Thursday, December 29, 2011

Third Place Is Really First in Iowa

My first executive order: Chastity belts for all women and gays.
Now it's Rick Santorum's turn in the spotlight and he's not even first in the Iowa polls. He's freaking third, but the news media has exhuasted its Ron Paul newsletter stuff, so they need a new story. It's really funny. Just a few weeks ago the big news was Gingrich emerging on top, then these Iowa Republican jerks starting remembering--"Oh yeah, didn't he get kicked out of the speakership and fined something like $300K for ethics violations? Oh, yeah, he's kinda crazy, isn't he? He believes in electromagnetism and arresting judges? What, he's not even on the ballot in Virginia? Can this goofball really be President? Sure he'll give Obama hell in a debate, but most moderate people will run screaming from him. OOOPS, guess I'll switch to somebody I have't even looked at yet."

At which point they took a gander at Ron Paul. Here's a nice grandfatherly type, they must have thought to themselves after shucking some corn, he wants less government and no foriegn wars, that's fine by me. What they don't realize is he wants to do away with Social Security and Medicare as well as half the federal government. Real Ayn Rand stuff. Then the newsletters with the bigoted vitriol resurfaced and he walked away from CNN's Gloria Borger. Now I don't see him running on a third ticket, but you never know.

Those that withdrew from Gingrich probably went to Rick "Man-on-Dog Sex" Santorum. He's now giving the interviews to the Today Show and Morning Joe as if he were a serious candidate. On Chris Matthews' Hard Ball, a reporter indicated he's not really serious about wanting to be President, he just wants to move whoever gets the nomination to the right--and he's partially succeeded. In order to get evangelicals off their asses, every Repub candidate has basically said no woman should ever have an abortion under any circumstances. They're all pretty gung-ho against gay marriage, too. But that has produced some interesting confrontations with gay Iowans challenging these homophobes. A guy even dressed up as a gay robot to crash a Michele Bachmann event and a lesbian's little boy rendered her speechless when he told her his mom didn't need to be fixed.

What's especially interesting is that all these crazies had had their turn as the front runner--even whack job Herman Cain--except Huntsman who is the one sane professional in the bunch. With less than a week to go before the Iowa Caucases, it doesn't look like he'll ever get in double digits. Mittens will probably win, but I hope Paul beats him. Santorum will be third and this will convince him to hang on for the next few states. Perry is pretty much finished even though he is suing to get on the Virginia ballot, having made the same dumb mistake Newt did. Perry still has lots of money to spend, but his poor performance in the debates destroyed his chances. Bachmann and Huntsman are toast, the Wicked Witch of Minnesota is too stubborn to quit yet, but Huntsman will probably drop out.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fire Bugs

Elroy Jetson on his way to the Little Dipper Elementary School
When I was little there was an episode of The Jetsons which stuck in my head. A naugthy classmate of Elroy Jetson was watching a rerun of the Flintstones on a TV wristwatch while the robot teacher--Miss Brainmocker--wasn't looking. My TV-obssessed little self was fascinated with the possibility of having a tiny TV set you could carry around. This was in the days when most sets were in black and white and enormous. I remember being excited at going to an aunt's house for dinner and getting to watch Lost in Space in color on her gigantic console.

Anyway, the new tablet e-readers such as Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are the closest I'll probably ever get to a miniature TV I can sneak into English class. My partner Jerry got me a Fire for Christmas two days ago--I opted for the Fire over the Nook because he already got me a regular Kindle for my birthday earlier this year and I already have an Amazon account.

Since Christmas Sunday, I have been playing with it, covering the glass screen with my fingerprints, and have discovered the pros and cons. The pros are the convenience and breadth of options. I turned it on out of the box on Christmas morning and after registering it all the books from my regular Kindle were transfered to the new Fire. You can download and stream thousands of movies, videos, and music as well as comics, but you have to pay a $79 annual membership fee to Amazon Prime. There are plenty of free videos, but you can only stream them while you are near a Wi-Fi hot spot. I did download a paid video--Episode 9 of Season Two of Nurse Jackie for $2--and theoretically I should have been able to watch it while offline. I was not able to do so--Bug no. 1. I did watch it once I was back in Wi-Fi Land. I want this to get straightened out so I can watch TV while on a train or the subway just as I have fantasized about.

I experimented with apps, buying a game called Doodle Jump for $1--sort of fun but the second time I played it wouldn't open. Bug #2. It's okay now, I got it to work and I scored over 5000 points.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with it and so far I have newly downloaded Willa Cather's My Antonia (free), a Doctor Who comic book on the Comics app (free), that Nurse Jackie ($2), Doodle Jump ($1), the current New Republic ($3), and an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle (free). Next is getting into the Netflix app so I can stream ever more stuff for free (There ware lots of shows and movies on Netflix for which my NF membership pays which are not free on the Fire. Examples include 30 Rock and the animated Star Trek.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Urban Encounter 2: Christmas Edition

I saw them again, the couple panhandling on the subway. It was last week. It took my lunch hour to do some last minute Christmas shopping and had to take the subway to Bed Bath and Beyond. I could have walked, but I thought the train would be quicker. Very crowded. I'm standing by the door and I see the guy with the accordion. I think "Where's his girlfriend with the baby?" Ah, there she is at the other end of the car. "Please to excuse disturbing you," he announces in a Russian accent and then starts playing. I got off at 23rd Street and so did they. If this were a New Yorker short story, I'd follow them, but it's not, so I continue on my way. I do think, who are they and why are they begging? Musicians from a Slavic country who can't find work and need to support a baby?

Later I wander back to work through the holiday market on Union Square with all these little booths selling cute little gifts for Secret Santas and gift grab-bags. I need to buy something for a grab-bag friends are having on Christmas Day. Suddenly standing next to me is Brad Pitt. Or someone who looks exactly like him. I can't be the movie star, but the resemblance is so strong I almost say "You know you are a dead ringer for Brad Pitt; you must get that all the time." And then he'd say "I am Brad Pitt. How about an autograph or a French kiss?" Something similar did happen to me once. I was in a bicycle shop buying a lock and this guy standing next to me at the register resembled the actor who played the smart-alecky teen on the Dell Computer commercials. I remarked on the resemblance and he said "I am that guy." But it didn't go much further.

I leave Brad Pitt and go to the Barnes and Noble to buy a present for my friend Diane who is staying over for a few days before the holidays. At first I think of going with the safe choice of a gift certificate, but then I remember a book called Lost Bookmarks I thought she would like. It's a collection of letters, postcards, and other miscellania a used book dealer found in volumes he's acquired over the years. Fascinating little bits and pieces of people's lives like invitations to a Halloween party in 1913, a postcard from a relative informing about a son's illness ("The doctor has been by every day"), doodles and sketches drawn on advertisments, etc. I find it on the fourth floor and buy it. It makes me think about the scraps we leave behind. In the digital age, what will future biographers and anthropoligists rely on to get an accurate picture of how we lived? Tweets, blogs like this, Facebook status updates? What happens to a Facebook account when the person dies? Does it just stay there in cloudy cyber space waiting for someone to randomly google it?

When I walk into a used bookstore, I look at the old magazines like Life and the New Yorker, they give you an idea of the day-to-day of people's lives. When print disappears how will the people of the future find us?

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Pleasure and Call Me Madam

Add Sonja Henie to the list of cultish movie stars to watch for a campy laugh--a list which causes my partner to run screaming from the room. The others include Esther Williams and Carmen Miranda. If I want to watch a movie with any of these stars, he throws a fit. Henie is new to the list because recently my friend Lyida gave my two used DVDs a friend of hers who was cleaning out her house gave away. Lydia thought I might like them. They were Call Me Madam with Ethel Merman and Donald O'Connor and It's a Pleasure with Miss Henie.

I remember seeing Call Me Madam on the Channel 3 Sunday afternoon movie in black and white when I was a little boy in Philadelphia and loving it (this should have warned my parents). After that, my sister and I went around the house singing "You're Just in Love" (which we thought was called "You Don't Need Analysing"). We loved the counterpoint between Merm and Donald O'Connor. I watched it again recently and it really doesn't hold up. But it is one of the few films in which Merman repeated a Broadway triumph, so it has historical significance. In the film, Merman is a Washington hostess appointment ambassador to a tiny European country lead by suave George Sanders. Naturally, she falls in love with him. O'Connor goes along as press attache and falls in love with Vera-Ellen, the country's crown princess engaged to Helmut Dantine, a duke. Of course, Vera dumps the Duke so she can marry Donald. This subplot was pretty interesting because it showed the romantic values of the 1950s. Donald is a good dancer, but skinny and not particularly sexy, an all-American average guy. Vera drops Helmut, one dashing, hunky and hot stud with a title. She obviously chose Donald so they perform dance numbers and have a wholesome relationship. If she had gone with Helmut the sex would have been sizzling, but no dancing for the musical portion of the film.

It's a Pleasure is just plain awful, but I was glad to watch it because Henie is part of my family mythology. My mother, who grew up in Maine, always tells the story of going to see a Sonja Henie movie matinee with her big brother, my Uncle Edwin. They loved it so much, they sat through a second showing. Halfway through, the manager made an announcement, calling both their names and that they should report to the lobby immediately. There was my grandmother, furious that they had not come home on time. They were in big trouble, but my mother remembers loving the ice-skating Henie did.

This week is Christmas vacation and my friend Diane and I watched It's a Pleasure while playing Scrabble, which helped us tolerate the film. I was never really familiar with Henie's oeuvre, except a satire Carol Burnett did on her variety show. Henie was an Olympic figure skater but a terrible actress. It's a Pleasure was not the film my mother saw (it was made in 1955 and my mother was grown up and married by then), but it's in color and features a dreadful plot and simplistic dialgoue ("You sure roast a wicked weinie," says one character at a hot-dog party). The acting is bad all the way round. "I'm leaving Buzz, meet me at the station at five," announces the bitchy wife of the manager of the ice show as if she were ordering coffee. When she's not in skates, Henie is a frozen doll, no emotion registers.

The highlight was the big finale in which Henie and her troupe skate to Tico Tico while wearing South American outfits and elaborate headdresses and holding exotic parrots. It's one of those bizarre Hollywood numbers you have to see to believe--Brazil on ice!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dreams and Work of Art finale

I've been having the weirdest dreams lately. Two nights ago I dreamt I was on the set of a TV-movie version of Henry V, filmed in modern dress in a suburban neighborhood. It starred Jerry Lewis and Len Cariou. Cariou was probably in it because I saw him in the audience at BAM recently, but Jerry Lewis' presence is a complete mystery. Later in the same dream I flew to Los Angeles and tried to pay my hotel bill, but couldn't find the front desk. That's a common occurence, looking for a place and having to do something very important there, but never finding it.

In an earlier dream, I found myself at a garage sale. The usual crap is on offer. I'm standing next to a fat kid who is spray painting his skateboard. I look down to find I have paint all over my pants. I turn to the kid and next to him is an old woman in a bathrobe and slippers. I assume she is his grandmother and I say, "Look what your kid did to my pants!" The crone just shruggs her shoulders and says "Sorry." I say, "Well give me $20 for new pants, then."

The old bag then faints, I grab her to keep her from falling. "That's so much money," she says in a weak voice. "We're having this sale because we're bankrupt. Can't you soften your heart?"

"It's not a big deal," I say angrily and then I wake up.

The spray paint part may be because earlier that night I watched Work of Art and the contestants spray painted hostess China Chow's dress to determine their order in a challenge. I watched the finale last night, BTW, and liked all three final shows--unlike last season. The final three artists of Season 2 were all strong. I thought Sara's pieces were the most interesting and didn't agree with the judges' decision to eliminate her first. I liked that China said "You're not the winner" as opposed to "You lost, pack your palette and go!" It worked out okay that Kymia won because Young, who came in second, had already won about $60,000 in previous challenges.

Sara's work was challenging and bizarre. Her use of materials and the performance aspect were really involving. Interestingly, both Young and Kymia dealt with the death of a parent.

Tonight is the season finale of Project Accessory. Then I will have nothing to live for until Project Runway All-Stars starts the first week of January.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Urban Encounter

On the subway yesterday, there was a couple panhandling. It was Saturday, mid-afternoon and the car was crowded with Christmas shoppers carrying large bags. It was cold and everyone was wearing coats and scarves. The panhandling husband was playing a small accordian and the wife had a baby in one of those papoose-like things in front of her body. I'm assuming they were married, but they might not have been. They got to the end of the car near where I was seated. The train stopped and the door opened. The man with the accordian stepped onto the platform and presumably into the next car. The woman with the baby hesitated. It seemed she was waiting for someone to donate because it look as if a young man sitting down in front of her was reaching into his pocket to take out his wallet. The transaction apparently took too long because after a few seconds, the woman left the train. The couple were decently apparelled and didn't appear destitute or threadbare.

Another woman, somewhat older and better dressed along with an adoloscent girl, about 13, got on and stood near the pole by me. I guessed they were mother and daughter. I could hear the mother talking about visiting someone in the hospital.

I'm noticing more people begging these days. There's also been an uptick in crime in our neighborhood, all signs of people at the bottom of the economic food chain slipping lower.

Newt, Activist Judges, and a Bewitching Endorsement

Well, that didn't take long. Newt Gingrich has just opened his big fat mouth, inserted his big fat foot, and slipped from front-runner status for the GOP nomination. This morming on CBS's Face the Nation, Newtie stated he would arrest "activist judges" who "legislate from the bench." This is after he proposed abolishing the dangerous Ninth Circuit Court because they made judgements which were "out of step with the American people" during th last GOP debate. Gingrich is still ahead in many polls, but this little peek-a-boo at his dictatorial delusions should sober enough Republican primary voters to take a second look at Romney or even the grandfatherly Ron Paul, who's been reading "Atlas Shrugged" too much.

It should be fascinating to see what happens next. For a while, it really looked as if Newtie had peaked at exactly the right time, and solidified his position as the non-Romney of choice. He could still maintain that hold among archconservatives, but establishment figures are rushing in to endorse Mittens. They don't want Newt because they can't control him, not that he would turn into a brown-shirted Mussolini. The powers that be are fine with dictators as long as they conceal their outrages and convince the Great Unwashed that everything is fine and dandy and they can go back to playing Wii and watching Nascar races.

Christine O'Donnell on her way to a Romney rally
They've even dragged Christine O'Donnell out of mothballs to endorse Romney. She is a hoot, during her disastrous CNN interview where she said she loved that Mittens was consistant "since he changed his mind," I envisioned her as Samantha on Bewitched. (Get the witchcraft reference?) I also thought of Mittens as her husband Darren Stevens running for office and them fighting about her using her powers to help the campaign. "Now, Sam, don't you go casting a spell on the voters. That wouldn't be fair." "Oh, sweetheart, I would never do that....But mother might cast one in favor of the opponent. She just needs some eye of Newt." Ok, I stole that last bit from Stephen Colbert.

It's kinda ironic that Newt is using school prayer as the issue on the activist judges thing when the right-wing crowd is also employing the boogey man of Sharia Law to scare voters. According to them, the government should force kids to pray to a Christian God, even if they are atheists, but not to pray to a Muslim God. BTW, boo to Loew's for pulling their advertising from All-American Muslim. I just ordered a garage door from them and it's too late for me to boycott. Next time I need a smoke detector I'll definitely go to Home Depot.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Romney Bets the House

Rick, I'll bet you $500 Newt's next wife will be a brunette
I never thought I would be defending Mitt Romney but this crap about the $10,000 bet is ridiculous. At the 10,000th Republican debate on ABC, Mittens accused Super-Christian Man (Rick Perry in his secret identity) of getting some facts wrong about the Romney position on the individual mandate and bet Perry $10,000 that he was wrong. This was obviously a joke and he didn't literally mean he would bet that absurd amount of money on a trivial difference of opinion. (Haven't you used the expression, "I'll bet you a million dollars" when it was over something you were absurdly sure about?) But someone, I don't know who did it first, has twisted this throwaway line into an indictment of Romney as an out-of-touch one-percenter who has that kind of money to throw away. Rivals were quick to point out $10,000 is three months salary for the average Iowan and commercials were run painting the former governor as elitist. Like the rest of the GOP is soooo in touch with the average working stiff--so much so that they don't wanna cut payroll taxes. Yes, I do believe Romney IS an out-of-touch rich guy who has no idea what it means to struggle to make ends meet, but crucifying him for an innocent turn of phrase is going too far.

Tonight on the Last Word, Lawrence O'Donnell pounded away on this point for an entire segment and then went below the belt by pointing out Mormons are supposed to be against gambling. I thought that was unfair and beneath O'Donnell whom I usually agree with. It shows the slightest little thing can be picked up and magnified a thousand times.

Also Newt bitch-slapped Mittens by saying the reason the former Mass. governor was never a career politician was because he lost elections too much. Mittens should have shot back, "At least I wasn't dethroned from the Speakership for ethics violations, fat boy!"

Romney is awkward and insincere and it looks like Newtie has him on the run, but I think Mittens is being unfairly treated on this bet thing. Don't get used to it, though, Mittens. I still think you're a big jerk.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Amazing Race 19--Episode 11 and 12--Love, Luck and Lollipops

No snowboarders here. Yay!
Episode 11 of Amazing Race 19 left me delirously happy because Andy and Tommy, the perfect, six-time winning snowboarders, were eliminated! I have nothing against them, they were perfectly nice and un-nasty so I didn't hate them like I did Rob and Amber, they were just so damned lucky and athletic that it was becoming monotonous. There's no tension or excitement when the same team wins every week, even when it's only because the team ahead of them screwed up (which happened once or twice). So the fact that they did not make the final three was exhilirating. That meant it could be anyone's game and it was.

My friend Diane disagrees. We had a debate over this topic just before we saw a Beckett play at BAM, the perfect setting for a discussion of a reality TV show. She felt it was not right that the best team, as she put it, would not make it to the last episode through a quirk of luck. As you may recall, the three other teams all made it to the pit stop in Panama City within seconds of each other because their cab drivers communicated with each other. Andy and Tommy had the misfortune of getting to the previous destination early and not having a taxi driver in league with the others. Well, they won several trips and a Mustang a piece, so they shouldn't complain. It just goes to show, luck plays a huge part in the Amazing Race.

The finale was exciting because once the last three got to Atlanta, it could have been any one of them who won the million dollars. Ironically, Marcus and Amani had the advantage since they are Atlanteans, but choked when they got to the flight simulator challenge. It came down to Ernie and Cindy and Jeremy and Sandy and it was pretty clear the latter lost too much time when they went to a furniture store rather than Margaret Mitchell's house. The producers tried to add suspense with that GSP recalculating bit, but it was clear who the winners were as soon as they were near the final pit stop.

This season I didn't dislike anyone and there were no embarassing rivalries like the one where the lesbians and the former beauty queen bitched at each other at the finish line.

In related TAR news, they advertised seasons 3 and 4 on DVD from Amazon during the show. I got all excited because I've been waiting 8 years for more seasons on DVD. CBS released seasons 1 and 7 years ago and failed to follow up. This always frustrated me because you can find DVDs of just about anything from Saved by the Bell to Bewitched to The Beverly Hillbillies. I went to the Amazon website and it turns out these new DVDs are cheap burned-to discs sets which Amazon will create on a per-order basis with no extras or special features.

Damn! I may order them anyway because I no longer have Season 2 on VHS (That's how long ago it was, before DVD burning and Facebook and blogging.) I think I may have only a few episodes left. I seem to remember still having the segments when they were in Australia and the blonde girl estranged from her asshole ex-husband joking with the gay Latin guy about being limp-wristed and he says "Shut up, bitch." I didn't start getting the season on DVDs myself until midway through the one with the hippies. (I still have most of seasons 5 through whatever that one was on VHS, which can break or wear out easily.)

Season 3 was a good one with Flo and Zak and the gay and straight brothers. Season 4 had Chip and Reichen, which started Reichen on his journey to fame whoredom ending sadly on the A-list. The straight couple who came in second to them popped up on a ped-egg commercial. Remember that?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cain Stays Mainly Off the Iowa Plane

Just like I predicted Herman Cain has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, or "suspended his campaign" which means he can still raise money to pay off his debts. Now the big question is who will he endorse--and I'll bet it's whoever agrees to give him money to balance his books. It would be a riot if that endorsement went to Michelle Bachmann, just one of the many jokes in this stupid-ass primary. Regardless of who Cain favors, his votes will probably mostly go to Gingrich, the new un-Romney.

It's become increasingly clear a significant portion of Repub primary voters just will not support Mittens, like little children refusing to eat their spinach. They want a pure conservative no matter how much of a gasbag he is. They want some one with pure credentials to smear Obama and take him apart in the debates. They don't think Plastic Man Mitt can do that or that he shares their conservative principles--even though he is a one percenter. A Gingrich candidicacy might make these Tea Party types feel good for about two seconds, but the rest of America will react with revulsion when faced with the possibility of a Gingrich presidency.

One of my office colleagues, a conservative, believes Obama is solely responsible for the state of the wrecked economy and he will lose the election big time. According to my coworker everyone outside of New York and California hates the President's guts and he has zero chance of being re-elected. A foot stool could beat him. While I agree Obama is not the perfect prez and usually a second-term election is a referendum on the incumbent, I think most independent voters will still think he is the lesser of two evils and vote for him. When elections are close, it sometimes comes down to personalities. George W. Bush won despite his shortcomings because a lot of Americans could imagine themselves having a beer with the Texas governor rather than the stiff Al Gore or the snooty John Kerry. I'm just talking perceptions, but when faced with a choice between good-natured Obama and the nasty, Scrooge-like Gingrich (make poor, lazy school kids work as janitors and by the way, take a bath, you lousy hippies), they will go with Obama.

The Amazing Race 19--Episode 10--Waffles and Pigeons--Plus Work of Art and Project Accessory

It's a good thing I checked the listings before I went away for Thanksgiving or I would have entirely missed this week's Amazing Race. Maybe to promote ratings for a new show, CBS pre-empted The Good Wife for Person of Interest. I always DVR whatever show follows TAR in case stupid football runs over. This week, it ran over for nearly an entire hour, luckily I switched the recording to Person of Interest. As a side note, it turns out Work of Art and Project Accessory weren't on last week at all because of the holidays, so I didn't miss them after all.

I was right about Belgium and waffles as the races stayed in the Brussels area this week and waffles were involved in one challenge. The snowboarders managed to regain their incredible winning streak while praising Jesus all the while. After the bodybuilding challenge shown last week, everyone ran to a park where a Belgian jazz band played the theme from All Things Considered as the contestants stepped on the mat and were told they were still racing. From there they drove to a Ford mustang testing site from some fancy car drivin', product placement, and some free advertising for Ford. The snowboarders caught up as Ernie and Cindy got lost on the way to the next challenge which involved a choice of making waffles or rowing garbage cans on a river. It turns out the food challenge was the harder of the two and the Christian snowboarders gained even more ground.

The final challenge was following a flock of homing pigeons to a specific address in suburban Brussels and then racing to the pit stop, a giant jack thing. The old couple were eliminated and everyone heads for Panama next week. They are really slashing the budget these days, we've only being in Europe for three episodes and the total number of countries is significantly reduced. I can recall when it was a different country every episode.

As noted, I didn't miss Work of Art or Project Accessory. Lola continues to slip and feel sorry for herself. She did a nice drawing of herself as a kid driving with her dad, but those weird car parts sprayed with glitter had nothing to do with the drawing. Sara's winning piece was a clever and different take on the challenge of using the car parts and I'm glad Dusty saved his ass at the last minute with his tire-prints. The show inspires me to look at things in a different light. A few weeks ago when it rained heavily, a lot of cars in my neighborhood were covered with yellow leaves. That would have made an interesting series of photographs. But I was in a hurry and went to work.

They made sandals and hats and a third piece on Project Accessory.

Also I hear none of the usual cast will not be on the Project Runway All Stars show--not Tim, Heidi, Nina or Michael Kors. Maybe because they are gearing up for the regular series. That Tina Brown type from Marie Claire is going to be the mentor. Already, I'm less excited.