Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unabashed plug for a friend

Click here. Go ahead. Click!

You'll be glad you did. I know I am.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Imaginary Crisis, Chapter MMIX

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. — H.L. Mencken

The solution these practical politicians always offer involves stripping another layer of your freedom and privacy away, once a sufficient number of the populace are alarmed.

Don't be alarmed. Refuse to be afraid. And especially refuse to acquiesce to whatever intrusion on your liberty they propose to impose.

UPDATE: Oh, and another thing, my Wisconsin connection reminds me The cure can be worse than the disease.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Random thoughts while frying the brain on TV

+ It is simply amazing, once you start looking for it, how many times advertisers and politicans appeal to our fears in the course of a day. Spend an hour with the glowing idiot box, and you'll be afraid of swine flu, terrorists, our government itself, various ailments of the mind and body, and - with all of the potential side effects - of taking any pill at all.

It's also amazing, once you're on to the game, how easy it is to laugh at it all. While fast-forwarding through the ads, I've come (to Sweetie amusement, I hope) of grabbing an ad at random and intoning, for example, "Ask your doctor if the Cadillac Enclave is right for you."

+ I am again amazed at the mind of Joss Whedon and his ability to bring a story to life. It took a few weeks for Dollhouse to capture my fancy, but - surprise, surprise - it has become one of the most compelling programs on television. And that was who I thought it was in the previews for this Friday, wasn't it?

+ Am I the only one who thinks sick thoughts during the "five-dollar footlong" commercials, or am I the only one who's not sure it's an intentional double entendre?


Sunday, April 19, 2009

'If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want.' And your point is ...?

Movie star Jackie Chan has raised some eyebrows with comments he's supposed to have made during a speech to Hainan business leaders the other day.

To be precise:
I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not. I'm really confused now. If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also very chaotic.

I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want.
Let's be real: Freedom indeed is a chaotic thing. Anytime you have free will and billions of people, things can get messy. That's why it's helpful to have something in place along the lines of the Zero Aggression Principle.

But control, along the lines Chan seems to be advocating, is aggression. I read elsewhere that Chan opposed the brutal crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989, but he seems to have made peace with his inner tyrant. That's unfortunate.

Jackie Chan has enjoyed the benefits of freedom and free markets. But like all fools and tyrants, he expresses sincere concern whether other people can be trusted to handle such bounty.

Here is where such fools and tyrants stumble: In truth, we were all born free. The Zero Aggression Principle — "No human being has the right - under any circumstances - to initiate force against another human being, nor to threaten or delegate its initiation" — speaks to our instincts that we are each entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The troubles begin when fools and tyrants attempt to impose external controls. For someone like Chan, who commands respect and admiration, to advocate for tyranny is tragic.

But fame and notoriety do not make one wise. Jackie Chan is not the first respected and admired person to speak utter falsehood, and he will not be the last. The truth is still the truth.

Thankfully, Chan at least confessed the obvious: He is really confused.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy birthday, Diane, wherever you are

We were buds until we were 10. Then Mom and Dad moved us across the state. Diane was the nearest kid my age to our house, and we spent a goodly amount of time together.

No doubt if I'd stayed in that town, Diane would have turned more to girls for friendship and I to boys. Or maybe we'd end up as childhood sweethearts living happily ever after. I mean, there was that one time we tried smooching, which freaked my mom out when I told her about it later. Never did figure out quite why. We checked it out, it didn't do much for us, end of story. Of course, maybe if we'd tried it a few years later ... !

But anyway, Diane's birthday is April 17. I don't know why I remember that, but there ya go. Happy birthday, Di. I hope it's been a nice life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

'I Dreamed A Dream'

Believe in your dream, and don't let anyone take it away or ridicule you into surrendering it.

We have seen this sequence on numerous American Idol episodes - the little person with a big dream who gets up in front of the judges and, well, she's not as big as she thinks she is.

But every so often - she is as big as the dream.

From Britain's Got Talent, it's seven and a half minutes you will not regret watching. Watch this.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Baloneyhead 1997-2009

And suddenly, it was time. Her huffing and puffing became labored breathing. The limp when she went outside became struggling to her feet and leaning against the sofa because she couldn't go any farther. Her meals came back up all weekend, and then she didn't even want to eat. Just a few days ago, she was just an old dog. Now, it was time. We weren't even sure she would make it through the night.

We shed tears, and so did the doctor and the staff at the veterinarian's office this morning. She left us peacefully, and her pain and struggles were over. We stopped for breakfast so we could compose ourselves, and I dropped Sweetie off at work. (I'm off this week.)

I decided to do some clearing of stuff in the woods. Everything was going fine until I started humming an old song, and all of a sudden it was a video inside my head of dog kisses and a frisky golden retriever puppy running around the yard and dancing with us ...
I don't know what it is that makes me love you so
I only know I never want to let you go
cause you've started something
Oh, can't you see?
That ever since we met
You've had a hold on me
It happens to be true
I only want to be with you

It doesn't matter where you go or what you do
I want to spend each moment of the day with you
Oh, look what has happened with just one kiss
I never knew that I could be in love like this
It's crazy but it's true
I only want to be with you

You stopped and smiled at me
Asked if I'd care to dance
I fell into your open arms
And I didn't stand a chance

So listen honey
I just want to be beside you everywhere
As long as we're together honey I don't care
cause you've started something
Oh, can't you see?
That ever since we met
You've had a hold on me
No matter what you do
I only want to be with you

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kumar invades the White House

At first I was completely baffled by Monday's episode of House, where co-workers discover the body of colleague Lawrence Kutner, who completely out of nowhere had committed suicide. On reflection and reading the real story of actor Kal Penn, from an artistic standpoint it makes great theater to have the curmudgeonly Dr. House, who can figure out anything, have a mystery strike close to his life that makes no sense.

The hard thing to wrap my brain around turns out to be Penn's decision to take a job in the White House as "associate director in the White House office of public liaison." Then I realized it was not such a stretch — after all, as Kumar in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay, he had visited the western White House and smoked dope with George W. Bush. That's him on the left, in case you missed that particular cinematic moment.

In the interview I linked, Penn said he was inspired by his grandparents — "They marched with Gandhi in the Indian independence movement, and that was always in the back of my head." In that case I'm further perplexed. First, because he's going to work for an establishment that is devoted to locking up people like Kumar and throwing away the key. Second, because Gandhi is one of history's most revered philosophers of nonviolence, and Penn is going to work for a man who is in the process of ramping up the war in Afghanistan and reneged on his pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months, instead putting a plan in motion that will leave an occupying force of 35,000-50,000 soldiers after 19 months.

I'm guessing Penn's grandparents are spinning in their graves.

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

B.W. At The Movies: Monsters vs. Aliens

Oh, come on. Right off the bat Monsters versus Aliens is a tip of the hat to the 1950s B-movie delights The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman, The Fly, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Blob and Mothra. It couldn't possibly miss, right? They had me before the Dreamworks fishing kid is abducted by an alien ship.

This new animated feature is a smorgasbord of delightful references from the obvious (Independence Day, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek) to the ones that catch you off-guard and give you a special giggle (The Amazing Colossal Man, Destroy All Monsters, "Initiate Code Nimoy!")

A hilarious gang of monsters who have been held captive at Area Fif — um, that is, a secret location — are joined by Susan a k a Ginormica, a young lady who has gained enormous stature after being hit by a mysterious meteorite. When Earth is invaded by aliens, the monsters are offered their freedom in exchange for helping to repel the invasion. Before you can say Ginormica, Dr. Cockroach, Missing Link, B.O.B. or Insectosaurus, they're off on a quite fun little adventure.

This puppy is for everyone who has fond memories of the low-budget sci-fi monster flicks of the 1950s or the big-budget flicks that they inspired. The voice cast is spectacularly brilliant (Hugh Laurie was born to be Dr. Cockroach; Seth Rogan as B.O.B. is, well, Seth Rogan; and Reese Witherspoon makes a great action hero — who knew?), the writing is crisp and clever, and the afore-mentioned cinema references are thick as flies. I loved it. Honey, put this one on the "keeper DVD" list for when it comes out.

Oh, and an underlying theme is the underhanded incompetence of government. How can you not love this movie?!?


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Why America needs a benevolent dictator

People don't play April Fools Day jokes much anymore. Why do you suppose that is?

Maybe reality is enough of a practical joke.

Oh, and about my headline? April Fools.