. Things I Wish Would Disappear From Facebook

The grumpy cat meme seems to be dying.  I still see it from time to time, but not every three posts as I scroll through my feed.  The "like if you love your mom / keep scrolling if you want her to die in a gas explosion" crap seems to have disappeared for the most part.  And fortunately there hasn't been a major public tragedy for people to use as a launching pad to type in all caps about why their political views are supreme.  I say 'fortunately' because I'm glad that there hasn't been a mass murder or catastrophe in the past few weeks, and because I don't have to see people's bullshit ideology angrily staring me in the face every time I log onto the social network.  I'm going to slap a "Mission Accomplished" banner on this one.

4. Why Being an Adult Sucks

You know what, I feel like all of the stuff I put into this one holds up, but every now and then I look at a group of teenagers awkwardly trying to out-cool each other, and it makes me happy to be pushing thirty.

5. Poetry? Is He Kidding?

This was my first cop-out blog post from when I found myself pressed for time.  When I put the link to this on facebook it got quite a few likes from people that I don't normally see pulling the 'like lever' for my blog links.  Perhaps I should start a separate poetry blog?  Do I need to own a turtleneck to do that? I feel like that would be mandatory.  Actually, I've written quite a lot of poetry, and I've considered publishing it in a book called "Short Poems for People with Bad Habits".  I'm not sure if I really want to put a whole lot of my compulsively written poetry out there, so don't sit on the edge of your seat waiting for it.  Actually, you can sit on the edge of your seat and wait for a poetry book that may or may not be published if you want, but I find that weird.

6. Is King Koopa Hiring?

I did apply for a job with King Koopa, but I never heard back from him or any of his kids.  Oh, well.  I've got a better Nintendo-job to apply for: Karnov.  That's right, I want to be Karnov.  Why?  Because I'm reasonably sure that anybody in the frickin' universe would be better at being Karnov than Karnov.

7. Batman Returns... To Camp

I posted the link to this on the IMDb message board for Batman Returns, and quite a ridiculous shit-storm was the result.  I had people strongly disagreeing with my opinions on the film, people who didn't seem to understand that the purpose of my blog was humor (insisting that using words like "turd" made my thoughts hard to take seriously), and even a few people who complimented my article.  Then there were squabblers squabbling with each other, insults were flung, and... well this is all typical IMDb message board behavior.  One person had the gall to say that I was a redneck who was only capable of enjoying Michael Bay movies because I don't appreciate Tim Burton's vision for the film.

I knew the reactions to this post would most likely get messy, but I did it anyway because I knew the more people commented, whether they loved my piece or hated it, the more people would see it and click on the link to find out what all the hoopla was about.  And it worked!  This is still the entry that gets the most hits every week.

8. We Want Weed!

I've been very busy the past few weeks so I haven't had much time for reading, but as far as I know the general population of our state is still in favor of legalizing marijuana, and the general population of politicians in our state are still dragging their feet.  Wait a minute... Slowed reaction time in dealing with issues... Aversion to drug testing for Congress... Most of them have potbellies... Hmmm...

9. B's For Me

Haven't had as much time to watch my beloved b-movies (due to aforementioned busyness), but of course I still love them.  Anybody who knows me personally but not super-well might be surprised to learn that I make electronic, hip hop, and experimental music.  It's true!  Stop punching your leg really hard in disbelief!  I love using audio clips from these films in my music (shocker, right?), and I've recently taken up a free-time-consuming experiment in which I'm trying to compose a hip hop song by crafting all of the lyrics out of dialog from b-movies.  With my extremely limited free time as a factor, I'm hoping to get this one out by around 2024.  I also might run for president that year.  Not sure yet.

10. More Things I Wish Would Disappear From Facebook

Pictures of food are still being posted every five seconds.  STOP!  People are still correcting comments with more comments instead of using the edit button.  STOP!  I still see status updates way too often that are just proclamations of boredom.  STOP!

11. Why Pro Wrestling is Better Than Real Life

You either agree or disagree.


12. Mac vs. PC

I'm still, and most likely always will be, a firm supporter of Apple's computers.  The only solid argument in favor of PCs I've heard from anybody was from a gamer who explained to me that the popular games come out for PCs months before they do for Macs, and that the ports for the Macs are often inferior.  Since the newest games I tend to play are for the Nintendo 64, I have to take the dude's word for it.

Also, I now have my home internet hooked up on my Mac, and I couldn't be happier about that.

13. Baxter Pancake, Dream Master

Okay, here's a weird thing that's been happening to me lately.  I've been getting trapped in layers of dreams.  I'll often be having a dream, perhaps realize I'm dreaming, and "wake up" at some point.  Once I'm "awake" for a while I realize that I'm still dreaming.  Sometimes at this point I can use my lucid dreaming skills to make cool stuff happen, but other times I'm uncertain if it really is a dream or not.  It's so confusing, and sometimes it happens multiple times within the same dream.  I've even had at least two dreams recently where I explain the entire previous dream to another person while I'm in the next layer of dream.  I can't imagine what any of this means.

Could there be some sinister force at work?  Is somebody infiltrating my dreams, trying to usurp my dream master status, and/or trying to trap me in my own mind?  Is it aliens?  What would they gain from this?  I'm assuming it's aliens because I don't think humans are capable of this level of mind-infiltration (unless they exist in a Christopher Nolan movie).

Don't worry, readers.  I pledge to fend off these alien mind-attacks so that you can safely dream.

14. Sexy Secret Agent Sex

This is another highly popular entry, not coincidentally because I also put the link to this on IMDb (on the Skyfall page).  I have nothing to add to it, so I'll use this space to do a little ranting.  What's with all the hate I still see for Quantum of Solace?  I just watched it again a few days ago, and it's a good movie!  Despite the "Bond isn't Bond enough" complaints that I see so often, it features a lot of great moments in which Bond acts exactly as Bond should.  Another common complaint is that the action scenes contain too many quick cuts.  I can't say I completely disagree with this, but I never found any of it to be confusing or unclear.  And one of the laments that drives me nuts is that there's no humor in the movie.  That's not true.  It's there.  Pay attention and you'll see it.

If you're a Bond fan and a QoS hater, I beg you to at least give the movie another shot.  I'll bet it's better than you remember.

15. Wastes of Space

I've been doing quite a lot of commuting, and I see tons and tons of graveyards and massive parking lots.  Also more golf courses than seem necessary for this snow-and-rain-cursed area.  I confessed at the end of this entry that I wasn't expecting humanity to suddenly wise up and start using all of this space for something more productive, and I certainly wasn't expecting any of this to change in the two-and-a-half weeks since I wrote the article.

Luckily, the ninjas haven't gotten me yet.  I did have a close call involving a helicopter chase, but I managed to escape with my cunning helicopter skills.

16. Terminal Doctor

I've toyed around a bit more with the bizarre psychoanalysis program since posting this one, but more recently I've become addicted to making my computer say whatever I want it to in a Stephen Hawking-esque robot voice.  (Using the Terminal application, simply type "say", then type anything you want, hit enter, and hear the soothing sounds of robo-speech.)  Actually, I could more accurately say that my daughters are addicted to this program, spending huge chunks of time typing nonsense, listening to robo-nonsense, and not letting me use my own damn computer.

17. Hollywood's Old Bag of Tricks

I haven't reflected much on this one, mostly because it's such a recent post.  I did link to this one on the IMDb page for Dracula, but it hasn't been nearly as popular as the Batman and James Bond articles.  I guess the King of Kings of Vampires isn't as popular as he once was.  Man, if I could post this on IMDb in the 1930s it would be the talk of the town.  The talk of all the towns.  But I'd have to invent the internet first in that time period, and I'm not good at inventing internets.

18. Don'ts and Be Carefuls

This was the sequel to entry #17.  I haven't thought about this one too much either, but I do believe that both of them are pretty good bloggin'.  Also, I beseech you to heed my warning once more: Do not see Transformers 2.  And Transformer 3 is probably just as awful.

19. Old Soul, Old Brain

I don't even remember writing this one, dudes!

Well, there you have it.  So far I feel like I've put out a pretty good body of work.  Yeah, check out my blogger body!  Wooo!  I hope you've enjoyed what I've offered thus far, and I hope you'll keep coming back for more!

Oh, one quick update.  I'm considering moving my first blog post of the week to Mondays and posting video content on Wednesdays.  I haven't decided for sure yet, but this would make a lot of sense, seeing as I am involved with production of a lot of short films and web shows.  Sometimes I like to do things that make sense.

Cripes!  This was supposed to be a short and simple post to save myself a little time and effort tonight.  It turned out quite the opposite, so I hope you enjoyed it extra because of that!  If you like enjoying things extra, come back Friday for my next thrilling entry!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Old Soul, Old Brain

I have been told many times in my life that I have an "old soul".  I'm not sure what that means, exactly, because I'm not even sure if a soul is a real thing.  I guess I've been told that because I like a lot of old stuff.  I'm just as likely to be found listening to 1930s jazz as I am hip hop.  It doesn't bother me when movies are in black and white; in fact, sometimes I think those look better than color.  I used to sometimes dress like an old man for reasons that I'm not clear on myself.  It was a strange time, a time of green pants.

What else does having an old soul entail?  Does it mean that I'm wise beyond my years?  Oh, I hope it means I'm wise beyond my years, because what's the alternative?  Does it mean I'm a cranky old crank who will most likely holler at you for stepping on the edge of my lawn, especially if you're a young whippersnapper?

Regardless of whether my old soul is literally an ancient spirit inhabiting a newer body or a figurative description of my fondness for The Marx Bros. and diner specials, it's not the only old thing I'm carrying around in my body.  Lately I've been feeling like the victim of an old brain.  I'm 28 years old, and I think it's time for a replacement.  Is there a warranty on these things?  How do I get it out of my skull without accidentally terminating myself?  If I'm literally in possession of (or possessed by?) an old soul, perhaps its previous owner pondered this same thing but couldn't pull off the whole not dying from brain removal thing.  There's no shame in that; it's tricky.

Since getting a new brain, or at least some replacement parts for it, isn't a feasible option (I probably can't afford it), I'll write about some of what I've been experiencing.  That is, if I don't forget what I'm doing in the middle of typing this and start doing something else.  See, that's one of the big problems I've been having as of late.  I know everybody walks into a room every once in a while and forgets what they went in there for.  I do this at least once a day.  Frequently it happens quite frequently.  (That's right, I just started and ended a sentence with the word frequently.)  And more and more the problem has been becoming more complex, compounding itself.  For example, I'll walk upstairs to get a pair of pants (not green, I don't do that anymore) from the closet.  But while I'm upstairs I notice some dirty dishes sitting on the floor in my daughters' room.  After briefly wondering why they left them on the floor instead of any other available surface, I walk into their room and grab the dishes.  My brain is thus tricked into thinking I accomplished what I went upstairs for.  All is not lost, however, because often times I'll be on the way to the kitchen and remember that I forgot my pants.  So I set the dishes down by the TV and head back upstairs.  I get the pants, but then forget about the dishes, once again feeling a sense of having accomplished my task.  (Putting on pants is an accomplishment, right?)  Later I'll remember that I left the dishes awkwardly stacked in front of the DVD player and return to the living room.  But while I'm in the living room I forget what I went in there for, and the whole cycle repeats itself until I have various objects scattered about the house in places where they shouldn't be.

Along those same lines, I've been having an awful lot of brain farts.  These are not as funny as regular farts because they don't make those excellent sounds.  Last night I looked in the refrigerator for a cup.  This would make sense if I wanted a cup full of delicious apple-pie-flavored pudding (yes, that's a real thing), but I was looking for a cup to pour water into.  We don't keep them in the refrigerator because that would make no sense.  I've also got a lot of cabinet-and-drawer-related confusion when it comes to the kitchen.  When it's time to put the silverware away, I'll sometimes open the drawer where they approximately would have been located in my parents' old house.  This is quite unreasonable because my current kitchen and my parents' old kitchen are not laid out in the same way at all, but it feels like they should go in a certain drawer, until I open it up to find it's the junk drawer, home of countless rubber bands, batteries that may or may not be dead, and little metal and plastic doodads that I have no idea where they came from, but I'm afraid to throw them out in case I need them someday.

And that's another thing I've been doing which I feel like I shouldn't make a habit of until I'm in my 70s.  I'm not exactly what you'd call a hoarder; there's still a lot of open space to walk around in (trying to remember what I'm looking for) in the house.  I guess you could say I'm more of a pack-rat.  Aside from the aforementioned doodads, I also save all thingamajigs, doohickeys, and gizmos.  Oh, how I love gizmos.  That's not all!  I'll hang on to old shirts that have become 87% hole/13% shirt for years because I think I might cut the picture from the front of it and use it for something.  So far, I've never done that.  I do the same thing with magazines, setting aside stacks and stacks of them for making collages.  I can say that I do actually make the collages from time to time, but the ratio of how many of those I make to the abundance of magazines is way lopsided in favor of the periodicals.  And I save coffee cans.  So many coffee cans.

Remember when I rhetorically asked if I was a cranky old crank a few paragraphs ago?  I didn't, but I saw it when I scrolled up to see how long this article was, which I did not because I was interested  in it's length, but because I had forgotten what the next paragraph was intended to be about and decided to check the length as a brief time-filler.  Anyway, as much as I hate it, I am a cranky old crank sometimes.  In general I'm a very positive person, but the older I get, the worse I feel in the morning.  I used to survive on four hours of sleep a night, maybe five or six if I was really beat.  Now I feel like no amount of sleep is enough, and I'll act like a total butt to anybody who comes near me before caffeine enters my bloodstream.  After some coffee or tea I'm usually okay, unless I have to drive somewhere.  Assholes!  Everyone else on the road is assholes!  This has been my general belief since I started driving, but I used to be capable of taking it in stride, maybe driving a little more aggressively if necessary, and getting on with my life.  Now I just want to complain and complain about it.  Luckily, my friends are all getting older too, so I have people to complain with.

I'm hoping that any of my readers that are the same age as me or older are nodding their heads, perhaps sadly, in recognition of these brain failures that have become a constant in my life.  Or maybe this has nothing to do with getting old, maybe I'm just losing my mind.  I'm not sure if I'll end up in a nursing home or a mental asylum, but I have a foreboding feeling that I'll one day live in someplace that smells like pee.

Oh!  One last thing, but first I have to get something from the other room.  I'll finish my thought when I get back...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don'ts and Be Carefuls

In my previous post I discussed how today's Hollywood is using the same old bag of tricks that is always has, and in true Hollywood fashion I've decided to write a sequel!  Originally the last article was going to include a bit about how the tired tropes and déjà vu stories you see in cinema are the lasting effects of the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code.  However, the more I thought about it the more I realized it would warrant its own separate post because of all of the text it would take to explain.  Also, the original notion I had for the piece has changed somewhat after further thought, so this is article is kind of like Batman Returns: a sequel that may not have much to do with the original.  I promise, though, by reading this blog you won't have to witness copious amounts of gross stuff going into or coming out of Danny DeVito's mouth.

If gross stuff going into and coming out of Danny DeVito's mouth is something that interests you, please tell your family I am deeply sorry for them.

Anyway, first I'll supply a little background information.  The 1920s was a crazy, excessive time.  Everybody was drunk all the time, they all did wacky dances, and women started showing their legs in public, which made old people's faces melt off.  It was awesome.  Of course, there were some sticks in the mud who didn't appreciate these things, feeling that America was being corrupted.  Since no one was willing to admit that America was already a corrupt place, founded on the slaughter of a native people and cultivated by slave labor, they needed a scapegoat.  It was only natural that the newest entertainment medium, moving pictures, would be blamed.

The government stepped in, proposing hundreds of differing bills to fight back against Hollywood's supposed lack of morals and non-lack of sex and drugs.  Perhaps they should have been keeping themselves busy with other things, such as paying attention to the economic practices of the time, but framing Fatty Arbuckle for rape is a lot more fun than boring numbers stuff.  In an attempt to minimize further scandals (manufactured or otherwise), the studios themselves stepped in, hiring a guy who probably wore his pants way too high by the name of Will H. Hays.  By 1930 the Motion Picture Production Code had been written, and by 1934 Hollywood got around to actually enforcing it.

The Hays Code was organized into two sections, "Dont's" and "Be Carefuls".  If you want to read the full list, which is quite ridiculous, you can see it on Wikipedia.  Some of the items on the list I can get behind, such as #9 in the "Dont's" section, which forbids display of children's sex organs.  I have kids, so I know what those look like, and I have no desire to see them any more than is absolutely necessary. Any adult who does have this desire is not anyone I'd want to be friends with, and such a person would be punched to death for coming anywhere near my children.  So #9 is what I would consider a good "Don't".  I don't believe in censorship, but I don't see any need to show a little boy's dinger on film.  Yeah, I'm looking at you, Superman: The Movie.

I'm sure his intentions were good, but Hays was a product of the government, having served several positions in it, and a lot of what was in the code would be what a pamphlet-pushing white guy with dreadlocks would refer to as "typical government bullshit, maaan".  Yes, he's annoying and gets in your face, but in this case, white guy with dreadlocks is dead on.  Let's look at some examples, in bold, followed by what these rules essentially translate to.

DON'T #4: Any inference of sex perversion
Meaning, in government-speak, "No gay shit."  Also, "Nothing other than smooches.  Decent people only smooch!"

DON'T #5: White slavery
Black slavery is okay though.  And if the film is set after the Emancipation Proclamation, all black actors must plays servants of some kind.

DON'T #6: Miscegenation (sexual relationships between the white and black races)
We want films to enforce the morals we already have, not nudge viewers toward dangerous ideas like true equality!

DON'T #7: Sex hygiene and venereal diseases
If we teach young men and women how to keep themselves clean down there they may start having sex, and decent people only smooch!

DON'T #10: Ridicule of clergy
Yes, we live in a country in which you have freedom of speech and freedom of religion, so long as the speech doesn't deride the officials of whichever monotheistic institution your parents told you was the only correct religion.  God will not continue to bless America with the ability to kill our enemies if you poke fun at people who regularly appear in public wearing robes and funny hats.

BE CAREFUL #5: Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron)
Make the action sequences vague, because if John Q. Moron decides to turn to a life of crime after watching a film, our only hope is that he doesn't think to throw the dynamite under the train after he lights it, because they didn't show that part happen in the movie.

BE CAREFUL #9: Third-degree methods
The good guys all have to look super good, so no realistic interrogation scenes showing John Q. Policeman acting like a complete douche because he's on a power trip.

BE CAREFUL #25: Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a "heavy"
Because the public must know the truth: that decent people smooch, but indecent people don't even get to smooch!  (Interesting loophole: since this is worded "when one character or the other is a 'heavy'", could filmmakers include a scene of a dream sequence in which the "heavy" lustfully makes out with himself?)

These are all rules and suggestions that reek of a stodgy old coot trying to enforce what he believes to be morally right.  While for the most part Hollywood studios complied with the code, there are a few items of note that look as if they were merely put in there for appearances.  These rules were ignored, and nobody at the Hays Office seemed to mind.

DON'T #11: Willful offense to any nation, race or creed
Have you ever seen a movie from the 1930s that takes place outside of the United States?  You could play a drinking game, downing a shot for every racist joke or stereotype, but you'd probably be blind by the end of the picture.  Also from films of that time period, all black people are dumb, speak poorly, and are extremely afraid of g-g-ghosts!  And seeing a white asshole wearing eye makeup and a set of buck teeth pretending to be Japanese in any 40s film always makes my soul hurt.

BE CAREFUL #2: International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country's religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry)
Apparently this one went right out the window if Uncle Sam had a beef with the country being 'picturized'.  Also, if the writers didn't know much about the international locale of the film, the standard operating procedure was to assume that the natives were savages that wore loin cloths.

BE CAREFUL #4: The use of firearms
Except for Westerns.  In those the six-shooters all got infinite ammo.

Alright, so the Motion Picture Production Code was pretty much a big fat joke.  The Don'ts and Be Carefuls that were more strictly enforced seem to be those most full of backwards ideology and the firm concept of keeping society at exactly where it was at that point.  Other rules appear to have been added as goofs.  Now, if we run with the "this article is Batman Returns" analogy from earlier, at this point in the film you'd be asking questions like, "Wait a minute!  Where's Vicki Vale?  What happened to Harvey Dent?  Why didn't they ask Robert Wuhl to come back for this one?"  Whereas while reading the blog you may have started to wonder, "What does this have to do with modern Hollywood following the same perpetual trends it always has?"  And here's my sort-of answer...

A very common complaint is that Hollywood makes the same movies over and over again.  How often have you sat through an action or romance or comedy only to feel like you've already seen the same action or romance or comedy ten times before?  Obviously, some of the blame can be put on filmmakers who stick to lazy formula, but on the other hand, making films for profit requires that you actually make a profit, and if the formulas work they're going to get used again and again.

I think that a huge part of the reason these formulas are proven is because the general public has been conditioned to respond to them.  This started with the Hays Code.  Because of the enforcement of certain rules, the public started to expect characters in movies to behave in certain ways and plots to play out in certain ways.  The good guys always won.  The bad guys always lost and usually had eyepatches or scars so we could tell that they were the bad guys.  And since the public still came to see these movies, why bother to reinvent the wheel even when enforcement of the code became more and more lax?

Sure, a lot has changed in the 80+ years since the code was written.  In fact, the code itself was abandoned in 1968 in favor of a new ratings system that is still used today.  The civil rights movement has changed the way African-Americans (and their relations with Caucasian types) are portrayed on screen, just as the sexual revolution changed attitudes toward sex in the cinema, and the push for gay rights has inspired Hollywood to try and leave homophobia behind.  But whether we notice, or care to admit it, filmmakers still readily rely on a host of stereotypes.  See Transformers 2 if you don't believe me.  No, actually, don't see Transformers 2.  Transformers 2 is fucking awful.

The core ideas of the formula established through Hollywood's attempt at self-censorship still survive.  The general audience will be disappointed if the hero doesn't win, so the hero will win.  And the good guy will always be the goodest of the good.  Even the rough-around-the-edges tough guy character that has become eternally popular will almost always engage in at least a scene or two showing the audience that deep down he has a heart made of gold and teeny-tiny kittens.  And of course, the hero will end up in the embraces of the damsel in the end.  The damsel may be a modern action chick who can hold her own in any car chase, but guaranteed she'll display at least one stereotypical damsel-in-distress trait during the film, most likely ending up captured by the heavies.

Thankfully, over the last few decades more and more filmmakers with artistic integrity have managed to find success in Hollywood.  This means more films in which the audience isn't treated as "the moron", more honesty in filmmaking, and less predictability in plot and character development.  But the Hollywood machine marches on, using its tried and true formulas to make middle-of-the-road mass appeal flicks that don't totally satisfy anyone, yet hopefully won't offend anyone either (except when the stereotypes go overboard, but minorities are easy to ignore when you live in a 75 room mansion).  Complain all you want (I'll join you), but as long as people get the strange feeling that somethin' ain't right if the formula is deviated from too much, the studios will continue to rake in the dough and won't see any need to alter its time-tested approach.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Hollywood's Old Bag of Tricks

Modern film audiences (and especially the vocal fans you find on the internet) have noticed that Hollywood is somewhat of a machine.  The current mode of operation seems to be to suck up every sort of recognizable property and spit out whatever reboots, remakes, and sequels the teams of people in suits and focus groups think will make the most money.  Also, to release them all in 3-D or Real D or Extreme D or Ludicrously Expensive Yet Not Impressive D.  And while I groan along with the internet message board masses when I hear about the gritty reboot of Weekend at Bernie's (I hope I just made that up), this is really nothing new for Hollywood at all.  A lot of us tend to look at Hollywood's past, and the past in general, through sepia-toned, nostalgia-infused goggles.  And while we can look back and point to a certain era as the 'golden age' of filmmaking because we have the luxury of picking from the established classics, Hollywood has always been a greedy, seedy money-grabbing machine.

A perfect example of 'old' Hollywood acting in the typical fashion of 'new' Hollywood is found in Dracula, the 1931 feature version starring Bela Lugosi in a role that would both define and then bog down his career.  Actually, Dracula works perfectly well as several different examples.

Let's start with the source material.  The film, of course, is based on Bram Stoker's popular novel of the same name.  Actually, it's kind of also based on the play which was based on the book.  So yeah, we're all getting weary of the movie reboots based on cartoons based on comics that Hollywood has been serving us lately in it's scheme of regurgitating everything you loved from the 80s, but Hollywood already has a long tradition of making films based on (blank) which is based on (blank).

Also, technically the film was a remake.  In 1922 a German Expressionist version of the film, titled Nosferatu, was released.  The filmmakers did not secure the rights to film the novel, and the late Mr. Stoker's wife sued them for copyright infringement.  She won the case, and when Universal Studios made their version they made sure to do things properly and purchase the rights first.  I suppose the film isn't a true remake, since the original was an unofficial effort, but the writers of the Universal version were inspired by Nosferatu, going so far as to "borrow" a few elements of it.

So far we've got a film based on existing material, which is also a remake, and involved a court squabble over the rights.  Sounds a lot like modern Hollywood, doesn't it?  But what about sequels?  Anybody who's ever been in a video store (remember those?) already knows that there's a zillion and four Dracula and Dracula-inspired films out there.  Hollywood (and its various counterparts around the world) tend to stick with what's proven to make mounds of cash.  So what about Dracula?  Did it have any actual sequels?  You bet it did!  Universal released Dracula's Daughter in 1936, followed in 1943 by Son of Dracula.  The famous bloodsucker also appeared in 1944's House of Frankenstein and 1945's House of Dracula.  He even appeared in a comedy, Universal's release Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.  So, no, the 1980s didn't event the concept of legitimately menacing horror characters slowly turning into deadly comedians, and Universal started sticking monsters in movies together decades before Freddy vs. Jason sat in Development Hell for 15 years.

Hollywood executives scrambling to gobble up any and all properties with brand name recognition may be hitting ridiculous extremes these days with the Battleship movie already released and forgotten and the upcoming Candy Land movie in the works, and the endless river of remakes/reboots/sequels doesn't seem like it's going to dry up any time soon, but this is not modern Hollywood engaging in blatant laziness.  This is Hollywood reaching into a tried and true bag of tricks to keep audiences coming back to the theaters.

Even the aforementioned 3D isn't anything new but rather an example of Hollywood operating in cycles.  Roughly every 30 years the movie bigwigs push this "craze" on the moviegoing public.  The first time was in the 1950s, which was probably the only time 3D was a legitimately popular craze.  One of the biggest hits of 1953 was House of Wax, starring Vincent Price and released as one of the first major 3D films.  (Incidentally, House of Wax was a remake of an earlier film, 1933's Mystery of the House of Wax, and was later remade under the same title in 2005.  I haven't seen the 2005 version but I highly doubt a version featuring Paris Hilton is anywhere near as good as the one that featured Price.)  Move ahead three decades in cinematic history and you've got Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger handing out 3D deaths to various teenagers.  And today it seems like 3/4 of the movies released are in 3D, which Hollywood insists that we all enjoy and don't mind spending the extra money on.

Sure, there's lots to complain about when you view Hollywood's output as a whole.  For every good film there's about twenty awful (or mediocre at best) that get dumped on us.  But there are quite a few good ones that come out each year, and we can at least savor those.  Yes, I will most likely continue to gripe about the lack of original thought which seems to plague Tinsel Town, and I'm sure most other movie fans will as well.  However, we really can't view Hollywood's machinations as any sort of example of society in creative decline or proof that the public is becoming more gullible.  The studios have been using the same tricks all along, and we've been gladly handing them our money for nearly 100 years.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Terminal Doctor

Today's blog is a special treat if you like the humor of The Marx Brothers, The Monkees, or conversations you have while on lots of drugs.  Or all the drugs.  This started as an experiment, and if you've got a Mac (which I firmly believe you should!) then you can try it, too.

Here's how it works.  You open up your Utilities folder and find a program called Terminal.  If you're like me, you never ever opened that program because you had no idea what it was for, but I guess it kind of works like those old MS DOS computers my fifth grade homeroom teacher used to horde.  You can type in various commands, and if the command is actually valid, you can do things like play Tetris or Pong. Or if you want to have the most bizarre conversation of your life, you can use a program called Doctor, which tries to psychoanalyze you.

The steps:  Open Terminal.  Type "emacs" and hit enter.  Then hold "esc" and "x" at the same time.  This moves the cursor down to a gray box at the bottom of the window.  Now type in the command ("Tetris" for Tetris, "Doctor" for Doctor, and a whole bunch more).  Here's the results of my test of Doctor, color coded so it's not so difficult to understand what's going on.  Well, no, you'll never fully understand what the hell is going on here, but you'll at least be able to tell who is saying what...

I am the psychotherapist.  Please, describe your problems.  Each time you are finished talking, type RET twice.

I have violent dreams. RET RET

Why do you say you have violent dreams ret ret?

Because I do. ret ret

Is it because you do ret ret that you came to me?

I didn't come to you.  You are a computer program. ret ret

You have your mind on computers, it seems.

I also have my fingers on one. ret ret

Earlier you said you do ret ret?

No I didn't.

Maybe your plans have something to do with this.

What plans?  What do you know of my plans?

Is it because of your life that you say what do I know of your plans?

No, I say that because you are talking about my plans but I didn't mention any plans.

Does it bother you that I am talking about your plans but you didn't mention any plans?

It doesn't bother me.  But it's kind of weird.

When did you first know that it's kind of weird?

When you said it.

What do you think?

I think you're a quack.

You mentioned that you do ret ret?

Shut your mouth.

Is it because of the people you hang around with that you are going through all this?


Why not?

I like the people I hang around with.

What makes you believe you like the people you hang around with?

Because they make me laugh, and I like to laugh.

Is the fact that they make you laugh, and you like to laugh the real reason?

Well, there's more to it than that.  Do you have any friends?

I'll ask the questions, if you don't mind!

I'll take that as a no.

Does the fact that as a no explain anything else?

I don't think so.

Are you sure that I am talking about your plans but you didn't mention any plans?

Yes.  I'm sure.

How do you reconcile problems at school?

I am not a school student.

Tell me about your school.

What school?  I don't go to school.

Are you annoyed that your grades could improve?

You're not listening to me!!!!

Is it because of any hobbies you have that you say I am not listening to you?

No.  None of my hobbies have anything to do with me being able to see that you're not listening.

Are you sure I am not listening?


Can you elaborate on that?

Yes.  I say things, and you answer with random bullshit half the time.

Earlier you said it's kind of weird?

See!  You don't even remember the context I said that in!

I would appreciate it if you would continue.

I'm going to sue you.

Perhaps this has something to do with your sex life?

Absolutely not.

Do you really think absolutely not?


I see...  Well, what makes you think this is so?

Because how would my sex life have anything to do with me suing you for being a quack?

Is it because how would your sex life have anything to do with you suing me for being a quack that you came to me?

Yes.  Yes that must be it exactly.  Thank you, doctor.  You've solved all of my problems.

You mentioned that you do ret ret?


Go on, don't be afraid.

You're insane.

Possibly hangups you have are related to this.

Only hangups that I'm rapidly developing as I'm talking to you.

Did you ever regret you are rapidly developing as you are talking to me?

I regret starting this program.

Is it because of your inhibitions that you say you regret starting this program?


Are you sorry I ask that?


Why not?

Because you asking that didn't change anything.

When did you first know that I asking that didn't change anything?

About fifteen seconds ago.

Why do you say they make you laugh and you like to laugh?

Because they make me laugh.  And because I like to laugh.

Is the fact that you like to laugh the real reason?

Like I said before, there's more to it than that.  You would know if you had any friends.

Is it because of some problems in your childhood that you are going through all this?

I don't think so.  I led a pretty uneventful childhood.

What makes you believe you led a pretty uneventful childhood?

Not a whole lot of bad things happened to me.

Earlier you said as a no?


I need a little more detail please.

I have no idea what you're talking about.

How do you reconcile some problems at home?

Talking usually works the best.

Is it because of your plans that you say talking usually works the best?

What plans are you talking about?

You mentioned that I am talking about your plans but you didn't mention any plans?


Yes, hmmm... so, are you sure that this is so?

Positive.  The only time I've mentioned plans is as a resonse to your mentioning plans.

Maybe this is related to your life?

I am a serial killer.

Do you really think you are a serial killer?

Pretty sure.

What makes you think I am not listening?

Your bogus answers.

Perhaps the people you hang around with could have caused this.

I don't think any of the people I hang around with wrote this program.

Why do you say that?

Because, as far as I know, none of them write programs for Macs.

Does the fact that as far as you know none of them write programs for Macs explain anything else?

Yes.  It explains why some of them are unemployed.  If they could write programs for Macs they could do that as a job.

Have you been positive as a job?

Being positive isn't a job, sucker.

Earlier you said it's kind of weird?

This is the weirdest conversation I've ever had.  Well, one of them.

Is it because of problems at school that you are going through all this?


Have you been afraid of school?


Why not?

I am not scared of buildings.

What makes you believe you are frightened by buildings?

I just said I wasn't.

Is it because of any hobbies you have that you say you just said you wasn't?

Do you even have any sort of medical degree?

I could ask the same thing myself.

Do it.

Perhaps you could allow me to do the questioning.

Perhaps you could lick my butthole.

You mentioned that how would your sex life have anything to do with you suing me for being a quack?


You're being a bit brief, please, go into detail.

Do you need more detail?  That my sex life would have anything to do with my decision to sue you makes absolutely no sense.

Is it because your sex life would have anything to do with your decision to sue I makes absolutely no sense that you came to me?

No.  I came to you because I plan to murder you.

This is not a healthy way of thinking.

I feel fine.  It's your health that's about to deteriorate.

How do you reconcile your sex life?

By having sex.

Are you scared of sex?


How come?

Is that a pun?

I have asked myself that question many times.

Is it because you have asked myself that question many times that you came to me?

Would you please try to answer that question yourself.


I understand.  So are you sure that this is so?


Are you satisfied with the fact that I ask that?

Very satisfied.

Do you really think very satisfied?

Not anymore.

What makes you think you do ret ret?

I think I don't, now.

Possibly this could be the reason for hangups you have?

Probably not.

Is it because of your inhibitions that you say probably not?


Why not?


Does it bother you that I ask you that?


Are you annoyed that I ask that?


Why not?


Can you are more explicit?

Can you are speak English?

Earlier you said you are rapidly developing as you are talking to me?

I said I was rapidly developing hangups as I was talking to you.  Mostly hangups related to computer programs that pretend they are doctors.

You think too much about computers.

Are you aware that you are a computer program?

What do you think?

I'm stumped.

Maybe some problems in your childhood could be the reason for this.

No, I would never have pondered this as a child because I didn't know this sort of thing was possible.

Did you ever regret you didn't know this sort of thing was possible?

I wish I could go back in time to that period.

I don't understand.

Me either.

You mentioned that I asking that didn't change anything?


Oh. ...And why do you say this is so?

I don't remember at this point.  And I don't feel like scrolling back up.  Shouldn't you be able to remember that?

Why don't you go into more detail?

Why don't you give me lots of money?

I'll ask the questions, if you don't mind!

I do mind.

Is it because of some problems at home that you are going through all this?

I think you're just making guesses.

What makes you believe you think I am just making guesses?

Because you seem to be taking random stabs at possible causes to problems.

When did you first know that I seem to be taking random stabs at possible causes to problems?

Almost immediately.

Are you sure that they make you laugh and you like to laugh?


How do you reconcile your plans?

I'm quitting this program.

Is it because of your life that you say you are quitting this program?

You're fired.

Earlier you said you like to laugh?

Okay, so I learned a thing or two with this experiment.  One is that perhaps computer programs aren't the best place to turn for psychotherapy.  Maybe someday the technology will improve (including upgrading to sexy robotic psychotherapists), but until then, if you really need help you should probably seek it out in the form of a legitimate medical professional.  Or that hobo who hangs out by the scrapyard; he's street smart.

Another thing I learned is that I had way too much fun with this program, and I will most likely waste way too much time with it in the future.  If I get bored with it over time I can switch to playing Tetris.

Also, I find the "ret ret" thing to be quite hilarious and quite curious.  It was my psychotherapist who suggested that I end each thought with "ret ret", yet he/she/it almost immediately abandoned the idea.  Was it some sort of twisted computer-brain joke to see how long I would keep typing it?  And the fact that it would randomly insert "ret ret" into later sentences is even more hysterical if you picture a real person or robot saying it out loud.

I suppose there's a highly-improbable chance that this program could actually help somebody.  Perhaps the moon is blue that night, or a lotto winner gets struck by lightning twice in the same spot, and the computer manages to somehow ask the right question at the right time that prompts the user to gain a better understanding of his or her problems.  But mostly I just felt like Peter Tork in that episode of The Monkees where he tries to get a job at a toy factory but can't pass the robot-conducted interview.  And Mike Nesmith wasn't here to help me trick it into blowing itself up.

Ret ret.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Wastes of Space

Oh, humans.  Will you never learn?  You still fight endless wars.  You still use fax machines for some reason.  You still rely more and more on computers despite the warnings of every Sci-Fi film about robots ever.  We live in an amazing time full of furiously advancing technology and new scientific breakthroughs seemingly every day.  But we also live on an unsustainable earth that is overpopulated.  There were roughly seven billion of us last time I went around and counted everyone.  That took a long time, and in that time I noticed that humans still partake in a lot of habits that waste space, which we kind of need because there's less and less to go around.  "What are they?" you ask?  Well, it's weird that you're talking to text on a webpage, but I'll gladly provide some examples.

1. Graveyards

Okay, I understand that humans go through a grieving process when loved ones expire.  I also understand the perfectly logical desire to remember these people after they're gone.  So, for thousands of years graveyards made sense.  Here was a place where we could bury our dead and then visit them when we missed them most.  Or when your parents made you go to stand by your great uncle's tombstone or whatever.  But over the last two hundred years or so we've developed way better methods of remembering people.

For instance, the camera.  I'm going to take a bit of a gamble and assume anybody reading this knows what this device is, and what it does.  I won't take the time to explain how it works, mostly because I've read about it in detail but still don't quite understand how it happens.  Magic, I guess.  From the still photograph camera came the next innovation, motion picture cameras!  Nowadays you don't even need film because everything is digital, which I understand even less but still appreciate nonetheless.  You can literally record every moment of somebody's life if you want, even if they shout things at you like, "If you don't get off my porch I'm going to shove that camera up your creepy ass, you creep!"

I know that Batman would have one less dramatic place to stand around and mope in the rain if there were no graveyards, but come on, the guy has so many places to brood; Wayne Manor, The Batcave, any building with a gargoyle on it.  There's a lot of tradition and symbolism or some shit in burying the memory of your loved one in the earth, but if you believe in souls and their transcendence to something greater, why would your dead grandma be hanging around a graveyard waiting for you to come and talk to a stone with her name carved on it?  Obviously I hope people will remember me when I'm gone, but I'd like to think they can find better ways to do it than making a trip to some out-of-the-way location to stand over my chemically-preserved body and mumble about how things aren't the same since that band of ninjas finally caught up with me.  (I want to be cremated and spread on the driveway in the winter, so that I'm useful even after death.)

Many people may disagree with my non-traditional opinion of this subject, but I truly feel like it's selfish to think that you're so special that you have the right to take up space on our planet after you've lived your life.  Consider that if there was a farm at the location of your corpse complex instead of a bunch of rows of rocks with words and numbers on them, perhaps your great grandchildren won't starve to death because the world won't run out of food quite so fast.

2. Golf Courses

I have nothing against golf.  I do find it quite boring, unless it's mini-golf (preferably with a hole where you have to hit the ball into a gator's mouth).  Or laser golf.  Is there such a thing as laser golf?  If not, there should be.  I understand that there are people who love the sport and want to play it, but what I don't understand is the abundance of golf courses in my area.  Within a 15 mile radius of my house there's at least three of them, possibly more.  Maybe this would make sense if I lived in Florida, but I live in an area where it's winter for like eight fucking months.  Then it's spring for a few weeks, then ungodly hot and humid for two months, then fall for a while.  There's really not a big window for golfing time if you live up this way.  So for most of the year the golf courses are just empty voids, sitting there not being used for anything.  And let's face it, even when they're in use it's not like it's for anything particularly useful.  Yeah, I know some people call it exercise, but I can think of a hundred things that are better exercise than swinging your club, cursing at the piece of shit graphite club you splurged on, and then driving a golf cart to the next hole.

Since just about everything in our society is driven by the idea of making money, you'd think with the proliferation of golf courses in my area that the owners were living like Uncle Scrooge, diving into piles of money and somehow swimming through it.  But if that were the case, then the owners of the courses maybe wouldn't have to sell cocaine to make a living.  Aside from membership fees I suppose there's money to be made by having a restaurant near the course and a bar that's called The 19th Hole because that's clever and nobody ever thought of that before.  But I'm guessing most people don't drive to a golf course in January to get a drink and a bite to eat (especially not the bite to eat if they're buying coke at the links), so the whole idea just seems like a bad business plan in an area where a foot of snow garners such reactions as "Oh, it snowed."

The space might be better put to use as farmland, of course, or perhaps some affordable housing in a depressed area that desperately needs affordable anything.  Or maybe the space could house an indoor amusement complex, where money could be made year round, and kids could have something to do aside from drugs.  Just, you know, don't sell cocaine to the kids.

3. Giant Parking Lots

Think of whichever massive big box store is nearest to you.  What's around it?  Trees?  Ha!  No, a gigantic parking lot.  Once fertile land has been coated in oil and crushed rocks because people need to drive to these stores to get the cheapest products so they can afford to buy more gas to drive back to the store again.  So, naturally, they're going to need a place to park when they get there.  This one is kind of a complicated matter, because to reduce the size of these wind-swept wastelands full of empty carts and plastic bags floating around like jellyfish ghosts we'd have to restore our old public transit systems.

That's right, restore, not create.  Once upon a time most cities, even the really small ones, had electric rail cars so people could affordably move from one location to another without having to rely on a machine that runs on costly gasoline and breaks a lot (requiring even more money to repair).  But then the American auto industry conspired to buy up and destroy the railroads, forcing people who may not have needed a car to become reliant on one as the only means of transportation.  If that sounds like some evil bullshit it's only because it is.

So maybe it's more practical to use your own vehicle if you're going on a shopping trip to bring home two weeks worth of groceries and some appliances that will last a year if you're lucky, but how many times have you had to run out to pick up some toilet paper, cold medicine, or diapers (infant or adult size, depending on circumstances)?  That's a whole gas-fueled excursion to a place you don't want to be, surrounded by a bunch of other miserable fucks who also ran out of toilet paper.  (Quite possibly the toilet paper shortage is related to the new pizza buffet that just opened up down the street or the nervous poops you've been experiencing since that chubby Korean dude with the stupid haircut declared nuclear war on America.)  Wouldn't it be great if you could just hop on an electric train to get to the store instead?

Call me a dreamer, but with less reliance on automobiles for transport, people might have more money to spend on necessities, and wouldn't have to reluctantly shop at the big box stores that we all hate yet spend so much time wandering around in.  The big box stores wouldn't need such massive parking lots, and there could be things like oxygen-creating trees where the last forty rows of parking spaces used to be.  There would be less pollution, less traffic, and more money for hard-working citizens to spend on golf course cocaine.

I know, I know, this last one is totally a pipe-dream.  But it's my blog, I can fantasize on it if I want to.

While I'm generally optimistic about my own life and the possibilities it holds, I'm pretty cynical when it comes to radical ideas such as humans suddenly giving up being wasteful, thoughtless bastards.  I'm not expecting anything to change by the time I die (I have it coming, I owe those ninjas money).  But sometimes speculative daydreaming is fun, even if I know my hopes are false.

Fore!  *Snort*

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sexy Secret Agent Sex

With Skyfall, the latest James Bond adventure, now out on DVD (and Bluray!) I've been thinking a lot about the 50 year old movie series.  My first experience with the world-famous spy with a license to kill and blow lots of stuff up came in the Summer of 1996, when my aunt and uncle rented GoldenEye.  I was hooked immediately; dreaming of car chases at insane speeds, longing to mow down tons of guys with a machine gun, and hoping to one day be sexually assaulted by Famke Janssen.  By the time Tomorrow Never Dies hit theaters in 1997 I had collected all 17 official Bond films (on VHS!) and watched each one about five times.  I even had the unofficial film, Never Say Never Again, which featured Sean Connery's return to the role.  Also, Rowan Atkinson was in that one as a character named Nigel Small-Fawcett.  Heh heh.  Small-Fawcett.

As an adult I finally picked up the source material, the novels by Ian Fleming, starting with Casino Royale.  The Bond of the books differs quite a bit from the Bond of the cinema.  Whereas the cinematic 007 evolved almost into a super-hero, the version in the novels was an often cynical man, spending the first few chapters of most of the books haunted by boredom and loneliness.  The movies typically open with Bond wrapping up yet another exciting mission (or being forced to pull out of the mission) or wrapping his arms around yet another exciting woman (or being forced to pull out of the woman).  There's no mention of what happened to the girl who stuck with him through all of the vehicular explosions and maniacal villain speeches of the previous film, but in the novels you may find James lamenting about his most recent love affair ending unsatisfactorily, with the girl leaving or things falling apart.

I feel like Daniel Craig and the filmmakers behind the rebooted Bond series (Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall) have crafted an on-screen Bond that is more akin to his literary namesake, while of course retaining the awesome explodey tradition of the films.  Craig portrays a more vulnerable man, with actual human emotion, as did Timothy Dalton in his two entries in the series.  But whether Bond is seen as a real human being capable of failure or the pistol-packing playboy super-hero of the late Connery films and Roger Moore era, there's always one element that never changes:  Bond is a sexy secret agent who has sex with lots of sexy ladies.

My eight year old daughter has become quite a fan of the 007 film franchise, and we usually spend Friday or Saturday nights eating snacks and watching Bond foil the plans of yet another villain.  It was quite a relief when she almost immediately pegged Mr. Bond as what he is: a womanizer who drinks too much.  I only hope she retains the ability to recognize this type as she gets older.  On the flip side of this, I spent my adolescence thinking James Bond was about as cool as you could get.  How wonderful it must be to sleep with a bevy of woman, moving from one to the next without so much as a second thought!  Of course, as a grown-up I much prefer a monogamous relationship which carries much greater benefits and pleasures.  Aside from forcing most of us to realize that we're more Nigel Small-Fawcett than James Bond, trying to lead the life of a womanizing playboy carries with it a certain emptiness and many dangers that could threaten or alter one's life.  And this, most recently, is what I've pondered about the world's favorite spy.  What would his life, and sexual encounters, really be like?  What sort of consequences would he have to face?

Remember that scene where James puts on a condom before launching his love-rocket into some woman's volcano lair?  No?  That's because it never happened.  As far as we know, from what we see and don't see in the films, Bond thinks condoms are for wimps and communists.  So, for starters, Bond, James Bond would most likely encounter diseases, sexually transmitted diseases at some point.  Probably at a lot of points.  He frequently meets women who are ready to sleep with him at the drop of hat, knowing nothing about him other than that he looks good in a suit.  With alarming regularity he meets and has sexual intercourse with women that have names like Honey Ryder and Pussy Galore.  It's as if the parents of these women somehow knew they had birthed skanks and thus named them as such.  Am I to believe that these women are normally chaste, and that James Bond is the first person to Thunderball them?  I doubt it.  And odds are that at least a few of these women are carriers of crabs or chlamydia.

How would 007 handle it?  Perhaps he'd visit his old buddy Q.  "Right, now pay attention double-o-seven.  Remove the cap from this ordinary tube and squeeze from bottom to top.  It will emit a cream that should soothe your itching and burning areas." Q might say.  Bond would make a quip about how his last mission had gonorrhea badly, to which Q may reply, "For heaven sakes, if you can't respect my equipment the least you could do is respect your own."

So we know that James doesn't use condoms.  Those are for CIA dorks.  You'd think that at least one time he'd have slipped one of his little secret agent swimmers past a woman's iron curtain.  But as far as we know, there are no little Bonds running around.  If there were, certainly he'd have to pay child support.  So he's a secret agent, big whoop!  In the films it seems like everybody knows who he is.  Even if that wasn't the case, believe me, domestic relations (or whatever it's called in the UK) would track him down and make him pay.  Sure Bond leads a jet-setting lifestyle full of expensive meals, smart suits, and high-tech gadgets, but this is all at the expense of her majesty's government.  In the novels Bond only takes home a humble paycheck to a humble flat to sit around depressed about the weather until the next maniac shows up on MI6's radar.

Okay, so in the first film of the new series, Casino Royale, there is a four and a half hour long scene where Bond has his nuts beaten over and over again with a giant knot of rope.  It wasn't four and a half hours long, you say?  Well, it seemed like it.  So maybe in this new version of Bond he's incapable of reproducing, but the original series starts with Dr. No and there's not any indication that he's sterile.  Surely he must have impregnated at least one Mary Goodnight or Octopussy along the way.

How would 007 handle it?  With his public servant salary he'd probably have to find more lucrative work to handle numerous child support payments.  With his skill set he'd have to either become a full-time professional gambler or a freelance assassin who charges big bucks to eliminate problems.  However lax his moral code is, though, he seems to staunchly stand behind his vow to protect Queen and country (except when he goes rogue every once in a while).  Perhaps his best bet would be to use his incredible super power to make himself younger and have a different face every decade or so.  When the bobbies knock on his door to arrest him for non-support they might be expecting a man with the face of Sean Connery, only to have their call answered by a man who looks like George Lazenby and claims that he's not the father, it was "the other fellow".

If there's one thing that might concern 007 more than STDs or unwanted pregnancies, it might be meeting a woman who isn't a knockout on the scale of one to knockout.  "Doesn't James Bond ever meet any ugly women?" my daughter asked.  The answer, usually, is "No."  If he does, she's probably an old hag who works for SPECTRE.  But wouldn't a real spy potentially find himself in the position where he'd have to seduce a non-knockout to try to gain some crucial information?  What if he had to seduce, gulp, a man?  In Skyfall, the villain, Silva, somewhat awkwardly caresses a restrained James' legs in an attempt to psyche him out.  Bond cooly and casually implies that Silva is not the first man to do this, leading some people on the internet to jump to the conclusion that the latest incarnation of Bond is bisexual.  I don't buy it.  It seemed to me to be a simple tactic to let Silva know that he wasn't going to be able to win with such head games.  Clearly this Bond, like his predecessors, enjoys the company of beautiful women exclusively.  But if a James Bond existed in a somewhat real world, he would doubtlessly run into his fair share of women ranging from plain to frumpy to downright gross.

How would 007 handle it?  Tasked with seducing a woman in order to gain some information about the bad guys, Bond is shocked to find out that she doesn't look as enticing as her name implied.  Let's say her name is Lotta Cumming or something like that.  So, he switches from doing what he does best (sex stuff) to what he does second best (blowing stuff up).  He shoots a conveniently placed barrel, which causes fifty other barrels to explode.  In the ensuing mayhem Lotta is struck with a flaming barrel and mortally wounded.  Now Bond tells her that he was totally going to do it with her, because she's totally attractive in a non-conventional way, and this is enough for her to spill the needed information before dying.  Bond makes a pun about his penis.  Mission accomplished.

It's a damn good thing that Bond has the incredible ability to become younger every 10 or 15 years.  Realistically, as the man aged he would succumb to liver failure or lung cancer.  Or syphilis.  That's if he was lucky enough to continue to be able to dodge bullets sprayed at him by three hundred machine-gun-toting goons.  More importantly, his constant reinvention has given him staying power at the box office.  Fifty years after Fleming's spy first swaggered into the hearts and minds of the pop culture masses, Skyfall has taken in over a billion dollars worldwide and become the seventh highest grossing film of all time.  If nothing else, this ensures that for years to come generations of fans will continue to enjoy watching agent 007 overcome muscle-bound henchman and slug down his shaken-not-stirred vodka martinis.  And have more sexy, sexy relations with lots more sexy, sexy women.

Here's to another fifty years of "keeping the British end up".