Thursday, August 29, 2013

Arizona Roundup

Where to begin?

First, you've got the good folks running Prescott who don't think they should have to pay benefits to the survivors of all of the dead fire fighting "Hot Shots", because well, you know, some of the dead were part-time employees. They are, however, full-time dead.

These same good folks also want the hated Feds to pony up some FEMA dough to rebuild what was burnt down. The Feds said, "uh, no", the first time, which caused some of our outstanding Congressional delegation to have a hissy fit. Even though many of our sterling Republican congressmen voted against aid for Hurricane Sandy victims. 'Cause, you know, if it happens to you it's "just one of those things" but if it happens to me it's "a tragedy of epic proportions". Besides, rebuilding Yarnell is much more important than rebuilding the Eastern seaboard. Any fool knows that.

And speaking of fools, down south, near the border with Mexico, some self styled vigilante Patriot, defending the homeland against the invasion of brown skin people, almost got in a shoot out with a real deputy. Who was, you know, defending the homeland against the invasion of brown skin people. There's a joke there, somewhere...

For the life of me, I don't know why there aren't a whole flock of reality shows set along the Arizona-Mexico border. Somebody at the networks is missing out on a sure thing. Heavily armed nitwits are always entertaining--at least from a distance. Sylvester Stallone's career is proof of that. Throw in a few Border Patrol guys, some drones, and maybe a sexy Latina or two, and you've got Must See TV!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Belated Cultural Notes From All Over

Jess Walters' Beautiful Ruins is the best American novel I've read in years. Touches on all the big issues: love, loss, death, time, the urge to create, and how to be a successful Hollywood asshole. All with a wicked sense of humor. So get thee to a library, or bookstore (if you can find one that's still open), or push that one-click button on Amazon. Can't recommend it highly enough. Also can't wait to see how they screw up the movie version...because you know they probably will.

And speaking of movies, The Lone Ranger wasn't nearly as awful as preliminary reviews might indicate. In fact, it was not awful at all. Much more entertaining than Man of Steel or World War Zzzzz. The framing device is cleverly done and the Depp meister's spin on Tonto is inventive and fun. It is way too long--but not as oppressively so as some of its summer blockbuster competition. (How many times do we have to watch some super hero and his or her evil nemesis endlessly crash around Manhattan, trashing skyscrapers left and right? Jesus. Wreck Paris next time, or Rome. And what's the deal with zombies all of a sudden? I haven't gotten used to vampires and now it's zombies? Give an old man a break.)

Woody Allen's latest, Blue Jasmine, is an entertaining story about a woman whose life falls apart and her efforts to try and put it back together. The wonderful Cate Blanchett leads a strong cast, including Alec Baldwin, Louis CK and Andrew Dice Clay (!).  It isn't exactly a comedy, by the way, so don't expect a lot of yucks.

The Act of Killing, a documentary about Indonesian death squads, is alternately disturbing and funny in a truly surreal way. The most bizarre non-fiction film I've ever seen. There are indeed monsters amongst us.

On the TV front, The Newsroom has returned to rub a soothing balm on all of our liberal scabs. Unfortunately, this season is tending towards soap opera. If you didn't catch them the first time, the hysterically funny Veep and Christopher Guest's Family Tree are also worthy of your attention. Yes, after years of resistance, and not infrequent prodding from his loving family, Mr. Franklin has finally signed up for HBO. It's too damn hot to go outside, so why not stay inside and stare at the throbbing pixels?

Throbbing pixels? What a great name for a band! 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Hey, Whatever Happened To...

Hey, whatever happened to Benghazi?

This was going to be the scandal that brought down the Obama administration. Or prevented the Hillary Clinton administration. Or both!

Darrell Issa, super patriot, self-made multimillionaire, blah blah blah, was going to get to the bottom of "the cover-up". Remember? It was worse than Watergate! The worse scandal ever, etc etc. The Republicans were licking their collective chops, with both John "Maverick Is My Name" McCain, and his BFF, Lindsey "Belle of the South" Graham howling from the rooftops.

Then it turned out that the Republicans had gutted the State Department budget--including security--and maybe, just maybe, Benghazi was a CIA outpost. And you know how them foreigners love the CIA. Hmmm.

Hey, whatever happened to the IRS scandal?

This was going to be the scandal that brought down the Obama administration.  Worse than Watergate, etc etc.

Darrell Issa was going to blow the roof of it, expose the seamy inner workings of a corrupt President and his corrupt minions. Corruption!

Turns out the IRS is underfunded, understaffed, and swamped with requests for 501 c4 status from both left and right leaning groups. So the Tea Party wasn't being singled out for persecution after all. Hmmm.

It also turns out that Darrell Issa is kinda like one of his car alarms. Loud, repetitive, and ultimately an empty annoyance.

OK, but what about the NSA scandal! Surely this will bring down Obama...won't it?

But wasn't the Patriot Act pushed through by the Bush administration and a panicky Congress in the aftermath of 9-11? And, with all apologies to Edward Snowden, haven't people (at least those paying attention) known for years that the NSA--and our other intelligence agencies--gather massive amounts of information. On everyone, everywhere. Hmmm.

Now, we can and should have an open and informed discussion about whether this is the sort of thing that an allegedly "free" society should engage in. And how to best protect our right to privacy while still protecting the nation's security. But to pretend that this behavior is somehow unique to the Obama Administration is the sort of half-baked palaver that, well, people like Darrell Issa indulge in.

No, when the history of the Obama years is written, the biggest scandal will be how the Republican Party was held hostage by reactionary extremists, funded by a handful of greedy billionaires, and in return, how they held a country's future hostage because of their intense hatred of one man.

Now that's scandalous.