January 11th, 2005

flavored with age

The reason for the season is teasin'

Okay, so let's get this straight, shell weh? CBS runs a story -- plausible, sure, but as it happens, containing no verifiable truth and based on very possibly fraudulent documents -- about George W. Bush's military service. The ensuing outrage culminates in the tarnishing of the entire network's reputation and the firing of four senior reporters.

Meanwhile, every fucking network, website, radio station, newspaper and magazine in America runs hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories -- implausible, containing to truth whatsoever, based on obviously fraudulent documents and testimony, and on top of all that, flagrantly politically motivated -- about John Kerry's military service. The ensuing outrage culminates in a collective yawn from the voting public and the re-election of the president. No one even cares when the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" disband, having served their purpose as a propaganda mouthpiece for the G.O.P.; no one is in the least interested in firing anyone over having given a billion hours of airtime to these transparent dissimulators.

Right-ho!

Meanwhile, in the trial of Abu Ghraib torture boss Chuck "Ve Are Goink to Cut Off Your Chonson" Graner, defense attorney Guy Womack offers a fun rationalization:

Womack said pictures that appeared to portray abuse, such as one showing the detainees stacked in the human pyramid and another showing (Lyndie) England holding a naked Iraqi prisoner by a leash, did not depict any wrongdoing.

"You've probably been in a shopping mall and seen children on a tether," Womack told the jurors. "You see a picture of men stacked up in a pyramid. Don't cheerleaders form pyramids all across America?"


Now, it's all well and good to laugh at these sorts of woozy defenses (Twinkies made me kill the mayor and that fag councilman; we didn't rape her, she forced us to make hardcore porn videos of her while she was drunk and unconscious; and so on). But the thing is, they tend to work. That's why defense attorneys use them. They can size up pretty easily whether or not a jury wants to believe that someone is guilty or not, so the story they tell isn't really that important. That's why a totally bogus story by a defense attorney will work (my client is innocent despite the matching DNA evidence and the blood on his clothes, because the racist police set him up) -- because the jury wants the guy to get off, and just wants a good excuse for letting him off. Likewise, that's why a totally bogus story by a prosecutor will work (the defendant is guilty despite the fact that there's no evidence tying him to the crime and he was in a different state when it happened, because look at him, he's obviously a criminal gangbanger type) -- because the jury wants the guy to do time, and just needs a good excuse for convicting him.

That said, this is one of the better lame excuses I've ever heard, and 'tis finer to laff than kry, so today's assignment is:

Formulate a justification for some horrible crime that follows the "putting people on a leash isn't torture because parents put harnesses on their kids at malls"/"forcing people into a naked human pyramid isn't torture because cheerleaders form pyramids all the time" formulation.

By the way, if the Abu Ghraib photos had been of naked cheerleaders forming a human pyramid, there would have been less collective outrage, I bet.
flavored with age

The reason for the season is cheesin'

Tales from the weekend that don't involve my near-demise:

- My gal's daughter has learned my name, sort of. She says "La-na" in a way that strongly resembles "nonny", her word for "naughty". Story of my life. She also offers me food that she has dropped on the floor, sat on, or removed from its former residency inside her mouth, leading me to discover that there are certain limits even to my gluttony.

- We went to a loud and crowded but otherwise very good restaurant in Minneapolis called Bar Abilene. My steak was perfectly cooked with an amazing habanero rub, and we got a free mojito. I'd never had a mojito before, and it was nice that the "first one's always free" tradition isn't just confined to heroin.

- My iPod battery was low and I wasn't able to pick up a car charger (the Target we went to was closed! What kinda home-town representin' is that?), so aside from a couple of CDs, I had nothing to listen to on my harrowing drive home and ended up doing a lot of combing through AM radio stations. I picked up a lot of angry ranting from Packers fans, a crazy evangelist from New Orleans, and a right-wing nutjob talk show host who suggested that a great way to defeat all of our "enemies" as well as make a lot of money would be to sell our super-awesome military weapons to every country in the world, only we would introduce a secret design element where we could press a button and all the weapons would stop working. He didn't think it was a stupid idea at all.

- Saw many movies recently: American Splendor (liked it quite a lot despite my general antipathy towards Harvey Pekar); The Life Aquatic (We Anderson, talented but overrated at the best of times, has cashed his check); Wisconsin Death Trip (depressing and somewhat pointless adaptation of one of my favorite books, but breathtakingly gorgeous photography, amazing to look at); The Big Combo (one of my all-time favorite film noir new on DVD, with a maddening lack of extras but with an outstanding, sharp new print); and The Corporation (informative, but not actually all that good and at times inducing eye-rolling).

- I'm making plans for my gal's visit over the week preceding Valentine's Day (and, beyond that, her birthday! which is coming up). This is the first time I've been in a committed relationship over V-Day since, oh, let's see, I can't remember the year, but I'm pretty sure a Roosevelt was president. Coincidentally, I drew the assignment from one of my regular freelance gigs to write about cheap/free Valentine's Day activities. I'm not sure which is a more fascinating glimpse of my hidden psyche: that I'm actually seriously considering my own dumb-ass advice about what to do for the holiday, or that my editor inexplicably assumed that I even had a girlfriend and would thus be qualified to come up with suggestions for such a feature.
flavored with age

And now, for no reason, a poll.

Poll #416608 Some wine with that cheese

Have you seen the movie "Sideways"?

Yes, I have, and I loved it.
10(35.7%)
Yes, I have, and I hated it.
3(10.7%)
No, I have not.
14(50.0%)
No, I have not, but I hate/love it anyway.
1(3.6%)
I do not know what is this thing, a 'movie'.
0(0.0%)

If you loved the movie "Sideways", select one of these options.

I think it is one of the best movies of the year.
8(50.0%)
I think it is one of the best movies of all time.
0(0.0%)
I think it is one of the paramount accomplishments of the human species.
1(6.2%)
I just liked it okay.
2(12.5%)
Is the movie just CALLED sideways, or do they, like, thread it through the projector sideways?
5(31.2%)

If you hated the movie "Sideways", select one of these options.

I hate southern California.
0(0.0%)
I hate wine snobs.
0(0.0%)
I hate insufferable yuppie buddy pictures.
5(62.5%)
I can never forgive Thomas Haden Church for being so mean to Stacey.
1(12.5%)
Bad people and witches are always following me.
2(25.0%)

Regardless of your feelings about the movie "Sideways", are you a professional film critic?

Yes, I have been paid to write about films in some capacity.
3(12.5%)
No, I am merely an amateur film squeaker.
15(62.5%)
I am not a movie critic, but I am involved in the film industry.
2(8.3%)
I am not a movie critic, but I am a professional writer of some sort.
3(12.5%)
Did you know that Alexander Payne wrote the screenplay to "Jurassic Park III"?
1(4.2%)

Do you think that the critical praise and/or backlash directed at the movie "Sideways" is related to the main character's resemblance to the stereotypical personality profile of a film critic?

Yes, I can see how a bunch of insecure, whiny, self-absorbed, pushy jerks could identify with Miles.
6(26.1%)
No, I think the overblown critical reaction is due to critics' snobbery rather than their repellent personalities.
5(21.7%)
Yes, it's obvious that everyone who likes any film likes it because they identify with the main character.
2(8.7%)
Yes, but even more of a factor is that backlash is always good for publicity.
2(8.7%)
I'm too angry about "Dude Where's My Car II" being pushed back to answer this question.
8(34.8%)