Friday, September 29, 2006

Torturous Logic

Now I hate terrorists as much as the next guy. And don't exactly care how they are treated if caught. Peel their eyelids off and make them watch film of Barbra Streisand dancing nude, I say.

But see, the whole idea of the rule of law is not only to punish the guilty, but to protect the innocent. And just because the government says someone is guilty, doesn't make it so (see: I don't know, tens of thousands of courtroom acquitals every year; or, if you are in a war-on-terror frame of mind: this).

This is a dark time for our country. Not only has our president thrown out the writ of habeus corpus and attempted to justify torture (which doesn't produce reliable information and creates nothing but new terrorists). But I'm actually finding myself cheering for Hillary Clinton.

Damn you, George Bush!

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Heckuva Job, ESPN!

We're glad football is back in New Orleans. We're glad $185 million put the SuperDome back together. We're even glad that UPS is sponsoring the Monday Night Football broadcast.

But did anyone consider that the company's slogan might not be the best image to run over a shot of the SuperDome on the way to commercial?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Breakfast At The Gap

I just wanted to take this moment and invite all of us, young and old, to join together in welcoming back, at long last, the skinny black pant.

I ask: Could this pant be skinnier or more black? The answer is none. None skinnier. Or more black.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I Am A Gay New Jerseyan

Jim McGreevey comes home to Woodbridge with a new book and a new boyfriend. Write your own joke here. I don't do queer humor.

Jesus Camp

Spooky children with glowing eyes and long, flowing mullets are coming to make you see the light. This movie might be more frightening than Children of the Corn.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Beam Me Up, Mangini

My latest column on the folly of being a Jet fan in a Giants town.

And a Star Trek convention of four rocks the North Brunswick Public Library.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Five Years Later

Keith Olbermann makes me proud to be a Cornellian. And an American. And someone who thinks.

I'm not exactly sure if it's fair to blame the Bush administration for the development gridlock at Ground Zero or the Clinton-bashing miniseries "Path to 9/11." But what the hell. A real leader would have found a way to unite this country instead of rending it in half and shitting on the Constitution.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Day After

They say we live in a Sept. 12 world. And today is our day.

The question on everyone's mind is a simple one, though difficult to answer: Are we safer today than we were five years ago?

I'd say it's hard to argue we are not safer. I mean, just by virtue of being hyper-alert and taking all threats seriously. No matter how incompetent and aloof you might think our president is (and for me, that's plenty), I doubt he'll be clearing brush and contemplating stem cell research the next time he gets a daily briefing titled "Osama bin Laden Determined to Attack U.S." (He'll more likely be ordering torture and violating civil rights willy nilly, but that's another topic.)

So maybe if we were completely clueless and unprotected then, we have a smidge of a clue and some defenses today. And there is something to be said about providing a convenient target in Iraq for those Middle Easterners who want to kill Americans. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the plan (didn't really have one of those), but for an Iranian, Iraqi, Saudi or Pakastani who wants to blow himself up and take some infidels with him, it's a lot easier to hop over to Baghdad and strap on a ready-made go-boom suit than spend years plotting in New Jersey.

But of course, we are not safe. Our borders are porous, our airports like sieves, our ports unprotected, our power plants unguarded, our Homeland Security funding distributed like pork, our intelligence community dysfunctional, our military stretched and undermanned, international nukes unnaccounted for and on and on and on.

There is much work to do even if we never will be perfectly safe. An enemy set on killing Americans with no value on his own life outside his ability to carry out his mission is not one that can easily be foiled. And if we've learned one thing from al Qaida, it's that they take the long-view and have patience to spare.

So take some solace with a pinch of vigilance on this day, our Sept. 12. We are still alive, if also still under attack.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Something To Chew On (But Not Too Hard)

By TPerl

Not sure why this thought came to me. And all apologies for its misogynistic tone, but...

Have you ever used the word "gi-normous"? Obviously it's a hybrid of "gigantic" and "enormous". But there's only really one word which always seems follow it. And that word is "breasts". Think about it.

And while I've seen many lists of all the different words used for the noun (jugs, funbags, bombs, etc.), I never hear about all the wondrous adjectives that usually precede it.

There are many such adjectives which also seem to be almost exclusively reserved for a woman's upper torso -- here's what I came up with so far:

bodacious (as used with "ta-tas")

Have a ginormous weekend, everyone!

Monday, September 04, 2006

You've Got Baggage! (A Rant on "Rent")

By Arielle

* - With contributions from D. Bones

In each of my summers as a camp counselor, I found myself suffering through my campers' musical "tastes." One year it was Britney. Another was boy bands (98 Sync'in Backstreet Degrees or something like that). And one year it was Rent.

Rent troubled me. Here were a bunch of 12-year-old girls singing on about their stashes being pure and dancing at the Catwalk Club, and some sort of goddam candles that would never stay lit. I'm no prude, but it struck me as odd that a group of teenybopper suburbanites would have such a longing for the lives of AIDS-stricken squatters in Alphabet City.

But then I figured, I've never seen the show. Who am I to judge?

Well, now I've seen the movie. Man, that was terrible.

Granted, I've never seen the play, so perhaps I'm not in any real position to judge. But I'll take those odds. I mean, how can you take seriously any work of art that includes this impassioned line, sung at the tail end of one of the key songs: "I've been trying/I'm not lying/No one's perfect/I've got baggage!"

(Answered a few lines later with: "I've got baggage too." And something about an AZT break.)

I figure this is roughly the same as Hamlet saying "I'm going to take some 'me' time, pop some Zoloft and see if we can't just work it out over malteds."

I suppose I could forgive some of the odd lyric choices (is it really fair to include Maya Angelou in the same stanza as mutual masturbation? I mean, really?) if the music seemed to have been written by anyone who could carry a tune. Maybe dissonant tones were in keeping with the squatter lifestyle (oops, sorry - la vie Boheme), but I suspect not. The only thing worse than music that doesn't resonate in any kind of soulful or even melodic way is music that doesn't resonate soufully or melodically, but still gets stuck in your head. Fucking "Seasons of Love."

One of the characters, a budding rocker named Roger, seems hell-bent on writing one good song before he dies. (I don't know about you, but if I were a rock musician and had still not completed an entire song, I might consider other career options.) Sorry for the spoilers, but Roger (singer/perpetrator of the "I've got baggage" line) falls for, but loses, a junkie named Mimi (who has baggage, too). When he finally decides he really needs her, he ends up writing his one great song.

Here are the words:

As We Said Our Goodbyes
Can't Get Them Out Of My Mind
And I Find I Can't Hide (From)
Your Eyes
The Ones That Took Me By Surprise
The Night You Came Into My Life
Where There's Moonlight
I See Your Eyes
How'd I Let You Slip Away
When I'm Longing So To Hold You
Now I'd Die For One More Day
'Cause There's Something I Should
Have Told You
Yes There's Something I ShouldHave
Told You

When I Looked Into Your Eyes
Why Does Distance Make Us Wise?
You Were The Song All Along
And Before The Song Dies
I Should Tell You I Should Tell You
I Have Always Loved You
You Can See It In My Eyes

If this were my one great song, I'd kill myself.

Perhaps this was an intentional choice by songwriter Jonathan Larson, to make his plot-hanging, poignant song (sung to a dying, though not really dying, Mimi) a really bad song. After all, it was Larson who penned this, not Roger the unsuccessful rocker. Surely he could have written this dude a quality rock song if he wanted him to have one.

Then I considered the rest of the soundtrack. Maybe not.

Granted, there were a couple good songs. And I was excited to see it, having lived on Avenue C for a year or so (though it was in 2004). I figured I'd at least see some images of the old neighborhood, and, heck, maybe even end up finding this to be something of a guilty pleasure. But for this once, my curmudgeonly self was proven right.

Even if you find some appeal in the music, there's the whole concept of the play/movie, the idealization of life in Alphabet City, circa 1989. I've never understood why it held any kind of allure for the people I assume went to see Rent (or even the main characters of the film, the suburbanite kids from Scarsdale and Miss Porter's who ended up living there).

Ok, maybe I can sort of understand that as a form of rejection of the oppressive confines of suburbia. What I can't understand is anyone wanting to pay money and spend a couple hours of their lives watching it.

What are these characters fighting for, exactly? What sort of noble battles are they waging? The right to continue squatting, shooting up heroin and creating bad performance art in abandoned buildings on the Lower East Side? They didn't seem to be contributing much, culturally, to anything. (One character seems to be an ousted professor with a theory of "actual reality" that no one endorses, but the rest don't seem to be doing much intellectual heavy-lifting.) I'm all for art, and I'm all for affordable rent (an oxymoron now in most of the East Village/Alphabet City). But are we supposed to feel bad for these kids from Scarsdale who were apparently driven to destitution out of a desire not to spend Hannukah with a loving, though perhaps overbearing, family?

Aside from having AIDS, these were not the people who were actually suffering during the 1980s or on the Lower East Side, as made perfectly clear by a homeless woman who gets captured on camera by Mark, the budding filmmaker from Scarsdale who believes that ever having his work circulated in the media is tantamount to selling out. The homeless woman becomes enraged when she sees Mark filming her, saying she doesn't want to be part of his movement. And she asks him for money -- which he either doesn't have or doesn't want to give her -- before she knowingly moves on.

Having grown up in a city, I would have found it much more entertaining to have someone set up a camera at one of those suburban high school drinking-in-the-woods shindigs, and watched that. It's the same thing, essentially, just with rhyming music.

Maybe I'm not giving enough creedance to a meditation on life with AIDS. (I was born the same year AIDS was discovered, so I can't say I have much memory of those days.) It did have a couple of moving scenes dealing with the idea of an impending death and potentially being alone for it. But if you're looking for that topic, why not stick with Angels in America?

Of course, seeing Rent made me glad for one thing: the ability to more thoroughly enjoy Team America's parody of it (Lease) and the genius song, "Everyone's got AIDS!"

Rummy, Rummy, Rummy, I've Got Love In My Tummy

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said some pretty indefensible things the other day. But I'll let Keith Olbermann handle the recrimination.

Friday, September 01, 2006


I'm not gonna bother with a full recap of last night's MTV Video Music Awards, assuming most of you out there aren't 12 years old and infatuated with Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance (neither of which I'd even heard about before yesterday).

Instead, I offer this handy list (complete with YouTube evidence) of Cracked's "Five Most Absurd Moments in VMA History." It's not exactly complete, and it sure doesn't go back far enough (who the hell was really taping the show in 1986?). And it neglects Axl Rose's supposed "Guns 'N Roses" comeback from a couple of years ago when he showed up looking like Manhattan plastic surgery cat-lady Jocelyn Wildenstein and playing with a dude whose head was covered by a KFC bucket.

But it's entertaining. Far more entertaining than anything I fast-forwarded through last night.