No time to write tonight (stay tuned for a review of 300 and the heartbreaking story of my adventure at the Green Party caucus), but I just wanted to say that I've gotten a few emails (all pro) about my desire for a "Lucy" tattoo. I have to admit that the inspiration came from none other than Tyler Durden, AKA Brad Pitt, who has a tattoo of Otzi on his arm:
Authenticity: 80 Out Of 100
Entertainment: 9 Out of 100
Gayness Factor: Not-So-Gay
Our quest for the The Worst Movie about the Classical World Ever Made kicks off with Gladiator, starring motivational puncher Russell Crowe. Although I've made it through the entire film once, whenever it pops up on cable, I make sure I catch the opening ten minutes - and only the opening ten minutes- in which the highly disciplined Roman army kicks the living shit out of my hairy and unruly ancestors. That ten minutes of film is probably the most accurate depiction of ancient warfare to ever hit the screen: the Roman archers are clearly, and correctly, of Eastern origin, and the barbarians even have a calyx, for the love of Darwin.
The rest of the film is a Circus of the Mundane, so I'll just use this paragraph to point out that the real Emperor Commodus was a four-star-freak who had a thing for watching female gladiators duke it out. Now that would've made for great subplot.
The Black Shield of Falworth in which Tony Curtis, in a thick Brooklyn accent, utters the immortal line "Yondah lies da castle uh me faddah, da king" is generally regarded to be the worst film about the Middle Ages ever made. The best would probably be Da Name uh da Rose.
Now that that's settled; let's embark on a quest to determine which movie can claim the title of "The Worst Movie about the Classical World Ever Made." And, as anything worth doing is either worth doing right or doing drunk, let's establish some ground rules to keep us on track:
1. The "Classical World" shall mean the period between 800 BCE and late October of 411 CE in the area around the Mediterranean. This means that Beowulf and King Arthur for example, are off the table for discussion. Oddly, Arthur is not off the table, as it starred Sir John Gielgud who was also in Oedipus, Julius Caesar, and a film he tried to take his name off: Caligula.
2. While themes of Mythology are acceptable, Fantasy is not. Jason and the Argonauts is in. Conan the Barbarian is out.
3. NO Biblical movies: I don't care if there is a Roman governor and half of the Sixth Legion in your goddamn movie, they're only there to nail up Jesus.
4. Each movie shall be rated on two factors: Authenticity and Entertainment. How historically accurate or close to the literary text is the film, and is it watchable? While I don't want to be distracted by the fact that the Theban hoplites are wearing Ray-Bans and Rolexes, I also don't want to drift off while being impressed that the director got the length of Emperor Julian's beard correct.
"Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?"
- Captain Oveur from "Airplane"
5. Finally, a "Gayness Factor" of "Not-So-Gay", "Kinda Gay", and "Fuh-laaaaay-ming!" assigned to it. Not that there's anything wrong with that. The Gayness Factor does not impact the movies overall rating. It's just there to reflect the fact that some of these films have might have been made with 10% of the male population in mind.
Alrighty, now that we have our rules, we can get moving. Next time, I'll pick two films and we'll get to judging.
A Woman of the People... and the Aliens... and the Elves... and ...
I'm about to do something that Republicans never do and Democrats do very seldom. No, not touch a Black person. I'm about to air my Party's dirty laundry in public.
This Tuesday, members of the Green Party will caucus to choose a Presidential nominee from between the following candidates, three quarters of whom have names which sound like porn stars: Jesse Johnson, Kent Mesplay, Kat Swift, and (embarrassing as this is) Cynthia McKinney
Since Philly has declared an official Year of Evolution let's spend a few minutes talking about how evolutionary psychology plays into your choice of mate.
For men, it's simple: all heterosexual men are hardwired to mate with Daisy from Rock of Love II. For straight women, things are a little more complicated. You see, women are hardwired to either mate with the burly guy who can bring down a woolly mammoth, the brainy guy who can organize a woolly mammoth hunt, or Mick Jagger.
By "or Mick Jagger" I mean "or the tribal shaman". Deep in our ancient past, some men quickly realized that they were to scrawny to be good a hunting and dumber than the rock they were sitting on, but smart enough to know that they wanted to mate with as many of the local proto-Daisies as possible. So these long-haired freaks set about chanting while banging bones on the cave wall and generally convincing the rest of the clan that they possessed magical powers. And thusly religion and rock ‘n' roll were born at the same time and have been locked in a life-or-death struggle ever since.
So where do the Ben Steins and Mike Huckabees of the world come from? Well, occasionally the Village Idiot would get lucky.
OK, let's start with the biggest news to hit Philly since since it was discovered that Betsy Ross was really a dude: Our Year of Evolution kicked off on Saturday! I don't think I could possibly be prouder of my hometown right now (although I might be even prouder when Pat Robertson issues a fatwa on Philly). Although I started writing letters a year or two ago asking (begging) for an event like this, I can't take the credit. I will, however, do my best to celebrate by posting as many evolution-specific posts as possible.
Speaking of pride, tomorrow should be the day when the good folks at hat industrie(s) post pictures of RATYHTL's tiny plastic Roman army. Stay tuned for details.
"There was a time when reading wasn't just for fags. And neither was writing. People wrote books and movies. Movies with stories, that made you care about whose ass it was and why it was farting. And I believe that time can come again!"
- Pvt. Joe Bowers
Where were we? Oh yeah, how rural working-class Pennsylvanians devolved from a group of rustic intellectuals to the sort of backwoods motherscratchers who think there's a War on Christmas. The answer, as always, is "Cow, pigs, wars, and witches."
There once was a time in this great country of ours, when blue-collar workers and white-collar workers used to make roughly the same amount of money. Then, one day in late Seventies, it's became pretty clear that a college education might be required for those not dreaming of a career in the Fast Food Industry. You see, the reason that rural working-class Pennsylvanians act like a bunch of dumbshits is because that helps to distinguish them from a group that they see, at least on a subconscious level, as economic competition.
Do you know the real reason why rural working-class Pennsylvanians began hunting? If you've got cows, pigs, corn, and chickens at home, do you really need to spend all day in the woods stalking a bear? The working-class began hunting as a way of emulating the European Aristocracy whom they considered intellectually superior (obviously they hadn't met many European aristocrats): This why hunting dogs - hell, all dogs - used to have names like Cerberus and Hannibal. Today rural working-class Pennsylvanians hunt mainly because they believe that hunting pisses college-educated Liberals. And nearly every mutt in the land has a name like "Mr. Fluffy McSnugglenose."
And college-educated Liberals are just one of the groups that rural working-class Pennsylvanians see as economic competition. Hillbillies claim that they hate Gays because homosexuality is "agin' the Bible", but so are many of the staples of rural life, like divorce, incest, and alcohol consumption, but when Merle Haggard dies (and I hope he lives forever) you won't see a bunch of Fundies picketing his funeral with "God Hates Divorcees"signs. Rednecks hate Gays because, as Richard Florida pointed out in Rise of the Creative Class, Gays are an economic Cinderella Story (which might explain the Bob Mackie gowns)
It's the same reason that you don't see any Rocket Scientists in the Klan. White Rocket Scientists aren't competing against Black Rocket Scientists for grants. There are plenty of slices of the Rocket Scientist pie to be passed around, but poor Southern whites saw newly freed Black as economic competition. That whole "Them darkies looked at my Effie Sue and made"was a convenient and easily understandable excuse.
So the next time you're sitting in a bar just outside of Pittsburgh downing a PBR with a unemployed steel-worker, and he starts to rant about how Gay Black Muslims are using the Liberal Media to take away his gun so that he won't be able to defend Christmas, just explain to him that his fears are actually rooted in deep-seated economic concerns. I'm sure he'll understand.
"Believe it or not, I voted for Bush. See where that got me?"
- Shawn Erfman , mechanic
"Just because you're not handling snakes, speaking in tongues, and fucking your cousin in an outhouse, that doesn't necessarily make you an elitist."
- Nathan E. Bulwar-Lytton, elitist
Our story so far: Apparently, Barack Obama has read Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas and dared to ask the question that the rest of us have been asking for years, leading hundreds of reporters who are white, but who didn't grow up working-class in rural Pennsylvania to comb rural Pennsylvania for comments from the working-class. As someone who not only white and grew up in the working-class, but also lived the first eighteen years of my life in rural Pennsylvania and am one of the most bitter people alive, I feel uniquely qualified to comment.
Oh, there was once a time when the average rural Pennsylvania sod-buster or steel-worker knew a thing or two about a thing or two. I grew up around people who never attended college yet could talk for hours (nonstop) about history, or psychology, or economics - and I don't mean any of this "the earth is 2,600 years old" or "I don't care what then know-it-all doctors say; that child's not schizophrenic: she's possessed!", or "yep, that tax break for that feller what owns the factory should be a tricklin' down to me any day now" horseshit either!
Next time, I'll explain just how rural Pennsylvanians got so stupid in the first place.
Last week, I happened to catch one of those odd little news items that for some inexplicable reason failed to catch fire in the public imagination (even our own venerable John Sopkins somehow missed it). As it turns out, one Joseph Manzanares was charged with attacking his girlfriend in the video store where she worked. Supposedly, the catalyst for the alleged assault was an earlier argument the couple had over which street gang their four-year-old son should join. Apparently, Mr. Manzanares was insistent on his son eventually becoming a member of the oddly innocuously named Westside Ballers, while his girlfriend hoped that the beaming toddler would one day be jumped into the Crips. I'm sure that there was a fair amount of hand wringing over this story by many of the other people who happened to come across it, to which I can only say "Fuck you."
C'mon people, tribal conflicts have plagued humanity from before John McCain was in short pants. If you think that none of your ancestors ever killed, let alone threatened to kill, someone over a dispute about whether or not the Saber-Toothed South Siders sucked wooly mammoth balls, you are either sadly delusional or sadly delusional and Mike Huckabee.
Look, I'm not defending Mr. Manzanares or his unnamed girlfriend...OK, maybe I am defending them a little bit... but they took a hard look at the economic realities surrounding them and they made their choices accordingly. Right now, some WASP is slapping his trophy wife around their tastefully decorated kitchen because she had their infant photographed in a Yale jersey and he went to Harvard (the WASPY wife-beater, not the infant). It's the sort of thing that never makes the news because WASPs have the common decency to commit all of their crimes indoors.
*Phun Phact: In most Native American cultures, the "Line of Heredity" ran through the mother. In other words, if mom was a member of the Elk tribe and dad belonged to the Wolf tribe, then junior would be considered an Elk.
Not So Phun Phact: jaanabanana lists Clan of the Cave Bear as one of her favorite books.
I promise that I'll get to the story about the time a Bosnian sniper took potshots at me (trust me; it's not really that interesting). Currently we have bigger fish to fry. OK, maybe not bigger, but definitely more repulsive.
While hopping around CNN's website today, I notice that one of the items on the list of most view stories was "Settle your disputes in comedy court". Against my better judgment I clicked on the link and... well, let's just say "Courtroom, Sinbad, Tom Arnold, the horror, the horror". Just imagine Lewis Black's "The Root of All Evil" if every speck of the intelligence and humor were magically sucked out of it and replaced with the feces of a blind plague victim and you'll get the picture.
"Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and Chris Tucker are just a few of the funnymen the boy came to know through Masada."
Nice goin', Masada. Sure, Jacko might've got that poor kid wasted on Jesus Juice and left him weeping into his pillow with a size 9 poop-chute, but at least he didn't make him buddy up to the star of Deuce Bigalow, fer fucksake.
By now we've all had a good chuckle at Hillary Clinton's fabricated tale of being fired upon by a sniper while visiting The Land of the Imagination Bosnia. For me, Clinton's tall tale had a particular charm: for it brought back wonderful, enchanted memories of the time I actually was fired upon by a Bosnian sniper.
Back in 1991, during a weeklong ceasefire in Yugoslavia's Civil War, the Dead Milkmen slipped into the rapid fracturing country and played a series of shows...
OK, I can sense that I've lost a few of you already, so let me explain just what we were doing in Yugoslavia (other than hoping to get the fuck out of Yugoslavia). Dave Reckner, our manager, had based his entire management philosophy on one thing (technically two things, if you happen to count "working tirelessly to do whatever was necessary to make Joe happy" as a philosophy): an interview with REM's manager, Jefferson Holt, in which he claimed that the key to REM's early success was that they toured against convention wisdom: which is to say that they played places like Fargo, North Dakota in February or small college towns in the middle of July. The idea being that there would be no competition for the Locals' entertainment dollars.
While my instincts tell me that Jefferson's story had about as much validity as Hillary's sniper tale, I have to concede that our manager was an extremely intelligent guy (after all, he had almost landed Joe a role in a Disney movie) who was pretty quick to figure out that only people who were starved for entertainment would actually pay to see the Dead Milkmen.
So that's what we were doing in Yugoslavia in the winter of 1991: playing for people who, when not actually starving, were starving for entertainment that was, if nothing else, loud enough to drown out the sound of gunfire.
Next time, I'll tell you all about the sniper - promise. In the meantime, here's what you can do to end Morris Dancing in our lifetime:
While I'd much rather be writing about how a recent discover that a mutation in the mu-opioid receptor gene may be the reason why the little brat next door won't stop screaming for his mother (and while the odds are pretty good that he'll grow up to be a substance abuser), I once more have to do the mainstream press' job for them and tell you about something they've failed to sufficiently cover.
By now you've probably heard about the group of third graders who plotted to kill their teacher. And while it's terrible that a group of children conspired to murder a dedicated public servant, you really have to admire the little tykes' organizational skills: one child was assigned the task of making sure that the shades were drawn, another was put in charge of cleaning up the blood – it's as if some sort of prepubescent Project Manager had been put in charge of the entire operation (I wonder if any Parents Groups will call for the banning of MS Project?).
If nothing else, this little episode might offer some insight into how our early hominid ancestors (who were, obviously, not as bright as a modern eleven-year-old, yet considerable smarter than Rick Santorum) were able to organize efficient hunting parties.
Ah, America's public schools: a vast and relatively untapped resource for primate research!
Only a few more days and I'll be caught up enough to have the time to tell you about how I, unlike Hillary Clinton, actually was fired upon by a sniper in Bosnia.