About Us
A penny for your thoughts indeed. Around here that would be a raise.

What makes a good blog? I think thematic consistency, a little exhibitionism, and honest writing. I can promise you the last one.

Most of my posts seem to be about music or politics. Some of them are funny. But all of them would love to hear a comment from you.

Oh-- and please welcome God to the APW team. We're thrilled and humbled to serve as His earthly vessel.

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Location: NYC

I was born at a relatively young age. Growing up consumed the better part of my childhood. As a young man I chased a lot of girls. But they kept getting away. Then I got older and even slower, so I got married. I've lived in New York City almost since before I moved here. I summer in Manhattan, which is like New York City, but with more humidity.

Here's me, without baby, thinking big thoughts. (Actually, what I'm thinking is, "Hey, these aren't Pringles!") I think I look better with baby.

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Losing With Grace is Still Losing
Tuesday, January 31, 2006

In 2004 I made the mistake of donating some money to the Democratic Party (talk about good money after bad.) I call it a mistake, because now they have my contact info. So I get emails from John Kerry every once in a while; apparently this is THE guy to mobilize the Democratic base. (Doesn't anyone remember that other guy, the one who was president for 8 years? How about an email from him?)

Anyway, this is from today's email from Kerry about Alito's nomination NOT being blocked. Dude sure makes losing sound noble, doesn't he? And in the end, isn't that all we can hope for anymore from the Dems-- losing nobly?

Yesterday, 25 Democratic Senators joined our effort to filibuster the Alito nomination -- that's more votes to filibuster the Alito nomination than there were votes against Justice Roberts' nomination itself just a few months ago.

This morning, 42 Senators voted against Alito's nomination. That's the highest number of votes against any Supreme Court nominee since Clarence Thomas in 1991.

It's hard to lose -- but it's important to fight for what we believe in. I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of you who signed our petitions, called your senators, wrote letters to the editor and, most important, refused to stand silent while President Bush worked to pack the highest court in the land with far right ideologues. We fought a fight that needed fighting.

Yes, thanks losers, for being a part of this loss. We couldn't have lost it without you. Together we will lose many, many more battles. But be it known, we'll continue to lose with dignity and nobility and grace. And most important, we will lose with RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION! In short, my friends, we will lose, until there are no battles left to lose!

The man inspires me, he does.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:34 PM  2 comments

A Million Little Pieces of Crap
I don't know about you, but I'm still reeling from this Oprah Winfrey-James Frey smackdown. I mean, the book was so inspiring at first, but to think that this guy lied to us all, and especially to Oprah, who trusted him, is just so--

Aw, who am I trying to kid? I can't keep this up. I don't give a flippin' damn about any of this crap, and you know it. I like fake news as much as the next guy, but this dose of who-gives-a-damn makes me long for the days of her. Or maybe her. And of course, the grandaddy of them all, this guy.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:04 AM  3 comments

Thus Spake Me: January 27, 2006. "Jesus is a Liberal"
Friday, January 27, 2006
(God's column appears in this space every Friday.)

As I continue to acquaint Myself with the "blogosphere," I note that an awful lot of these blogs seem to espouse what you call conservative politics, while suggesting that supporting conservative causes is the Christian thing to do. Paradoxical that, because presumably it is obvious that the boy was a liberal, not a conservative. A heart-on-his-sleeve, bleeding heart, liberal. Indeed what could be a greater "bleeding heart" act than to die for your sins?

The boy, first of all, was a hippie. Long hair, beard-- have you ever seen Godspell? Fed the hungry, healed the sick, clothed the naked. Does this sound like a conservative agenda? Does it make any sense at all to suggest that if Jesus, the ultimate man of peace, was alive today, he'd be hawkish on Iraq? Wasn't there something about turning the other cheek...

Jesus walked among the lepers, and he eschewed the money changers. If he was alive today, he'd be in favor of cutting taxes? Here's a clue. Jesus would be in favor of the state doing whatever it could to take extra money from the unnecessarily wealthy and use it to provide food, clothing, shelter, and education to all. Ted Kennedy would be way to the right of Jesus. Oh, and he'd be in favor of gay marriage too. Live and let live. Do unto others.

And the sad thing is, you humans seem to need Me to point all this out. When it should be painfully obvious from even a cursory read of the bible, limitations and all.

So you have to really wonder about the zealous Christians who are also political conservatives. Well, to be fair, not all of them. Just the ones who think the two are linked; that Christ wants them to be conservative. Because when he comes back (Put it in your Palm Pilot: December 21, 2012. And note the sub-head of the article at that link; should "sun" have been writ "son?"), a whole lot of you are going to be in for a rude awakening. Especially those of you who think Christianity translates into any other politics but liberal politics. Oh-- and also, anyone who doesn't expect him to be the Aztec God, Quetzlcoatl.

Till next time, this is The Big Guy signing off.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:48 PM  6 comments

That Was the Week That Whizzed
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I wanted to write something about the state of the political world this week, and I kept looking for a hook, but none came to me. Not because there was nothing to sink one's teeth into; quite the contrary. Because there is so much crap swirling around that it becomes impossible to pluck just one thing, or to get one's hands around the zeitgeist of the whole thing.

You have Alito. Apparently a good and qualified judge, but with personal views on reproductive rights and civil liberties that are distasteful to the left. One wonders why the right is so ideologically jazzed about the guy; surely he'll put his politics aside and vote based on a strict constructionalist view of the law, right? I mean, otherwise he'd be an activist judge, which is very, very bad. So why is the right so energized if he isn't going to be an activist judge? I don't suppose judicial activism is OK when the judge is on your side of the issue... And then, the Dems. There's such a thing as choosing your battles. Why go to the mat on Alito, when the guy is a shoe-in to get senate approval (he needs 51 votes, and he'll get at least 55)? Doesn't that put the Dems in a position of having only one possible outcome, which is losing? Or have we gotten to the point where that's the only outcome in their sights anymore...

And the wire taps. Oh wait, forgive me, "terrorist surveilance." You gotta love the Bush administration's post-Orwellian use of language; remember "Mission Accomplished"? The "Clear Skies Act"? Hell, how about the Granddaddy of them all, the "Patriot Act"? (If you don't want the government encroaching your civil liberties, obvviously you aren't a patriot.) I truly believe that when Jenna was little and Dubya wanted to put her to bed, he would launch Operation Stay Up All Night and Eat Fudge. Even some Republicans are leery about the president having the NSA tap the phones of US citizens without a FISA hearing. Instead of explaining why they couldn't simply go get the court order, Bush and his minions just keep saying, essentially, "Y'all don't understand. These here are terrorists!"

Me, I like to think the law is the law, even in times of war (and oh yeah, we aren't at war.) And if you're wondering if the surveillances really are illegal, I invite you to read the actual law, right over here. Seriously, go ahead. I'll wait...

So as you can see, we have a president breaking the law... and stumping to justify it! I mean, we didn't even acknowledge the existence of the NSA until, like, 10 years ago, and this week Bush was at the NSA doing a photo Op! A photo Op at the NSA! Could he be any more brazen, arrogant, and transparent? I don't know what's worse-- the gall these people have, or the low esteem they continually exhibit toward the American public (apparently we'll swallow anything.)

And speaking of swallowing anything, I for one long for the days of Bill Clinton, when at least the president was ashamed of being caught in a lie. These days, the president lies to your face, and if you call him on it, you're helping the terrorists win.

And then there's Jack Abramoff. A whole lot of Republicans seem to have had their hands in his dirty little pockets (notably including Tom "You can tell what a sleazeball I am with one look" Delay.) And now he's singing like a canary. White House says Bush doesn't know the guy, never met him. Then photos surface of Bush with Abramoff. Sure, the president gets his photo taken with a lot of people. But when Bush abruptly declares that the photos of him with the corrupt moneyman are "not relevant," it sounds a lot like a plea to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

In other news, the Pentagon says we may not have enough troops for Iraq and Afghanistan; Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons; Bin Laden warns of more US attacks; Bush continues to tout a "guest worker" policy in the face of flood of illegal immigration (apparently wide open borders pose no threat to national security, and if you say different the terrorists win); Hamas takes control of the so-called Palestinian State; Kim Jong Il is still armed and dangerous. Good thing the administration has everything under control.

And with all this going on just in one week, you'd think the Dems would score a point or two. But of course you would be wrong. Because apparently the only guy in the party with any stones is Hillary Clinton, and that's just sad.

I apologize to you if you've read this far, but I feel... a... little... bit... better.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 2:27 PM  3 comments

My Daughter Calls These "Woof-woofs"
Monday, January 23, 2006

Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:17 PM  2 comments

Thus Spake Me: January 20, 2006. "When I Seen a Elephant Fly"
Friday, January 20, 2006
(God's column appears in this space every Friday.)

Roy Nagin seems to think I'm angry at America. Let's face it, I'd have good reason to be angry with America, but that isn't my nature. Although I will confess that building a major population center on the banks of a big river, below sea level, in the hurricane belt, gets me sort of piqued. Especially when you all start warming the earth's oceans...

...and no one wants a chocolate New Orleans. I might suggest going the original route, a New Orleans gumbo...

Anyway, on to this week's topic.

Where do I belong in your life on a day-to-day basis? That's an important question. Since God is everywhere, I am indeed already inside you, so the best way to find Me is to look within. It continues to vex that the most zealous, self-proclaimed warriors of God are so often the least Godly people. (Here's another clue for you all: God doesn't HAVE warriors. God has Messangers of Love.) Let's focus on Christianity for today. You humans have a habit of personifying things, and when it comes to matters of religion, of deifying things. This school you call Christianity is about thoughts, ideas, a way-- it is fundamentally (pun intended) not about the worship of a book, or even of a man. This whole church that has sprung up in the wake of Christ't time-- you'd all be better off losing it. Because ultimately, there is only the word. And the word is good, unto itself. Take what you need from the word, and lose all the rest. The silly book, all of it...

So where does God fit into your life? Consider a man. Consider a man who has fallen and can't get up, a man who has hit bottom. A man who has fallen prey to drink and drugs, who has lost his family, ended up in prison. This story does not look like it will have a happy ending. But this man finds religion and salvation. He turns his life around, plants roots, marries.

Did I do that? Did his belief in Me do that? Or did he do it himself...

Well, I'm here to tell you, the man did that all by himself. He may have "found God"-- but I was always there. And he could have achieved his salvation without the religious construct; therapy, self-esteem, friends, exercise, yoga, that horse-faced personal coaching guy-- there are many paths, many tools to help you access the inner light. Or he could have done it with no tricks at all save for determination and a little bit of old fashioned luck. Often, I work best in a manner akin to the magic feather in the movie Dumbo. Dumbo doesn't need the feather to fly. But damn if he believes that he does, believes that this mystical thing outside himself gives him the power he needs. So you give him the feather and he flies.

The answer is always inside yourself. No matter where you think you might be looking. But if looking somewhere else allows you ultimately to look inside, even if that isn't the most direct route, it'll do fine.

So next time someone tells you that his life was saved when he gave it over to God, I'll tell you what. Let's just stay mum and let the guy have his magic feather. Because the bottom line is, the more flying elephants, the better.

To those of you wondering why I did not post last week: I did post. But I did so silently.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 12:22 AM  3 comments

I Fold
Thursday, January 19, 2006
The latest craze in spectator sports seems to be watching "Texas Hold 'em" poker.

I'll tell you what. When playing cards has beccome a spectator sport, we are officially a nation of lazy fat-asses.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:50 PM  0 comments

Yessir, That's My Baby
"You're right Daddy. The Doors totally suck."

My daughter is pushing 20 months. Of all the wondrous things about watching her unfold into the person she is going to be, I think the part that gives me the greatest pleasure is her sense of humor. That’s right, my daughter knows funny.

She hates going to the doctor—once we get there she remembers the shots, and begins to panic. The last time we went (no shots, just a routine sick kid thing), she was terrified. So one of the nurses in the office tried to amuse her by putting a stuffed animal on her head, sneezing (“a-CHOO!”), and as she pitched her head forward, the punch line was the stuffed animal would fall off. Sure, it doesn’t sound funny. And it wasn’t that funny, not when the nurse did it. And my daughter was so upset that in a million years it would not have occurred to me that she would remember this little shtick.

But the next day she was putting toys on her head, exclaiming “A-TOO!” and jerking her head forward to toss the toy off. And somehow when she does it, it becomes funny. Indeed it has become her best bit (far surpassing the overdone "peek-a-boo.") Somehow she understood that it was supposed to be funny, and when she needs a laugh from a stranger, that’s where she goes.

Yesterday she was over at a playmate’s house with a couple of other kids. She put a toy on her head and did her “A-Too!” take. No reaction. So she looked at the other kids like they were dense and announced, “Funny. Layne funny!” Like, “Hey, that’s my A material. Is this thing on? I can hear you breathing.”

Sometimes she’ll drink water, store it in her mouth, and spit it out (a classic spit take.) Of course we scold her sternly. But then she looks up at us, shrugs, and says, “funny.” And it’s hard to tell her that no, it is NOT funny, when you’re choking back hysterical laughter

Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:36 AM  3 comments

Although Some Would Call it Democracy in Action...
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

--James Madison


Posted by: --josh-- @ 4:02 PM  2 comments

Papa Don't Preach
Friday, January 13, 2006
Been watching or listening to a lot of the Alito confirmation hearings. Pro or con, I think we can all put partisan politics aside and agree, these hearings are a sham... Republicans tossing him idiotic softball questions, Democrats picking and poking at red herrings. And Alito dodging any question of substance that accidentally gets through... As usual the Daily Show was hysterical and spot on about the hearings; go here and click the video called Alito Supreme...

Bill Maher's comment on Alito sticks in my head. Maher compared him of a relief pitcher in baseball; the guy you bring in at the end of the game to get one batter out. Bush is bringing in Alito to do one thing: overrule Roe versus Wade.

Frankly, if I was a Democratic senator, I'd just shut up, vote for the guy, and move on. Given the politics of the president and the fact of the Republican majority in the senate, this guy is actually a reasonable choice given the range of possile alternatives. Bush is going to nominate a conservative; and he (or she) is going to be confirmed, unless Bush does something nuts, like say nominate Harriet Miers. Ted Kennedy, Chuck Shumer et. al. would come away looking a lot better if they chose their battles a little more wisely. Although I think we're way past the point where Ted Kennedy can look good...

I still don't understand what is conservative about elimination of abortion rights. I mean, I understand how it fits into the agenda of the lunatic fringe relligious right. But not into core mainstream conservatism, which is supposed to be about limited government intervention and increased liberty for the individual. As my friend Dave, an idealogical conservative and an attorney, said:

"All I know is I can read the Constitution over and over again, and can't find the word 'abortion.' To me, its simply not a Constitutional issue! It is first, a moral issue on which I will not preach, and second, at most, a legal issue if an individual state decides to make it one. Rememeber, its called the Supreme Court, not the Abortion Court."
Sadly, I think that we'll see abortions criminalized. And of course, when abortions are criminalized, only criminals will have abortions. And the aftermath is going to be something dreadful to behold, because what will ensue will be a horrific and ugly sort of prohibition, wherein people who want/need an abortion will still get an abortion, but abortions will no longer be sanctioned and safe.

Of course the wealthy (many of whom voted and funded the politicians who are so hell bent on abolishing these rights) will simply fly to Sweden or something when they need an abortion. If Jenna Bush was gang raped at the frat party and got pregnant, are you telling me they don't quietly ship her off and get rid of the "problem?"

But what of the less priviledged? That is the truly horrific part. Because when I think it through, I keep coming back to the same conclusion: that the net result of criminalizing abortions will be the wholesale butchering of poor young women.

Criminalizing abortions won't mean fewer abortions. It will mean more dangerous abortions. It will mean that many women who are victims of unwanted pregnancies still terminate those pregnancies in exactly the fashion they do now, but we'll get to have maimed and murdered women to show for it as well. DOn't think of illegal abortion as saving babies; think of it as it will really be: killing women. Think about that the next time you hear some Lunatic Fringer talk about the right to life; think about the actual consequences of the policy they support. But then, I guess that's what Jesus would do...


Posted by: --josh-- @ 4:07 PM  2 comments

Napster Mach 2.0

(pre-ramble) Why do I blog? It’s a question I never really address here. It turns out, I don’t really like talking about myself all that much. People who know me are often surprised by that observation, because make no mistake; I sure do like to talk. But I’m not a guy who’ll talk your ear off at a party about me, me, me. In fact, the night my wife fell in love with me (date two if you’re counting, before she'd even seen-- well, just never you mind what she hadn't seen), I’m pretty sure that the following exchange did it. (Note that we were sitting one table over from a guy who was also on a date, and he was droning on and on about the tedious minutae of whatever inane middle management job it was he had.)

Future wife: "You seem troubled."

Me: "Its nothing. Just work stuff."

Future wife: “That's OK. Tell me about it.”

Me: “You know, I would-- but I’m afraid that I’d end up sounding like (gesture with head) THAT guy.”

If you read blogs, you know that about 60% of the blogosphere is self-examination. (The rest is evenly split between polarized political rants, born-again testimony, and obsessive hobbyists. In that way, blogs are a lot like cable TV.) And the self-examination runs the gamut, from the inane drivel of the high school diarist, all the way up to some I’d call sheer artistry (with, of course, way more of the former.) So what is this blog? Well, not a lot of self examination. There’s politics, and even though my politics are pretty clear, I don’t think this is a political blog. There’s lots of music, but it isn’t a music blog. Sometimes I think I should split off into two blogs; a political one and a music one. And heck, God writes for us, but it isn’t even a religious blog (the Lord, as we are continually reminded, works in mysterious ways.)

I guess the simple reason for this blog is, I like to write. And I write about the same stuff that I think about (and talk about.)

Which is all wholly unnecessary, but it brings us to what I feel like writing about today.

(ramble) Remember Napster? Remember 1999, when you could go online and download any track off any album ever recorded, and it was free, and there was nothing anyone could do about it? The music industry is still reeling from it. I remember our nephew, who was in high school at the time, telling us that kids in school would be selling, say, the entire R.E.M catalog on a CD-R in the cafeteria for $5. A generation of kids grew up thinking music was something that should be free, oblivious to the visceral, physical joys of the record store. I remember when MTV started, and my then-12-year-old sister asked me if I'd seen the new song by so-and-so. And I thought, to my sister, a song was going to be something you see, not something you hear. Today, a song is something you download. A lot of people think I'm mad for having those cabinets full of CDs (not to mention the vinyl LPs in storage.)

I just signed up for a seven-day trial of the new Napster. And I’m going to keep it. I think is about $10 a month for the service, plus whatever you buy; but I won’t buy anything.

So what does that $10 buy you? Basically, the new Napster model is one wherein you rent the music, but you rent it all (Yahoo! has a similar offering.) For a flat monthly fee you can download almost anything they have, and as much of it as as you want (I already grabbed over 30 albums in 5 days.) And you can put it on your portable MP3 player (which is a misnomer, since they aren’t MP3 files, they’re .wma files.) (Where would I be without parentheses?) Catch is, everything is covered by Digital Rights management (DRM), and if you stop paying, the songs stop working (unless you’ve paid for the songs over and above the monthly fee.)

What makes this work for me is, I like to explore lots of music, but I’m tired of buying tons of CDs when doing so is an increasingly hit or miss proposition. This way if I read an article about a band in Paste that interests me, I can immediately download and play the record; if I like it, I'll almost certainly buy the actual CD, because I still like to have my hard copy. In the coming weeks, for example, I expect to find out whether or not I like Coldplay.

I’ve already discovered some gems, and validated my non-purchase decision on a lot of other stuff; turns out I was right that I wouldn’t like the Decemberists. On the other hand, the Caitlin Cary/Thad Cockrell duet record? How did I miss that? I have to have it. (Cary, of course, was in WHiskeytown with yan Adams.)

In a coming post I will write about what I have liked and disliked. One song I’m in love with (off a sketchy record) is Liz Phair’s “H.W.C.,” a tune which she sings in such a peppy and yet bland, non-threatening sort of way that it could almost be a commercial jingle for air freshener, only H.W.C. stands for “hot white cum.” I’m going to buy that song and make it a future SOD.


Posted by: --josh-- @ 3:29 PM  0 comments

Dude! I, Like, Totally Saw Two Movies!
Friday, January 06, 2006
I saw two movies during the holidays. This is noteworthy because since my daughter was born, we’d been to the movies precisely thrice: Garden State (liked it), Crash (liked it a lot), and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (liked it a lot.) And I did see Fahrenheit 9/11 by myself (disliked it, as you can see in the very first APW post.)

Anyway, here is my book report about the movies I saw.

Syriana. The title (which they don’t explain in the film) refers to a theoretical oil-rich, US-friendly country that would be formed by uniting Iraq, Iran and Syria (presumably after we’ve invaded all three.) Sound-byte it like this: Traffic with oil. Same writer (this time he directed as well), lots of plotlines about the business and politics of oil, becoming increasingly intertwined as the movie goes on. George Clooney is surprisingly effective as a doughy, overweight has-been CIA operative. There’s a chilling line where one of the characters exclaims something like, “You think corruption is bad!” that is a “Greed is good” for the 21st century. See it with someone smart, and go for coffee afterward so you can talk about it.

King Kong. I loved this movie and make no bones about it, even though some of my intellectual friends (OK, my only intellectual friend) turn their noses up at it. The original was archetypal to me (let’s all forget the 1976 DeLaurentis remake, about which my wife will unfailingly say, imitating Belushi from SNL, “When my Kong a-dies, everybody cries.”) For years, it was on TV in New York on Thanksgiving day. The story has the power of myth; it isn’t based on any book, but it is familiar to most everyone whether you’ve seen the movie or not: The rogue filmmaker who takes a beautiful ingénue on a long voyage to a mysterious island, where she is captured by a huge and terrible primal beast, rescued by the hero (not the filmmaker), and then the beast is subdued and brought back to civilization, where he is shackled by the filmmaker and put on display, until the beast is made angry, escapes, finds the beauty again, runs off with her, and is ultimately slain by airplanes while atop the Empire State Building.

Some have called the story a metaphor for the Christ story (Kong is on a cross when shackled); some have seen it as an allegory for the plight of the African-American male. Of course Cooper and Schoedsack, who made the original, pegged it as Beauty and the Beast. Regardless. Something about the story is resonant, and it speaks to something deep and primal inside us.

This was my first Peter Jackson movie, which tells you something considering he made the Lord of the Rings trilogy. (What it tells you is, when I was single I went out and kissed girls.) Jackson is an unabashed Kong fan; he says he decided to make movies after seeing the original on TV at the age of 9. Indeed after seeing his version in the theater, I went and rented the restored original, which now has a bonus disc featuring a documentary on the original, produced by, yup, Peter Jackson. The documentary shows Jackson and his team expounding on their love of the 1933 film, and about how they were inspired by it in making the new version. In fact I’d recommend seeing them in this order: 1933 original; companion documentary; then 2005 remake.

Is the new version faithful to the original? Lovingly, deliciously so (despite taking some wise liberties; notably, first mate Jack Driscol is now playwright Jack Driscol.) Does it surpass the original? Turns out that it is probably impossible to surpass the original, in the way that there will never be another Beatles; the original Kong marked the widespread introduction of many landmark techniques never before seen, including stop motion animation. At the time, audiences assumed there was a man in the monkey suit; no one could fathom how it was done. Whereas today we have computers and CGI, and there is absolutely nothing we can see on a screen that would truly leave us in wonderment. (Think about that. We live in an age of post-wonderment. That sort of bites.)

OK then. At heart the film is a love triangle between the Driscol character (Adrien Brody), the Ann Darrow character (Naomi Watts, who was great in Mulholland Drive but who lights up the screen here and is now a certified capital-M Movie Star), and Kong. Happily Kong and Darrow never consummate their love, although the scene where he takes her ice skating in the park did remind me of my late 20s. Jack Black, as filmmaker and entrepreneur Carl Denham, is a revelation; Black has long had a sort of hip, snarky slacker appeal, but his payday has just gone up substantially. He carries this one off with style and panache and that over-the-top way he has, which suits the character perfectly. And the special effects are dazzling if not wondrous.

The movie is essentially three acts: act I is before the island; act II is the island; and act III is back in Manhattan. I think the first act is the best, and that the middle act probably goes on too long (although that’s where most of the effects are.) It didn’t drag at 3 hours, except toward the end of act II; and I’d say if you are going to see this, by all means see it in the theater. Most movies are just as good on cable, but when you say “My God, that ape is as big as my foot!” the impact is sort of lost. If you see this one, see it large. Get a big sack of popcorn, go during the day, suspend disbelief, and enjoy this great retelling of an archetypal tale.

Special note to Pia: I’d call it pulp.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 4:59 PM  1 comments

Thus Spake Me: January 6, 2006
(God's column appears in this space every Friday.)

Greetings and salutations all, and a Happy Earth New Year! My vacation was great; I got to be especially vengeful, petty, and small-minded. Which, apparently, is what people want from Me.

(Sarcasm. It’s right up there with math and music and evolution in My top-10 greatest works. I mean, if only you people understood the sarcasm in the bible! Now that’s some biting stuff. But then, none of you speak 5,000-year-old Aramaic, so the tone is hopelessly lost; you don’t even get most of the jokes.)

Anyway, on the subject of what some people want from Me: since I entered the blogosphere, I’ve become increasingly aware of the one who calls himself Pat Robertson. Apparently he has suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered his stroke because he had the temerity to “divide God’s land.” (I say “apparently” because I only half-listen to CNN.) Like what, I struck the guy down for spite? Hell, if I work with the heavy hand Robertson implies, wouldn't I have just struck him down BEFORE he did something I opposed? What with My being God and all?

I am spiritual, but not religious; thus have I written here. Let Me use this Robertson buffoon to provide further elaboration on just why that is. (By the way, I’ve never actually bothered to “elaborate” on anything before I started blogging. It is really quite self-indulgent and liberating! Look for My annotated Old Testement at Barnes & Noble soon.) See, Americans can look at Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 suicide bombers and have no trouble at all calling them insane. While on the other side of the turban, these people’s actions mark them as religious zealots, true believers. Extremists sure, but believers.

The burning question defining the rift between east and west right now is this: how could two cultures be so far apart on the interpretation of the same, polarizing behavior? And the answer is simple. It's because religious zealotry and insanity are not, in fact, all that far apart.

Is a suicide bomber a religious zealot, or is he just insane? Hold on-- you’re BOTH right!

Think about it. Run around claiming that a voice in your head is telling you what to do, that you don’t care about the law because you answer to the voice, and you get locked up. But if you say that voice is the voice of God, you get your own TV ministry. They will almost literally unclasp the straight jacket and prop you up in front of a teleprompter right there by the gurney.

Which brings Us to Pat Robertson. Try this exercize at home: watch an episode of his show, and whenever he says My name, imagine him saying “Steve” instead. Now judge for yourself, objectively, whether or not this man is a barking loon. And if you think this is an unfair test, try the same thing with a reasoned and devoutly religious person of any faith. Try it with the nice churchgoing lady down the block. Sure, you’ll wonder who Steve is. But you won’t think the woman is mad.

Then ask yourself why it is so easy to get your own TV network when you are mad as a hatter. You people elevate the voices-in-the-head insane to such a lofty perch that they get a fair hearing on every insane ranting they might spew. Terry Schiavo, gay rights, the war on Christmas (talk about an overt sign of paranoia; "96% of us celebrate Christmas, the other 4% are coming to get us!"), the evils of science and medicine-- there seems to be no opinion so blatantly insane on face that you humans don’t take it seriously, provided My name is invoked on its behalf.

Frankly, I’m getting sick of it. So don’t be surprised to see some vengeful smiting going on. Because while people like Pat Robertson are religious to a fault (which is to say, insane), they are not the least bit spiritual, which is the thing I look for. Robertson does not experience God as light or joy or mirth; he experiences God as the hammer of justice. And the arbiter of that justice, inevitably, is him.

I’m not saying it’s the same as flying airplanes into buildings. But I am saying, its where that kind of behavior begins.

By the way, I'm not going to sugarcoat it. Sharon may die. He’s lived a full, long life, and his time is near. It's like he's holding number ten billion and 4, and we're now serving ten billion and 2.

When he gets here, though, he’ll be fit and trim, forever.

Peace out.

Oh yeah. I always love Josh’s year-end CD wrap-up, but he missed some good records. I’ve recommended he check out Caitlin Cary, My Morning Jacket, Andrew Johnson, Porcupine Tree, Sleater Kinney, and Martha Wainright.

Posted by: --josh-- @ 11:27 AM  0 comments

Baby, if you've ever wondered...
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
A popular touchstone question among boomer males has long been, "Ginger or Maryann?" The point being that you were supposed to be hot for the girl-next-door Maryann, not the redhead bombshell femme fatale Ginger, when you watched Gilligan's Island. (Sadly, you did watch Gilligan's Island. In fact, you still sort of wish you had a radio made out of a coconut.) Me, I was always a Ginger kind of guy. And over the years it has gotten me into more than my share of trouble.

A generation later, it turns out, there was a similar touchstone question. Bailey Quarters or Jennifer Marlowe? Jennifer, of course, was played by Barbie Doll Loni Anderson, while Bailey was played by Jan Smithers, and here I have to go with the thinking men; it's got to be Bailey.

What I didn't know was that Smithers' first national exposure was as the face of the American teenager, on this Newsweek cover from 1966:

I wonder if she's tripping...

Posted by: --josh-- @ 10:00 PM  11 comments

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