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July 17, 2008


I try to keep the fanboy eruptions to myself, but the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation of Alan Moore's/Dave Gibbon's seminal comic book series "Watchmen" is live.

When I was just starting to read the comic books, at the age of four or five, my little warped brain would interpret the narrative as actually in motion.  And in the odd times that I doing something other than reading comic books, I would wonder how that actually worked -- did the pictures in the book would reset themselves back to the beginning when you were done reading it, or was it some kind of perpetual loop, where the action always started at the top left corner and concluded in the bottom right corner.

Anyhow, the "Watchmen" trailer is kind of like that.  This is not to say that it will be the Best Movie Ever, but it's certainly quite a thrill for someone inclined as I am.

(And yes, "Sin City" was also comic-book-as-storyboard, but, nothing against "Sin City", "Watchmen" outranks "Sin City" by a very very large degree.)

Posted by mrbrent at 4:26 PM

ashcroft: crossing fingers as i type this

An interesting strategy is being implemented by former Attorney General John Ashcroft.  Ashcroft has been called to testify before the House Judiciary Committee concerning what may or may not have been torture of a couple freedom-hating terrorists in Guantanamo.  Prior to his testimony, Ashcroft read a statement:
I have reviewed testimony from prior hearings, I've read portions of publications recounting some of the timely events, and I must admit, it's been difficult for me sometimes to distinguish between what I in fact recall as a matter of my own experience, and what I remember from the accounts of others.  As a result, what I hope, what I say will be of value to the committee.  Reliance on my statements and observations aught to be tempered by these awarenesses.

I can't think of any jurisdiction in which the testimony of a witness is supposed to be tempered at the suggestion of the witness -- not really much room for that in "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

I don't know if Ashcroft us trying to cover his ass for deliberately withholding information or for making shit up, but I am curious to see if "But I called time-out!" will work as a defense in a perjury trial.

Remember, Ashcroft, prior to being tapped for AG, had the peculiar honor of losing a Senate race to a dead man, so I suppose telling a Congressional subcommittee, "I might get this mixed up because I'm a bit of a fucking idiot," would actually be a step up.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:21 PM

patton oswalt and the sphincter of oblivion

So Patton Oswald was asked by his old high school to speak at graduation, and he accepted, and subsequently posted the text of his speech on his site.

At first glance, these commencement speeches are all of a sort, somewhere between "The Greatest Love Of All" and "Wear Sunscreen".  But Oswalt really is much more than a very funny guy whose voice peoples blockbuster animated films -- he's smart, good with the sentences and, yeah, a bit warm -- which is embarrassing to say, but how many people do you know that you would call warm?  (OK, that question was mostly aimed at New Yorkers -- everyone else, shut up.)  It's a nice piece of work, and I wish that I had heard it when I was seventeen.

And I sheepishly admit that reading the speech really got me good -- difficult, with these varnished years of irony under my belt -- and knocked me into a bit of, I guess, introspection.  Which is uncomfortable, without bourbon.  Whatever.  A representative example:

All of you have been given a harsh gift.  It’s the same gift the graduating class of 1917, and 1938, and 1968 and now you guys got – the chance to enter adulthood when the world teeters on the rim of the sphincter of oblivion.  You’re jumping into the deep end.  You have no choice but to be exceptional.

But please don’t mistake miles traveled, and money earned, and fame accumulated for who you are.

Yes I know, very earnest, but sometimes you need to have that earnest shit pounded into your head.  Obviously, for me, this would be one of those times.  Which I'm sure is fascinating, so let me put this lampshade on my head for a minute or two.

If it mitigates the sincerity of this post somewhat, please note that the pullquote I chose includes the phrase "the rim of the sphincter of oblivion".  Which phrase was spoken in an auditorium full of high school students and their families.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:17 AM

July 16, 2008

dark achewood

Oh, it's late, and I'm late for the bed, need to feed, water, walk the dog, cat, wife, etc.  But, briefly, let me say that I like very much the Achewood.  I'm not an every-week consumer, but it's super, whenever I catch one, I'm very glad, and them unseen hands behing the Achewood deserve everything.

But, also very good is this Achewood parody.  Please make sure to scroll down.

Now go to bed, fool.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:14 PM

never is there a final word -- back to new yorker cover

One thing that I think is being missed in the continuing angst over the cover of this week's New Yorker:

Sure, "It's just a cartoon," (and well put, candidate), but it's also not just a cartoon at all, and not because of its topic matter, no matter how fascinating/revolting such topic matter may be.  Above and beyond it being just a cartoon, it is just a New Yorker cover, and New Yorker covers, while being made up of cartoons, are in a sense not cartoons at all.

Cartoons (in the sense of comic strips, or editorial cartoons, which is the sense that I believe "cartoon" is being invoked) is traditionally a vehicle for a straight-up joke, with maybe a set-up/punchline structure, or maybe a single panel sight gag.  However it's constructed, the aim of it is the laugh-out-loud, the funny ha-ha (or even a funny hmm).

I probably should have boned up on my comics theory before I wrote this.  Anyhow.

New Yorker covers are less structured than cartoons -- the payoff is not intended to be as tangible as the payoff for a cartoon.  The New Yorker covers are more intended to provoke, no rim-shot, no aisle-rolling.  To phrase it in a way that can be easily misconstrued, New Yorker covers and comedy live in different time zones (even though the odd New Yorker cover can be funny, I suppose.)

To get all verklempt over the cartoon terrorist Obama because "It's not even funny!!" misses the forest and the trees.  The cover is supposed to get people talking (check) and publicize the issue of the magazine (double check).  So please let's stop it with the arguing back and forth in the Netroots over the intersection of politics and comedy before someone's feelings get hurt -- comedy is not an issue at all.

Nothing more to see here, yes?

Posted by mrbrent at 12:22 PM

lee siegel: technically 'pwned' is a typo

When will I tire of linking news of Lee Siegel getting poked in the eye?  Probably sometime well after you stopped caring about the unrepentant sock-puppeteer, and long after you are able to remember that Siegel, who has positioned himself as the canary in the Internet coalmine, is not a little bit fascinated by his turtle-necked importance.

Yeah, I should probably swear this off.  But it's so hard to quit it when the eye-poker is Choire Sicha, responding to a chest-beating response from Siegel to an earlier item.  He's so very good at it.

The true guardians of the Internet are the eye-pokers, I tell ya.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:37 AM

July 15, 2008

the president just doesn't have a magic wand

Not content with merely lifting an executive order banning certain offshore oil drilling (as previously noted), the president has decided to take his show on the road, and called a full press conference this morning to try out some of his new material. My favorite is this bit, wherein the president explains just what repercussions drilling domestically with renewed vigor will have, as quoted by the above link:
"I readily concede it won't produce a barrel of oil tomorrow, but it will reverse the psychology," Bush told a White House news conference.

Now, pondering the age-old policy fix of "psychology-reversal" is fun enough (because psychology has two gears, of course, forwards and backwards), but the quote does not do the actual words of President Bush justice, as you will see if you have the time to watch this bit of video preserved by Wonkette.  All it was missing was the president getting his hand stuck in a drawer or swinging a big ladder around and accidentally hitting the press corps in their heads.  And then it ends with Bush's rousing "magic wand" encore, which has had them rolling in the aisles ever since Hurricane Katrina.

The performance is very reminiscent of a more-slapstick Professor Irwin Corey, who, unlike the president, is kidding.

Posted by mrbrent at 8:57 AM

July 14, 2008

it is boring to type "big oil" over and over, but a necessity

Yesterday, the president climbed into his bully pulpit to rescind an offshore drilling ban instituted by his father.  This is largely a symbolic gesture, as federal law already speaks on the topic, and would require an act of Congress to alter.  But gasoline is expensive, and the president is never too unpopular to pander:
"The only thing standing between the American people and these vast oil resources is action from the U.S. Congress," Bush said in a statement in the Rose Garden.

Actually, I can think of another thing standing between the American people and all this delicious oil, like the scarcity in drilling equipment, the length of time it takes to pull the oil out of the ground, and the market forces that enable the oil companies to charge lots of money to the American people.  I mean, it's not like the oil is going to be pumped straight to the American people -- it's gotta be profitized first.

Also, the problem is not that there is not enough gasoline (yet).  The problem is that gasoline is growing more expensive.  So increasing offshore drilling may be offered up as a band-aid to consumers, but it really is nothing more than another hand-out to oil companies, whose fiscal health has not been in doubt.  Unless you cite some long-term economic principal that will turn out to be a lie, nothing about expanding offshore drilling is going to reduce the price of gasoline, as long as big oil knows what the market will bear.

Of course, rising fuel prices are making everyone anxious (even though such prices are still below what Europe has been paying for some time), and, "Something must be done!" is a pretty popular thing to exclaim in such situations.  (Um, maybe the oil market should be subject to more stringent controls, like the electricity markets, as is really does constitute a utility?)  But if you think that "something" is to increase the bottom line for fuel companies, then you are a glue-sniffer.

And glue-sniffing is bad for you, at least in the long run.

Posted by mrbrent at 4:37 PM

who can resist the obama new yorker cover?

Good Lord, it' not even lunchtime and there's already a couple thousand words on the Internet concerning The New Yorker's choice of a cover this week, depicting Sen. Obama and his wife as they are thought to appear by idiots.  The cover was released yesterday, I believe, pretty much simultaneously with the Righteous Indignation from the Obama campaign.

And now you can't swing a ham sandwich on a sting without hitting some incisive take or another, from the MSM to the outraged netroots.

And, as usual, no controversy here -- duh, it's intended to be ironical, and duh, the campaign absolutely has to cry bloody murder lest they be mistaken as confirming that, yes, the Obamas will burn flags in the White House fireplace.  But it's something to hang a couple words on, and so, if you're someone who needs to churn out X posts a day, then of course you're going to write it up.

As far as I'm concerned, it's a fine cover, and people are talking about it, which is generally smiled upon in publishing.  As a rule of thumb, you have to laugh off editorial cartoons, unless they are by Sean Delonas.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:08 AM

never been to france, but their toast -- zut alors!

In case you were wondering -- there is no small corner of the Internet that is not free from the tyranny of the well-meaning but dim-witted.

I was going to add something about noses out-of-joint, but I forget if that's something that could possibly be construed as a deameaning attribute of the French, so I am going to stick with dim-witted.

From the comments:

I used to openly said that I was French to anyone I would encounter, but for the past few years I usually tell that I am Canadian from Quebec because of the paranoia and fear of repercussions.  I have been persecuted for being French in some very insidious and strange ways but I will not elaborate in this post.

But of course!  Usually, I tell people that I am from Alpha Centauri, lest I be mistaken for a Frenchman, American or anything in between.  I am sensitive!

But seriously, have another bag of crazy.

[Via Gawker, obviously.]

Posted by mrbrent at 8:29 AM