Monday, December 29, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!


From the Christmas Crank!

_

The Man They Call Madoff


I think it's funny that the biggest 'story' in the Bernard Madoff $50 billion Ponzi-scheme story is that Jewish people across the nation are utterly shocked that a Jewish man would do something like this to his clients, most of whom are evidently Jewish people, Jewish companies, Jewish charities, and Jewish schools.

Here is what I have to say to those people:

Jews are just people. Some people are crooked. Maybe if you realized this beforehand, you would have looked more carefully at where you were putting your life savings. Consistent, double-digit returns are an impossibility; it was too good to be true, but you trusted him because he was a Jew and so are you; you were stupid. End of story.

Not to mention the fact that anybody who puts all their money in one basket is a square-one idiot. I feel no sympathy for rich people in Palm Beach selling their six-figure jewelry to pay their condo association dues. Rather, I laugh. Haha!


What will become of Bernard Madoff? Will he ever be able to redeem himself in the eyes of his God?

“It is not possible for him to atone for all the damage he did,” the rabbi said, “and I don’t even think that there is a punishment that is commensurate with the crime, for the wreckage of lives that he’s left behind. The only thing he could do, for the rest of his life, is work for redemption that he would never achieve.” (courtesy NYTimes)

So much for forgiveness...

Catholic Church Leading the Scientific Charge

In what will surely be remembered as a vital blow for science in the Endless War between religion and reason, the avant-garde Catholic Church, Inc. has decided to re-examine their vicious, life-ruining attacks on Galileo 375 years ago.

The fact that we are on the eve of the 400 year anniversary of his perfection of the telescope--and the UN-designated International Year of Astronomy--is merely convenient, not some sort of P.R. coat-tail riding attempt to recapture blow-with-the-wind skeptics on the fence.


For those of you that are unaware of who Galileo is (I'm looking at you, 95% of America), he was an Italian scientist who dedicated his life to the pursuit of knowledge. We all know how dangerous that can be when you're in the business of keeping people ignorant and under control.

Among many other accomplishments, Galileo perfected the telescope, examined the solar system, and discovered evidence that Copernicus was right--the Earth revolved around the sun. This idea did not sit well with Catholic Church, Inc, who proliferated the Aristotelian view that the Sun revolved around a fixed Earth.

How could the Bible be wrong? The Bible is the word of God himself. If the Bible is wrong in one instance, it might be wrong in others. People might begin to think critically, reason out their world according to simple observation and scientific methods; they might learn to use their eyes, ears, noses, brains.

Thinking critically is the duty of any body with a brain in it. It is also the most dangerous enemy of any organized religion.

So, of course, Catholic Church, Inc. hunted down and vilified Galileo. This is easy to do--too easy--when you are not only a church, but also the ruling government. Nevermind that Galileo (along with Copernicus) was a devout Catholic, good friend of the Pope (til his book came out, anyway), and did not believe his ideas conflicted with the word of God.

In 1633, Galileo was put to trial on charges of heresy. The fact that this could ever be a crime is both amusing and infuriating to me. Unsurprisingly, he lost (evidently, the devil makes for a bad lawyer).

As punishment for his 'crime,' Galileo was forced to recant and condemn the idea that the Earth might revolve around the sun. His book, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, was banned. He was never allowed to publish again. He spent the last 9 years of his life under house arrest.


Many things have changed since the 1600s, and Catholic Church, Inc. is now hip to the idea that maybe there is some value in claiming that Galileo was right. The Pope paid tribute to him on Sunday, 375 years too late, and, according to the Chicago Tribune, said that "[Galileo] and other scientists had helped the faithful better understand and 'contemplate with gratitude the Lord's works.'"

Tell me more, Chicago Tribune...
"In May, several Vatican officials will participate in an international conference to re-examine the Galileo affair, and top Vatican officials are now saying Galileo should be named the patron of the dialogue between faith reason."

Questions abound.

1. Who is hosting this conference?

2. Who else is attending this conference?

3. Will Matthew McConaughey's character in Contact be there?

4. Why exactly does the world need this conference?

5. Why does the dialogue between faith and reason need a patron?

6. What kind of stupid lip-service is this to progress?

7. So...wait...I couldn't hear you that well...are you saying the Catholic Church was wrong when it condemned Galileo as a heretic?

8. Wouldn't that mean you are admitting the Bible is wrong?

9. Wouldn't that mean other things in it could be wrong?

10. Wouldn't that also mean God cannot be trusted, if the Pope speaks for him and you're saying the Pope was wrong?


Chew on that this Christmas. And let me know what you come up with.

_

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Trouble With Hollywood, Part 2: Perfectly-Timed Case Study


The new Will Smith vehicle--Seven Pounds--opened this past Friday. What is it about? Well, after watching the trailer, it's hard to say. As far as I can tell, it's about Will Smith helping people who don't know why he's helping them, other than the fact that "he has to." The trailer and posters also pitch that this movie is directed by the same guy (Gabriele Muccino, perhaps Italy's only mistake?) who directed The Pursuit of Happyness, which was Will Smith's last attempt at Oscar glory by playing a real-life hero who conquers his fears and depression, and does good in the world, and scrunches up his face a lot in "emotional pain."

How did Seven Pounds do this weekend at the box office, you ask? Well, it finished second to Jim Carrey's Yes Man, with a take of only $14.8 million. Both movies performed well below expectations. Translation? They bombed. They might even lose money (I hope).

But what was to blame for this unexpected predicament?

Rory Bruer, Sony’s president for theatrical distribution, said he believed that Seven Pounds was hurt by the weather. But like Pursuit of Happyness, he said, the movie could earn total ticket sales of more than six times its opening — a level that might yet extend Mr. Smith’s winning streak [of consecutive movies earning more than $100 million, which stands at 8 --Ed].

Still, critics were especially rough on Seven Pounds, with its deliberately veiled plot line involving a man’s self-destruction in an effort to make up for his past. In a review for The New York Times, A. O. Scott said it was possibly one of most “crazily awful motion pictures ever made.” (courtesy NYTimes.com)

There you have it, folks; people didn't go see the movie because of the weather. It had nothing to do with it being an inexcusable piece of shit. Thank you for righting my upside-down world, Rory "The Asshole P.R. Robot" Bruer. You should win this year's Will Smith Award for Useless Everyman Heroism at the annual Assholes Convention on Boxing Day. Please claim your prize--a free one-week brainwashing course at the Scientology Testing Center on Hollywood Boulevard.

_

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Trouble With Hollywood Is...

that it's in the pocket of big business. I know this is not necessarily a new assertion, but let's get to the root of why and how this is not a good thing.

The first problem is that everybody loves movies--movies are art for the masses. You don't have to know how to read, how to think critically, how to study and examine; the images flash before your eyes at 24 frames per second for 90-120 minutes. You can take away from it whatever you want: "It was funny when the guy tripped." "That girl was hot." "Did you see that car crash?!" "I loved the characters; they were so troubled, so real..." "I never knew where it was going--but I always loved where it went!" "I didn't really understand it, but the critics loved it, so I do, too."

There are infinite levels of enjoyment. This leads everybody to think they know how to make them, that they know what the people want to see. But they don't. Not everybody should paint, not everybody should write, not everybody should be a photographer, not everybody should make movies.


The second problem is that movie stars are glamorous--they have the best parties, the most sex, the most fun...everybody wants in on it. Why should some CEO-type spend his life running the east coast's most-successful aluminum siding corporation when he could be running Paramount Studios and banging wannabe starlets all day long, when he isn't chatting about Europe with Clark Gable over martinis at the Beverly Hills Hotel pool? This leads people into the industry who shouldn't be there, who don't have the same goals in mind as those who burst with stories to tell on the silver screen.

The third problem is that there is a lot of money to be made. Or lost. There is much more money at stake in the film business than in other artistic realms. A bad painting loses the price of paint and a canvas ($100-200?); a bad photo shoot loses the price of your model, location/studio rental, props, assistants, hair/makeup, a few rolls of film, processing, and printing ($5-10,000?); a bad movie loses millions. Such risk naturally engenders less risky content. And so Hollywood operates with the notion that the movies don't have to be good to be successful; they just need to be successful.

Pirates, tornadoes, volcanoes, superheroes, fantasy warriors, the WWII platoon that could...in Hollywood, with so many people at the helm who shouldn't be, an idea hasn't run its course until it's been run so far into the ground that it came out the other side. When the movies bomb, the market is to blame, not themselves. Original ideas so often fail because they are crowded out of the marketplace by tits, guns, and familiarity. "Oh, I heard of that book!" "Oh, I like that guy's shitty TV show; now let's see him in a movie!" "That last vampire movie was okay; let's go see this newer one that's even worse!" This, of course, leads the studio heads even further away from original ideas.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was my favorite movie of 2007. It was only released in 301 theaters; it only grossed $3.9 million domestically. It only needed to make $30 million to break even, but it was never even given the chance. As a result, slow, beautiful, intimate, 70's-style character pieces have 'proven' to not resonate with audiences and future similar projects will have an even more difficult, if not impossible, time getting made.

But there will be a FOURTH Terminator, and then a fifth... There will be another Dane Cook movie, even though he has repeatedly bombed ("We just haven't found the right vehicle yet...can we make him a vampire-wizard who falls in love with his nymphomaniac assistant, Angelina Jolie in glasses?").


But the main problem with Hollywood is one that people rarely discuss. Maybe they aren't even aware of it. Maybe it isn't true. I think that art should not be giving the public what they want; it should be giving the public what they don't even know they want, but like when they see it.

Who would have guessed they would like a Picasso, before they saw one? Can you imagine a publisher giving Henry Miller an advance for Tropic of Cancer? Art forms are forever shifting according to the whims and passions of artists, who create what they think the world needs, not what it wants. How do you move forward if you're always standing still or, worse, moving backwards?


What are the big sellers in photography these days? Can you picture a hunky fireman calendar hanging in the Art Institute? A cute picture of a kitten in a coffee mug for sale in a high-end art gallery? These are the photographic equivalents of the book and movie series Twilight, to chose one example. Yet, these photographs do not push real art out of the marketplace; the sad thing is that this is not true for the movies. If Twilight is playing on 4000 screens, then other movies are not playing anywhere.

If you are a studio executive, don't hire a talented screenwriter to turn your shitty, derivative idea into a script; hire him to write a script that he or she wants to write, regardless of whether or not you think there is an easily-pinpointed demographic ready to eat it up, whether its beauty can fit on a poster. Writers are artists, not tradesmen. Ditto for directors; the idea of a producer or studio executive having final cut on a movie makes me sick.

Don't make a vampire movie because another vampire movie made a lot of money. Don't shit out Narnia because Lord of the Rings did well. Don't make one $200 million movie, hoping to make $1 billion; make five $40 million movies where the artists actually have control, and one success will make you hundreds of million of dollars (the others will probably break even, once foreign box office and rentals are added into the mix). Don't spend $100 million to advertise a movie because it sucks and you need people to think they'll be missing out on a cultural touchstone if they don't see the movie whose egregiously-Photoshopped posters cover every bus bench and building in town.

If you're going to be businessmen, at least learn the first rule of business: never throw good money after bad--cut your losses.

Stepping aside from the art/business struggle, even from a purely business standpoint these are all bad decisions when you think long-term, when you think about industry health and growth. In the short term, a piece of shit derivative schlockfest might make some money, you might think you made the right call, and start production on two sequels, but you will pay for it by losing trust, which eventually results in losing customers.


Audiences are no longer as loyal as they once were, to studios, directors, actors...they have been burned too many times. They saw Patch Adams. They saw Troy. They still like to go to the movies, because it makes for a great date, a great escape, a great experience; but they are more fickle and can now only be tempted by a sure thing. They pick and chose more carefully and so the executives feel they need to give them a sure thing, a movie Joe Shmoe knows he will like because he already saw it with different actors in the same roles.

Studios complain that declining interest in going to the movies is a direct result of home theaters, illegally circulating DVDs, high ticket prices, a glut in the marketplace, technological distractions like the internet and video games...but these are not the problem. They WISH that was the problem; they don't want to admit--even to themselves--that the problem lies in their short-term profit strategies. Look at what happened to Wall Street this year; why would Hollywood be any different when it is run by the same people? People don't go to the movies as much as they used to BECAUSE THE MOVIES SUCK.

Hollywood should be leading the people, not pandering to them. Once we get visionary businessmen in charge of the picture business and they cede creative control back to artists they believe in, we will be back on track for long-term success; short of this reality, things will only get worse.

_

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jack Nicholson Must Be Lonely


Jack Nicholson is inarguably my favorite actor of all time. Don't even try it. You cannot persuade me that I think otherwise--trust me.

As I steeled myself for a potential face-to-face meeting the other day, I tried to imagine what I would say to him, were we to make eye contact, or were I to stumble upon some golden opening.

This is the conversation that ran through my head:

Me: "I'm a big fan."
Jack: "Prove it."
Me: "My five favorite movies of yours are: Five Easy Pieces, Carnal Knowledge, The Shining, Chinatown, and As Good As It Gets."
Jack: "What, not Batman? That's one of my faves--I considered it a piece of pop art."
Me: "No. It was a good performance, but the character is the definition of un-relatable; I prefer you when you are more human, because I see a lot of you in myself and it's interesting to see what I might do in certain situations I've never been in. If I could have written and directed one movie, Five Easy Pieces would be it. I relate to your character much more than I should. Bobby Dupea is fundamentally unhappy, selfish, and cruel--yet also brilliant, adventurous, honest, and above all, confused."
Jack: "You trying to make love to me or pay a compliment? Now I'M confused..."
Me: "Sorry. I guess I'd just like to sit down and talk to you a bit more, under better circumstances, with some drinks, maybe even some drugs. I think we'd get along really well. And your character in Carnal Knowledge got me rolling one night on an idea for a movie. I'd love to sit down and talk with you about it sometime, hear your thoughts, get some advice--maybe we could work together."
Jack: "Well, I'd ask you to become my assistant or protege or whatever, but your tits aren't big enough. Better luck next time, kid."
When I saw him the other night, at the California Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Sacramento, it thrilled me more than I would have guessed--a rare moment of fanboy excitement in my otherwise measured life. I wanted to get a picture with him, but I could not bring myself to invade his privacy like that; I went back and forth on the idea all night. Instead, I observed.

He looked old, as you might imagine a 71 year-old man would, and has definitely been packing on the pounds in his never-say-no-except-to-marriage old age, but there was something else going on that affected me immediately, yet took a while for me to identify.


He was at once casual and uncomfortable. He loped around the room like he was sneaking away from something, like he might leave at any minute. He never stayed in one place for too long. He rarely made eye contact. He did not want to be there, and yet he was; and yet he stayed.

He watched the other inductees curiously, studying them on the sly, speaking to them only when spoken to. Backstage, he stuck to Clint Eastwood like glue, like he was so grateful to have found a fellow 'man' who could understand him. It was the only time I saw him smile before the show started.

During the show, he alternatively looked bored stiff or listened with childlike interest to the brief retrospectives on the others, often turning around to watch the pictures projected on the big screen. As the evening progressed, he seemed to loosen up a bit. I think he realized he was surrounded by other people who have also done great things, and maybe they weren't so bad.

At the afterparty, I was never too far away, my camera burning a hole in my pocket, my eyes well-trained. I realized what was bothering me about him, what I think is bothering him.

I think Jack is lonely.


I scanned my brain for possible supporting evidence:

- Only found out that his 'sister' was actually his mother and his 'mother' was actually his grandmother after they both were dead. A reporter discovered this while doing a piece on him in 1974, and had to be the one to break the news to Jack.

- Has no idea who his father is. His mother, a New York showgirl, evidently got around quite a bit, and although there are two prominent suspects (her manager and a showman--not 'showboy,' interestingly), nobody was ever sure. Needless to say, he grew up without one.

- In 2004, Nicholson attended his 50 year high school reunion accompanied by his aunt Lorraine.

- Six kids, five mothers, one failed marriage (1962-68).

- Dated Angelica Huston for 17 years. Broke up with her when his other girlfriend had a baby. Once again, a reporter broke the news.

- Marlon Brando = Dead

- Warren Beatty = Married with children

- Roman Polanski = Banished to France

- Robert Evans = Senile, broken, and useless


As I watched Jack fidget and dart glances around the room, I kept flashing back in my mind to two quotes I remembered from his imdb entry (one of the most fascinating there is, by the way, if you're looking to waste a little time):

"It's not so nice when you are 71 and looking for some action. I feel uncomfortable doing it in the limelight - so from now on I'll do it when it's right. Happily, when it comes to girls hitting on me, I'm not undernourished."
"I think it is very unattractive for me to be seen fawning over little, tiny girls. I didn't feel that for a long time but now I do. If I could slip them out the back entrance wrapped in a blanket, that's a different story." (February 2004)
And so it seems everybody's favorite Lothario has developed a wee conscience, a sense of propriety; he has changed. Some would say matured. Perhaps part of him wonders if he should have settled down at some point--maybe with Angelica Huston, maybe with one of the countless others before and after. Perhaps in his old age, he realizes there may be value in having a partner around with whom he can share his life, have interesting conversations, and reminisce about the good times. Perhaps he's wondering if he did it all wrong.

But then he remembers all the wild times he's had; the alleged 2000+ women he's fucked; the young, female, complete strangers that still walk up to him on-set at lunch and ask, in front of the entire crew, if they can blow him in his trailer; the steamy affairs with costars, extras, wannabe starlets, models, starstruck commoners...and his Chesire grin stretches its limits. Who would want to throw all that away for a wife whose stories you know all too well, and whose body long ago lost its fascination? Where's the fun in that? Where's the adventure?

I have to say that, although I (sadly?) do not exactly share his 'experience,' I can relate to Jack in a very human way. A very manly way. The disparate desires to settle down and spread your seed represent a torturous Jeckyll & Hyde* conundrum that make being a man nearly an impossible task. Every waking second is a battle--the social versus the biological beast.

Every time a man with any hint of a libido sees a sexy woman, he wants to fuck her. Most of us have obstacles in our way--shyness, ugliness, fear, poverty, attachments; Jack has none. Well, maybe not none--surely he has some sort of STD by now, surely there are women who think he is simply too old, surely there are sexy women who wouldn't be too thrilled to be in the 2000+ community--but there are perfectly sane young women that I know who find him disarmingly sexy. Still. And he works it. Still.

All men are jealous.

And yet, as Jack sat up on that stage with other famous people--Jane Fonda, Jack LaLanne, Quincy Jones, Dave Brubeck, and descendents/widows of deceased honorees such as Dr. Seuss--I sensed a yearning for their peacefulness, their stability, their love. He was the only person on stage who came alone. He was the only one who would leave alone. When he got home, nobody would be waiting for him. Sure, he would probably call up a $5000/hr 19-year-old Ukrainian hooker, snort a mountain of cocaine, pop a Viagra, and get his rocks off...but then what? She would leave. He would be alone. The buzz would wear off. He would snore himself awake in the middle of the night and nobody would be there but the darkness.

Nicholson has admitted publicly about his intractable fear of death.
"I would be so happy if I didn't smoke, for a lot of reasons. I can't believe that I can't break the habit. I don't want to be lying around, dying in Cedar's Sinai Hospital and thinking that I was as stupid enough, a man who is as petrified of dying as I am, to have done it to myself. I'm a real fraidy-cat about mortality."
Jack Nicholson long ago chose to live the Hyde life. Most others sided with the good Dr. Jeckyll. But let's be honest--most of them aren't any happier. Is the grass simply always greener?

Every man who is married debates divorce, debates having affairs with coworkers and secretaries, debates calling up prostitutes, debates fucking the babysitter, debates becoming a Mormon fundamentalist, debates cashing in his 401k, changing his name to Sugar Daddy, and moving to Poland.

Every man who chooses to stay single and leave his options open inevitably finds himself chasing after girls he does not even respect, girls he cannot even hold a conversation with, girls he hangs out with purely because he wants to fuck them. Why? The alternative is spending yet another perilously lonely night at home, wondering if he should have married some old girlfriend, bought a house, traveled the world, had kids, grown old together... Was she the one and I blew it? Will any other woman worth a damn ever find me attractive? Are all the good ones taken? At what age will sexy young women start refusing to even consider me an option? What then? Will I have to pay for sex for the rest of my life? Oh, God--I should have married Tina while I had the chance! No--wait--why? I'd rather be alone than with her when she's 50. Wait--would I? I don't like being alone. I only like being alone when I can't be alone. Wait...what? Tina! Tits! ARRGH!

Neither choice is perfect, neither choice is easy, both end in death and, typically, regret. But what does it all matter? As Zorba the Greek said, "in the end, we're all the same--food for worms."

Sadly, not everybody can have it both ways in one lifetime--just Warren Beatty, it seems--and Jack and I both know he will never change; it's too late. But, as I'm sure it has dawned on him, the cost of his lifelong gallivanting, the downside of his Jeckyll/Hyde decision, has come to bear: late-life loneliness. He must face down his biggest fear--death--alone.

Speaking of...I don't wanna jinx things, but I really hope he makes another movie before he dies. If The Bucket List winds up as Jack Nicholson's parting cinematic gift to the world, I think I'll drive over to Hollywood and vomit on it.


* Incidentally, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde is my favorite literary work of all time. I think I underlined the entire book; brief, but packed with relevant, timeless, social philosophy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What is 'real?'

Yet again, I swear I wrote about this before, but I can't seem to find the article anywhere.
So here it is now:

At some point toward the end of this past Project Runway season (that's how I gauge time, by the way), four of my friends all got together at a friend's house to watch a couple recorded episodes. Once they were over, the host suggested we watch another program he had recorded, but not seen yet, called "Guys and Dolls."

It was a very serious, if often funny, documentary about four men who own what are called Real Dolls--poseable sex dolls made in California that cost between $6500 and $10,000. These dolls not only have mouths--they have tongues! Real hair, huge breasts, the ability to hold a lifelike body temperature if submerged in warm water for a while...

The things these four men say, the women they date, the trip into their psyches...this documentary is priceless.


As a man with a sex drive stuck in sixth gear, it is hard to watch this movie and not feel some kind of shared guilt for what these four creepy men feel they need to do to fulfill their sexual urges. I mean, they're men. They get horny. They want to fuck and they don't want to be bothered with pleasantries, don't want to be stalled by refusals, don't want to have to settle for ugly fat women, don't want to resort to questionable prostitutes.

Don't get me wrong--there is a gaping, bottomless crevasse between me and these guys, since I would never allow myself to stoop so low as to have sex with a doll (unless it would somehow save the world or the life of a loved one; I would make that sacrifice). But I understand that not everybody has the standards/drive that I have and, more importantly, I understand where they're coming from. I understand their need to quench those urges, how frustrating it would be if you could never get a woman. I mean, imagine if you were 30 years old and you had never had sex. You've been bursting at the seams since you were 13 years old, but no woman ever even looks at you. Or maybe a couple women do, but they weigh 400 pounds and smell like Cracker Barrel Spreadable Cheese and probably have herpes from some skeezy, truck drivin' Johnny Herpeseed. What would you do?

Some guys would lower their standards and tie one on with the toothless fatties. Some guys would become serial rapists. Some guys would join eHarmony and find a boring Yang for their Yin. Some guys would save up for 11 months out of the year and spend the month of December in Bangkok sex clubs. Some guys would decide they either need to buy a sex doll or cut their balls off and, with that in mind, I think these fellas chose the more harmless of the two options.

In addition to the sex, however, there is an even creepier need being fulfilled by these dolls--companionship. Not all the featured customers, but at least two that I can remember, actually treat these dolls as if they are real women. They take them to the park, they have pictures of themselves together, they act as if the dolls have feelings. They change their faces--literally.


These dolls come with removable, interchangeable faces--sleeping face, awake face, happy face, fuck-me-in-the-face face, etc. They put make-up on them, brush their hair...like I said--it's creepy. But I can't look away.

My favorite thing about this documentary, as far as stylistic choices go, is that the breasts and vaginas of the Real Dolls were blurred out in every shot. Blurred out! But they're not even real!?!

I wonder if this was in the original BBC broadcast, or merely a function of it playing on American television. Either way, the interesting thing about this is that the blurry patches lend a touch of humanity to the already fairly-lifelike dolls. It is as if the director wanted to protect their feelings, to spare them the embarrassment of having their naughty bits on display for all to see.

Interested in watching it?

Unbelievably, I just found the entire 46-minute BBC program available online, for free.
You need to watch it. Trust me--it is riveting. And I guarantee you will watch it at least until the point where my friends and I all almost threw up and turned it off. But we made it pretty damn far along.

In fact, I'm gonna try again right now. I can't stop myself!!!

Jizz

Have you seen this yet?

If not, you should.

Single of the year?

Keep Lying to Yourself...

I read an article online today about a 33 year-old guy named Trung Le, who lives in Ontario, Canada, with his parents. Weird, right?

Hold on tight--it gets weirder.

This guy has spent $25,000 building a robot--female, of course--that has a vocabulary of 13,000 words and can tell you the weather. Her name is Aiko.


According to her creator--who, oddly, has no girlfriend--Aiko is NOT designed for sex, although her body was fashioned out of a fully-anatomically-correct, state-of-the-art Japanese sex doll.

When asked what exaclty she was designed for, Trung's answer was pretty weak:

"Le sees possible applications within homes for the elderly, inside hospitals or the military, working reception or providing airport security. He also sees her as a research tool for developing fully-sensing limb replacements for people who've had an amputation."

Yeah, right. Sounds conveniently vague to me...

Here are the questions I would ask Trung Le if given the chance:

1. Why is your robot a woman?
2. Why did she have to have hair?
3. Why does a robot not designed for sex need pliable breasts and a lifelike vagina?
4. How does dressing her up like an intergalactic space stewardess and banging her senseless in your parents' basement help the elderly?


For the full article, click here

For the wikipedia entry about Project Aiko, click here

_

Friday, December 12, 2008

You Look Hungry---Have Some Pajamas!

One day, months ago, when a friend chained me down and held my eyelids open, I saw something on the Oprah Winfrey Show that blew my mind. I swore I would write about it then, but I must have forgotten, so here it is now.

First off, for those of you that are unfamiliar, the Oprah Winfrey Show is a popular television show among women. The host, Oprah, is an awe-inspiringly vain, overweight, empowered woman whose softball interviewing tactics are beloved by PR reps across the nation. Viewers love it when she loses weight and gains it back, or when she unleashes the occasional "you go, girl!"

Anyway, this particular episode showcased the efforts of a handful of people who found, late in life, that charity was their calling, and abandoned their white-collar jobs or mommy duties to work full-time for their charitable causes.

One of the them was a guy who collected books and brought them to elementary schools in Nepal, so the children could have books to read and learn English. He then expanded the program to include children's books written in their native language.

Another--we'll call her Miss Stupidhead--started an organization that donated pajamas to poor children. It is called the Pajama Program.

"Please give me some pajamas..."

Now, keep in mind that these are not pajamas that were lying around somebody's house unused and then shipped in. These are, in a few cases, new pajamas that people purchased and donated; but in most cases, these were pajamas this woman purchased with money people donated.

Imagine this scenario:

"Hello, Miss Stupidhead, I'm pretty damn rich and I've started to feel guilty about it, so I'd like to give something back. A friend at my country club told me you run a charity that benefits underprivileged children and I would like to donate $500,000 to your cause."
"Oh, that's super! I can buy 50,000 pajamas with all that money! Think of how happy those children will be!"
"Umm...pajamas? I'd rather you spent it on food, medicine, education, clothes they can actually wear to school..."
"No--trust me. If there's one thing I learned growing up white and privileged, it's that the one thing poor children need above everything else is pajamas."
"Okay, you're the expert..."

As is her wont, Oprah surprised this woman, on-air, with thousands of pairs of pajamas purchased with funds donated from her viewers.

Again...donated cash turned into pajamas.

Why?

Why!!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Come on, Feel the Illinois!


It's not like other states (or the Feds) are that much cleaner, but it's hard not to agree with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald when he says the actions of notoriously corrupt--and finally busted--current Governor Rod "The Hair" Blagojevich have "taken us to a truly new low."

With Obama's ascendance to the Presidency nigh, it is easy to forget that Illinois politics are not that far removed from the Al Capone or Richard J. Daley days. Let's recap:

1. The current mayor of the city of Chicago is Richard J. Daley's son, Richard M. Daley. He has kept Chicago extremely clean, helped preserve historic buildings, planted many trees, etc...but has also helped steer most of the city funds into the pockets of his friends, among other nefarious things.

2. Our last governor, George Ryan, is currently in an executive prison camp, serving a 6.5-year sentence for his 2006 conviction on racketeering and fraud.


The funny thing is that this is simply how politics works. The reason you don't hear more about it is that most politicians are smart enough to leave it at a nod and a wink, or meet in random delis or highway rest stops if they need to lay down specifics. Most of them do not get caught. Most of them don't have Patrick Fitzgerald chasing after them.

And so, while every governor/senator/mayor/alderman/etc frantically searches their offices and homes for bugs, the public rejoices in the fact that the lone bad apple has been removed from the bunch.

NOW the halcyon days of universal, transparent honesty can finally begin!

(A link to the full article in the New York Times)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Things I Learned About My Governor Today


- His chair at the conference table is 4 inches higher than all the others. Nobody else is ever allowed to sit in it.

- Every square inch of his bathroom wall is covered by either a framed photo of him, a framed political cartoon about him, a drawing of him, or a painting of him.

- He likes almonds.

- He has a 3ft-tall, metal, blinking Terminator skeleton immediately behind his desk, over his shoulder.

- He has the sword from Conan the Barbarian on display in the President Ronald Reagan Cabinet Room adjacent to his office.

- When he wears a green velvet sportcoat, his orange hair makes him look like an elf.

- His Chief of Staff, Daniel, is totally a vampire.

- He's a Leo.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

"I'll Take 'Poser' for $100, Please Alex."

In my line of work--well, in one of them--I must unfortunately troll through bottomless chasms of stupid bullshit. It's easy to get distracted and let the chore take all weekend.

Without giving too much away, one of my most recent searches resulted in me stumbling upon a man named David Foster.


Here is his website:
www.davidfoster.com

Here is the pretentious title of his "hot" new autobiography:
"Hitman: Forty Years Making Music, Topping Charts & Winning Grammys"

Here is the reality of his career:
He wrote a couple Olympic themes, scored "St. Elmo's Fire" and produced some shitty songs for a lot of singers. He won an Emmy for a TV Special where children sang songs--like that would lose! There is no mention of him winning a Grammy, much less more than one. His songwriting seems to be confined to Katharine McPhee album-fillers. But you try telling him that! He's a big, bright, shining star, hater!

Here is the most fitting moment in his life:
His third wife (the real songwriter of the couple) divorced him the day after a "staged-reality" TV show premiered, in which David Foster tried to force his two stepsons to grow up and be men.

Here is my favorite chunk of text from his wikipedia entry:
"During the 1990s he often performed acts with San Diego vocalist Warren Wiebe who he had discovered in the restroom of a hotel bar in 1987. In 1994 he had Wiebe put together a band called Millennium featuring Nita Whitaker and a few session vocalists but the deal with Foster's record company led to the group's demise. Warren was Foster's 'mouth' on many of his videos but took his own life before he could release a solo album."

He discovered him in a hotel bathroom and made him his 'mouth?'
Doesn't this 'hitman' have a publicist?
Is that publicist equally unqualified for his title?
Yes.
Do I hope they both read this?
Yes.
_

Friday, December 5, 2008

I am Atheist--Hear Me Roar!

(Photo courtesy The Guardian)

Evidently, the idea to advertise is gaining traction in the London atheist community. Adverts have been designed, CBS Outdoor is willing to sell the space, and best-selling author Professor Richard Dawkins will match any contribution up to 5,500 pounds. That would bring the total raised to 11,000 pounds.

That is enough money to run the ads on 30 buses for 4 weeks.

Feeling generous, fellow deviants? It's about time an alternative to desperate, misguided hope showed its face around town, for the benefit of all those stooges/children out there who get their ideologies from the advertising industry. Hooray for cultural advancement!
_

Take that, Verizon!


Ha! Hong Kong is all over your pimply, corporate ass!
Try Malaysia--they might let you purely out of spite.



link to the Oxford Journals article:
http://jiplp.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/3/7/428
_

The Ongoing, Drawn-Out Death March of the Financial World Continues...

Word is, heads are rolling at investment banking firms around the globe, which really should come as a surprise to no one.

What does come as a surprise to me is this:

According to the International Herald Tribune, year-end bonuses to bankers at firms in London are said to be dropping 60% this year. Only USD$5.3 billion will be handed out to those who steered their company's pocketbooks into the sewer. And that's just London. Poor guys...

Luxury goods retailers are fainting as we speak.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pirates, Pirates, Go Away. Come Again Some Other Day!

According to the BBC, those intractable Somali pirates nearly landed an army of lucrative hostages this weekend when they attempted to subdue a US cruise ship with over 1000 people on board.

After reading the full article, several questions come to mind:

1. Why does this boat require nearly one crew member for each passenger aboard? (656 passengers, 399 crew) Do the first 300 to book each get their own prostitute?

2. Who goes on a 32-day cruise?

3. Who goes on a 32-day cruise when the global economy is in the shitter?

4. How does a cruise ship with 1000 people on board outmaneuver and outrun agile skiffs carrying experienced pirates armed with machine guns and rocket launchers?

And, in case you were wondering, that Saudi oil tanker carrying 2 million barrels of crude oil is still being held for ransom, as is the cargo ship bursting with Russian tanks and munitions. So are TWELVE other ships.

I can't wait until they take an aircraft carrier next week and start REALLY fucking shit up...

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Home


Los Angeles, CA -- Once again graced with my presence, Los Angeles has returned to normal after a week of relentless turmoil. Finally, crossword puzzles are getting done, good movies are being watched, tennis is being played, grilled fish tacos are being devoured, and people are constantly staring at me because they can't decide whether I am Michael Keaton's son or an un-styled (and sexier) David Cook.

After a useless, impromptu meeting at the Beverly Hilton late this afternoon--where I did nothing but consume expensive hors d'oeuvres and fine scotch--I spotted Jane Seymour & Family getting their picture taken in front of a backdrop, as part of a Christopher Reeve Foundation fundraiser or something. She was a total fox.

Since the Seymours and an army of people in electronic wheelchairs were completely blocking the path to the parking garage, my friend and I stepped outside to make our way around them. Through the window, my friend spotted some bitch from MTV's black-hole-for-girls, The Hills. I had no idea who she was, proud to say, but after a bit of research I now know it was Lo Bosworth. Consensus--she has a fat ass and wears expensive high-heels that are several sizes too big for her (borrowed? don't make kid sizes? shrinking at an astonishing rate?). I wouldn't normally judge somebody so harshly, but when you beg for the microscope, you get it.

Stay tuned for more dispatches from the sunniest goddamn place on Earth. But keep your shirt on, I've got shit to do. Sort of...