Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WFAT: Wild Wild West

Below is another installment in my "worst films of all time" series.

I remember going to the theater to watch "Independence Day". Never before had there been a film to which my attendance seemed to inevitable. Relentlessly marketed, with ads featuring a provocative shot of the White House destroyed by a laser beam, the film was even given a code name for us to use, "ID4".

"Hey Kevin, you gonna go see ID4?"

"Of course! I'd be a fool not to!"

"That's right, you would. Now hand me some more eggs!"

So yeah, I went and saw it, and it was average. The much ballyhooed special effects looked quite a bit like special effects. It had Will Smith in it. Stuff blew up. Randy Quaid died I think. So began a new type of entertainment. Movies that use the lure of loud noise and heavy ad buys to ensure that you feel left out if you don't consume it's mediocre entertainment.

Enter "Wild Wild West", which should have been punctuated as "Wild, Wild West" or, "Wild Wild, West" if "Wild Wild" referred to to a location within the "West". At any rate, punctuation is the least of the films many worries.

The film takes place in the old west, which is populated by cowboys, whores, charismatic negroes... And robots for some reason. Kevin Kline plays Artemus Gordon, one of the film's protagonists, who is quite a whiz with robots, as well as disguises and zany gadgets. Turns out disguises and zany gadgets are precisely as entertaining as you think they would be.

Alas, Arliss Loveless (why does everyone in this movie have a porn name?) is better, with bigger robots (again, this is the old west). He is in a wheelchair, which, I suppose, is meant to make him more menacing. If anything connotes menace, it's a substantial disability. Kenneth Branagh play Loveless, using one of those awful, fake-sounding southern accents that british actors seem to adopt.

Will Smith plays Will Smith in the film.

Arliss Loveless wants to assassinate President Grant (also played by Kline) and start a new civil war. Will Smith and Artemus Gordon do not want this to happen. Salma Hayek joins them so that she can show her butt-crack. They go for a ride on a gadget train. Loveless counterattacks with a giant mechanical spider.

Thank you, Hollywood.

In reality, this film is emblematic of the new summer blockbuster. Where as the directors of old (Lucas, Spielberg et al...) used their technological savvy to build robust, populist entertainments, their efforts have been largely supplanted by a new class of films, which need only advertisable nuggets in order to be produced.

They are engaged in an ongoing bait and switch. Hollywood presents a product that looks appealing enough. Plenty of action, a cohesive story line, popular actors and all that. But the product itself is fools gold. Anyone could have written a movie like "Wild Wild West". Anyone with means could have filmed it. There is literally no talent on a display in a film that features a whacky train battling a whacky spider.

So how do these films make (lots and lots of) money? It is not as though the average person can't see through this shell game. People are aware that Bruckheimer and his crew are playing us for suckers. So why keep attending their films?

The reason is what I call the LCD (lowest common denominator) theory. Movies are shared experiences. Almost nobody goes to a film by themselves. The majority of films are, in fact, consumed by large groups. When it comes to selecting a film, no group is better than their least intelligent member.

We've all been there. A group of friends gets together to decide what movie to watch, and one person (usually somebody's uninvited girlfriend) exercises veto power over just about everything. See, people who like bad movies are exponentially more vocal than people who like good movies in these situations.

We all know what will happen if they don't get their way. They'll talk and giggle throughout the film, and then complain about how "booooooooring" it was afterward. So you put on a grin, shell out $9 for "Wild Wild West", and blog about it 7 years later.

For it's absurd plot structure, and it's numbing effect on American culture, the poorly punctuated "Wild Wild West" is truly one of the worst films of all time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Ouchie!

I hurt my knee... Specifically, I poppeded a ligament trying to push my car out of the snow. It hurts.

Will you kiss it? Just to make it better? Please? Just kiss my injured ol' knee?

Not, you Buchanan...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Liveblogging the Oscars

Today I offer a special treat. My friend Peter and I are teaming up to provide expert commentary on Oscars 2007.

Kevin: Peter are you ready to do this.

Peter: n'yep...

Kevin: So Chris Connelly is still alive. Let's roll!

Peter: Jodi Foster looks too intelligent.

Kevin: Agreed.

Peter: Andie McDowell seems to have ceased acting completely for a lucrative career marketing beautry products.

Kevin: And it begins! God I'm so happy!

Kevin: Well, this opener has reached train wreck status. Hey folks, just because they're Oscar-nominated doesn't mean they have a personality!

Peter: Ellen looks like a 15 year old boy at his first dance.

Peter: Jack Nicholson is bald now. he looks like the Commish.

Kevin: Al Gore's hair looks like frosting.

Peter: You could dip a chip in it.

Kevin: Wow... It's always uncomfortable when a gospel choir shows up. This has been a Bad Idea Musical Ensembles production.

Kevin: Nicole Kidman is only wearing one shoulder pad....

Kevin: I am informed by my wife that this is actually a bow.

Peter: Well, glad their winning the audience over early. So far we have the art direction Oscar, Maggie Gyllenhal talking for three minutes about men with bears, some odd silhouette people, and Dan Lafontane introducing himself.

Kevin: Yeah, the makeup people don't have the best seats, do they? We'll just all wait while the winners take the elevator on down.

Peter: Are we gonna get more tumbling? That's all I'm asking for.

Kevin: Nice to see John Bolton honored for his great sound editing this year.

Kevin: It's ironic to me that the editors tend to give the longest speeches.

Peter: And now some really tepid mid-tempo music.

Kevin: Hey Peter, you can solve the climate crisis.

Peter: Yeah, (to Bridgette) honey, turn the thermostat down.

Bridgette: It's Minnesota.

Peter: What is this. Everyone blowing smoke up Al Gore's already substantial ass?

Kevin: Cameron Diaz came to the Oscars dressed as a paper airplane.

Kevin: Tom Hanks' hair is looking slightly less ridiculous this year.

Peter: Tom Hanks and Helen Mirren should mate for the good of the acting world.

Kevin: Ellen just changed jumpsuits.

Kevin: The winner for costume design just said Stanley Kubrick is her master.

Peter: The way she looks, I'm not surprised.

Kevin: I love these community achievement awards.

Peter: You know, they can give the lifetime achievement to Wilford Brimley every year for all I care. "I'm Wilford Brimley! I have diabetes! Kill me! Kill me now."

Peter: Everybody involved with Pan's Labrynth has a scruffy beard.

Kevin: I am just so happy about all the diversity.

Kevin: Ellen is on her third pant-suit of the evening.

Kevin: The Bond girl seems to be dressed in mold.

Peter: And pulsating maggots.

Kevin: An Inconvenient Truth was made by some fellow named Davis Guggenheim.

Peter: Next year, the documentary is going to be about the thickening of Al Gore.

(note: at this point, the presence of Celine Dion has prompted the departure of Peter and Bridgette... All comments by Kevin from here on out)

But seriously, what was that? A slow song that nobody knows, that isn't from any movie, and have Celine Dion sing it... Well, lifetime achievement award is always good for a pee break...

You know, to be honest, I'm glad Peter is gone.

Ohhhh the silhouette people again! Now I dont have to be bored. And Chris Connelly again for no reason. What are this guy's qualifications.

When do I get to find out who died this past year?

You think the third "Dreamgirl" feels a bit like Jose Carreras right now?

Melissa Ethridge wins for best song. And the Al Gore tongue-bath continues. You know, people who are inspired by Al Gore are incapable of impressing me, as a rule.

During commercial break. Ellen ripped a piece of curtain and made a makeshift, navy-blue jasket out of it.

I miss Peter...

Suffice to say... Helen Mirren has come a long way since Caligula

Scorcese won, hooray and all that. I'm just so glad for all the diversity.

That's all folks. I have to go invest in some jumpsuits, as they will clearly be all the rage from here on out. Thank you, Ellen, for showing us the way.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Life and Culture in Minneapolis Part 2

So why is this? Why is one of the most cultured cities in America so, um, ugly? Part of the problem is that we are not so cultured as we think we are. Minneapolis is suburban in a way no other city is suburban. The first time I visited Minnesota, I was twelve years old, and my brother lived in Burnsville. Everything was so pristine compared to what I was used to. It was beautiful in it’s own way, and certainly very clean.

Native Minnesotans seem to be utterly addicted to their suburban tendencies. Oh, sure, we come to the city now to live close to our jobs and all that, but anyone who has sat in stand-still traffic on 35W South at 2 pm on a Saturday knows where our heart lies. In our free time, the floodgates open, as eager city-dwellers pour southward to dine at one of the area's seven Don Pablos.

In Minneapolis, we have eschewed vinyl-siding in favor of "loft-style living" but, but what is loft-style living but a new kind of conformity? The city is festooned with uber-modern condos that will invariably become a cultural relic in about six years. We've swapped cutters, but we're still baking some damn cookies. Some boxy ones at that.

We steadfastly refuse to try anything new. Consider this, in addition to the aforementioned Don Pablos, Minneapolis features 33 Caribou Coffees, 10 Chipotle restaurants, and 5 (!) Sawatdee Thai Restaurants. Would you open a french bistro with an emphasis on small plates and unique wines here? I didn't think so.

The other major problem is city politics. Minneapolis city leadership has one of the more astounding long-term track records of failure this side of Katrina-ville. Consider this. Nicollet Ave., one of the major arteries in and out of Minneapolis, was paved over at its intersection with Lake St., the busiest street in the city, to build a K-Mart.

Mistakes such as these are remedied in other cities, but it requires a leader who possesses vision and purpose. We got Sharon Sayles Belton, who was black and not much more. Draconian zoning regulations, enforced by powerful (and exceedingly parochial) neighborhood groups have conspired to confine commerce to the city's major thoroughfares. This helps explain why I have to drive five miles just to get a soda.

Further, these neighborhood groups control liquor licensing. See, liquor licenses help small, unique restaurants thrive, as they can compensate for high food costs and low volume with generous beer markups. For neighborhood group members, who prioritize peace and quiet over progress, any mention of alcohol conjures images of hippies and swordfights.

Of course, these groups do nothing to combat the real source of alcohol related crime, our city's ubiquitous liquor stores. Thanks to onerous regulations prohibiting the sale of liquor at grocery stores and other venues, Minneapolis is home to an exorbitant number of purely liquor stores. Such stores have precious little incentive to maintain their storefronts, and they are a magnet for riff-raff in addition to being unsightly. And yet, there’s one or two in every prominent neighborhood.

Worse, what ought to be the city's heartbeat, the prime real-estate at the end of the light-rail, and near the Target Center, was long ago designated as the city's red-light district. So, instead of Emeril's latest restaurant venture, the heart of downtown is home to Sex World, a veritable mall devoted to deviance, along with a gaggle of strip clubs.

When the Christian club 3 Degrees fought to prevent the opening of yet another strip-club, on the grounds that one cannot open an adult establishment within 500 ft. of a church, city councilman Gary Schiff went to bat for the strip club, arguing that 3 degrees is not a church at all. Schiff has made no secret of his desire to be the next mayor of the city. The cycle continues.

The city is virtually obsessed with charging exorbitant amounts for parking, even in some of the city’s poorest areas (parking meters in Phillips? Are you kidding me?). These “revenue generators” have been a drain on commerce in the Dinkytown area, home to the University, and where a night on the town can yield a $15 parking tab. Meanwhile, highly successful commercial ventures are sprouting up in neighboring suburbs where parking is free of charge.

Add all of this to exorbitant city taxes, including a special “downtown tax”. Curiously, the region affected by this special tax includes regions of northeast Minneapolis. The tax has been a particular drain on the St. Anthony Main area along the northern riverfront, where a major development sits half-empty. There is no economic incentive to create the thriving, diverse commercial districts that characterize great cities.

So we have the meeting of an aggressively incompetent government and an apathetic constituency. The result is an unattractive mess. Even neighboring St. Paul, with it’s adorable neighborhoods, professional hockey, and un-navigable roadways, outshines us at this point.

But hey, at least we got a Hooters.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Life and Culture in Minneapolis

Can I take a moment (or rather, two moments, as this is a two-parter) discuss what an aesthetic disaster Minneapolis has become?

It's as though a 40,000 ft. tall civil engineer picked up a moderately-sized, charming city, ate it, consumed twenty shots of tequila and immediately vomited the whole deal onto a city-sized area strewn with lakes. If an unbright 10 year old were playing Simcity, you'd get Minneapolis.

I was observing this fact over drinks and artichoke dip at Pizza Luce, in the warehouse district. As is the case with many warehouse areas along major waterways, the warehouse district has experience a renaissance. The promise of affordable square footage, combined with an old-world aesthetic and proximity to downtown, has made the area a desirable place to live. Typically, this desirability is accompanied by a unique sense of community, wherein a plethora of intriguing shops an restaurants open to service the forward thinking folks who took the plunge and moved into an abandoned factory.

Not so in Minneapolis, where the district features an arbitrary mish-mash of chain restaurants, strip clubs, ad agencies, and empty bars. The area is dull and lifeless, in spite of the fact that an affluent, artistic community therein resides. Various shops and bars rotate in and out of the century old buildings, which more closely resemble suburan strip malls than historically important structures.

The district is emblematic of the city as a whole. People are moving in, but they aren't making a thumbprint. The Phillips neighborhood, in spite of recurring crime problems that the city is either unable or unwilling to resolve, has flourished on the back of federal grants and it's ethnic diversity (by some accounts, it is the most diverse neighborhood in the United States). However, even the most unique and original shops and eateries are visually dull, and lack the vibrancy of the goods and service provided within.

The downtown area, which sports no end of high-end steakhouses, has little to offer those not dining on an expense account. Add to this the nefarious "Block E", a three story mini-mall which, when paired with the tacky, already dated Target Center, looks as though it might at any moment fly into the air and form Voltron.

The city's up and coming Camden and Longfellow neighborhoods, are devoid of the neighborhood curiosities that are a fixture in city's such as Portland and Atlanta. I literally have to drive to the suburbs just to fill my car with gas or get a cup of coffee (not that I'm clamoring for more Starbucks or BPs, but you see my point).

Minneapolis is, of course, renowned for it's many lakes. Of course, the lakes do, in fact, add to the ambience considerably. However, the desirability of property within walking distance has rendered these areas a residential plaything for old-money millionaires. While strolling by the architectural masterpieces owned by myriad Daytons and PIllsburys is good for an occassional envy-inducing walk, one hardly feels at home amongst a community that is off-limits by design.

The University of Minnesota area is such a muddle that it defies explanation, and it's pretty ghastly to look at, if one is being honest. U students are better known for breaking stuff after hockey games than they are for the interests that generally make college towns so inhabitable. North Minneapolis is essentially indistuingishable from the kill-floor at a meat-packing plant. Our most famous art museum has all the inviting charm of an arms repository at Quantico.

The exception that proves the rule is the city's Northeast section (dubbed Nordeast, in honor of it's heavy polish population) which manages to fuse it's cultural history with a relatively diverse nightlife. But the area hardly rates as a reason to visit the city, and pales in comparison to even St. Paul's more lively sectors.

So why is this? Why is a city that is ostensibly known for it's culture such an artistic abortion? I'll explore that tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A cappella sounds good to me

I was in a collegiate a cappella group (specifically, this one). See, here's the thing. At a certain number of very-expensive schools, the enthusiasm for this particular musical style is well beyond what any reasonable person would deem bananas. Between the eight members of the Ivy League, for example, there are more than 100 a cappella groups, and counting.

The growth of collegiate a cappella has been driven by a recent trend toward performing pop songs, with voices covering the guitar, drums, bass et al... Depending on their relative musical merits, these groups can either be very popular with, or completely unwatchable to, their collegiate peers.

Those who participate in collegiate a cappella tend to be marked by a slavish devotion to their groups. My own group probably demanded 15 hours a week of my time arranging, rehearsing, performing and recording. For some of the more intense groups, this number can exceed 40-50. There is a whole community devoted to college a cappella, with organizations, compilations, websites, awards, and even beatboxing instructional videos.

Lame, huh?

Here what's lamer. Apparently, a number of groups and organizations have been creating Wiki entries. That's cool. If your gonna spend your life on something, might as well get some Wiki out of the deal. Well, apparently some undergrad at Dartmouth doesn't like this idea, or doesn't like a cappella. He has systematically proposed every a cappella related article for deletion.

Yep, you read that right. There is someone on this planet who, when asked "what did you do today?" can safely say "oh, you know, went to Wiki, and mounted a feverish campaign to delete references to collegiate a cappella groups." Show of hands. Who wants to be that guy?

So, in this world, while some battle over questions of our very existence, there is a heated dispute on Wikipedia about the relative merits of collegiate a cappella groups, and whether the entire phenomenon merits inclusion on that website.

Oh, and for those who were wondering, Wes Carrol's "Mouth Drumming - Volume 1: Introduction to Mouth Drumming with Wes Carrol" will not work in European VCRs. Sorry, Belgium.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Intensity!

I have passion! Zest for life! I am taking eacn moment as it comes, and living day by day, that's for sure. I bought a turtle. Isn't that just so, so whimsical of me? That's what makes me unique. I do crap like buy turtles out of the blue, which no knowledge of how to care for and feed it.

I am living deep and sucking the marrow of life baby. In fact, to prove that point, I watched Dead Poet's Society last night. Twice! What did you do? Watch your soul die in the mirror? It is time to embrace the fire!

Someday, I'm gonna learn to play guitar. You know how guys always talk about how they are going to do that, but never get around to it? I am not one of those guys. I'm a go-getter! I will not be like my dad! You will bow to my riffs as I achieve my ambitions.

I read "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" and wrote notes in the margins. In red ink! After I die, people will bid extravagantly for my special insights, so they can learn to paradigm-shift. They will not be able to bid for my book on Ebay, because I will, by that time, have purchased Ebay and renamed it "Zots!" after the turtle I just bought.

I'm buying a damn Chrysler! I AM LIVING!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Monday Musings

Random thoughts from a diseased mind.

I could write a whole entry about my recent expriences with Comcast. Here's the gist. They are selling a DVR (generic TiVo) program to Minneapolis residents that they know does not work. The hardware is incompatible with the DVR software. Not cool. Further uncoolness, it took three weeks and several hours navigating Comcast largely incompetent customer service department (note to Comcast: it's a group home, not an employment line) in order to gain this information, which was divulged by the superviing technician for my region. My petty revenge will be to put a series of highly searchable negative terms related to Comcast at the bottom of this post

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On a related note, do you know why cable companies never compete with each other? It is because they pay exorbitant fees to municipalities to preserve their monopolies. Why is this legal? They pay even more exorbitant sums to congressional Democrats not to interfere. These fees also keep telecom companies at bay, and the official talking point among the Dems is that the Telecoms will refuse to provide their services to the poor. Not that you asked.

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I was totally raped by breakfast this morning. I was on my way out the door to go to a Rock TV shoot, when my wife starts cooking up some eggs. What do I do? Refuse her breakfast? Say "not now honey"? I was torn between my loyalites to the several people who were patiently awaiting my arrival at the shoot and my wife. I used my love of food as a tiebreaker.

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I'm watching the NBA All-Star action. This year's game is held in Las Vegas, and features myriad Vegas-related entertainments, which include: Tom Jones's a cappella group, an visibly dying Wayne Newton, Toni Braxton (misleadingly introduced as Toni, Toni, Toni), Siegfried and a heavily-mauled Roy. All of this goes to show that, if I went to Las Vegas, I would gamble. A lot.

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So, my friend Matt owns a hair salon*. As the Salon has no firable employees, he** is exempt from paying unemployment insurance. In meeting with his tax advisor, it was revealed that the government imposes a special tax on those who are exempt from playing unemployment insurance. This tax exceeds the amount that would have been due in unemployment insurance. A special tax reserved for the smallest of businesses? This is why I vote Republican, people.

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Is it me or was there an absurd amount of NASCAR coverage this weekend? I mean, I know they had a race (The Belmont Stakes) but it was front page news. I guess you could say I was raped by breakfast and NASCAR this weekend.

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Haven't heard much about robots lately. Any developments on that front?

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My wife's office moved downtown today. She is now excitedly telling me every detail about her new cubicle. You know how men have a tune-out button w/r/t their wives? Yeah, I'm thanking God for that right now. I love my wife, but cannot pretend to care whether her file cabinet is on rollers or not.

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I never commented on that John Edwards blogger who is utterly bananas and also got fired for being utterly bananas. That was because (other than the fact that she seems to represent the mainstream of Democratic thought more than we all should like) there was nothing to talk about. She is an unremarkable mind. Astonishingly unobservant, unpleasant, and dull, she has in no way merited the fifteen minutes of fame this fiasco has accorded her. At any rate, she's back to posting at her own blog now, and here is the most recent title.

"If you slap some porn on the TV, you'll have two more minutes for chores!"

The post is about oral sex. Again, what more could I add?

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*-With his wife, who actually does the cutting of hair.

**- And, again, his wife.

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Comcast sucks. I am switching to DirectTv. Screw Comcast. Comcast is the worst. Comcast is a fraud. Comfreakingcastic. Comcast blows. Comcast is Satan. Down with Comcast. Comcast has bad service. Comcast hates gays. Comcast is bad for the environment. Comcast gives kids cancer. Comcast doesn't care if you want it. If Comcast were a monkey, it would be a very bad monkey, indeed. Comcast spits on your grandmother's grave. Your single malt whiskey is wasted on Comcast. Comcast is fine if you order the fish. Comcast hates Popes. Comcast is the Hot Pockets of cable companies. Comcast won't eat peas. Comcast shaved Britney. Comcast hit on your wife, but only to get to your daughters. Comcast is illiterate. Comcast is a trans-fat. Comcast killed daddy. Comcast is fat. Comcast wants to ban women's hockey.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Homosexuality and the church

Among the responses to my "interview" with John Amaechi was a comment that my interview was offensive on many levels. On precisely which levels it was offensive was not defined, though one can safely the offense occurred on levels that are devoid of irony or perspective.

There is an underlying point, however, that speaks to our role as Christians in addressing social issues. Homosexuality, and the question of whether homosexual acts constitute sin, are two issues that generate a tremendous amount of heat for non-Christians (or very liberal Christians). For those who see homosexuality as natural and acceptable to God, there is very little tolerance for an opposing viewpoint.

For example, the person who took offense to my interview (btw, you folks do know that the interviews are fake, right?) posted the following response on the Sojourner's blog to my argument that homosexuality distances us from God by distancing us from our innate gender roles. He writes:

"you are a dumb ass. I've been reading your posts for a few months now and I thought you just had a different perspective, but your last comment is telling of how you think.... Speaking of sex outside of marriage, I wonder what your thoughts are on masturbation. Is this really Dobson using a different name? "

This is a Christian site, mind you. For the whole discussion (and trust me, it is not illuminating) click Here.

The insinuation is clear: I am an intolerant dolt who is obsessed with condemning all manner of sexual deviance. In this, I am not unlike other far-right Christians who are obsessed with all things sexual at the expense of real dialogue. Further, I am (as it is further implied) a hypocrite for condemning masturbation (as does Dobson) since, as a male, I undoubtedly partake (or have partaken) of the liberty myself.

For the record, I do agree with Dr. Dobson on the issue of masturbation. Dobson believes that it is a sin that our teenagers are ill-equipped to fight and that the expectation that young men not masturbate is completely absurd, given that 95% of boys do it and the other 5% are lying. He has taken tremendous flack from conservative theologians for this position.

Which brings me to a larger point about this issue. For those who adopt a certain view, let's call it an "open" view of homosexuality, the underlying assumption is that the opposing belief stems from a simple-mindedness about the issue. In this mindset, the proponent of the open view has an expanded knowledge that allows them to "understand" that homosexuality. Therefore, the alternatives are not even worthy of consideration.

With this in mind, it is not difficult to find support for the open viewpoint. After all, when your only tool is a hammer everything looks like a nail. One poster (absurdly) cites Matthew 19 as Christ's acknowledgment that some are born homosexual. Another evokes the common refrain that those who oppose homosexuality as sin ought adhere to Levitical principle, for consistencies sake. Both of these arguments are easily diffused in a number of ways, but they find resonance in those who see themselves as arbiters of fairness and tolerance.

Further, this open view of homosexuality seems, on its face, to perpetuate the narrative of expanded civil rights and equality. Indeed, our intolerance of homosexuality looks an awful lot like the racism that permeated American culture not fifty years ago (and continues to this day, in some sectors). This gives the open view a moral authority that goes beyond Biblical principle. No wonder I'm such a dumbass.

Lastly, because of a number of factors, the church has been leading the charge to forbid homosexuals to marry in this country. Of course, opposition to gay marriage is the predominant viewpoint in America, but it is not difficult to see Christians as exceedingly picayunal about all things sex. There is probably some truth to the stereotype that Christian conservatives care about a small handful of issues that relate to reproduction.

In light of all this, it is easy to see why so many consider the debate to be largely settled. After all, we seem well on our way to enshrining the right to marry our own gender into the Constitution. Even those who do believe that homosexuality is a sin often have bigger fish to fry. So who cares?

Fair enough. But by refusing to discuss the issue in any meaningful way, we have shortcircuited any question of what God might have to say about it. Instead of looking to the scripture to divine God's wisdom, we wimply rearrange scripture to suit our viewpoint. To the extent that this mindset permeates the church, we are cutting ourselves off from whole discussions of the Bible.

For example, if one cedes the argument that we must accept Levitical law in order to reject homosexuality, we are relinquishing our right to name and confront sin entirely. It becomes a trump card (and an illogical trump card at that) that precludes discussion about a whole host of matters.

And so, I think we need to have the discussion. If those who hold the open view want to curse and, frankly, flip out in general, we have to accept this consequence. We cannot accept a minority viewpoint on major issues of doctrine simply because those who hold to that viewopint exhibit the most vitriol. The meek shall inherit the earth, not the shrill.

I remember, a few years back, our worship was interrupted by a crazed attendee who screamed something about our church being an abomination before throwing a bunch of flyers into the air. Indeed, the band stopped as the man made his way to the exit. He did not want a discussion. He wanted to disrupt, to incite fear, to have the final say.

At that point, we had two options. Stop the service entirely and never meet again, and acquiesce to the demands of the flyer-throwing set, or keep going. For obvious reasons, we chose the latter option. So it should be with controversial issues such as homosexuality. Disruption is not an option. Dialogue is a must.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A V-Day Missive

Baby,

You are like Huckleberries. Sweet, exotic. In fact. You know what? The hell with huckleberries. Huckleberries are fine, but they piss me off compared to you. You make hate the crap out of huckleberries. That's how outstanding you are.

Baby you are blonde. Blonde as the sunset, to the extent the sunset is blonde and not other descriptors. But make no mistake... You are, in fact, a blonde woman.

If, for any reason, you were attacked by clowns, I would punish those clowns severely. I would take them to a shed in the woods and remove their clown makeup. Sometimes clowns need to see who they really are. I will show them that. It will do them good. I would do good to clowns for you baby.

Baby, if you were a car, you would be expensive, and hard to maintain.

Baby, that did not come out the way I meant it. I love you, and your parents are upstanding people. Salt of the earth folk. Damn, I like me some salt. I want to lick salt off your lips, but that would burn. I would never burn, or irritate you baby, even mildly.

Do you want a puppy? A puppy to represent our love? It would take 1,000 puppies to represent our love. They would make a mess. You wouldn't want that kind of mess.

Let's take the puppy issue off the table, so we can make love on it (the table, not the puppy).

If I looked inside your eyes, I think I would find the heavens, instead of nerve endings, or retinas. Retinas are ugly, like most women, at least, compared to you. Just to be clear. Ugly women = vitreous humor. You = heaven. What man wouldn't prefer heaven to vitreous humor?

Baby, if I could be chained to a desk, writing you poems, that would get boring after awhile.

I hope Valentines Day is amazing for you. You are better than cable, and that, from me, is saying so much.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An Interview With John Amaechi

Every now and then, my blog affords me the opportunity to talk with certain newsmakers. Today, I am privileged to be joined by John Amaechi, who played several seasons in the NBA for Orlando and Utah. His recent book "Man in the Middle" is hitting the stores this week, and is causing quite a stir. Without any further adieu, welcome to TPWK.

John Amaechi: It's great to be here.

TPWK: Now, I've read a bit of your book, and it seems you encountered quite a bit of prejudice during your time in the NBA.

JA: Well, prejudice, certainly I experienced that in the oblique sense. Hushed whispers and the like.

TPWK: Right, and you feel that your were discriminated against for being a black player in the NBA?

JA: Black?

TPWK: I'm sorry, African-American.

JA: I'm from England.

TPWK: Isn't it the thought that counts? Now, I have to say, it seems as though several black, African-Anglo... players had paved the way long before your arrival. Michael Jordan comes to mind. I'm sure there were others.

JA: I think you are misunderstanding.

TPWK: Oh, don't get me wrong. I haven't walked a mile in your shoes. I am certainly aware that society views...

JA: I'm gay.

TPWK: Come again?

JA: I am a homosexual. That's the premise of the book.

TPWK: Oh, so it is a fiction, as though you were a homosexual player in the National Basketball Association. Provocative... Provacative...

JA: Um, no. I am actually a homosexual. That was kind of the impetus for writing the book.

TPWK: So, you're gay?

JA: Yes

TPWK: And you were a player in the National Basketball Association?

JA: That is correct.

TPWK: Weeeeeeeeeiiiiiird!

JA: Um, did you have any questions about the book?

TPWK: Oh, right. I'm sorry, it's just... This changes everything.

JA: Not really.

TPWK: Wow... And you're black too? I mean, African-gayomatic whatever...

JA: I don't think African-gayomatic is the accepted term, but yes I am black and gay.

TPWK: Oh, so you can use the term "black". I thought so. I was all freaked out.

JA: I don't really care either way.

TPWK: Wow... No, that's cool. That's cool... So, is Greg Ostertag gay? I mean, in secret.

JA: I have no idea.

TPWK: Cause he was white.

JA: I think I'm done here.

TPWK: Here, have a hot cocoa on me. Brother.

JA: You're giving me two dollars?

TPWK: Just a small token of appreciation of your courage.

JA: Whatever, man.

TPWK: HE SHOOTS! HE SCORES! HE'S GAY! Wow, I just can't get over that. Isn't that the dickens????

JA: (leaves)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Monday Musings

More unfocused rantings of a Christian maniac.

In keeping with a theme, and in honor of his big announcement, I am dubbing Barack Obama "Smoothjazz". I am naming him Smoothjazz on account of his smoothness, the fact that black people pioneered jazz, and the fact that I find him inoffensive but uttterly insipid. Let's all lift a Zima to future President Smoothjazz.

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Is it racist to say the black people pioneered jazz? If white people pioneered jazz, would I even bring it up? Everything is so racist for me right now.

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For those who don't know, Nobel Laureate and Jewish humanitarian Elie Wiesel was attacked in an elevator by a holocaust-denier in San Francisco (natch) who wanted Wiesel to deny the existence of the holocaust on camera. Wiesel, apparently, feigned a heart-attack to dissuade his militant attacker.

A couple of thoughts. First, could you imagine if something similar happened to Jesse Jackson? It would be front page news for the next week. I'm not a big "imagine if it we so-and-so" guy, but how can you not notice the relative under-the-rug tpye behavior among journalists. Second, imagine if he had succeeded. The video would have been leaked to millions of "moderate" Arabs, who would have cited this as conclusive proof (not that they needed any) that the Holocaust was a Zionist hoax. One wonders what the Dailykos would have made of such a video. I suspect the recriminations would not be so quick as one might hope.

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America is releasing a new dollar coin. Here's a handy test to see if people are using the coin. Inscribe the phrase "the hell with you people" in fine print. If nobody complains, then they aren't using the dollar. If they do use it, well, then at least you got the message across. Personally, I'm mad that the coin doesn't feature the visage of a black president. I think my anger is justified and reasonable.

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Anna Nicole Smith died. I know that it's improper to speak ill of the dead, but can something so inevitable be all THAT tragic? Aren't we shedding crocodile tears here? At what point do we bemoan the self-destructive behavior, and our society's glorification thereof, instead of the destruction it causes?

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Lately, my wife has been craving greasy, Applebees-style junk food. Either she's pregnant, or she is regressing to the mean. Either way, I'm not cool with it.

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This weekend, the Star Tribune ran a story about the Church of the Living Word, and accusations that they are in violation of IRS regulation for inappropriate loans etc... Of course, the investigations were prompted by CREW (citizens for responsible something something), which is a left-wing hit group forged for the purposes of nailing conservative causes, not that I would expect the Strib to mention that fact.

I am not all that enamored of this church, or the prosperity gospel preached by it's founder, Mac Hammond. Nor am I convinced of their innocence in this matter. I am, however, concerned that a victory here will lead this group, whose stated purpose is to engage in lawsuits that generate high-profile press coverage, to reach for higher-hanging fruit.

In 2013, will a pastor be sued for saying that homosexuals ought not marry? Will a church lose it's non-profit status on account of him saying so? I think that, yes, this is precisely what will happen. Food for thought for the "why do we care about gay marriage when Christians should be caring about Darfur more harder right now!" set.

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Speaking of Darfur, didn't we save it a few weeks ago? We gave Al Gore a Nobel Prize for it, didn't we? Good job, Al, may your caring save the earth.

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Oh, and Smoothjazz's first act as official presidential aspirant? Criticize Australia. What's Australian for "incompetent gaffe"?

Friday, February 09, 2007

A conversation between two drivers

Driver 1: Pardon me. Would you have any Grey Poupon?
Driver 2: Um. I assume you are just being facetitious, but I actually do have some.
Driver 1: Oh, really? That is so weird. Cause I was joking.
Driver:2: No, that's cool. I just go to Subway a lot, so...
Driver 1: No.... Makes sense, makes sense...
Driver 2: Pretty stale joke though.
Driver 1: Yeah, my bad... Kind of a impulse thing.
Driver 2: No, I get it. That's cool.
Driver 1: Just being social.
Driver 2: No. And, I mean, you have to have a pretty famous cultural reference if it's going to work.
Driver 1: Well, yeah, and I figured, since it hadn't been used in a while.
Driver 2: Right... Well, I...
Driver 1: I am going to take your car.
Driver 2: What? Oh you have a gun.
Driver 1: Yeah. Well, I was hiding it.
Driver 2: Oh, that's why I didn't see it then.
Driver 1: Yeah, plus I figured the Grey Poupon thing would go more smoothly.
(shoots driver 2 in the kneecap)
Driver 2: Oh. Wow. Well, clearly you mean business then.
Driver 1: Yeah, definitely looking to get this thing done here.
Driver 2: Alright. Well, here are the keys.
Driver 1: Thanks. Um, this is automatic, right.
Driver 2: Yeah, definitely, definitely. You can have the mustard too.
Driver 1: Sure. Well, I'm out.
Driver 2: Do you know where there's a hospital?
Driver 1: Um... You know, there's really no point.
Driver 2: No?
Driver 1: Well, I severed an artery.
Driver 2: Oh, yeah, I see that now. That explains the light-headedness.
Driver 1: Well, I should take off. Sorry about the Grey Poupon thing.
Driver 2: Oh, that's fine. i'm blacking out anyway.
Driver 1: Welcome to North Minneapolis.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Guest Commentary: Smartycat

So Kevin asks me this morning if I would guest blog, because if he doesn't have something new up every single day you guys will, apparently, have some sort of apoplectic fit, not unlike the dog when he can clearly see that others (human, dog or otherwise) are "outside", while he, himself, is not "outside", and so gives himself to a flurry of screamy barks, as though he is able to somehow participate, if vicariously, in their "outsideness", which behavior (the barking) never results in any acknowledgement (of the dog) but is tremendously distressing, for obvious reasons, to the dog's co-habitants (or lone co-habitant), who are (or is), I should note, utterly content, again, for obvious reasons, to not be "outside", and who are (or is), secretly, pondering the relative merits of slicing the dog's (bloated) belly open with a single claw, which such action would render null (to the dog) any importance attached to "outsideness", and rather focus the dog's considerable energies on the outpouring of intestines from their normal place (again, the belly), onto the carpet, a situation over which the dog would, largely, have no control, but which would undisputably result in considerably more racket, accompanied (possibly) by panicked sprinting about the house, which would, for, again, obvious reasons, result in some measure of aesthetic unpleasantness and which would, in addition to failing to solve the aforementioned noise problem, bring about some measure of retribution for the dog's co-habitants (or lone co-habitant), the extent of which being largely dependant on the extent to which it could be determined that its (the dog's) co-habitants (or lone co-habitant) were principally responsible for it's (the dog's) malaise, and, by extension, the sullied carpets, couches, walls, doors, windows, chairs, kitchen, toys, laundry, exercise equipment, bedspreads, books (to the extent that they were dislodged from their respective shelves by the punctured pooch,) plants, other co-habitants (if applicable) and low-lying artwork (if any), the likelihood of such attribution being increased substantially by recent behavior on the part of it's (the dog's) co-habitants (or lone co-habitant, in particular one co-habitant, who has exhibited a proclivity to "lash out", as some have phrased it, regarding (this particular co-habitants behavior toward) the dog) and, as such, a better remedy to the dog's incessant, highly verbal, consternation regarding - and/or vicarious participation in - the activites of those who are "outside" might be, simply, to practice diversion, a convenient (and modestly productive) means of which having been provided in the form of an opportunity to guest blog and so, without further ado, its (the dog's) co-habitants (or lone co-habitant) shall commence post-haste by way of scanning the myriad newswires for some highly ironic, easily recognizable, news peg (e.g. the curious astronaut love triangle that may or may not result in a prison sentence for a much ballyhooed female space-goer) and proceeding to infuse it with the co-habitants's (or lone co-habitant's) notoriously incendiary cat-wit.

Here goes...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Guest Commentary: A Gumball

Hi,

I'm Ralph. Ralph the gumball. I am yellow. I don't taste yellow, though. I'm not a lemon-flavored gumball. Not lemonade or citrus, or any of that... I'm just good ol' bubble gum flavor, you know? Like when you were a kid, before the scars of Vietnam. Before the haunting.

Basically, I'm just a gumball. Pure and simple. And what does a gumball want more than to be chewed? Would you like to chew me? You wanna chew on Ralph?

Maybe put me between your teeth and crush my outer shell, allowing your saliva to slowly soften my crysaline innards? Using you tongue to bat my crushed husk about your mouth? Suckling at my sweetness until my flavor turns dull and vaguely bitter. Which you like to give me that honor. I would really enjoy it.

See, sitting here in this machine, this glass prison, surrounded by dull lifeless globes. It's, well, it's enough to make you a little bananas.

No, no, no. I'm not banana flavored either. Don't worry. God, that would be terrible. Banana flavored gum? Could you imagine? That's not what I taste like though. Don't worry. No surprises with Ralph.

If you do chew me and, again, I think it would be a great decision for both of us if you did, I do have one request. When my presence in your mouth becomes intolerable, or if you have moved on to the consumption of digestible goods, could you dispose of me properly? Just find a little piece of paper and wrap old Ralph in it.

Don't worry, my malleable corpse will adhere nicely the the wrapping for easy disposal. That's what I do. I'm a gumball after all. Easy in, easy out. No fuss. Just 25 cents worth of modest entertainment.

So, do we have a deal? Am I gonna get chewed here? Great. This will be wonderful. This is really what I live for. Down I goooooooo!!!!!!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The American Dream Part 2

My friend Ochuk has posted a response to my post regarding the American dream. For the whole thing, click here. Instead of blogging on his blog, I thought I would respond on my own blog.

Adam summarizes my argument by referencing three common career threads that I have identified within the 22-34 subsection. The first is unfocused transients, about whom we agree. The second group is those who compete fiercely for a career path that, for lack of a better term, helps people, and the third has chosen a career path devoted to using gifts and talents principally for monetary gain.

While these categories oversimplify the phenomenon (the first two groups, in particular, tend to toggle between behaviors), they present a fair starting point for discussion.

Adam's argument seems to boil down to this. Rejecting the American dream is no vice, and it is in fact virtuous to pursue a calling to thwart injustice. In summary, he writes "The simple proposition of helping others as being more rewarding than financial success should not be excluded from the American dream."

I have no problem with this argument. Unfortunately, Ochuk presents a false choice here by way of oversimplification. I am not suggesting that taking a job, say, teaching english to immigrants, is inherently bad because it pays less than say, consulting or web design.

However, there exists a class of people who will literally bide their time looking for such a position. For this reason, there is a glut in the market, which leads to the accrual of superfluous degrees, which essentially reduces the rate of pay even further by burdening the would be altruist with debt and the inability to carry a full time position.

Going back to our bi-lingual tutor, I would argue that, in this scenario, the intentions of the tutor are selfish. For this person, the end goal is not that kids be taught (which will happen either way), but that they do the teaching. If there are 40 other people who also want to do the teaching, what happens? A bunch of twenty-somethings living in their parent's basements. That's what.

Of course, if there is a glaring need for a bi-lingual tutor, and someone goes back to school in order to train themselves to tutor immigrants, that is a different matter altogether. Clearly, it is irrelevant to the discussion of those who garner superfluous education and lack sufficient motivation.

Let's turn to the church. The call to be a pastor is a noble one, and those who are truly called should pursue that calling. However, if there are more men who desire to be pastors then there are positions available (as is clearly the case), then these men would do well to provide for their families by pursuing a career that will coalesce with their particular skill set. The church is ill served by men who bide their time, bouncing from job to job or garnering more education in hopes of gaining an edge on their "competitors".

In fact, I would argue that this behavior creates an entitlement mindset, wherein the prospective employee feels that they alone are sufficient to accomplish the task at hand, and that any other job would be beneath them. If confronted with a job market marked by poor salaries and glutted with resumes, a pragmatist simply shrugs and pursues a more attainable career. It takes a certain hubris to trudge onward in hopes of dislodging another equally qualified candidate.

If anything, this behavior amounts to an unseemly fusion of the American Dream and the call to serve. Altruism ought not to be driven by economic considerations. This seems to be an instance of wanting to have one's cake, but also wanting to eat it. It doesn't work. Or, at least, we can't call it "virtue". The desire to help need not be tied to the desire to nab a paycheck.

None of this is to glorify the "American Dream" or to hold it as higher than any call to combat injustice. The American Dream is not a "dream" in any real sense, but rather the means by which our economy works to serve the needs of its citizens. The desire to provide for our families is innate and God-given, and we do well not to saddle them with the burdens created by our confused desires.

This may seem cynical. But I would argue that it is pragmatic. At some point, we are going to have to pay the piper. People who don't make money cannot afford retirement. So who foots the bill for the "convictions of idealism and activism" of the indebted and unemployed?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Biden - Winners and Losers

For those of you who don't read news, Senator and Democratic presidential aspirant Joe Biden made waves with his statement that charismatic Sen. Barack Obama is the "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Of course, this will have an impact on the early handicapping of the Presidential race. Let's look at the winners and losers.

Winners.

1. Hillary Clinton - In the midst of an embarassing media fiasco in which she appeared to have called her ex-husband an evil man, suddenly Joe Biden arrives to change the topic. Further, he does so by criticizing her principle opponent. More importantly, the ensuing controversy centers around Obama's race. This will provide the ideal segue into Hillary's southern strategy (just watch). In the meantime, she gets some breathing room, and the opportunity to rise above the fray. Further, she just missed feeling the brunt of a rather vicious attack from Biden, which will now go largely unnoticed amidst the Obama Kurfuffle.

2. John Edwards - Edwards has done a good job maintaining a stealth strategy, even though he essentially declared his candidacy at John Kerry's concession speech in 2004. If his goal is to maintain visibility while allowing the front runners to suffer the whips and scorns, then this week has to be considered a tremendous victory.

3. Rudy Giuliani - I have a strong feeling that Rudy is more VP material. If he is selected, the Dems will play the race card, big time. Any even that established racism as a two-way street has to be seen as favorable for him down the line. It also has the potential to take another heavily-accented straight talker out of the race more quickly than anticipated. Giuliani would do well to publically excoriate Biden, and distance himself from the Senator from Jersey (Biden's actually from Delaware, but who knows that?).

Losers

1. Barack Obama - Moreso than Biden? Absolutely. Biden had no chance at election in the first place, and offers nothing as to a Presidential ticket as veep. Obama's principle concern is peaking to soon. This story thrusts his name in the spotlight without giving him a chance to manage the story, and takes him one step closer to overkill territory. Worse, the quote does speak to his achilles heal, the fact that he is a pure charisma candidate. Certainly, his team wants to wait several months to offer his "fireside chat" in which he unleashes his laundry list of impractical (audaciously hopeful?) ideas on the populace. This might have set back the clock on that event, which will give opponents more time to nitpick.

Another consideration... As a black man, Obama will have the opportunity to use the race card roughly twice; once during the primary, and once during the main gig. He will need his stored up racial sympathy to thwart Hillary's aforementioned southern strategy (or, alternately, John Edwards'). As it stands, Joe Biden has used it for him. His black supporters are motivated, with no place to vote.

2. President Bush - Already, the far-left blogs are quoting Bush's own similar comments that Obama is articulate and bright. Of course, he didn't say anything about him being black, but apparently an unqualified compliment to a person of color also qualifies as racism, especially with the "any port in a storm" blogosphere which insists on demonizing the President at every turn.

3. Joe Biden - Obviously... This would be an absolute disaster, if not for a few mitigating circumstances. First and foremost, are his comments that far from reality? Assuming, of course, that he did not mean to insinuate that Sen. Obama is the first clean black person in American history, he did articulate what Americans who naturally gravitate to Obama have been subconsciously thinking. America roots for underdogs, which is why we care about such nominal distinctions as "first woman speaker". Obama's appeal rests on the fact that he is black but, unlike Jesse Jackson, Cynthia McKinney, Al Sharpton and William Jefferson, he is not a complete and utter degenerate. He is also charismatic and bright and clean cut. Biden's point, and it is manifestly true, is that Obama is all sizzle and no steak.

Further, what did his candidacy have to lose? Clearly, he was trying to establish his reputation as a straight-shooter out of the gate. The plan was to garner media attention with candid interviews that provided the insider's perspective that print media craves. Like the guerilla marketing campaign gone awry in Boston yesterday, so to did Biden's attempt at playing cowboy. That said, I can guarantee you that Joe Biden's name recognition has skyrocketed. If his goal was to be the alternative to the Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, then he certainly got his wish.

Alas, his candidacy may be over, which would render moot any question of name recognition. At any rate, perhaps this will cause us to question once and for all the merits of absolue belligerence related to racial sensitivity. Even lefties have to be tired of this nonsense by this point.

At any rate, lest I be considered racist by offering a compliment to a black person, let me state that I, for one, consider Obama to be an utter phony who uses his charm to sweep his unelectable agenda under the table. Cause I'm for equal rights.