Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Still Employed

--Middlesex County College graduation,

--A 20-year-old Board of Ed member and the mayor's son arrested for shooting pellet guns in a parking lot,

--It's beginning to feel like summer in an Edison park,

--A Rutgers football player speaks to Highland Park 8th graders,

--And the owner of a New Brunswick preschool threatens to close her doors after getting drubbed by the state Department of Education over her bookkeeping.

Anybody got anything witty to help tie this stuff together? No? Didn't think so.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Colbert Retort

Much has been made of Steven Colbert's skewering of President Bush at the White House Correspondent's Dinner. And for a good reason.

Has any president ever suffered such public withering criticism while forced to just sit there and smile? The discomfort in the room seeps through the C-SPAN cameras. This performance was not for the assembled politicos and journalists, but the American people (those of us with eyes, ears and brains) who can only laugh at the black comedy that is the Bush Administration.

If for some reason you haven't seen the performance or read a complete transcript, you really should. It's your duty as an American to witness Colbert as he speaks truth to power, and then displays King-Kong-sized balls while shaking his hand with a broad smile.

But then, maybe George W. Bush doesn't exactly get irony. Even when he's getting it pie-in-the-face:

"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

The truth hurts. Even if it's couched in truthiness.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Depleted Oxygen

So I've just figured out how to embed YouTube videos in this blog (not difficult, I know). And I couldn't resist sharing this treasure from somwhere deep in the forest of 1980s soft rock cheese. It's Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing At All" and I invite you to witness the acting chops of the band's Jeff Daniels look-a-like. And pay particular attention to the little dance the white afro dude does at the 2:55 mark. Then check out this comprehensive list of other YouTube 80s music videos. Too much fun, really.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Loose Stools

I you want to inspect one of the piles of steaming elephant shit seeping across the nation these days, spend one hour, 21 minutes and 50 seconds watching Loose Change, 2nd Edition and then head here, here and here to help wash the ick off. (Video above is only the trailer.)

It's actually quite entertaining. There's nothing like a good conspiracy theory to get the blood flowing away from your brain. And the accessibility of information these days makes even a crew of 20-something would-be "documentarians" into Oliver Stone. But without the sense of proportion.

It irks me that anyone would invoke the memory of the victims when painting the attacks of 9/11 as some orchestrated scheme to wage unimpeded war or achieve some Bond-villain global dominance.

I'm not about to get into a pissing match with 9/11 conspiracy theorists on the supposed merits of their arguments. Talking sense to people like these serves as much purpose as licking a bald man's head to solve algebraic equations. And those rebuttal sites linked above do an admirable job picking apart the film frame-by-frame, with appropriate disdain and snark. (Pay close attention to the stubborn replies of the die-hards, blind in the face of contradicting evidence.)

But in case you don't have the patience or spare time, allow me to summarize: 9/11 was a conspiracy. One undertaken by 19 fanatic Al Qaida henchmen supported by a network of terrorists led (at least then) by Ossama bin Laden. All of the untold heaps of evidence collected before and since Sept. 11 point in this direction.

Of course, there's always the temptation to look at all the unanswered questions, apparent inconsistencies or coincidences and scream rat. Without stopping to think that there really wasn't any kind of blueprint for what might happen when fully-fueled jet liners are rammed at top speeds into skyscrapers and fortified pentagonal buildings.

Or wondering how thousands of people across almost every government agency have managed to execute such a perfect plan in perfect secrecy, with nobody speaking a word of it even 4 1/2 years later. [Though the moon landing must have been faked. I mean, who ever heard of a flag waving in the vacuum of space? Huh? Whassat? Wires in the material so it looked unfurled? NASA nerds think of everything.]

Or -- the real kicker -- crediting the administration of George W. Bush with such a crack operation while they can't seem to do much else. Only on 24 is the president both incompetent and a criminal mastermind.

It's absurd that I'm even making these points. Anyone who believes the nonsense in this movie and on the endless parade of nutbag websites likely believes Ryan Seacrest orchestrated the Mexican wrestling cream corn conspiracy.

The people who get their panties in a bunch over such lunacy certainly distrust their government. So do I. But for all its faults, Bush, Cheney, Rummy, et al. are not homicidal maniacs. At least not intentionally.

And picking apart a theory for its supposed gaps doesn't help build a competing theory. This is the fallacy of Intelligent Design, which attempts to undermine the 140 years of scientific evidence in support of natural selection in favor of an untestable theory for which there is ZERO evidence.

Like the OJ Simpson defense team, which argued each and every piece of the prosecution's case without presenting anything resembling a competing theory that might explain the facts. I mean, those smug pricks would argue that the LAPD were both cunning framers of an innocent man and incompetent investigators who allowed the evidence to become contaminated and unreliable.

Those examples weren't selected randomly. At least in the news media, this country is splitting along racial and religious lines. When the obvious lessons of Crash earn critical acclaim and Oscar gold, when Katrina shows us who really gets left behind, when South Dakota proposes a ban on all abortion and the Christianist activists oppose contraception even for married couples , when the way to get elected seems to be advocating discrimination against homosexuals, when scientists are compromised by political interests ... this country is heading for something worse than a fabricated War on Christmas.

So when a local Fox News station airs a segment on the moronic bile of Loose Change, it provides legitimacy to crackpots and marks another step down a path with little opportunity for escape. A path where debate is replaced by the insistence of people who know they are right without having earned their enlightenment through a rational examination of the facts.

We are building a country where half the people are covering themselves with infected diarrhea, happy as blind pigs and incapable of thought.

At least it's entertaining.

When I Grow Up I Wanna Be Self-Empowered

Douglass College graduates another class of uppity womyn into the wyrld. And New Brunswick tykes get a head start on a life of crushing career disappointments.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Fish, a Fire and a (Possible) Liar

Don Shula comes to town to celebrate his Hungarian heritage, a fire in a dryer burns down a Sayreville house, and Middlesex County political boss John Lynch takes an exit..stage left.

Yes, I know a dolphin is not a fish.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Fine Mess

New Brunswick's in a titter over it's litter ordinance. And in unrelated news, Free Comic Book Day comes to town. That's unrelated news until people chuck their free books on someone's lawn.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

United 93

I couldn't think of a good reason to go see United 93, the new film about the flight that crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now that I've seen the movie, I'm still not sure if I can think of a good reason. But I'm glad I saw it.

For some reason, I like revisiting old traumas. There's something intoxicating and maybe a little useful about immersing yourself in anxiety. Reconnecting with horror.

It wasn't an enjoyable experience.

The only other time I can remember having a similar visceral reaction to a movie — just letting it take over my emotions and physiology without any detachment — it was The Blair Witch Project.

For both films, I allowed myself to experience the events as though they were actually happening. As though I were there. But Blair Witch was a contrived thrill ride, designed to spook and scare. We all know the too-true story of United 93. And on screen, filmed by virtuoso writer-director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, Bloody Sunday), it felt 100 percent convincing. And 100 percent horrifying.

I fidgeted in my seat from the very beginning. It was excruciating. I felt angry. Helpless. Sick. Knowing what was to happen only made it worse. My hand held steady on my chin, on my temple, over my mouth. My pulse raced until the credits rolled, and I left the theater feeling somehow heavier.

The entire film played like a time portal back to that Tuesday almost five years ago. (Can it possibly have been that long?) A day when nobody knew the name Osama bin Laden. A day when a hijacking was something that played out on a tarmac in Europe, with hostages and demands and talk of releasing prisoners somewhere. A day when suddenly there wasn't anything else to think about.

I was outbound in the Lincoln Tunnel that morning when American Airlines 11 smacked into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. By the time I switched from CD to radio and figured out what had happened, the 1010 WINS reporter was talking about how — right at that moment — we were all living in a new world. It was a moment when hardly any exaggeration didn't ring true.

These days, I spend lots of time driving up and down the New Jersey Turnpike past Newark Liberty International Airport and southern Manhattan. When I see an airplane arc after takeoff or glide toward landing, I can't help but flash back to those familiar TV images. I see United 175's sleek, sickening silhouette cutting the blinding blue city sky on its way toward the South Tower.

This film brings it all back. Unrelenting. Uncompromising. It's a testament to those who lost their lives, those who fought back and those who tried to do their jobs under impossible circumstances, with a hint of exasperation for those that failed us all.

In today's disposable entertainment culture, United 93 has already almost left the stage. Forgotten in the din created by Tom Cruise and the rest of the summer season, filled with retreads and superheroes.

This film shouldn't suffer that fate. It can be a rallying cry to question the people who purport to protect us today. It can be a historical document of one of our darkest days, written in lightning until something new and long overdue thunders down.

I still can't think of any good reason to see this movie. Except to remember. And relive, so — perhaps smarter and more prepared — we can live again.