Archive for May, 2006

X3

May 29, 2006

“X-Men” was probably the only reason I kept reading comic books past age 12. I lucked into the seminal run of writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne in the early 1980’s. The crucial story of their relatively short partnership was “Dark Phoenix,” which has since become a major comics touchstone. Without getting into laborious specifics, the story involved a major character being overwhelmed by her own power and becoming (for lack of a better word) a villain.

The just-released movie, “X-Men: The Last Stand” is a toned-down riff on the Dark Phoenix story. And despite all manner of problems during the movie’s production, it is probably the best comic book movie that I’ve ever seen (and trust me, I’ve seen most of them). I won’t go into specifics here because (a) I don’t want to spoil the movie, and (b) I’d sound very silly if I tried, but it’s an outstanding piece of entertainment, and I say that as somebody who walked into the theater with decidedly low expectations. The three “X-Men” movies are, despite all reasonable expectations, the only films I can think of that all improved from the original, to the sequel, to the sequel’s sequel. I know hardly anybody is going to believe this about a summer comic book popcorn movie, but “X3” boasts a remarkably nuanced script where almost every character has a logical motivation far beyond, “He’s evil because he’s the villain,” or, “He’s good because he’s the hero.”

If I were to pare down my personal reaction to “X3,” it would go something like this: “I wouldn’t have done it the way they did it. But what they did is still one hell of a good movie.” Would I have preferred to see what Claremont wrote and Byrne drew, some 25 years ago? You bet. But that doesn’t mean that what the creators of “The Last Stand” actually did produce isn’t well worth your $8-$10. Heckuva flick. Check it out.

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… And There Was Much Rejoicing

May 26, 2006

Tony Barnhart, by far the best college football writer in the country, has a blog.

For those who don’t know who aren’t familiar with Barnhart, I’m reminded of what the gate guard at Edinburgh Castle says to tourists after he points out the statues of William Wallace and Robert The Bruce: “If ye don’t know who they are, I’m nae goin’ to tell ye!”

Revelation

May 25, 2006

Oh, so this is why they’re called “the stupid party.”

If Idiots Could Fly, ESPN Would Be An Airport

May 24, 2006

ESPN and ABC just announced their announcer/analyst lineups for the 2006 college football season, and as befits a couple of Disney companies, it’s definitely a Mickey Mouse plan.

Ron Franklin, the best play-by-play man in the business today, has been demoted to ESPN2 to make room for moved-over-from-NFL-coverage Mike Patrick on the main network’s Saturday prime time games. I’ll allow that Todd Blackledge will certainly be an improvement over last year’s ESPN primetime color boob, former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie. Davie has all the on-air personality of a shoebox, and starts repeating his cliches before the first quarter is over.

Unfortunately, ESPN has also decided to retain the odious Lou Holtz for studio commentary, and has even made the unfathomable decision to put Holtz in the box for weeknight game color commentary. Holtz’s spluttering lisp is barely understandable when he’s in a climate-controlled studio. He’ll be completely unitelligible in a gameday environment.

Why Holtz still has a job at all is an open question. He’s easily the worst of ESPN’s studio analysts–and that’s saying something, considering Lee Corso is still on Gameday. Given Holtz’s sordid track record as a coach, maybe Disney is afraid that they’ll get put on probation not long after he’s let go.

Hillary Rodham Carter

May 24, 2006

We’re a long, long way from 2008, but I’m ready to make a prediction. All by itself, this statement will prevent Hillary Clinton from winning a single “red” state:

In a surprise move yesterday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton called for “most of the country” to return to a speed limit of 55 mph in an effort to slash fuel consumption.

“The 55-mile speed limit really does lower gas usage. And wherever it can be required, and the people will accept it, we ought to do it,” Clinton said at the National Press Club.

Real, real dumb, Hillary. That’ll go over like a lead baloon everywhere outside of your east coast metro base. Spoken like somebody who hasn’t driven a car for herself in a decade and a half.

UPDATE: Hillary’s most recent Capitol Hill press conference on re-mandating the 55 mph speed limit was interrupted by a concerned citizen. We have an exclusive photo:

Sammy-Hillary copy.jpg

UPDATE UPDATE: Roger L. Simon has something of a differing view.

Blah!

May 23, 2006

I’ve got no point here, other than noting the victory of marketing over Communism. I just love Dracula movies:

More than 60 years after it was seized by communists, the Romanian government is to hand back one of the country’s most popular tourist sites, the fabled Dracula Castle, to its former owner, the culture minister said Tuesday.

While known and marketed as “Dracula’s Castle,” it never belonged to Prince Vlad the Impaler, who inspired Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula character. But the prince is thought to have visited the medieval fortress.

The Gothic fortress, perched on a rock, has appeared in numerous Dracula movies.


Link

Life Imitates Spam

May 21, 2006

This would be funnier if it wasn’t so pathetic.

A congressman under investigation for bribery was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded, according to a court document released Sunday. Agents later found the cash hidden in his freezer.

At one audiotaped meeting, Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., chuckles about writing in code to keep secret what the government contends was his corrupt role in getting his children a cut of a communications company’s deal for work in Africa.

As for the $100,000, the government says Jefferson got the money in a leather briefcase last July 30 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Arlington. The plan was for the lawmaker to use the cash to bribe a high-ranking Nigerian official–the name is blacked out in the court documen–to ensure the success of a business deal in that country, the affidavit said.

In case you didn’t remember, Jefferson is the congressman who commandeered a National Guard squad and their truck in the immediate aftermath of Katrina so that he could recover, er, documents from his New Orleans home.

As it happens, the VodkaPundit investigative bureau has recently come into posession of faxed documents which we believe were at the heart of this matter. The crucial document reads as follows:

“Dear Congressman Jefferson,

“I am Mr John Eze, a native of Kano in Nigeria and I
am an Executive Accountant with the Nigeria ministry of mineral
resources and energy.

“I have decided to seek a confidential co-operation with you in the
execution of a deal described here under for the benefit of all
parties and I hope you we keep it as a top secret because of the
nature of this transaction…”

Cool

May 21, 2006

Just found out that Martini Boy’s local rag named VodkaPundit the Best Blog in their 2006 Best of the Springs edition:

BEST BLOG
GO! CHOICE:
Vodkapundit
Stephen Green
Stephen Green’s daily musings come from a conservative/libertarian perspective, depending on the day, but they’re generally worth reading for people of all political leanings. He also writes about booze, cars and babies — although thankfully not at the same time.

Cool.

The Choices They’ve Made

May 21, 2006

I’ve had choices, since the day that I was born
There were voices, that told me right from wrong
If I had listened, I wouldnt be here today
Living and dying, with the choices I made.

–Billy Yates and Mike Curtis*

As noted elsewhere, Ray Nagin was improbably re-elected mayor of New Orleans yesterday. Glenn is unimpressed, but I think he and others are missing part of the mark on this one. He’s quite right when he says, “Louisiana’s political class isn’t just greedy — it’s greedy and stupid,” but Ray Nagin is not a part of Louisiana’s political class. That distinction belonged to his opponent, Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, the brother of US Senator Mary Landrieu and son of the last white mayor of New Orleans, Moon Landrieu. This was only Nagin’s second election, and he campaigned the first time as a political neophyte running against the old corrupt machine of former mayor Marc Morial (the extra-legal machinations of which were, not coincidentally, the only reason Mary Landrieu was ever elected to the Senate).

I’m not here to defend Ray Nagin. I think he acted stupidly in the run-up to Katrina, his buffoonery in the aftermath speaks for itself, and I have low expectations for his second term. Frankly, after being in the city a couple of weeks ago, I was not expecting Nagin to win. Like a lot of bad choices Louisianans have had to make in the past, this election came down to incompetence (Nagin) vs. corruption (Landrieu and the old Democratic machine).

After seeing the state of the city and snails-pace of the recovery, I figured the scattered electorate would be happy to settle for a corrupt but quicker rebuilding process in the hands of the old guard. Add to that Nagin’s recent pandering to Al Sharpton racialism (he was originally elected with a strong majority of the white vote), I fully expected Landrieu to pull in almost all the white vote and enough of the black vote courtesy of the Democratic machine to win easily.

Instead, Nagin was re-elected. Whether the vote reflected a genuine disgust with old Louisiana politics or was more a case of choosing sides racially, I don’t know, and in the end it doesn’t matter. The scattered tribes of NOLA have made their choice, and they’ll have to live with the good and the bad.

Now for the hard part.

I’d mentioned something an oyster shucker said to me last week, “If the military had gotten here when they should have,” referring to the much-discussed ‘late response’ of the federal government after Katrina. His unstated follow-on was, I feel safe in assuming, ‘… a lot of bad things wouldn’t have happened.’

He was almost certainly right, but when you consider what that statement really means, it says a lot more about the state of New Orleans on August 29, 2005 than it does about the Feds. I’ve been through a lot of hurricanes in my life, but I’d never seen anything like the complete societal breakdown that occurred after Katrina.

Eloise in 1975 and Opal in 1995 both wrecked, shut down and isolated my hometown of Enterprise in south Alabama. They and other storms did even worse damage to a lot of other towns in the area. Nearby Geneva and Elba have both been flooded as badly as New Orleans was, and on multiple occasions. All of those towns have substantial black populations, and much of Geneva and Elba are as poor as poor gets. None of them ever needed the National Guard to step in and end a “Mad Max” reign of chaos.

(Just an aside here.)

(We’ve all read and heard innumerable complaints about how long it took the Guard to get in and start cleaning up. Let’s set aside the physical realities of mobilizing troops or traveling on shattered highways, and just assume for the moment, that oh, say 24 hours before Katrina had hit, George W. Bush had issued the following statement:)

(“My fellow Americans, a category-five hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans. Because of the high likelyhood of looting and violence, and because the local authorities are not competent enough to conduct an evacuation or to adequately shelter those who cannot evacuate, I am sending in the National Guard immediately to preserve order and public safety.”)

(Can you even imagine what the reaction to that statement would have been? But I digress.)

This isn’t fun to say, but it still has to be said. The worst destruction of Katrina was man-made. We can fix broken levees. We can rebuild flooded houses. We can’t, however, fix a broken society as easily.

Louisianans in general and New Orleanians in particular made too many bad choices for too long. They acquiesced to governmental corruption and incompetence with a shrug and the inevitable, “that’s just Louisiana.” They allowed an unfettered criminal class to fester and thrive, until it literally took over the city. They put too much trust in luck and “the great elsewhere,” as local author Chris Rose puts it, to bail them out when things were at their worst.

And so they lived and died with those choices.

Now it’s time for them to choose again. I can’t speak for the rest of the country, but what the heck, I’ll speak for myself and we’ll see who agrees.

Here’s the deal, Louisiana. We’re going to help you. We really are. You are our neighbors and our countrymen and our friends, and we love you today as much as we ever did, in spite of and in no small part thanks to all the weirdness and flaws down your way. It’s hard to see it from where you are, but we’re helping you now, in our slow and ponderous way. We’re not going to let it end like this.

But like every deal, this one has two parts, and I’m going to state yours very bluntly: You people are going to have to get your act together. You’re going to have to end a lot of the old ways of doing things. You’re going to have to get serious about corruption. You’re going to have to get serious about crime. You’re going to have to get serious about joining the 21st century economy. You’re going to have to pick up the trash and take care of your yard, and nag your neighbor to take care of his. Yes, all that is going to change you, and we know you don’t like to change, but you can’t go back now.

One thing I can promise you is, you cannot go back to the way things were Before. You have been down that road, and you know exactly where it ends.

* The definitive version of “Choices” was of course recorded by George Jones. The song’s been on my mind since I heard the Driskill Mountain Boys play it at Jazz Fest two weeks ago.

The More Things Change…

May 13, 2006

In the late summer of 1993, I got a temp job doing phone support for Apple Computer in their Austin support center. I’d just finished graduate school, and wasn’t looking for anything more than rent and beer money. My strategy was simply to stay in town for the fall round of on-campus interviews (none of which, as it turned out, resulted in an actual job).

I stayed until mid-December, then moved on. It wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the best, either. There’s only so long a person can stand to be yelled at on the phone by (mostly) stupid people for the majority of an eight-hour day. Based on this long and very funny piece, things haven’t changed much at Apple Support since then.