Monday, December 29, 2014

End Racism With Ethnic Stereotyping!

I've got some good news and some bad news. First the good: today is the natal anniversary of longtime lurker and Friend O' the Blog, Jacquie.  Last December, after an admittedly tough year, she requested an Eliza Dushku photo for her birthday cheesecake, which we were happy to provide. She hasn't updated her preference for 2014, so we're hoping this year was an improvement, or maybe she's just extremely loyal to her brand of eye candy; in any case, we're going with the same deal this year:

But what's a birthday party without a party clown? Unfortunately -- and here's where the bad news comes in -- I didn't plan ahead, and all the major names in the business -- Koko, from the Out of the Inkwell shorts; Bobo from those psychological experiments of the early Sixties in which children were manipulated into beating up Shmoos; and, of course, Pennywise from It -- were booked. Sadly, all we could get was Logos, the Logical Positivism Clown.

But maybe that's all for the best, because even when we're eating birthday cake, ogling cheesecake, and opening presents, serious stuff is still going on. For instance, racism has become a crippling problem in this country -- and by "country," I mean "remakes of animated movies" -- and our only hope is to call in a semi-professional philosopher and part-time party clown to straighten things out.  Fortunately, Logos is played by Jeremy Egerer of American Thinker, and Jeremy, according to his bio, "is the editor of the philosophical websites Letters to Hannah and American Clarity. American Clarity welcomes friend requests on Facebook."  Letters to Hannah, on the other hand, would prefer you just send letters, even though it's a website and can't actually receive or open mail, but anything else would leave them vulnerable to charges of false advertising. Letters to Hannah regrets the inconvenience, and admits it didn't really think this whole thing through.
King Louie: The Greatest Racist of Them All?
I dunno, which King Louie are we talking about? There were like 18 of them...
One thing that's come into fashion lately has been people's tendency to mock Disney characters for being "racist." 
Jeremy definitely has his finger on the pulse of today's Hot Topic shopper, and if there's anything she loves more than leather bucket bags and gunmetal ear cuffs, it's lampooning the racism of Disney characters.
 Nobody questions whether the crows in Dumbo might have been modeled after real musicians of the era, and nobody questions whether there really were (at some point in a bygone era) Indians like the ones in Peter Pan
As we all know, Peter Pan was basically a documentary, and Disney animators consulted ethnographers and anthropologists, who assured them that Native Americans were in the habit of breaking into elaborate musical numbers to explain why their skin was red (they were cursed with a hereditary blush after one of their ancestors sexually harassed a pre-Colombian woman).

Now, I freely admit that I never majored in Philosophy, and therefore am wholly unequipped to deal with the brutal and naked Logic of the following paragraph, which I suspect would leave even Bertrand Russell in a cleft stick. But maybe you'll have better luck with it:
 Apparently nobody has ever ridden the Washington State ferry system and seen old pictures of actual Indians. It's almost enough to make you wonder what Millennials think when they go to an Americanized Chinese restaurant. Is it more racist to call Chinese what they aren't actually, or more racist to call them what they are? Or is it racist to pretend that Chinese people have certain kinds of food at all? Maybe someday we'll live in a world where all the different races act completely the same way, so that everyone can pretend be more diverse without any stereotypes. But I don't see how this could help us find good food.
So, taking a ferry in Washington State will make you believe in Peter Pan, and therefore, peanut butter, while ordering from a Chinese restaurant will turn you into a racist unless you pretend you're at Cracker Barrel, but it's easy to slip up and give the whole game away by carelessly requesting extra duck sauce.
Maybe if we were more sensible, we would realize that it is the stereotypes themselves that make racial diversity actually diverse. 
If it weren't for the clarifying power of watermelon-based humor, we might never even notice that black people exist, and instead go through life thinking all of humanity was kind of a stonewashed taupe.
Without ethnic differences, there would never have been any need to promote racial harmony – because there would never have been any reason to be anything other than harmonious.
A quick glance at European history might seem to contradict you, Jeremy, but why trouble your beautiful mind with white peoples' unpleasant penchant for making war on each other.
 We would have already been the same.
It takes a philosopher to realize that the actual goal of "diversity" is "sameness."
The king of all anti-racist Disney complaints, though, concerns a king himself – a king named Louie, to be exact. Louie is a monkey, which is fine in and of itself; the fact that he's taken as a devious black monkey is the point of contention
tl;dr - There was a touch of racism in Kipling's story, which was obvious even in 1967, so maybe a live action version made for a global audience in 2014 ought to filter some of that out. Also, "King Louie" was a character invented by Disney and shoehorned into the narrative, because say what you want about Kipling, he at least knew orangutans aren't native to India.
 The fact that he's voiced by a white jazz musician is maybe the most interesting thing about the complaint.
And the fact that underneath the burnt cork is a white actor is probably the most interesting thing about blackface.
 Had monkey never been a racial slur in the first place, and jazz musicians not been historically black, perhaps nobody would have noticed. 
Exactly! And if bigots had never uttered the N-word, then you could use it today and no one would even know you were a racist! The joke would totally be on them! (I have to admit, this critique of pure reason is a lot more exhilarating than I expected.)
 That everyone believes that the monkey was black, when he's being played by a white man who spent a lifetime aping the black men of his day, makes the accusation extremely ironic. 
I think most people, particularly in 1967, knew that Louis Prima was Sicilian, but speaking of irony, I'd say Jeremy deserves full marks for attempting to disprove the existence of racism through use of the words "aping the black men."
 If we really believe that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then King Louie's existence is less of an insult and more of a compliment. 
That's why black people objected to minstrel shows -- they just can't take a compliment.
However ugly the beginning of last century was, if there's any badge that doesn't fit the English these days, it's the imperialist. Yet it's the badge he was given in The Jungle Book, and the badge that everyone refuses to notice. 
I can't speak for the UK but that's not really a problem in this country, since if you fail to notice a badge you'll probably be shot two seconds later, so the genetic trait of badge-blindness tends not to get passed on to subsequent generations.
 The Indian of Peter Pan has outgrown a teepee, which was a symbol of his indigence; the Englishman has outgrown his safari hat, which was a symbol of his violence. 
The American Thinker has outgrown his diapers, which was the symbol of his incontinence, and is now ready for pull-ups. Also another box of crayons so he can finish his monograph, On Overcoming Racist Archetypes By Upgrading Your Camping Gear and Hat Collection.
If there are any two things we can take from this, it would be first, that our ideological upbringing is an ideological upbringing
"If he pulls an ad populum, you pull an ad hominem! If he sends one of yours an ideological upbringing, you send one of his a tautology! That's the Chicago School way!"

Anyway, white men have been polite long enough, and their philosophical brain trust has decided that the hill they should die on is the question of whether the live action remake of a 47 year old Disney cartoon will or will not include a jazzy orangutan.
[W]e should learn from this the incredible patience of all white men in general, who've been not only willing to admit to the sins that only their grandparents committed, but have been willing to turn the other cheek when those accusations are misdirected toward those currently living. It speaks of a certain magnanimity of heart, an innocence and softness in a world where everyone else is angry (for good reasons or bad). 
Speaking as a white man, I'd just like to say how happy and relieved I am that my naiveté and downy softness is finally getting the respect it deserves.
 It's the kind of thing that – believe it or not – keeps black racists in business, and instead of throwing a fit and suing when it's unfairly portrayed, asks, How should I then behave? The common Englishman is willing to call everyone innocent except himself. 
To be fair, in addition to "innocent" he might also call you "twat," but that rarely, and only when he's drunk and trying to stomp your head in at a football match, because he's hard on himself that way.
When the rest of the world is passionately arguing against the white stereotypes entirely unfounded and outdated, and allows white men to make the same racial observations everyone else does for business and pleasure, then we'll have reached a state of racial harmony. For magnanimity of heart, if any relationship is to last, must be multilateral: there is no friendship without a common generosity. Voltaire said that you always know your masters when you find you can't criticize them. When two men can take a jab for the quirks and sins of their families, then we'll be dealing not with "minorities" and the "privileged," but with social equals.
A box of Twizzlers to the first person who can explain to me what the hell this guy is talking about.

So, here's hoping Jacquie has a very happy birthday, full of attractive actresses and a minimum amount of unfounded and outdated white stereotypes. Also:
Sexy Birthday Lizard! And this one combines both an attractive actress and reptiles, as Jean Harlow judges the 1931 Horned Toad Races.

Happy birthday, Jacquie!

[It's the last day or so of our fundraiser; please click here for both the hair-raising and fund-raising details. Thanks.]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: Pastor Swank is Brain Alive!

Originally published August 20, 2009

Political debate is all well and good, but conservative pundits has so far failed to entirely check the progress of President Obama's healthcare reform.  And why? Obviously, because they're speaking English! As any rhetorician will tell you, the only way to argue against a new policy is with new, made-up words. Enter Pastor Swank:
OBAMA MOB HYSTERIACS PUSHED BACK BY BRAIN ALIVE CITIZENRY 
Thinking heads throughout the Republic are finally getting some headway, particularly regarding Obama’s Whack Non-Health Blanket.
I tried diagramming this sentence, but it wound up looking like those dick drawings that John Madden doodles on your TV screen during football games. So let’s just see if we can untangle it instead.

Okay, “[T]hinking heads” suggests that they’re disembodied, so this is probably a reference to the 1963 documentary, They Saved Hitler’s Brain.
they saved hitlers brain.jpg
This would make sense, since Obama is basically synonymous with Adolf Hitler in the public imagination. Next, “throughout the Republic,” is obviously a sly reference to the upcoming Star Wars game, The Old Republic, which is highly anticipated by conservative gamers, because Dick Cheney is a playable Sith.

kotor.jpg
“[F]inally getting some headway,” probably means it was the Pastor’s birthday, or wedding anniversary.

“[P]articularly regarding Obama’s Whack.” Swank realizes that Obama is black, and obviously feels that his point is important enough that he should attempt to communicate with the President in his native tongue, while “Non-Health Blanket” is clearly an reference to the smallpox-infected blankets the U.S. Army bestowed upon the Plains Indians, and which, according to the House bill, will now be a part of your grandmother’s Medicare benefits.

Whew. Really getting into the substance of Pastor Swank’s prose, with its rich and allusive language, is like trying to read Joyce’s Ulysses without annotations. Maybe we should just skim.
Obama is pained due to recent right-thinking citizens howling loudly and long enough. Grassroots town halls have screeched at Congress. The mob hysteriacs who voted in a celebrity rather than a free enterprise, constitution-friendly statesman are losing ground.
So the mob hysteriacs who voted for Obama are being shouted down by the new, right-thinking mob hysteriacs, who are also howling, presumably because they've seen the best minds of their generation destroyed by madness, starving, hysteriacal, naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking looking for an angry fix, because that's the only place you can get your prescription filled now thanks to Obamacare.
As for Obama wanting a Canadian cloned health-blanket, Canada’s health care stinks. My cousin needed immediate spine care. His Halifax Nova Scotia doc was brusque, mean-hearted and just plain crude in his response to my relative’s plea.
Canadians are notoriously rude to people who can’t be bothered to keep their spines in working order.
The cousin ended up at Lahey Clinic, Burlington MA, for state-of-the-art surgery that responsibly corrected the problem. Thank you, America!
Great, so we’re already paying for the health care of illegal immigrants? I demand to see an itemized bill.
Mob hysteriacs put Obama the Anti-America President in control. But as we are now realizing, the hysteriacs, though many are still loyal space cadets in the brain space, are losing hold. The ground is slowly giving way to the brain alive citizens of this country.

This isn’t a particularly good argument against health care reform, but it is, I admit, a great plot synopsis of Fiend Without a Face.
As a Christian, I believe that what is happening right now is God inserting His powerplay into societal happenings for God has a vested interest in this particular country.
Although now that God actually owes more on America than the country is worth, he’s considering just mailing the keys to the bank and walking away.
This is the only nation ever created by biblical believers seeking a land where they could worship Christ and live by the Bible.
The Crusader kingdoms don’t count, because technically they were just pre-season exhibition countries.
Those founders prayed with their blood.
Services were messy. James Madison made a point of bringing extra Wet-Naps for Benjamin Franklin, while Alexander Hamilton always wore a lobster bib to church.
Their petitions are still very much alive and well at heaven’s throne. With God, a thousand years is as a day and vice versa.
Which is why God hasn’t smote Canada; waiting 8 weeks for a hip replacement doesn’t really seem all that unreasonable to Him.
Couple the founders’ prayers with the earnest biblical believers’ cries present-tense and you have a mighty call-out to the divine going on 24 / 7. God is responding to those sincere pleas.
Through His call center in Mumbai. As the Lord sayeth, “Your earnest biblical believers’ cries are very important to Us. Please stay on the line, and your mighty call-out will be answered by the next available cherub.”
We biblical Christians have just begun to witness the divine thrust retrieving our nation for its foundation’s sake.
Hey, what you do behind closed doors is your business, Pastor.
Bonus Doghouse Riley comment:
Nice to see the Good Pastor sittin’ up and taking nourishment, since unless he’s over 65 the source of his health insurance is a Divine mystery.

Nice, too, to see the return of the ol’ “The Founders were Christian, The Founders were x, y, z” routines. Ya gotta love the Classics. Not that they ever went away, exactly, but the juxtaposition of solemn invocation of our Forebears by the denizens of the very sort of ill-informed, weed-sucking, corn-distilling mobs, the abhorrence of which was the single source of their total political agreement, reminds us that, when all seems bleak, you can always laugh at the parade of dipshits going on somewhere.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Our 2014 Year End List of the Ten Best Year End Lists of 2014!

Veteran habitués of the blogosphere will likely remember two things which loomed like twin colossi over the early years of the weblog phenomenon: the subtle, but incisive satire of Reasonable Conservative Jon Swift (known in civilian life as the journalist Al Weisel), and a long-running argument about whether it was "blogosphere" or "blogtopia" (personally, I leaned toward the former, because the latter seemed a bit too optimistic for me). One of Jon/Al's legacies is the Blogger Year-End Roundup, in which all bloggers great and small could submit their best posts of the year, gaining new readers and encountering new voices.

Fortunately, Batocchio of Vagabond Scholar has kept the tradition alive, and the 2014 edition is now up, featuring some of our favorite writers -- Carl of Simply Left Behind, TBogg, Roy -- and many with whom I'm unfamiliar, because I don't get out much.  Which is the great thing about this annual feature -- it offers the thrill of discovery without the necessity of getting off the couch; in other words, it expands one's horizons without interrupting the expansion of one's ass.

Each participating blogger seems to have made a thoughtful, illuminating selection from his or her body of work, whereas I did what I do every year: hastily skim the archives then pull out something at random, because I'm an impulse shopper.  Click here when you have a moment, and enjoy a finely wrought time capsule of 2014.

[We're in the last days of our fundraiser -- an explanation of the cause, and how you can help, if you're able, can be found here.  Thanks.]

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! I Got You PAIN!

You know, we've been doing the World O' Crap Annual Christmas Movie Review for quite awhile now, and looking back at the various holiday films we've covered, there's just one thing I'd like to say: I owe a heartfelt apology to It's A Wonderful Life, One Magic Christmas, Santa Claus: The Movie, Jack Frost, Babes in Toyland, and Santa Baby 2, because this year's selection is without a doubt the worst Christmas movie, and possibly the worst movie, period, that we have ever done.  And I make you this promise: if I ever travel outside the U.S., particularly to an undeveloped and disease-ridden corner of the globe, I won't get any of the recommended vaccinations, both as a form of reparations to Jenny McCarthy, and because I no longer want to live in a world where Jingle All The Way is allowed to exist.

Usually I like to write these a few days in advance, correct the typos, maybe even do a second draft, but I was pressed for time and just finished watching this steaming heap of offal about 30 seconds ago, so I'm afraid you're getting the raw data...

"We'll do it live!"

Jingle All The Way (1996)
Director: Brian Levant
Writer: Randy Kornfield

You know how you’ll be walking along, and suddenly notice footprint-shaped smears of dog crap, realize some pet must have deposited a pile on the sidewalk somewhere behind you, and wonder if you stepped in it too? Well, this film doesn’t keep you guessing. From the first seconds, where a jetpack-powered hero named Turbo Man throws boomerangs at the Power Rangers on what appears to be the set of Turkish Star Wars, you realize you’ve plowed knee-high through a dog doo drift. By the time it’s revealed that we’re watching a kid’s TV show with Jake Lloyd, from Star Wars: Episode One: The Phantom Menace, you give up hope of scraping your waffle-tread sneakers clean with a toothpick and just throw them in the trash.

Jake’s dad is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is a terrible father because he misses Jake’s karate promotion, and is also apparently a fugitive from justice, since he’s living under the obviously assumed name of “Howard Langston.”

Arnold tries to compensate for his failure as a parent by barging into Jake’s room, tying the new karate belt around his forehead and lampooning Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid as a gesture of respect for all his son’s hard work. But Jake remains pissy, so Arnold decides to bribe him with a hunk of molded plastic from the Philippines. (On a personal note, my dad didn’t come to my purple belt graduation either, nor did he try to make it up to me with an action figure, which has always stung, even though I was thirty.)

So now Arnold has to get this stupid doll on Christmas Eve, but of course it’s sold out, so he goes on a picaresque journey in which he meets various mythological creatures, such as Sinbad, an unstable postal worker who rants about racism and alimony and tries to choke a random woman to death, presumably because women be different from men, i.e., more chokeable. The two race each other to the Mall of America, where Arnold gets into the ball pit at Camp Snoopy with a little girl and shouts, “I’m not a pervert!” Somehow this phrase sounds even more disturbing when bellowed in a thick Austrian accent.

Arnold falls in with a gang of toy smuggling mall Santas who try to cheat him with a Spanish-language Turbo Man doll. Arnold goes berserk and a fight breaks out, which climaxes with a dwarf getting punched so hard he flies across a warehouse, because the filmmakers were afraid the comic afterglow of the lady-choking scene was starting to wear off.

Arnold takes a moment to call home and scream at his son, then he and Sinbad share a tender moment where they drink and try to kill each other. Later, they go to a radio station to beat up Martin Mull, and Sinbad makes not one but two bomb threats, but only the second one is real, and he blows up Robert Conrad.

Meanwhile, Arnold sneaks into his neighbor Phil Hartman’s house and steals the gift-wrapped Turbo Man from under his tree, but he accidentally sets the nativity scene on fire and gets caught by his own wife. Arnold realizes he's been a dick, shows genuine contrition and struggles to make amends...I'm just kidding; he goes into a steroidal rage and punches out Phil’s pet reindeer, but he makes up for it as soon as the animal regains consciousness by getting it drunk. Tragically, he can’t be bothered to do us the same courtesy.

Phil drives Jake to the parade, then makes unwanted sexual overtures to Arnold’s wife in the car, because everybody in this movie is a sociopath. Meanwhile, Arnold runs into Robert Conrad, whose hands are hideously burned from the earlier explosion, and scalds him with coffee just to make sure. Then the parade organizers just happen to mistake Arnold for the guy who plays Turbo Man, so they strip him and dress him up in an elaborate costume while he stands there and mildly protests. It’s the kind of thing which could happen to anybody, and is exactly how I wound up standing in front of Sam’s Club dressed in a felt Pikachu costume. Twice.

Arnold rides around in the parade in his accidental costume, then summons Jake -- who he happens to spot amongst the hundred thousand people lining the route -- onto the float and gives him a special edition Turbo Man doll. But even though his own son doesn’t recognize him behind the mask, Sinbad does, so he dresses as Turbo Man’s arch enemy and they have a lame fight, which comes to a merciful end when Jake kicks Sinbad in the nuts (didn’t think that dull karate subplot was going to pay off, did you?)

But Sinbad didn’t hesitate to strangle a woman or blow up the star of Ba Ba Black Sheep, and he’s more than willing to murder a child, so he chases Jake onto the roof of a building, then up a Christmas tree. Fortunately, Arnold’s parade-quality superhero costume contains a real, working jetpack with an unlimited fuel supply, and he takes off and starts flying around downtown Minneapolis like the Rocketeer, pausing only to crash through and demolish the apartment of a black family who were just sitting down to dinner and probably didn't even know they were in this movie.

Arnold immediately masters the jetpack and can suddenly throw a boomerang like Crocodile Dundee. He knocks Sinbad off the rooftop Christmas tree where he tragically falls to what turns out not to be his death, then pulls off his mask and tries to convince his son that he’s secretly Turbo Man and has a very busy Power Ranger-fighting schedule, so Jake will understand when he doesn’t show up to any of his future school events, extracurricular activities, or birthday parties.

The end.

Okay, technically there was some other crap going on, but screw it, I'm calling time of death. THE. END.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Merry Christmas Beast Blogging and Programming Note

I hope everyone is having a lovely day.  Due to unavoidable stuff, the Annual Wo'C Christmas Movie Review will be delayed until some time this evening; in the meantime, please check out grouchomarxist's deft vivisection of A Country Christmas, and Bill S.'s handy guide to Holiday Horrors.

It's a bittersweet day for us, our first Christmas in this apartment, ever, without Riley. Moondoggie has been camped on the perimeter of our collapsable fake tree, peering through the branches, because in the past his friend could always be found underneath it, glaring back.  So to distract him I administered a bit of catnip a kind reader sent us, and I think I may have misjudged the dosage, because now he's hittin' on the Christmas angel.

Hey beautiful...Love the pixie hair cut. Anyone ever tell you you look just like Sandy Duncan? Or Sher Zieve?

Dude, do you mind, we're having a moment here...Some wingman you are...

Hey, have you ever been smuzzled?  That's when you snuggle with your muzzle. I invented it.

Ohhh, I'm dizzy with the heady fragrance of your sublime perfume! Is it L'Air du temps? Wind Song? Aviance?  It's what?...Mothballs?  Is that by Prince Matchebelli?  I'm just wearing a splash of toilet water, because I slipped when I was trying to drink out of it.

Bonus Holiday Beast Blogging!

Our friend KWillow has a new acquisition to the family:
Last month my daughter & I adopted a black female kitten from a "rescue" shelter. Jess picked the 'quietest kitten', who turned out to be ill with diarrhea, but thats all behind us now! 
ChesterCat was afraid of her at first, then cautiously interested, and now they play constantly, and Chester even grooms her (name: Rai). So its all looking good, except for my sofa which she climbs up as if it were Mt. Everest.
Chester is the tongue wielding fellow on the left, Rai on the right.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Time Once Again for "Goys on Toys!"

"Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call." -- Richard Lewis

Breaking with our tradition of spending the Twelve Days of Christmas highlighting crappy (and oftentimes, crapping) toys, this year we decided to provide Equal Time to Hannukah; and thus we conclude our survey with perhaps this season's hottest gift:
The Mensch on a Bench!

We're a little bitter toward creators Neal Hoffman and Necdet Yilmaz, because they submitted this idea to the reality show Shark Tank before we could approach the maneating marketers with our own (admittedly similar) idea, "Alter Kocker on a Locker."  We'd challenge them to step outside to settle this, but we're pretty sure Necdet Yilmaz is a Klingon, and would probably fillet us with his bat'leth, so we're forced to fall back on our idea for a holiday product targeted at the Tea Party and militia types, "Palin on a Railin'." Unfortunately, this doll only really works if you have stairs in your house, and market research shows that our demographic prefers ramblers and double-wides.

Anyway, like the Pagan -- sorry, the Christian -- "Elf on a Shelf", the "Mensch on a Bench" also has a list of rules one must follow when deploying the doll.  (I'm beginning to think this whole Elf and Mensch thing is kind of a rip off of Gremlins.)

Like the Elf, the Mensch regulations require that one constantly move the doll, otherwise it's sciatica kicks in and it will be weeks before it can kneel at prayers.

Another rule involves giving the doll a Shamash Candle (which is always lit) to hold. Frankly, I think the creators of this "cute" Hanukkah tradition just want to watch the whole world burn, so if you get one, maybe play it safe and seat it next to your Batman plushie.

[Fundraiser explanation here]

A Very Bill S. Christmas

[Our cup of wassail runneth over, as longtime Wo'C correspondent Bill S. gifts us with a whole Marshall Fields window full of Christmas crap! -- Scott]

The Christmas season is upon us. A time for buying presents, then worrying that they aren't nice enough, then wrapping them and worrying that you did a sloppy job. A time for making homemade fudge for the Christmas party, then making a second batch because after "sampling" a few pieces from the first one, you ate the whole thing (or maybe that's just me). A time for festive songs about Chipmunks roasting on an open fire. (Well, that sounds festive to me anyway.)

And it's also a time for Christmas movies and TV specials. Along with annual favorites there are also some...not so favorites. So as my gift to all of you, here are a few "also rans" you may have missed. If you were lucky.

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer (2000) Remember those animated TV specials inspired by popular Christmas songs like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", "Frosty the Snowman", "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "The Little Drummer Boy"? Sure you do! Even if the stories didn't always hold up with repeat viewings (In Rudolph, Santa comes across as kind of a dickbag), they boasted great animation, catchy songs, and big stars supplying voices (Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Greer Garson and Jimmy Durante). Well, here's another to add to that collection -- on the bottom of the pile to protect the others. Based on the 1979 novelty record that achieved popularity in the '80's thanks to a sort-of-funny music video, this hour long special tries to tell us what really happened on that fateful night. The story is told through the eyes of Grandma's 10 year-old grandson Jake Spankenheimer. It's narrated by the adult Jake, as if the story is taking place decades ago, although the characters are using technology that didn't exist in the '70's. So we must be hearing Jake 35 years in the future I guess. In any case, Grandma disappears on Christmas Eve, and all evidence points to her being trampled to death by Santa's reindeer, except for the fact that there's no body. She's presumed dead, which doesn't seem to faze Grandpa too much as he appears to be senile. The story's baddie is Cousin Mel, whose voice is supplied by Michele Lee (if there's a wrong way to pick a holiday special, nobody does it like she), who with the help of attorney I.M. Slime, attempts to sell Grandma's shop to a wealthy businessman. Of course it turns out Grandma isn't dead, and shows up before the sale can go through and oh, Sweet Lordy Gordy, who the hell is this cartoon for anyway? The animation is crappy, the songs are worse (the title song is actually the best one) and Mel and the lawyer wear cleavage bearing outfits while singing a duet that ends with them wiggling their butts at the audience.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). There's a reason the 1966 animated special is universally beloved: it's very nearly perfect. It's produced and directed by the great Chuck Jones (who brought in voiceover vet June Foray for one memorable line), features clever songs, and narration by the wonderful Boris Karloff. It's funny, it's got a great story, and conveys a nice little message ("Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.) Everything in it works. And in the abysmal live action version,  nothing works. Well, almost nothing -- Anthony Hopkins, who narrates, is a worthy successor to Karloff. The movie actually won an Oscar for its makeup, and to be sure, the transformation of Jim Carrey into the Grinch is impressive -- he's so buried under the makeup it hardly even matters who's playing the character at all. The actors playing the Whoville residents aren't quite as lucky -- Christine Baranski and Molly Shannon are made up so grotesquely they'd make Diane Arbus cringe. But that's not the worst thing about this movie. No, the worst thing is the way they managed to miss the entire point of the original story.  In this version, the Whos are assholes and the Grinch is lonely and misunderstood. Did we really need to mine the depths of his soul? And here's how completely off this thing is: remember in the cartoon, that the Grinch's heart was "two sizes two small", until he's moved by the sweetness of the Whoville residents and his heart grows three sizes? Well, in the live action version, it seems to be literally happening, and the Grinch writhes around like he's having a heart attack, in genuine agony. Which we, in the audience, can relate to. When I watched this movie with my brother and my then three-year old nephew, my brother had to convince the boy to sit still, telling him, "C'mon, it's funny". And hour into it, my nephew rose, looked at my brother and, in a tone of righteous indignation cried, "This is not funny!" My brother had to admit his son was right.

Comfort and Joy (2003) Not to be confused with the charming 1984 comedy of the same name, this Lifetime Original tells the tale of Jane (Nancy McKeon) a single woman with a successful career who, after being struck unconscious in an auto accident, awakens to find herself in some weird parallel universe where she's a wife and mother. Everyone seems to know her as this woman she isn't, including her children (upon seeing them for the first time, she screams in horror) and her husband, who's played by Steven Eckholdt. (You may remember him from his role on the sitcom Ellen. He appeared in the famous "Puppy" Episode, playing the last boyfriend Ellen Morgan has before realizing she's a lesbian.) Since Jane has no idea how to navigate this role of Happy Homemaker that has suddenly been thrust upon her, she makes alarming goofs. For instance, when preparing the stuffing for Christmas dinner, she dumps in a bottle of ketchup. Which means she's not only never cooked for herself, she's also never eaten. Eventually she comes to enjoy the role, before waking up again to her old life. I guess the lesson to be learned here is that for a successful single woman to find PTA meetings and household drudge work rewarding, all it takes is a massive head trauma. Which is probably true.

Visions of Sugar Plums (2001) On Christmas even a young gay man anticipates a visit from his strict conservative parents, who he hasn't come out to yet. It's a little like The Birdcage (minus the genius of Robin Williams, Mike Nichols and well, everybody else) and a little like Make the Yultide Gay (minus the warmth, sweetness, and Canadian cutiepants Adamo Ruggiero). This low, low, low budget movie sounds like it might be a broad comedy but instead is stiff, humorless and depressing. It was produced and directed by one Edward J. Fasulo. See if you can guess from the artwork on the video box, which one is him, and which one is the guy he cast as his love interest. If you guessed he was the short, schlubby guy on the right...well, good guess, but wrong. Nope, it's the beefcake model, and that's the only surprise in this thing. Actually, he does know how to frame scenes and edit. Unfortunately the sound mixing is so bad that you can barely hear anything during long stretches of the film. Even more unfortunately, the sound comes in just fine during the token drag queen's terrible standup act. On the bright side, this whole movie clocks in at about an hour and five minutes. So our suffering isn't prolonged.

Jingle All the Way 2 (2014) A sequel to the 1996 comedy. Did we need this? The first one only left one question unanswered: is there any actor more painfully unfunny than Arnold Schwarzenegger? Well, in this one he's replaced by Larry the Cable Guy, so I guess there's your answer.

Saving Christmas (2014) The newest film on our list -- a future holiday favorite, perhaps? By now you've probably heard of Kirk Cameron's weapon in the imaginary war on Christmas.
Well, that looks like...something. In an effort to bolster the movie's popularity, Kirk encouraged his fans (he still has them?) to give the picture glowing endorsements on RottenTomatoes.com, before the picture even opened. Unfortunately he neglected to do the same for the Internet Movie Database. As a result, this movie now has the lowest rating on that site. It's still ranked at #1 on the Bottom 100. That means it's got a lower rating than Plan Nine From Outer Space. A lower rating than Birdemic. Lower than From Justin To Kelly. Worse than Manos: The Hands of Fate, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Baby Geniuses 2: Why the Fuck Does This Exist? and The Room. It ranks below even Ben & Arthur, which I might have mentioned was the worst movie I've ever seen, and lower than Like Father Like Son, Listen To Me, Left Behind, Fireproof...sheesh, has Kirk ever made a movie that wasn't absolute garbage? All of which leaves me oddly curious to see it, if only to find out whether it lives up to (down to?) its reputation. Alas, it's not out on video yet, and no way am I spending 10 bucks on a movie ticket, so I guess you'll have to wait until next year for a full-length column on it. So until then, here's hoping all of you have a Cool Yule.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Farewell, "Raffles"

Note from Scott: Our deepest condolences to RenB on the loss of his father. The following is a tribute by our good friend Anntichrist S. Coulter:

Humility and Laughter:


It happened Sunday night/Monday morning. I got the e-mail from RenB around 1P, barely awake. Thrilled to see his ornery ass in my in-box after so long, but then flattened by the news. When he said, "Sit down, Jo," and I kept reading... whammo.

Richard "Raffles" Bodkin, aged 99 years & 9 months, had passed suddenly in the night. Hardly ever sick, survived World War II with only malaria, if you can say "only" about malaria, only hospitalized once in the years I'd known him, because he was 94 or 95 and still shoveling his own walk. Those New England Yankees, you know how ornery & independent that they are... He was such a ray of sunshine in my life, and if you take that sarcastically, shut the hell up. He really was a joy to know, and even though he'd been through and seen and experienced so much worse than I have whined & bitched about, lo, these many moons --- and he'd passed so many more moons --- he could easily have been bitter, vicious, your typical crotchety-oldy type, as he might've put it. But he wasn't. He took it all in stride. He wasn't an overly-tall man, but his stride must have passed acres.

He loved both his sons. When RenB left their small town in '72 for Europe, to escape the small-town-small-mindedness, cruelty, snotty remarks & hateful glares, he understood. He missed him terribly, every day, but he understood. It took this country several more decades to get over the public hysteria over homosexuality, and let's face it, we're still not there. Neither is all of Europe, either, mind you. They just don't tend to send Fred Phelps types to hate on anyone different from themselves, especially after you-know-who emerged from Austria. But Raffles, so nicknamed for being on the hand-me-down end of his family during the Depression (his clothing might've had ravels and patches, but they were clean, by damn!) --- our Raffles was decades ahead of a lot of this country. He loved his gay son before the funeral scene in Heathers. Accepted him, his lifelong love (well, Rene's life is far from over yet, so you never know, but it was several decades), just loved his son, completely. And when RenB's descriptions of me, maybe combined with a comment or ninety that I'd left on his blog, intrigued Raffles, René introduced us, and I gained a wonderful friend and almost an extra grandfather.

I could see the twinkle in his eye when he wrote to me, always cheeky, sweet, but full of it nonetheless. He saw the sturm und drang of my life and didn't often comment, back when I could still write worth a damn, but he was always there. And always on my side.

He was a verifiable war hero, transporting Army soldiers to beaches all over the South Pacific and undoubtedly seeing many of those young men mown down before their feet hit the beaches. He didn't talk about it, he certainly didn't brag, he was as reticent about his own feelings/life/upsets as any old Yankee (when I say that about him, it's damned well a compliment, as it is with all of my northern friends; as opposed, of course, to the post-Katrina carpetbaggers, etc.), but he loved meeting & keeping in touch with people on Facebook. That man had a sharp-as-a-saber brain, always inquisitive, always reaching out, always wanting to learn still more about the world. When he was in the S. Pacific, he didn't just "occupy," he made friends, he learned about the First Peoples of every island that he visited, even, apparently, found a great love in Australia, even though he didn't get to bring her home with him.

That's one thing that never changed about Raffles: his affection for the women. I teased him relentlessly about having cracked his pelvis chasing women, he countered that it was from rollerskating on a frozen sidewalk.

Whenever he appeared in my in-box, even long-after I let my blog die, whenever I heard from him, he brought smiles and love with him. Not in the least like a "dirty old man," and we all know plenty of those, don't we --- but just pure joy and gratitude for the life he woke up to ever day. Always funny, always comforting, always a steady friend. One of the best human beings whom I've had the privilege of knowing, and I know some pretty damned magnificent people, most of whom I've met here. There is much of him in René/RenB, even when Rene's heart is shattered in a million pieces or he goes to ground in pain & suffering for months. I'm a damned lucky woman to have known them both, and René had better stay on this planet for another 30 years, or I'll have to find a way of going over & kicking his ass if he ever tries to get sick or die. I've survived far too many good people, and if I hadn't known the amazing, highly-evolved men that I've known all of my life, but especially since the advent of teh innernet toobs --- I could easily have turned into a very different spinster than the one that I am. And it would have been my tremendous loss. If I had never met Raffles, the world would have held much less love and joy and laughter than it has. I so wish that all of y'all could have met him, that he'd hung out here more, because y'all would've fallen for him the way that I did. He was a truly unique human being, no matter what any nihilist says about human nature just churning out copies of the same assholes, day after day, who embody the lowest, most venal qualities of the human animal. Yes, there are plenty of those out there, hell, watch the nightly news anywhere. But there are also the wonderful people like I've been privileged to know because of World O'Crap, or Jesus' General, or other blogs/sites that shall remain nameless. Raffles was definitely one of the best.

Of course, when someone who has lived the adventures that he's had is gone, you feel empty, because of all of the questions that you never asked them, all of the things that you didn't know about them, about what they'd seen in the world, about what they'd learned in their lives. Big vacuum, especially when you're a narcissist like me, to know that I could have spent our time together talking about so much more important matters, could have learned so much from them. I hope that, as René recovers from both his losses in the past year, including that aforementioned love, that he'll tell me more stories about Raffles. Raffles will always be a part of my life, a part of me, and so many others, so many people who were privileged to have met & known this man. And we are damned lucky to have known him.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas With the Cranks

In the spirit of giving, gentleman, film scholar, and gimlet-eyed movie skewerer Hank Parmer (known in the blogging demimonde as "grouchomarxist") has brought us an early Christmas present. Sure, it's a sooty little nugget of anthracite, but then we weren't very good this year, were we?  Okay, admittedly, some of you have been really good -- kind to cats and people, generous of your time and money, striving to make the world a better place (or, in the case of Wo'C Chief Medical Officer Dr. BDH, at least to do no harm) -- but that doesn't excuse the fact that someone allowed half the Country music duo of Brooks and Dunn to make a Christmas movie! And that person...is right here in this room! (And by "room" I mean "the World Wide Web," because I'm sure whoever it is, they probably have an email account at the very least, and maybe a Pinterest, which I understand is some kind of virtual scrapbook where people post cute pictures of British playwright Harold Pinter.)

So put on your plaid flannel robe and your fuzzy slippers, grab a cup of piping hot cocoa, and join us under the tree as we wincingly scratch away the wrapping paper like a scab to reveal:

Babes in Tenther-land: A Narrative of the KringleKrieg 

By Hank Parmer

A Country Christmas (2013)

Note that, contrary to the poster, in the part of the movie which actually involves driving in a pickup, Santa can't drive, and the vehicle is neither green, nor a spiffy 1950s Ford. No reindeer appear in this movie, and the barn isn't red.

True to its promised zeitgeist,  A Country Christmas gets drunk and tries to pick a fight with its audience right from the opening credits, as we're treated to the title song by Brooks and Dunn: "Who Says There Ain't No Santa?" (The “Kix Brooks” who's so proud to present this mangy dog is of course the first half of that duo.)

The film opens with the camera panning across two young boys, fast asleep in their beds. It's early on Christmas morning; soap flakes swirl past the window. One of the boys wakes up: he hears something downstairs! Stealthily descending the steps, he catches Santa by a grotesquely lavish mid-20th-Century style Christmas tree, flanked by a mound of presents teetering dangerously near a fireplace, where stockings have been hung from the mantle with care. In true Clement Clark Moore fashion, the jolly old elf lays a finger beside his nose and winks at the kid. He magically fills the stockings with a wave of his hand, then disappears. Feverish with anticipatory gluttony, the child reaches into his stocking -- and it's filled with coal!

Ha ha! Santa's a dick. Blackout.

Cut to the present day, on a ranch outside Hope, Arizona, where we're introduced to the picture-perfect Logans, a typical Authentic-American family, whose collective albedo rivals that of the polar icecap. Joe, the patriarch of the Logan clan, is played by William Shockley. No, not the racist nutball who invented the transistor, but the actor nobody's ever heard of, who also insists on taking one-third of the blame for this insipid script. He has greying, shoulder-length curly blond locks, and a beard -- I suspect he's still trying to relive his glory days as the lead in the road company of the Oberammergau Passion Play. He certainly looks quite Aryan.

His beautiful wife Renae -- who really should have walked away from this one -- Logan (Joey Lauren Adams) is fussing about in the kitchen. The tv's on while the Logan kids, Miley (Caitlin Carmichael) and her older brother Zach (Benjamin Stockman), eat breakfast with Pappy.

But this gratingly wholesome tableau is interrupted by terrible news from -- where else -- Washington, D.C. Their own senator is leading a national movement to ban belief in Santa. Worse, his bill to accomplish this dastardly scheme is poised to pass the Senate. In a message simply dripping with sanctimony, the senator claims he's only doing it to better prepare children for the cold, hard real world of reality which they'll have to face when they grow up.

The senator's name is Max Schmucker. Oh, ain't we clever. With a name like that, he's got to be no good! (So much for the obligatory jam joke.)

Our schmuck of a senator is portrayed by stand-up comedian and actor Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects). Whose appearance, let's be honest, fits a certain stereotype of a particular ethnic group. Combine that with the Yiddish pun name, and his being a stand-in for the loathed Federal government, and I'm afraid you're going to have a very hard time convincing me that our villain isn't meant to represent several cherished and moldy Sovereign Citizen/militia/Bircher tropes. Suffice it to say he's clearly not Authentic-American, like our salt-of-the-Earth Logans.

And as anyone with two brain cells to rub together will have already guessed, he's the kid who got the coal in his stocking at Christmas, all grown up now. I guess the Schmucker family was Reform. Really Reform.

(The only explanation I can come up with for Pollak's participation in this atrocity is that he must have been extremely hard up for cash, or they had something incredibly incriminating on the guy.)

To continue: upon hearing about the impending triumph of the anti-Santy killjoys, Miley plaintively demands to know why aren't people believing in Santa anymore? Pappy Logan shakes his head ruefully, says he doesn't know. He just doesn't know. Zach tells them Jimmy Baxter at school says that's because nobody can see Santa.

Pappy reassures them that just because some senator doesn't believe in Santa, that doesn't mean the Logans can't.

Cut to Senator Schmuck, post-interview, as he's hounded by reporters who want to know what his plans are for the Presidency. The senator plays coy, claims he's devoting all his energy right now to removing the Santa mythos from our culture and certainly our schools. (And after that, he'll get the government to bus Black Muslims into your neighborhood to kill puppies and kittens.) Now, if you'll excuse him, he has our government's work to do.

Schmucker gets in his limousine -- limousine liberal, get it? Dang, that's a good 'un!

Surprisingly, he hates reporters. His strongly New-York-ish handler and Gal Friday Susan Satcher (Illeana Douglas) warns him he may be going a bit too far with this Santa thing, but he won't listen. She tells the driver to get moving. Max makes a crack about backing up over the reporters, first. He's a big, fat phony, just like all those big-gubmint-lovin' types.

Cut to daughter Miley's classroom at her public school. Her teacher -- who bears a remarkable resemblance to Sarah Palin, right down to the horn-rims -- notices Miley's not paying attention, as two of her classmates prepare to square off in their re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Miley's preoccupied, drawing a surprisingly professional likeness of Saint Nick. Caught goofing off, she whines to her teacher about no one believing in Santa. Teacher bends down and whispers "I believe in Santa, too!"

Note the cruel oppression already being experienced by the true believers. Why did that teacher feel the need to whisper? Why can't she stand up and proudly proclaim, “Kris Kringle lives!” But worse is yet to come.

The principal appears, and gives Miz Palin the terrible news as they stand in front of a big American flag: the Cold War on Christmas just got hot! Washington has passed the anti-Santa legislation! Santa is a non-person, who must be expunged. You don't talk about him in class, no more pictures, no Santa Claus. Cheery Yuletide Thought Criminals -- as well as any student caught wearing Santa colors -- must be sent to the Vice-Principal's office for immediate de-jollification.

Yes sir, I understand, says Teach, shoulders slumped in dejection.

Class is dismissed. In the hall, Miley sees the janitor taking down a flimsy plastic sheet with a life-size picture of Santa stenciled on it. He stuffs it in the trash. She storms back into the classroom and confronts her teacher: they're getting rid of Santa! I'm afraid so, admits Miz Palin. None of this would happen, wails Miley, if only Santa would show everybody he's out there!

Miley runs out of the classroom, while our Sarah Palin clone tries to simulate a pained grimace, but merely succeeds in looking mildly constipated.

Miley rescues the Santa picture from the trash can, takes it home with her and attempts to tape it on her bedroom wall. Despite being such a precocious artistic talent, she's rather incompetent for her age group. She uses only one measly, clearly inadequate piece of Scotch tape to secure this big sheet of plastic, while your average nine-year-old would have been far more likely to use up half the dispenser sticking that to the wall.

So the poster peels away from the wall at the first touch of a sudden breeze.

A blazing white orb streaks down from the heavens, leaving a curling trail of pink smoke. Miley sees it go through the roof of their barn. With her skeptical brother in tow, she investigates. Peeping under the barn door, Miley is astonished to glimpse two sets -- one large, one small -- of feet and legs, in strangely Christmas-y attire. But when they open the door, no one's there except Leroy the goat!

Miley has an inspiration. (Warning, hyperglycemics should leave the room for this next scene.) 

The Shofar Meets the Tijuana Brass

Despite the way many evangelicals speak of our common "Judeo-Christian heritage," there as been a chasm between these two Abrahamic faiths for far too long. Well, my friends, I think that chasm has just been breached. Or connected. Whatever. What I'm trying to say is, two of the world's major religions have found common ground. And that ground is made of velvet.
It's true. America's Swap Meets no longer need be overrun by velvet paintings of Jesus, dressed as a member of KISS, or apparently shooting up drugs of some kind.  Thanks to Oy Toys, Americans will now have the option of choosing from an acid inspired Menorah, or a black light dreidel. 

Yes, true equality will only be realized when each person can enjoy his or her own religious symbols rendered in velvet, along with paintings of tigers, matadors, and topless ladies, because you're still gonna need to dress up your apartment the rest of the year.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: It's Swankronicity!

I'm basically the Anti-Dixie Chicks -- people always tell me to shut up and not sing -- so even around the holidays, when certain papal dispensations are made for the tone-deaf, I don't go caroling, or accompany the radio, and probably haven't given voice to any Christmas-related composition since third grade, when each class would troop onto the stage of the multi-purpose cafetorium and murder a selection from the Great American Songbook in turn.   But I was standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to buy a bag of cat food (the slightly fancier brand that Moondoggie prefers, since several of the very kind folks who've contributed to our fundraiser earmarked a portion of the proceeds for his upkeep), when I noticed the holiday muzak droning over the loudspeakers, and out of sheer boredom tried to sing along (in my head). This is what I got:

I'll be home for Christmas,
You can pounce on me,
Mistletoe,
And Mop & Glo,
And strangers in a tree

This is about where I called it quits. Anyway, the apparent lesson here is: Christmas caroling -- it's not like riding a bicycle.

In other news, it's Sunday, which means it's time for the next link in the chain of Swank columns I forged in life, and what do you know, this one contains the only known Swank-related reference to a dreidel!

Don’t Start The Armegeddon Without Me

Posted by scott on June 5th, 2009

Nothing has been heard from World O’ Crap spiritual adviser J. Grant Swank since May 1, and we were becoming fearful, since the only things on this earth which could interfere with his writing are serious illness, or good mental health.  Apparently, it’s not the latter.  Here’s the first paragraph:
That’s right.
Oh…Okay then, guess we’re done here.  Thanks for coming, everybody!
There’s enough evil in the world and enough nuclear blow up on the planet that by now we should have been blown to smithereens.
“Nuclear blow,” of course, is cocaine which has not been excessively cut with baking soda and Vitamin B.  “Nuclear blow up” is, I guess, an inflatable model of Chernobyl you can have sex with?
However, we are still here. Explain why.
And show your work.
It is because the God of the Bible made this creation and maintains it.
Which is why our HOA dues are so steep.
One day and hour He will leave the right hand of the Father’s throne in heaven to return to His turf.
Hopefully this time he won’t take a shiv to the gut from Bernardo at the end of the first act.
Because this is His property, He sees to it that it is still here. That’s the Alpha and Omega of the question: Why is the globe still spinning?
So basically the Earth is a dreidel God’s parents gave him for Hanukkah.  Let’s hope he doesn’t get bored with it, or distracted by those chocolate coins!
God has deemed it so. God is God. God has decreed that though the human population is wicked and the nuclear pantries are full to overflowing, no mortal will have the say as to what occurs on His property. The deed belongs to Him.
During the 50s and 60s, of course, God was a big fan of atmospheric nuclear testing. But hey, it was his property, and it cut down on the need for lawn maintenance.
If there is any proof that there is a God it is that the world is still here. That is empirical evidence.
Thanks, Francis Bacon.
Anyway, the rest of the piece concludes with a list of Bible quotes in an obvious effort by the pastor to beef up his empirical bona fides, but hey, it’s just nice to have him back.  Now I’m gonna go see if I can straighten up those nuclear pantries before we have an accident and God and I wind up on The People’s Court.
(Fundraiser explanation here)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Secret War on....HANUKKAH!

[We're having an fundraiser to keep the ugly, cottage cheese-looking acoustical ceiling over our heads. The details are in this post. Thanks to everyone who's contributed!]

So I hear that Bill O'Reilly has won the War on Christmas, and I trust he will be decorated with our nation's highest honor, the Silver Star of Bethlehem, with Tinsel Clusters, which will either be pinned on his chest by the President, or placed atop his head by a Bumble.

Unfortunately, our boys won't be home by Christmas, because this is a two front war, and Bill must now turn his attention to...

THE WAR ON HANUKKAH 

And he'd better snap it up, because we're on the fourth night already.  Luckily, the Holiday-Industrial Complex is turning out the weapons we need, such as this Camouflage Dreidel.  Or a Draydel (changing the spelling is one way to confuse your enemies).


Whether it's in the jungle or in the snow, our enemies will never see the Draydel with their name on it.  Or maybe they will, but they'd still have to be able to spell their name in Hebrew to figure it out.  (And maybe it's because I was raised Catholic, but whenever I play Camo Draydel I always seem to get "Hey Nun", which is something I said to Sister Camilla once, just before she broke a yardstick over my shins (but not, fortunately, my gimels).

Anyway, I'm not quite sure how we exploit this advantage in stealth, let alone weaponize it. I guess we'll have to send a bunch of 4-year olds to war and just hope they wind up fighting a bunch of 3-year olds who can't cope with a choking hazard.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sorry, Ross. The Hanukkah Armadillo Isn't Gonna Cut It.

[Note from Scott: We're having an "Avoid the Joad Family's Fate" fundraiser; this post has all the sorry details.]

First off, I wanted to thank all our awesome Crappers for their words of encouragement and their help.  One of the most awesome things about all of you is that you don't need a special holiday season to give of yourselves. You give of yourselves every single day. From hilarious comments on the blog all the way to making sure lost and abandoned pets are cared for.

Of course, that got me thinking about the holiday season. The fun of decorating, the food, giving gifts, um...the food...I mentioned decorating, right? Okay, let's include "getting gifts". Getting gifts is fun, but not always. There's often an ugly sweater lurking under the Xmas tree, and, let's face it, the stocking stuffers can be weird. I had an ex-boyfriend whose parents used to put cans of soup in his stocking. I, personally, will never forget when my sister gave me cocktail swizzle sticks.

However, it's not Christmas yet. It's actually the season of Hanukkah, in which people remember how the Maccabees kept their temple candles lit for 8 nights, when they only had enough oil for one.  Did you know that part of the celebration is eating oily food? It's true! Donuts, latkes, and fast food for everyone! Along with 8 days of gift giving! Let's rifle through Hanukkah Harry's pockets and see what he brought the kids for the first 3 days of Hanukkah:

On The First Night of Hanukkah, Hanukkah Harry Brought To Me:


Sure, it seems cute...at first. What no one knows is that Sammy is an Australian Funnel Web spider and will kill everyone in the house before Hanukkah is over!  (Do arachnids keep kosher? I mean, technically flies are neither pork nor shellfish, so...)

On The Second Night of Hanukkah, Hanukkah Harry brought to me:


Awesome! Hanukkah Hacky Sacks for the Hebrew Hippie in your family!

On The Third Day of Hanukkah, Hanukkah Harry brought to me:


Color Your own Hanukkah Banner, you Macher! What? Our traditional Hanukkah Banners aren't good enough for you?!

So there you have it: Three gifts for the first three nights of the season. Are they meaningful and appropriate? What do I know, I'm a Shiksa! (Which, as I discovered, means I'm a Gentile chick, and not the Other Leading Brand of safety razor.)

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sperm Delivery! Sign Here.

[Note:  We're having an Anti-Homelessness fundraiser (details in the post below), sort of a virtual Amish barn-raising, just without the buggies, and the lumber, and Kelly McGillis sponging herself.]

At one point in Lanford Wilson's play Talley's Folly, set on a farm in Lebanon, Missouri in 1944, the female lead bristles upon hearing her home described as "the South," insisting, "It's Missouri. We're in the Midwest." The male lead, a middle-aged Jewish accountant, sighs that he's been around, and in his opinion, "There's New York City, isolated neighborhoods in Boston, and everything else is the South."

So it comes as no surprise that when a bill was proposed making it illegal to obtain an abortion without the sperm donor's permission, it was brought to us by the Show-Me (What a Dickhead You Are) State.

From Mother Jones:
A Missouri Republican is pushing a bill that would allow a man who gets a woman pregnant to stop her from having an abortion. The measure would force a woman who wants an abortion to obtain written permission from the father first—unless she was the victim of "legitimate rape."
Ah, I see someone's bringing back Todd Akin's signature catchphrase. Can "Kiss my grits!" or "Jane, you ignorant slut" be far behind?
Rick Brattin, a state representative from outside Kansas City, filed the bill on December 3 for next year's legislative session. The proposed measure reads, "No abortion shall be performed or induced unless and until the father of the unborn child provides written, notarized consent to the abortion."
Sure, that sounds like a breeze. Okay, it actually sounds like what you'd get if Franz Kafka wrote Office Space.
Yeah...I'm gonna need you to put a cover sheet on your notarized abortion permission slip.

So who is this panty-sniffing paper-pusher?
(Raw Story's Scott Kaufman found this portrait of Brattin giving the camera a Zoolander-like look known to high fashion photographers as "The Full Eddie Haskell.")
The bill contains exceptions for women who become pregnant as the result of rape or incest—but there are caveats.
Dick Caveats.
"Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it," Brattin tells Mother Jones. "So you couldn't just go and say, 'Oh yeah, I was raped' and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape."
So the cops will authenticate your rape for you, and it's actually pretty cool; it's like having a Verified Twitter account.

But I do worry that Republicans are pushing "legitimate rape" so hard as a term of art that it's going to show up in the next edition of the OED (and I'm the kind of guy who locked himself in his room and had a good long cry when they added "humongous").
Brattin notes that his bill also contains an exception for cases in which continuing the pregnancy would endanger the life of the mother. Women whose partners have died can sign a sworn affidavit to that effect.
In a stunning rebuke to critics who claim Brattin is just another misogynistic control freak without a dram of genuine concern for women's health or civil rights, his legislation offers a reasonable workaround to women who can't easily obtain their partner's permission: just kill the guy and skip off to a notary public. After all, Rick already thinks you're a murderer for getting an abortion, so go big or go home, right ladies?
Brattin adds that he is not using the term "legitimate rape" in the same way as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who famously claimed that women couldn't get pregnant from a "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down." 
"I'm just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you're going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed," Brattin says. "That's just common sense." 
Granted, when a guy goes to report his car was stolen, the cops don't usually imply he was "asking for it" because he dressed like a slut and danced all sexy at the roadhouse.
Under his bill, he adds, "you have to take steps to show that you were raped…And I'd think you'd be able to prove that."
Easily! You lodge a complaint, the police investigate; they arrest the perpetrator, there's a trial...Sure it may sound like a long waiting period for an abortion, but on Law & Order it only takes 44 minutes, and assuming there aren't too many continuances you should have all the proof you need by no later than your 15th trimester. Admittedly, you'll be probably be carrying pretty low by then, but you'll still need to hustle over to Mailboxes Etc., because the guy with the notary stamp leaves at five.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Guess We Need a Telethon For Fail

I’ve started, stopped, and started this post over again about a dozen times so far, and if this were a movie we could establish that fact with a single shot of a wastebasket overflowing with crumpled paper, and the sound of another sheet being ripped from a typewriter platen and wadded up to join its fellow failures. Or, depending on the period, you could go with the less static visual of a hurled inkwell exploding against the wall in a black starburst, then dripping slowly down the yellow wallpaper while the frustrated author weeps, and clutches at his Byronic locks.

But you can’t get away with that anymore, because nobody’s going to sit still for a ten minute scene of some guy pursing his lips and holding down the Backspace key. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this is proving to be a painfully difficult post to write, in no small part because it may be my last for awhile – not that I’m planning to leave in a huff, but because I suspect the huff is planning to leave without me.

Okay, this may be the absolute worst set-up for a clip ever. Let me start over again. Again.

As most of you guys know, things have been on an inclined plane around here for the past few months, with both Mary’s and Riley’s health deteriorating simultaneously (which I referred to as the “Elliott and E.T. Effect,” to the amusement of neither one). Not surprisingly, the rate of southward descent seems to have increased since Riley passed away in September, which makes me think that she was our own little household goddess, warding off evil spirits and keeping the wolf from the door with the searing power of her sidelong glance.
Mary's surgery solved the one major health problem we knew about (and the one lurking issue we were afraid of; yay for Early Detection). But she's in constant pain from the neuralgia in her jaw, making it an ordeal for her to eat, and often impossible for her to talk (we basically communicate through pheromones, Clan of the Cave Bear-style gestures, and text messages); which is a bit of a handicap for a teacher, or would be if the school district hadn't informed her that she was out of a job.

She's planning to appeal, but it will probably be 60 days -- at earliest -- before she gets a hearing, and in the meantime, she's on unpaid suspension (with loss of benefits -- we're so lucky they didn't pull this before the surgery).  
Moondoggie tried to help with the mound of paperwork the District sent by laying on it, but the legalese sent him into a fugue state.

I wasn't overly panicked, since I had an assignment lined up that was supposed to start on November 28 and would have picked up some of the slack, but it kept getting postponed, and tonight I was told it's been pushed to the end of January. Which means we facing eviction at the end of the month -- and where we'll go, I honestly don't know. Also, AT&T is turning off the internet service tomorrow, but with all my kvetching and wheedling, that may come as a relief to some people.

So things are, frankly, desperate, and we're forced to come hat in hand and beg for help. Even worse, the only hat I could find is a mesh trucker cap with felt moose antlers from Bullwinkle's Family Fun Center in Tukwila, WA, but I guess beggars can't be choosers. 

I'm very sorry about this; I know we couldn't have picked a worse time of year, and if you're not in any position to help, I completely understand, please don't worry about it. If you can help -- with anything at all -- it would be a life saver. You can click the button on the top left, or, if you're not Pals with Mr. Pay, drop me an email at scott.clevenger - at - gmail.com and I'll send you our snail mail address.

Thanks for listening.