Friday, June 30, 2006
If this blog is to truly represent who I am, then attention must be made to my adolescent fixation on starlets. One of those who is high up in my book these days is Kate Bosworth, who is now in one of the biggest films of the year, as Lois Lane in Superman Returns, which, if all goes as planned, I will be seeing this afternoon. The tepid reviews are fair warning, but Kate's presence is enough to tip the scale in favor of seeing the film.
I first noticed her when I walked into a movie theater and saw a large poster for the film Blue Crush. If my life was a movie there would have been a choir on the soundtrack, for I was stopped in my tracks upon seeing the girl in the bikini in this poster. "Who is that!" I thought, and upon learning her name I added her to my list.
Her film career has been spotty, and I can't say she's ever knocked me over with a bravura performance. She was pretty good in Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, which stiffed at the box office. She was delectable in a very small part in Rules of Attraction, a film which otherwise annoyed me. I have yet to see Beyond the Sea, in which she played Sandra Dee, which is probably just too much Kevin Spacey for me to take.
Kate, who has the unusual physical feature of having two different color eyes, was accepted at Princeton but has long deferred enrollment. It appears that college is just not one of her goals at this time, which is a shame, because it would have been nice to run into her at one of the establishments along Nassau Street, where she would have taken one look at me and ditched that drippy Orlando Bloom.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
The baseball season is almost at the half-way point, and as a Tiger fan, I'm living the dream. The Tiges have gone on a gaudy 18-3 streak, beating up on the National League Central during interleague play. Problem--the White Sox have been almost equally as hot, and the Twins are lurking in the shadows.
But the team from the Motor City still has the best record in baseball, at 54-25. The main reason is starting pitching--the three losses by the Tigers in this skein are all by relievers, which is their Achilles Heel (when Todd Jones comes in from the bullpen, nothing is sure). They have also got timely hitting and heroics from almost everyone in the lineup. Saturday's night game against the Cards, when Marcus Thames hit a two-run homer in the ninth to tie, and then Placido Polanco plated the winning run with a double in the tenth, may just be an indication of how magic this season is going to be.
Of course, there's still half a season to go, and the Tigers will have to win some key games against the White Sox down the stretch. Just don't wake me until the dream is over.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
It's good news that the Senate, by one vote, failed to pass a Constitutional amendment to ban the desecration of the flag.
I have never burned a flag, and I have no desire to, but it is within the right of any American to do so if they wish. It is certainly an act of free speech, and unlike what Arlen Specter says, it is not "socially worthless." I can't think of any more pointed statement that one is dissatisfied with one's country than burning the flag.
Furthermore, there is no rash of flag burning in this country, and what if there were? Would this harm the nation? It is not on a par with crying "fire" in a crowded theater, as it is not detrimental to the safety of anyone. The flag, after all, is merely a symbol, a piece of cloth or paper that represents an idea. It is not the idea itself, or the nation itself.
Our constitution is remarkable for its simplicity and brevity, and we don't need grandstanding politicians to soil it with election-year chest-thumping. As with the gay marriage amendment debate, this is a Republican ploy to make Democrats make their views known, so come election time they can point and say, "This is the party that wants gays to marry and to burn the flag." It's craven, but it probably works. Shame on them all.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Cars is the first Pixar film I have disliked. Unlike the other films the studio has made, this one lacked the zest to make it appealing to adults. I'm not sure it appeals to children, either, as my five-year-old nephew fell asleep during it. I was checking my watch often.
The plot, which is is eerily reminiscent of Doc Hollywood, offers gentle bromides about teamwork and friendship, and also a jeremiad about how the Interstate ruined small-town America. That may be true, but in my view, the Interstate highway system was a major achievement, and if it put out of business some motels and knick-knack stores, oh well.
The film also suffers from not being all that funny. I found the tractor-tipping sequence amusing, but there were long dry spells with no laughs. It was nice to hear the familiar gruff voice of Paul Newman as an old race car, but it wasn't enough to give a thumbs up to this one.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Tomorrow I set out on a relatively brief, but much needed vacation. It involves driving to Michigan, with my sister and her boys following, so it won't be completely stress-free, but hey, I won't be at work.
After a one-night stay at my mother's inn in Gettysburg, I'll be off another several hundred miles to Dearborn, Michigan, to visit my father's side of the family. We are having an interment ceremony for my Aunt Madge, and there will be the usual socializing, which mostly consists of sitting around telling old stories that we've heard a hundred times. My grandmother, closing in on her 92nd birthday, will certainly be glad to see us all.
A trip to a Tigers' game is out, as there were no cheap seats available (the price of having a good team). Instead the big plan is to pack up the kids and take them to the movie Cars, which I would like to see as well.
So, if everything goes as planned, it should be a nice trip and I'll be back in the office next Tuesday.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Erotica is a tricky thing. I've read and written a lot of it. For over ten years I was an editor at Penthouse Variations, which is a monthly magazine devoted to first-person narratives about alternative sexual practices. In short, it was classy whacking material. I wrote hundreds of these stories, which are written mostly by professional writers (the letters, however, are real).
Writing good erotica means walking a fine line. You want to excite the reader, but you want it to be good writing, as well.
Erotic novels also walk this fine line. There are classics of the genre, that are more literary, such as Lady Chatterly's Lover and Tropic of Cancer, but these are not the kinds of books you read with a tube of lube nearby. There are, of course, the kind of cheap paperbacks you find in bus stations, where the writers are paid by the word and the books appear under different titles depending on the edition.
Now, when the topic is S&M, there is even a thinner line. This genre, for those who aren't drawn to the world, can be pretty silly, or even offensive. But I find that devotees of this life are particularly interested in reading about it. There have been classics of its type, such as The Story of O and the Beauty series by Anne Rice.
Another to add is Carrie's Story, by Molly Weatherfield. It's a very well written, but extremely hot novel about a young woman who submits to a master and enters his world. Unlike Anne Rice's Beauty series, it's set in the real world, so we get some of the real-life details of what happens when one becomes someone's sex slave. The writing is also aware of how absurd the situation is, and there is a gentle dollop of humor.
In her introduction, Weatherfield writes that she was trying to avoid "chateau porn," which is what most S&M fiction is (a palatial estate, full of slaves on their knees undergoing "training" by a slew of masters). At times she dips into that, in a somewhat ridiculous chapter where the heroine is trained as a pony, complete with sleeping in a stall. But overall this is a terrific book of its type.
Friday, June 16, 2006
The function of my television has changed drastically over the years. Today, it is mainly a picture tube that allows me to watch DVDs. I do not watch much programming over broadcast and cable stations, there is just too much crap, and I've grown weary trying to figure out when the good stuff is on.
It's kind of interesting to think how my viewing habits have evolved. I bought my first VCR in 1984, and it was an exciting time. I taped tons of stuff, and have the old tapes, with fading labels on them, to prove it. I taped each night's David Letterman Show, I taped shows while watching others. And I had a fairly complete cable package, complete with HBO.
I got rid of the extra cable a few years ago as a cost-cutting measure. I realized I was paying about $50 extra a month just to watch The Sopranos. Now I can go out and rent the DVDs anytime I want. Satellite TV seems like a good deal, but I don't have a southern exposure, and I don't want workmen in my house, drilling holes and running wires. TiVo is another option, but that seems like too much work to me, and when would I have time to watch all those shows I recorded?
The latest change was a few nights ago when I found that my remote wasn't working. A change of battery didn't help, so apparently it's shot. The remote operated the VCR, which was the way I changed channels. I had to unhook the VCR from the TV, so now it sits forlorn, unattached to anything. This hasn't changed much in my life, because I don't tape shows any more. If I really like a movie, I'll buy the DVD. If a show is on and I'm not home, c'est la vie. I'll catch it in a repeat, or again, I'll rent the DVD. I've tried to not let my television control my life.
Instead, I'm all wrapped up in my Netflix queue.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Every four years, we here in the U.S. go through the same discussion: Why isn't soccer more popular in America?
It's an excellent question, and no one seems to know the answer. All around the world, the other nations practically shut down to watch the games in the World Cup tournament. But here it gets a cursory nod from the sports media, and if the U.S. team bows out early, the attention will dwindle down to practically nothing.
Why? Soccer, it is pointed out, is very prevalent among the American youth. In my day, there was no little league soccer, but we did play it in gym class at school. But that was completely unorganized, and we were taught nothing. I used to stand right near the goal and try to cherry-pick goals, having no idea I was constantly off-side. So people of my generation, I think, have no clue as to the intricacies and strategies of the game. To me, it's just guys kicking the ball up and down the field, with far too little scoring. When I try to watch a match, my eyes glaze over after a few minutes, and I give up.
So why do more recent generations, who played organized soccer, give up on it? Maybe because it doesn't have as much strategy as baseball or football? Or is it because there are no American superstars of soccer, so kids turn to the stars of established sports? Do good athletes abandon soccer for other sports, because they know you can't become a zillionaire playing soccer in this country?
I have a few other problems with soccer: the spectators don't know how much time is left; and players seem to have a tendency to dive, clutch their shins and howl with fake pain whenever another player brushes against them.
I have been to a few women's college soccer games. But that's really an excuse to sit outside on a pleasant fall day and ogle the college girls in attendance.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I'm a big, big, big fan of Princeton's Women's Hockey. I've missed two home games in six years, and a few years ago even made some trips to see them on the road. The new schedule is out, and after a harried morning here at work I'm poring over it, planning the months from October to March.
This year the team will make some road trips that are eminently doable for me, especially now that this season I won't be working at the movie theater (it took a major sleight of hand for me to see all the home games last year). They open on the road at Boston College, and then Quinnipiac, which is in Connecticut. In November is the Brown-Yale trip. I've stayed in Providence (home of Brown) a few times, and the neighborhood the campus is in is really nice. Maybe this time I could find a B&B within walking distance.
A third road trip I will likely take is to upstate New York for a series against Rensselaer and Union. It's not a terribly long drive. Also, ironically, the Tigers will play a pair in Detroit this year, against Wayne State. It's tempting to arrange a trip to the homeland to get a chance to see the family, but I would have to drive, and I would have to stay in a motel.
Next year's team would be hard-pressed to be as good as last year's, considering last season they had the best record in the school's history. But it will be a good team, anchored by senior Kim Pearce, who was the MVP last year, even despite some nagging injuries.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
My Netflix queue finally pushed to the top a slate of Angelina Jolie films. By coincidence, it was just as the most genetically-gifted child in the history of the world was born. As a media fixture and hot babe, Jolie is certainly at the top of the heap. Push come to shove, I don't think there's any actress working today who has more sex appeal, and the crazy vibe she gives off in interviews certainly lends the impression that she is a tigress in the sack. But can she act?
I took a look at a handful of her films that I hadn't seen before, plus a pair that I hadn't seen a while. They are: Hackers, Foxfire, Gia, Original Sin, Life or Something Like It, Taking Lives and Alexander (Mr. and Mrs. Smith remains, but it appears to be popular with others, as it hasn't come yet).
What immediately strikes me after watching these films is that no matter how bad they are, Jolie is an intense presence. There's something about her, beyond her looks, that captures your attention. Hackers is a crummy little movie, and she is absurdly cast as a rebellious computer nerd, but you can see the kernel of a movie star. The same for Foxfire, which is a kind of lesbian fantasy about girl-bonding in high school. But the tour-de-force in her early career was Gia, as the supermodel turned heroin addict who eventually died of AIDS. Jolie deservedly won a Golden Globe for the part, playing the wild child with a balls-to-the-wall brio that announces she has arrived as an actress.
I have seen her Oscar-winning role in Girl, Interrupted a few times. I was very impressed, but in the larger picture her turn as Lisa seems like something she was settling into--the girl with a chip on her shoulder.
Jolie then became a mega-star, cashing in with two Tomb Raider films. She also took a stab at comedy with Life or Something Like It, and although she held her own, there was no chemistry with her co-star, Edward Burns. Her role as Alexander's witchy mother was also somewhat comic, given her Boris-and-Natasha accent.
I would like to see her in something that stretches her acting chops. Now that she's so rich she can hire the country of Namibia as a birthing center, perhaps she can be extremely selective about her roles, and look for something challenging. Since she studied with Lee Strasberg, I also wonder if she would be any good on the stage. Her diction is at times slurred (she has a habit of talking through her teeth). She'd make a great Cleopatra. But, if she goes for Tomb Raider 3, then I give up.
Monday, June 12, 2006
While watching A Prairie Home Companion, I was taken back to the days of drinking lemonade on the porch, eating biscuits and gravy, and watching Hee-Haw with my grandparents. I'm not old enough to go back to the times when radio was the dominant entertainment force, but I get what it's about--the immediacy with the audience, the trust and loyalty that a show can build, as well as the honesty.
I've been a listener of the actual Prairie Home Companion show for several years now. I dig Garrison Keillor's droll, Midwestern, liberal humor. The music isn't as much as my thing, as it tends toward the country, bluegrass and gospel, but it surely doesn't hurt to be exposed to that sort of music once a week. So I had an idea what I was getting in for when I went to see this film, and while watching it I just sat back and basked in its glow.
The film is an old-fashioned backstage story, set during the running time of a live radio show called A Prairie Home Companion. Unlike the real thing, which airs on public radio and has corporate sponsors and is hosted by a best-selling author, this version is a rinky-dink affair on a local Minnesota station. The station has been sold to a Texas conglomerate and will close down, and we are watching the last show. Keillor plays a version of himself as the host, with regular performers such as the singing Johnson Girls (Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin) and singing cowboys Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly). There's also a security man, played in Inspector Clouseau fashion by Kevin Kline, and Streep's daughter, Lindsay Lohan, who is busy writing poems about suicide. Into all this mix comes a woman dressed in white, Virginia Madsen, who may be the angel of death.
All of this was like butter to me. Directed by Robert Altman in his usual style of long takes and overlapping dialogue, it took me back to my theatrical days, seeing the camaraderie of show people. The performances are all low-key yet affecting. The story arc with Lohan's character doesn't have a good pay-off, but everything else wraps up nicely.
As a bonus, Dusty and Left perform a bad jokes routine that had the audience in stithces, and is worth the price of admission.
Friday, June 09, 2006
In a Simpson’s episode, Lisa goes to the Retirement Castle for some newspapers to recycle. Grandpa tells her they don’t have newspapers there, because “they anger up the blood.” I know what Grandpa means, as who couldn’t read the comments that Ann Coulter made this week and not get incensed. I mean, I’m normally a peaceful guy, but that’s one person I would enjoy seeing pounded with a polo mallet. After reading about the firestorm her comments made I had to tune into Air America to get an antidote. I listened to Randi Rhodes, who pretty much takes the same tack as Coulter. She called her a “c-word” (I believe that stands for cunt) and a whore. Not exactly a high level of discourse.
But I think it’s prudent not to give Coulter too much publicity. She is, after all, a publicity junkie. A long time ago she decided the way to fame and fortune was to play the role of the Gorgon of the right, and she’s been successful. Loved or hated, it doesn’t matter to her. She has her niche of followers, and if they want to get hard-ons from smearing 9/11 widows who had the audacity to publicly support John Kerry, go right ahead.
The balm in this is that I don’t think too many people take Coulter seriously. She’s a sideshow act, right there with the guy who hammers nail up his nose. She does her shtick on the talk-news shows, counters any debate with psychopathic shrieking that has no factual basis, and collects her millions. She may sell a lot of books, but so do Michael Moore and Al Franken. If liberalism is a mental disorder, as she says, then half the U.S. is crazy.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Last night I finished An Army at Dawn, by Rick Atkinson, the first in a planned trilogy called "The Liberation Trilogy," the story of the Allied victory over the Axis in the West.
I enjoyed this book a great deal, mainly because it was about something I had very little knowledge of--the war in North Africa. I've got a pretty good knowledge of World War II, or at least I thought I did, but here's some things I learned: the first salvo against the Axis in the West came in the invasion of North Africa, called Operation TORCH. Initially the Allies, particularly the British, wanted to invade in western Europe (which they would do on June 6, 1944), but the American brass finally persuaded Churchill (and Roosevelt) that it was too soon to face the Germans there, and instead they should try to invade from the South, starting with Africa. Also, the first troops that this Operation met in battle? The French, the Vichy French, who were under the thumb of the Germans.
Books about war sometimes leave me perplexed, as it's difficult for me to understand battle strategy through prose. There are maps here, but it's still a bit confusing. But Atkinson more than makes up for that by his vivid descriptions of the commanders and the terrain. We get a lot of insight into the personalities of men like Eisenhower, Montgomery, Rommel, and most especially George S. Patton, who thought it was a good idea to get a few of his own officers killed in battle, as it would be good for the morale of the enlisted men. There were endless squabbles between the U.S. and British commanders, and some horrible mistakes were made, but there was also incredible courage. The French don't come out very well in this book.
Atkinson's made theme is that this was the birth and infancy of what would become the juggernaut that was the U.S. armed forces. At first, they were green and untested, and sneered at by the British. But after the expulsion of the Germans from North Africa, the U.S. was ready to tackle them in Europe, battle-tested and hungry for blood. I look forward to the next book in the trilogy, which will be about the war in Italy.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Lousiana's Republican senator, David Vitter, said of the debate now going on over the suggested Constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage:
"I don't believe there's any issue that's more important than this one."
Kind of boggles the mind, doesn't it?
Let's see: the war in Iraq, immigration, the high cost of fuel, global warming, genocide and poverty in Darfur and elsewhere around the world and, oh yes, the lingering repercussions from two devastating hurricanes that affected Mr. Vitter's home state.
None of those are important as whether that vaguely butch couple of women that live down the street in that cute bungalow are married or not.
It's enough to start looking into Canadian citizenship again (or maybe Danish--a recent survey declared that they are the happiest people on the planet).
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
I am not gay, although sometimes I wish I was, because it seems that gay men have a lot more sex than I do. Come to think of it, I think a typical priest has more sex than I do, but let that bide.
That being said, I can not understand the objections to gay marriage. Okay, I can understand them if you're a bible-thumping, intolerant yahoo. But reasonable people should have no problem with this, especially in a country that is supposed to be free.
We are talking about marriage as a legal institution. No one is suggesting that Saint Patrick's cathedral has to conduct gay marriages. Churches have the right to sanction the marriages they want to. But as a legal issue, two consenting adults, no matter what gender, should have to right to form legal partnerships that are legally equivalent to heterosexual marriage.
I can not fathom the argument that this will lead to some sort of breakdown of society. Wouldn't conservatives prefer monogamous homosexual relationships, rather than the stereotypical gay orgies that are going now, which are completely legal? What is so sacred about marriage anyway, in a country that has a fifty-percent divorce rate?
The American Taliban has got to be stopped in their ever insidious encroachment upon human rights in this country. The head mullah, of course, is George W. Bush, who dares to come out for an amendment to the Constitution at the same time that the 25th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS is occurring. The Constitution is what is sacred in this nation, and should not be sullied by such an amendment that restricts rights, rather than expands them.
Monday, June 05, 2006
I saw An Inconvenient Truth over the weekend. My feelings about Al Gore have been stated before on this blog: http://gogorama.blogspot.com/2006/04/save-us-al-gore.html. They have only been reinforced by seeing the film.
Now, An Inconvenient Truth is not a razzle-dazzle summer blockbuster. It is not even Fahrenheit 9/11. This is, basically, a filmed lecture. But if this film doesn't have cinematic pyrotechnics, it more than makes up for it in communicating information. Unless you're a fire-breathing neo-con who is determined to be against anything a Democrat could be for, you will walk out of the movie concerned about the shape of things here on this blue marble we reside on.
Gore makes it clear that in the scientific community, there is no debate that this is a crisis. But scanning the magazine racks tells us that the conservative press disagrees. But I have a question for them: which of the solutions that Gore suggests are you against? Recycling? Planting trees? Hybrid cars? Alternative energy sources? Oops--that may be the one. I imagine fat cats at Exxon Mobil aren't exactly thrilled about a nation that may soon become determined to lessen reliance on fossil fuels and demand ethynol fuel or other alternatives. Here's hoping this happens, and big oil spends some of its record profits on developing just such alternatives.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
I heard about a series of mystery novels set during the Civil War a few years ago, but it wasn't until recently that I got around to reading one. The first one in the series is Faded Coat of Blue. They are by Owen Parry, a nom de plume for Ralph Peters.
The highlight of the book is the richness of the detail for life in 1861 Washington, D.C. (with a few scenes set in Philadelphia). Our detective is a Welsh immigrant and veteran of the British adventures in India, Abel Jones, who was wounded at Bull Run. At the beginning of the novel he is a clerk in the woolen department of the Army. He is asked my General George McClellan to investigate the murder of a charismatic young officer and abolitionist.
As mysteries go, this wasn't isn't much of a brainteaser, and relies on atmosphere. Jones is a moralist and bit of a prig, which is a difference from most detective fiction, where the sleuth is dissolute.
I won't be rushing out to read the rest of the books in the series, but I might get around to them at a later time.
I'm a big-time daydreamer. I probably spend more than half my day daydreaming, to alleviate the daily misery that is my real life. Much of that daydreaming involves living on some tropical island, with millions in the bank and nothing to do all day except lie in a hammock. A bevy of bathing beauties would be a nice addition as well.
Recently I picked up a travel magazine that featured an article on lesser-visited islands of the Caribbean. This article really spurred my island fantasy, and I think, once I win that lottery jackpot that is owed to me, I've found my spot. It is the island of Culebra, which means Snake Island.
Culebra is off the coast of Puerto Rico, which means that it is U.S. territory. As much as I disgusted with the land of my birth, I'm still not to the point where I want to leave the benefits of this great country. Culebra is not particularly potted with huge resorts, and is not a stop for the great masses of cruise passengers. It is a sleepy little island with fantastic beaches, but is only a half-hour plane ride from San Juan.
So, if I someday disappear, you might want to look for me sipping a cool drink as I sit on the patio of my villa in Culebra.