Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Movie Review: Six really very strange horror/sci-fi movies you probably have never heard of before, much less seen.

Updated per comment....

One of the reasons I started this blog was to do some movie reviews for off-the-wall films that might not get a lot of attention from mainstream reviewers. I am quite the film buff, in my own way. I specialize in science fiction and horror; the more unusual, the stranger, the more obtuse, the better, in my mind. Eventually, I got away from doing movie reviews, as I became very focused in on politics and the current insanity of our society, which I am not enjoying at all at this point in my life. But I thought I would go back and try some reviews, just to do something different and get my mind off of the very disturbing crap that is going on in this country on a daily basis.

So, with that explanation, here are my picks for some really quite strange films.

Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell: This is from Japan, but is definitely not your prototypical Japanese monster film, with guys in goofy rubber suits knocking down small, fake looking buildings. This one is rather disturbing and very hard to describe, since it only has a passing nod to anything that might resemble a plausible plot.

A commercial airliner full of passengers experiences very odd goings-on, such as bloody birds throwing themselves against the plane’s windows and some unusual visual phenomena in the sky. After being hijacked by the bad guy, the plane crashes as it is trying to return to the airport. Lots of very strange things occur. It turns out that the Earth has been invaded by aliens, intent upon exterminating the human population. One of the aliens, I believe, referred to as a Gokemidoro (space vampire, I suppose?) takes over the bad guy's body and then prowls around the wreckage of the airplane and picking off the crash survivors, one by one. You can tell who is the Gokemidoro by the fact that the person has a very strange wound on his or her forehead (caused by the alien blob like creature entering through the forehead to take control of the person) that has more than a passing likeness to a vagina. This effect sounds pretty ridiculous when reading about it, but when you see it, it is very odd and disturbing. Not terribly frightening, of course, just odd and disturbing.

The film definitely strikes an unusual, surreal mood. In many ways, it’s not a lot different than a lot of modern “horror” films where the “bad thing” picks off the characters one at a time. You stop really being involved with the characters, as you know many of them are going to end up toast in the end. The only suspense about it all is trying to guess who is going to be left alive. This one, however, definitely has a very unnerving quality to it. And, in the end, everyone dies because the aliens win. One of the final scenes where the survivors escape from the crash site and make their way to civilization, only to come across a toll road full of thousands of stalled cars full of dead people, is a bit shocking.

Recommendation: Eh, it’s a coin flip. If you can find it and enjoy Japanese films (which tend to be a lot less linear than American films and don’t really waste a lot of time filling in the back story for the audience), you might try this some Friday night. You might decide that you wasted about an hour and a half of your life that you won’t ever get back. But then again, where are you ever going to see a space vampire with a vagina in his forehead?

Bubba Ho-Tep: This is a pretty recent film that stars Bruce Campbell (“Army of Darkness”) and Ossie Davis (a very accomplished actor who, unfortunately, just passed away). Now, it has what I thought a great setup just because it is so weird. (I tend to like weird, if you haven’t figured that out by now.) But it never really follows through on what could have been a promising premise. It just ended up as sort of a turgid mess of a film with a bunch of scenes that you know were meant to be funny in a strange, black kind of way but really weren’t.

Campbell plays either Elvis Presley or an Elvis impersonator living in a retirement home in rural Texas, and he demands that everyone treat him as Elvis. He is friends with Davis, who believes himself to be Jack Kennedy. This takes a bit of rationalization on his part, of course, given that a) Kennedy is dead, and b) he is black. Odd things happen in the nursing home, such as people dying suddenly. Since this is a nursing home for the very old and infirm, no one really asks any questions. But it turns out that an ancient soul-sucking mummy from Egypt is really the cause, wandering the halls at night, looking for victims. The mummy effect is actually rather creepy, but is somewhat diminished by the fact that the mummy wears a nancy-looking cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Elvis and Jack Kennedy figure all this out and team up to destroy the mummy, using Molotov cocktails and Kennedy’s motorized wheelchair.

Recommendation: Don’t waste your time. I just thought I would review it because it has such a weird premise.

Incubus: This one was considered to be a “lost film” for a while, which is unusual given it is a relatively recent film. It stars William Shatner, just before he moved into his signature “Captain Kirk” role in Star Trek. It was produced and directed by Leslie Stevens, of Outer Limits fame. In fact, many of the Outer Limits crew were involved in this film. What is really unusual about it, however, that every bit of dialog is done in Esperanto. This is probably the only movie ever filmed using Esperanto.

Shatner plays a man living out on a secluded Greek (I think) island with his sister in a shack. As so often happens in Greece, malevolent spirits are prowling about, looking for humans to screw around with. Kia is a succubus who tires of seducing the local men, as they are such easy pickings. She needs a new challenge, so she sets her sights on a truly “good” man, which, of course, is Kirk, er, Shatner. (Yeah, as if Kirk, er, Shatner ever resisted a female within 30 feet.) He sort of avoids her immediate sexually-baited trap, but still falls in love with her, and she with him, which is rather unfortunate for a succubus. Kia’s sister gets pretty upset about all of this, as this isn’t really supposed to happen to succubii, and eventually calls up the titular incubus to wreak vengeance upon Kirk’s, er, Shatner’s sister.

It’s all very slow moving but somewhat interesting, just because it is so weird to watch Shatner actually speak his lines in Esperanto. The two lady demons are not terribly seductive and don’t seem to have the hang of sending men’s souls to eternal damnation down.

Spider Baby: This film stars Lon Chaney Jr. as a chauffeur for a really strange family with a terrible medical affliction who live out in a secluded tumbled down mansion that bears no small resemblance to Anthony Perkin’s mother’s house. As a person in the family begins to grow older, they begin to revert to a child-like state and develop an unfortunate tendency toward cannibalism. Some distant relatives (Carol Ohmart, who starred in “The House on Haunted Hill”, plays the rapacious cousin) show up with a little weasel of a lawyer, intent upon raiding the family’s wealth. The family consists of two very cute but really creepy teenage girls, their older brother (played by Sid Haig, who went on to later fame in such gorefest classics as “House of 1000 Corpses”), and various elder family members who are kept locked away in the basement.

It’s all played very tongue-in-cheek, of course. Lon Chaney actually sort of “sings” the introduction song, “The Maddest Story Ever Told.” Sid Haug chases Carol Ohmart, in her rather risqué nightgown, around for a while. One of the girls ties up the other cousin, one of the only two sane people in the entire film, and threatens to cut him up into little pieces. The lawyer gets his due when he gets eaten by the family in the basement. Lon Chaney finally realizes he can’t hide the family anymore, so he steals some dynamite from the local road building crew and blows up the house, with him and the family in it. The sane cousin and the lawyer’s assistant escape and get married. The film ends by focusing on the couple’s happy home and their young daughter, who is seen out in the garden capturing and eating spiders…. The End.

This one is quite a bizarre one, although the 60’s did put out quite a lot of obscure, bizarre films. Not everyone was intent on making that “blockbuster” film which would pull down tens of millions on the opening weekend. I would highly recommend this one, if you can find it and you have the inclination toward black humor and weird people.

Shanks: I had never even heard of this one until recently. It stars the great (depending, I suppose, on how you regard mimes) Marcel Marceau. He plays, what else, the town fool, who is mute, also not much of a surprise. He has a bit of a crush on a pretty young girl who doesn’t regard him as a fool. He lives at home with a shrewish sister and her husband who treat him rather poorly. This is all pretty standard stuff, so far. The fool, at the insistence of his sister, gets a job with the local mad scientist (also played by Marceau). Said scientist is working on experiments with little radio controlled servo things that he can put into objects, including dead animals, that he can eventually get to stand up and walk around.

Well, the mad scientist sort of dies one day. The town fool is despondent for a while, but decides to try the doctor’s experiment on the doctor himself. He successfully “reanimates” the doctor and gets him to walk around the lab. The sight gags are pretty wonderful, in my estimation. Many things ensue which I won’t go into, but it turns out that the fool’s shrewish sister and drunk husband also get themselves killed. The fool, quite naturally, reanimates them as well. The funniest scenes in the entire movie are when the fool take both of them into town to go shopping. The visual humor is really good, especially since the two radio controlled puppets that look so silly were introduced to the audience as pretty nasty, unsympathetic characters. The fool eventually throws his young lady friend a banquet using the two as servants.

It is unfortunate that the film’s writer and director (William Castle, in his last film) decided to take this film in a very dark direction. I was with them up to this point, thoroughly enjoying the black humor. A motorcycle gang invades the banquet. The young girl ends up being raped and killed by the gang members, which causes the fool to use the doctor’s diabolical inventions to take his revenge. In the end, he triumphs over the evil motorcyclists and reanimates his young flame so he can live happily ever after, I suppose.

I really hated this ending. Don’t do that to me. Don’t make me care about a character, especially a pretty young girl, and then kill her off in a very violent and sadistic manner. You lost me at that point. (That is one very big reason I absolutely hated “Alien 3.” After making the audience really become emotionally invested in Newt in “Aliens”, the character becomes a burden to the script in the third film, so they just kill her off in a crash landing so they can get the movie going. I fumed through that entire movie and never did enjoy a single minute of it because I was so mad.)

Anyway, back to Shanks. The first three quarters of the film was thoroughly enjoyable. Sort of E.T.A. Hoffmann meets the Brothers Grimm meets “Death Becomes Her” meets Shields and Yarnell (if anyone remembers them, from the old Sonny and Cher show, I believe). Quite an unusual movie and pretty amusing, again using lots of dark humor. I would just recommend you turn it off after the banquet scene. I rather had a sour taste in my mouth after seeing the ending with its broad hint at necrophilia. Ick.

Six String Samurai: I reviewed this one much earlier at this blog. I thought I would include that one in my list of very strange horror/sci-fi films. Just click the link, I am not going to bother rewriting it. It is a pretty great film if you like weird. Some great lines, too. “You ever try a pink golf ball, Wally? Why, the wind shear alone on a pink golf ball can take the head off a 90-pound midget at over 300 yards.”

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

We need a moratorium on the word "slammed."

As in "Momsen slammed for smoking onstage", "Euro Drug Makers Slammed In Midday Trading", "Failure to prepare: Government slammed over health payroll bungle", "Stocks slammed by global slowdown fears", etc. etc. And those are only today's headlines. A few days ago, I saw three separate headlines at Huffington Post about someone slamming someone else. This has to be the most overused word in the English language in the electronic media. You can't just "disparage" someone anymore. Disparaging someone is lame. You must SLAM them. Someone slams someone, who slams that person back. Slammer and slammee become one. We are all slammed at one time or another, and we probably don't even know it. Unless we put a halt to all of this gratuitous slamming, it will worm its way into all sorts of places we would rather not see any slamming. "Winnie The Pooh Slams Tigger in Poohsticks!"


Who the f*ck is Momsen, anyway?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Latest Republican outrage.

Does anyone remember when conservatives freaked out when someone not associated with posted a video on their web site that compared George Bush to Hitler? Does anyone remember that? I certainly do.

The leftist extremists now in charge of the Democratic Party are either so desperate or delusional they are now comparing this nation to Hitler’s Third Reich and the president to Hitler himself. Voter Fund has sponsored a commercial "contest" encouraging people "to help us find the most creative, clear and memorable ideas for ads that tell the truth about George Bush's policies." Two of those submissions ran on the site and directly compared President Bush to Hitler and this nation’s policies with the Third Reich's.

Upon seeing the ad, one has to ask, do they really believe this garbage? Are they so ill that they really think this, or are they so ill that they don’t believe it but are willing to subject this nation to the accusation? Either way you look at it, it is beyond the pale, to say nothing of obscenely absurd.

As the quote above demonstrates, it was a full blown grand mal epileptic fit on the part of the right wing that lasted over two weeks and the fallout lasted for years.

So, what do we have now? We have Glenn Beck comparing Obama with Hitler on a weekly basis. But that’s apparently fine. And we have an elected congressman from Texas quoting a column that compares President Obama to Hitler, on the floor of the House of Representatives! And that apparently is fine!

There’s a brilliant man named Thomas Sowell. And, um, I didn’t vote for Barack Obama in 2008, but I sure would have voted for Thomas Sowell. This man, well, his article says quite a lot. His editorial, um, says here — and it’s just been posted this week — but it says, “When Adolph Hitler was building up the Nazi movement in the 1920’s” — and I’m quoting from Thomas Sowell in his editorial:

‘leading up to his taking power in the 1930s, he deliberately sought to activate people who did not normally pay much attention to politics. Such people were a valuable addition to his political base, since they were particularly susceptible to Hitler’s rhetoric and had far less basis for questioning his assumptions or his conclusions. ‘Useful idiots’ was the term supposedly coined by V.I. Lenin to describe similarly unthinking supporters of his dictatorship in the Soviet Union.’

And this isn’t in the article — this is my comment — but we do have useful idiots today, who are heard to say, ‘Wow, what we really need is for the president to be a dictator for a little while.’ They know not what they say.

Let’s say it all together now. It’s O.K. If You Are A Republican.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One thing (among many) that I find amazing about conservatives.

I was surfing through the web after the pretty amazing ending to the World Cup match between the U.S. and Algeria. Lots of very happy fans, but there were a number of people who actually took the time to log on and throw in their comments about hating soccer and hoping the U.S. loses. I won’t link, but you can find them easily enough. I then saw one post that talked about how Glenn Beck was on a rant about how much he hated soccer and was tired of “them” (whoever they are) “ramming it down our throat.” Here’s Bob Cesca’s post on that.

"It doesn't matter how you try to sell it to us, it doesn't matter how many celebrities you get, it doesn't matter how many bars open early, it doesn't matter how many beer commercials they run, we don't want the World Cup, we don't like the World Cup, we don't like soccer, we want nothing to do with it. [...] I hate it so much, probably because the rest of the world likes it so much, and they riot over it, and they continually try to jam it down our throat." Glenn Beck

Good grief… I can understand why someone wouldn’t like soccer. It does take some getting used to for Americans raised on football, baseball and basketball. But Beck sounds absolutely offended that a number of people in this country will watch ESPN for World Cup coverage. And we will even watch matches that don’t involve the U.S.! What is up with this? Does everyone in the world have to agree with Glenn Beck about everything? There can be no difference of likes/dislikes, ever? Jeez.

I remember seeing a letter to the editor in the local newspaper a year or so ago. It was from a man who passed a hybrid car on the freeway. I guess the driver of the hybrid wasn’t going fast enough for this guy’s tastes. He said he was “disgusted” about this car and made more disparaging remarks.

Again, what’s up with this attitude? You don’t like hybrids? Don’t buy one! You don’t like soccer? Don’t watch it! But what’s with this sense of outrage? Yeah, we expect differences of opinion about rather important things, such as politics. I can see how people can get pretty emotional about those subjects, even if I don’t understand their specific positions. But on things that don’t matter, what’s the deal with this sense of outrage and indignation? It’s like these people are personally offended by even being in the presence of something they don’t agree with.

I don’t like NASCAR. I think it is a huge waste of increasingly scarce petroleum products, and it is very polluting to the local environment. But I am not offended that it exists. I just don’t support it. But a lot of conservatives seem to take soccer and other matters of personal likes and dislikes as a personal insult.

I am wondering what insight into the psyche of the conservative mind this gives us. Are Glenn Beck and people like him so convinced that they are right about every single thing they might express an opinion about that they expect everyone in the country to actually agree with them? Do they see things like soccer and hybrid cars as some extension of “creeping liberalism” that they cannot abide their very existence? Or are they so used to bitching and complaining about every single thing they don’t like that this just seems natural, like scratching an itch?

I suppose this makes perfect sense to conservatives, but it sure seems really stupid to me.

Wow. U.S.A. 1 - Algeria 0

The U.S. is through to the final round in the World Cup. What a tense game, and I am not even that huge of a soccer fan. I was all ready to be very upset, as the U.S. got jobbed AGAIN by the refs with another disallowed goal that replays show was good.

That was tense.

Is the Republican Party committing suicide on purpose?

Here’s a bit of a post from Washington Monthly about the continuing purge that is going on within the Republican Party.

South Carolina Rep. Bob Inglis has been bounced from his longtime seat by a well-known prosecutor after challengers questioned the Republican's conservative credentials.

Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg won the GOP primary runoff Tuesday.

Inglis has always scored well with conservative organizations. But his challengers this year painted him as a liberal who voted for Wall Street and banking bailouts in 2008.

It wasn't close -- despite having represented the area for 12 years, Inglis lost by a ridiculous 42-point margin, 71% to 29%.
Given the one-sided nature of the results, it's tempting to think Inglis must have been caught up in some devastating scandal, since incumbents in good standing just don't get humiliated like this often. But Inglis' only crime was taking on a moderate, pragmatic tone, which led Republicans to revolt.

I emphasize "tone" because Inglis had a very conservative voting record, and scored well among the far-right organizations that grade lawmakers on their positions.

But Inglis expressed a willingness to work with Democrats on energy policy; he urged his constituents not to take Glenn Beck too seriously; he thought Joe Wilson was wrong to heckle the president during a national address; and he said his main focus as a lawmaker was to find "solutions" to problems. Last year, Inglis said the Republican Party has a chance to "lose the stinking rot of self-righteousness" and "to understand we are all in need of some grace."

Inglis' humiliating defeat also sends a message to Republican lawmakers who might consider constructive lawmaking: don't do it. The GOP base doesn't want responsible leaders who'll try to solve problems; it wants hard-right ideologues.

Wow, that’s a pretty big margin to lose by for anyone. But when it happens to someone with a pretty solid conservative voting record and who has served in the same district for 12 years, that’s pretty amazing. You would think that a huge defeat of someone like that would mean the person was engaged in a huge scandal. But no. This guy made noises that he might actually think like a reasonable person at times. And the hardcore Republican primary voters do not like that. They will punish anyone who might actually think about working with the enemy or might criticize their own side.

So, the question becomes, why are the Republican voters doing this? Do they not realize what they are doing? They are marginalizing their own political party. They may become “ideologically pure,” but, except for a few elections in places like Kentucky and South Carolina, this is not going to win general elections.

Do these voters care? Or do not realize what they are doing? My vote is the latter. I firmly believe that these people really believe that they represent mainstream thinking. Anyone who doesn’t think and act exactly like they do (at least in public) is obviously an extremist. They truly believe that their viewpoints are normal and mainstream, and nominating people who express those same viewpoints will obviously lead to electoral success.

This is the same point of view, of course, that leads these same people to believe that any time a Democrat wins an election, it must have been “stolen,” probably by ACORN. Any time a Democrat wins, democracy has somehow been usurped. And this thinking, then, leads to some politicians such as Sharron Angle in Nevada to declare that elections where their side doesn’t win should obviously be overturned by “Second Amendment Rights”, i.e., armed force.

I truly hope that a large majority of non-insane people end up voting in November. I think we can concede that tea partier extraordinaire Rand Paul in Kentucky will become a U.S. senator, even with all the insane things he was spouting off before the national Republicans told him to knock it off if he really wants to be elected. But I am hopeful that Harry Reid will come back from the dead and beat Sharron Angle. If the state of Nevada can actually elect someone like Angle, no matter how conservative the state, then I have a difficult time believing that the Democrats will be able to hold on to their precarious position in the face of the overwhelming stupidity of the American public.

I am usually a very cynical and negative person. But I do hold enough idealism to think that America, that great shining beacon of democracy that I learned about in grade school, will reject extremism. I truly do not mind if Republicans are elected to office. A government run exclusively by a single party, on either side of the political spectrum, is not a good thing. In fact, very bad things can happen. But I will temper my statement by the fact that the Republicans need to be sane and be willing to work with the other side for the common good of the country. Unfortunately, sane Republicans seem to be a vanishing species.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sharron Angle and tea partiers.

(Sorry that I haven’t posted in the last week. I was on a business trip. I’m very glad to be back home, not that I have anything against Iowa…)

It appears that things haven’t improved since I last examined blogs and newspapers. Same old crap that just seems to be getting worse and worse each day. Now, I am not really talking about the uncontrollable leak of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. No, I am talking more about the insanity of those people who are believe they are the sole owners of the United States of American and are really pissed off that Democrats and President Obama are sitting in positions of power that they believe are rightfully theirs.

For example, Sharron Angle, the tea party candidate that the Republican Party nominated to take on Harry Reid in Nevada seems to believe that if they do not get elected to whatever office they are running for, they should resort to armed violence. From HuffPo:

Angle: I feel that the Second Amendment is the right to keep and bear arms for our citizenry. This not for someone who's in the military. This not for law enforcement. This is for us. And in fact when you read that Constitution and the founding fathers, they intended this to stop tyranny. This is for us when our government becomes tyrannical...

Manders: If we needed it at any time in history, it might be right now.

Angle: Well it's to defend ourselves. And you know, I'm hoping that we're not getting to Second Amendment remedies. I hope the vote will be the cure for the Harry Reid problems.

When pressed by what she meant by this by a local television reporter, she attempted to blame Harry Reid and literally ran away from the reporter.

These tea party people seem to think that the entire country thinks just like they do. They apparently believe that they need to throw “red meat” at their base voters to get them really excited about her candidacy. They just don’t seem to expect that they might actually have to explain what they really mean when the non-extreme right wing gets a bit alarmed.

What else could Ms. Angle mean than referring to an armed insurrection if they don’t get elected? What is it, exactly, that they would be “defending themselves” from? I don’t see armed troops banging down doors and hauling off people to concentration camps. What is it that they are threatening to shoot people over? I have not the faintest idea. I do know that they have absolutely no concept of democracy. Apparently, tea partiers believe that when they are voted into office, they are free to do whatever they feel like without consideration for things like working with the minority party or even the rule of law (if the presidency of George W. Bush is any indication). But when their opponents are voted into office instead of them, well, something is obviously wrong with our system and must be fixed by any means necessary, including “second amendment remedies.”

My question is, are these people insane? I cannot believe that they are just “playing to their base.” Can they not glimpse the hypocrisy of their position? Or the fact that what they apparently believe in has no connection to democracy or freedom?

The biggest problem that we, as a country, face from these lunatics is not that lunatics run for office. That’s their right, after all, if they meet whatever lawful requirements were set up for that office. No, the real problem is that, in certain places in the country, there are enough voters who will vote for people like Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, Jim DeMint and Michelle Bachmann to actually put them into office. That’s a scary thing. If the consequences of electing lunatics to office were limited to the confines of those voters who put them into office, I think the overwhelming response from the rest of the country would be “Hey, you made your own bed…” But that’s not how it works. These people become sitting U.S. senators and congressmen. As we have all seen over the last few years, these people can really gum up the works of government so that nothing gets done. And that’s the best-case scenario. The worst case is if these nutjobs actually get to enact their own legislation.

If we had a government where tea partiers controlled the presidency, the Senate and the House, I have no idea what would happen to our immigration policy. I have a feeling that all illegal aliens would become huge targets, which would bad enough. It wouldn’t matter how long you have been here, if you have been paying taxes and holding down jobs. It wouldn’t matter if you were a child who, by law, is a citizen of the United States. If your parents were here illegally, then you would be gone. We would see what is going on in Arizona enacted on a national level. American citizens would be harassed and targeted, just because they “look illegal.” I think there would also be an attempt at trying to suppress any and all dissent. Freedom of speech and press would be a target. George Bush already attempted this during the Iraq war. With tea partiers in charge, I believe that anything that did not fit into their preconceived notions of right and wrong would be made illegal.

I hope that the majority of the voters of this country see the potential danger here. The one good thing about the 24 hour news cycle and instantaneous and always available information via the internet is that everyone now gets to see exactly what these people are advocating. It’s very difficult to hide outrageous positions. You cannot say one thing to one group of voters and then something different to another group. That just does not work, if the electorate is paying attention.

Friday, June 11, 2010

OMG, this is the end of the world as we know it!! But first, a bit about the ongoing NCAA realignment.

As I write this, the University of Colorado has jumped the Big-12 rapidly sinking ship and has joined the Pac-10/11 and counting. The University of Nebraska seems to be about to accept a bid to join the Big 10/11 and counting. All of this could change within the next few days, heck within the hour, so I wanted to give readers a context in which I am writing this.

Well, my take on all of this is that this is a bit like airlines charging exorbitant fees for checking your luggage. 1) To make outrageous sums of money. 2) Just because they can. 3) To keep up with everyone else who is doing it or will be doing it in the very near future. In each case, the welfare and well being of the main players in not the first or even the fifth priority. The airlines do not care one whit about sucking every penny they can from their customers. The conferences are intent on making as much cash as they can. The welfare of their “student athletes” is not really part of the equation here.

In the case of the conference realignment process, there do seem to be some very real and valid concerns here that are driving all this. With money tight all over (except for Wall Street CEO’s and hedge fund managers), it is pretty unreasonable for the universities of this country to expect taxpayers to fund their athletics programs. Even historically successful programs are hemorrhaging cash, and something must be done.

I won’t go further into the reasons behind all this. You can find that elsewhere. I just wanted to put down some of my thoughts and impressions here. I have two college degrees, one from a SEC school and one from a PAC-10 school. I had season tickets to the University of Washington men’s basketball for a number of years, before they started treating their season ticket holders and athletic dept. donors as major sources of revenue that must be milked dry each and every year. But I still watch them on television quite a lot.

Football is driving all of this, of course. Basketball is an afterthought, if even that. Just ask the Kansas and Kansas State, which may be left out in the cold. Having read some of their local papers, they are not at all pleased with this prospect of joining the Mountain West conference. The most hope they seem to hold out is that not all of the potential invitees from the slowly imploding Big 12 conference (Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State) will accept the invitation from the Pac-10/11 and they get picked up as replacements. Having read most everything that is being written on the subject on the west coast, I haven’t ever seen this one proposed as even a long shot possibility. I feel very badly for those schools that will be left out in the cold, just because they aren’t super-desirable. Not terrible, but the circumstances just weren’t “right” for the current situation. That sort of resembles my situation during high school, so I do have some empathy there.

Now, to the Pac-10 or whatever it will be called and whatever teams might end up joining. I can’t see it staying at 11. That just screws up a lot of things, primarily basketball scheduling. Utah seems to be most often mentioned as “Plan B” if “Plan A” involving the Texas and Oklahoma schools falls through. I’m not sure how Utah would feel about all this, being invited into a conference when they know they were Plan B. But hey, pride takes the back seat when it comes to increased money and prestige, no matter how badly you feel you have been treated.

And while I am on that note, I read a lot yesterday about how it was a “slap in the face” of the University of Texas for the Pac-10 to have invited and accepted Colorado FIRST, before Texas. As Steve Martin used to say, “Well, EEEXXXCUSE MEEEE!!!!” Jeez. Is this how this is going to go all the time? They got their collective panties in a bunch because the situation for Colorado was just right and Texas and its little brothers are waiting to see what Nebraska does first? I am really concerned that the Pac-10/11 will be bringing in a LOT of baggage with the addition of the Texas schools, baggage that ultimately led to the likely demise of the Big 12. Will this be an ongoing and continual soap opera? Will Texas actually accept a role where they are not the only “big dog” on the block? Hey, USC (even with the NCAA penalties imposed) is still a heavyweight. Even though, as a UW Husky fan, I don’t like to admit this, the University of Oregon with Phil Knight’s money is a wheeler-dealer. UCLA is one of the biggest names in college basketball. Washington, although down for many years in football, is still a major player, as is Stanford, California, Arizona and Arizona State. Will Texas accept being just “one among many?” I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem really likely, no matter how much money is involved.

I am also wondering about the potential for cultural differences. LA is pretty laid back about most everything, where football may be equal to religion, in terms of the importance it plays in people’s lives, in the state of Texas. How will people from Texas and Oklahoma deal with being in the same conference as those liberal bastions, Seattle and California’s Bay Area? What will they think of the trip to Pullman, Washington (home of WSU)? Pullman is very nice, for a small town with not a lot to do. It is home to Keith Jackson, football announcer extraordinaire, Edward R. Murrow, and the Giant Palouse Earthworm. But it is certainly not a travel destination in any sense of the word. How many people will make the trek from Lubbock, Texas, to Pullman, Washington, to see a football game?

Yeah, if this happens as many people expect, I will probably pay some extra money to see Pac-Whatever sports on the new Pac-Whatever television network. I will probably still go to some games. But I can’t help but wonder what will happen to these soon-to-be mega-conferences that have truly terrible travel arrangements within the conference if the economy really tanks and real hardship continues and increases within the country. Sports, including college sports, in a commodity and, as such, is subject to discretionary spending by its consumers. Will these conferences be able to survive in their bloated states when the customers are no longer beating down the doors because they are too concerned about their own survival?

I have lots of mixed feelings about this. At least my teams will not be on the short end up the stick after this coming nuclear war. My schools will still be part of a major conference, which is a lot more than can be said of many schools that are now part of the Big-12, ACC and Big East. It might be exciting to see Oklahoma and Texas coming to play in Seattle on a regular basis. But something fundamentally is changing here, and that never really feels good unless your current situation is truly terrible. And, truth be told, our current situation regarding college athletics is not terrible. At least for the consumers of the product, it isn’t terrible.

I can’t help but think we are all making a huge mistake, one that we might end up regretting in the long run. The influence of huge money is ruining many aspects of our society. College athletics is no longer pretending to be about anything but making as much money as possible. That doesn’t feel very good. "Student athlete?" Phht. Don't make me laugh. As someone else somewhere on the web said yesterday, we might just as well call these professional football teams that are stationed near colleges.

UPDATE: Yes, well, I rather suspected that things would not turn out as predicted. Texas and the rest have decided to stay with this Big "12". Texas got lured by the promise of a bigger pot of money. They will have their own television network, which I understand would not have been allowed if they joined the Pac-10. There were a lot of other factors, mostly about money. And it appears that someone fabricated a reason to blame the Pac-10 for the deal falling apart, claiming that the Pac-10 all of a sudden wanted to include Kansas instead of Oklahoma State. The Pac-10 commish says this is not true, and I believe that. If they wanted Kansas, that would have been their going in position. They didn't really want Baylor and had no problem about aiming at Colorado instead.

Anyway, the Pac-12 now includes Colorado and Utah. Not necessarily a blockbuster, certainly not a "Super Conference." I would really rather have stayed at 10. But you know, if the Pac-10 was really intent on expanding, I am not at all unhappy with this deal. We have two schools that really wanted to be part of the Pac-10, and I think they will fit within the culture of the Pac-10 very well. They most certainly won't demand that everyone else cave into their demands, which is what I believe probably would have eventually happened with Texas. I read some columns out of the newspapers in SLC, and they seemed overjoyed to now be part of a BCS conference. Welcome, Colorado and Utah.

Now, is this nonsense about done with? Can we stop now?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Yeah, my blogging is getting seriously craptastic.

I don't post that much anymore, and when I do, it's just a rant about the latest insanity. I can't get over how many insane people this country has and how many of them decided to run for political office or become bloggers or "media personalities." In what sane world does Glenn Beck have a radio program, much less a prime time television show?

Anyway, for those of you who actually stop by this blog on purpose, rather than just by something I wrote on this blog showing up on a Yahoo, Google or Bing search, well, I sincerely apologize. I wish I could have something interesting for everyone to read or look at on a relatively quick turnaround, but I seem to be failing on that account. I was actually kicked out of a multi-author blog not that long ago for not keeping up. Hey, what can I say? This is a voluntary exercise (meaning "no cash rewards") and my time and energy is rather limited these days. I can't keep up with the insanity, much less make intelligent comment or humorous snark about it. It all just saps the psychic energy out of me and it's all that I can do to keep up with my job and my day to day life, such as it is.

This is certainly not a "goodbye, cruel blogging world" post. I like to keep it up just for my own entertainment. But I have recognized that whatever momentum I had with this place about two years ago is all but evaporated. So, keep coming back on occasion, if you can. Maybe I will have something for you from time to time.

Here's some serious hoping that someone finds a way to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico soon, and then figures out a way to minimize the huge ecological disaster that is happening right now, even if they shut down the oil geyser today.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Arizona isn't racist?

They certainly are doing their best to convince the rest of the country they are.

There's not enough evil and bad things happening right now, these racist morons have to make more trouble? At the expense of elementary school students? And gutless school administrators that cave to these people?

What a country we live in. Hell, we might just as well go waterboard the artists for painting such a offending picture... Why not?

BREAKING STORY: John Boehner wants an apology from Paul McCartney!

This is what the top Republican in the House thinks is important. From HuffPo:

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is demanding that Paul McCartney apologize for expressing his gratitude that America again has a president "who knows what a library is," Human Events' Connie Hair reports.
"Like millions of other Americans, I have always had a good impression of Paul McCartney and thought of him as a classy guy, but I was surprised and disappointed by the lack of grace and respect he displayed at the White House," Boehner said in a statement. "I hope he'll apologize to the American people for his conduct which demeaned him, the White House and President Obama."

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh call President Obama all sorts of names on a daily basis, and pretty disgusting and evil names at that. I won’t bother to find links. You know what they are. "Nazi." "Socialist." "Racist." Someone who is working actively to "destroy this country." These insults go out over the national media to a listening audience of several million people. That is apparently fine with most everyone, based on the collective yawn from our national media. Just people exercising their right to free speech. Just "entertainment", you know. Yet, an aging entertainer whose best days are long past makes a small little jest about the former President at a private function with a limited audience, well… That cannot be left unchallenged! How DARE McCartney make a joke about President Bush! Even though many people, including many media figures, do just that on a daily basis… An apology must be forthcoming!

Sheesh. This guy is the top Republican in the House. 1) Doesn’t he realize or even care that he sounds like an idiot? 2) Doesn’t he have more pressing problems to deal with than demand apologies from entertainers?

I wonder what Abe Lincoln would think of the present day Republican Party? These people are morons who have absolutely no sense of responsibility to this country. Politics is just a game to them, but one that must be “won” at all cost, even if it does make them look like complete fools to the remaining 70% of the country who don’t think the same way they do.

Friday, June 04, 2010

“I want my country back!”

That became the Right’s rallying cry last summer during the height of the Healthcare Reform “debate.” Well, you know what? I feel the same way. Although, in realistic terms, I fully realize that my country was never like what I once imagined it to be, I would still like to live in a country where I didn’t have to be fearful every single day of having these stupid, mean-spirited, lying nutjobs getting control of the government. I would like to live in a country that wasn’t run by corporations who compete with each other to see who can gather the biggest pot of money, all at the expense of their customers and the taxpayers who will bail them out, each and every time, when they get themselves into trouble. I would like a country whose ex-president and vice-president didn’t glibly and proudly boast about torturing suspects.

I would like to live in country where sanity and logic ruled the day, not emotions and blind adherence to an ideology, political or religious. I would like to see science put back in its rightful place as a method of finding out how things work and what is going on with the universe, rather than some stalking horse to make fun of and trash just so your side can “win” the debate.

I would like to see a country whose government actually had the best interests of its citizens in mind, rather than moneyed corporations who contribute millions to re-election campaigns, and one that actually respected and lived by the rule of law. One that actually punished lawbreakers, even rich and politically well connected law breakers. A country whose government balanced allowing technological advances in critical industries with firm safety regulations and strict oversight that wasn’t susceptible to bribery and corruption.

I wish I had my country back that actually had a nationwide news media that uncovered the truth about stories and does not make everything into a “he said, she said, you decide” debate. A country whose news media actually felt it was their collective job to act as the official watchdog of the government and report on excesses and wrongdoings concocted by the people in power. A country whose news media didn’t feel compelled to be a cheerleader to get the country into unnecessary wars.

I wish I had a country that was actually enjoyable to live in.

Sadly, no. That is not the country we have, and probably never did have. I suppose it all just feels like it is coming apart at the seams, even though it was always this way. It was just better hidden from view.

Silly rabbit. Trix are for kids.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Bill Kristol: "Offshore drilling is perfectly safe, except where there is a disaster like this."

The quote in the title is from Mahablog.

Wow, can anyone play this game?

It is safe for kids to play in the freeway, except when there is traffic.

Investors will always make millions of dollars in the stock market. Except when it crashes and their holdings lose 45% of their value in six months.

It is safe to run with scissors. You won't ever slip and fall on them, except when you run on the shag area rug on the slippery wood floor.

It is safe to tell Darth Vader that the Force is part of an outdated religion. I'm sure he will take it in the spirit that it was given, except possibly when he is in a bad mood.

It is safe to play goalie in the NHL and not wear any pads or mask. No one will ever shoot a puck that you can't stop with the stick. You probably won't ever have to make that trip to the dental surgeon for emergency surgery.

Do you see what you can do with the word, "except?" What a wonderful word! It absolves you of everything, because WHO could have POSSIBLY imagined that anything would ever go wrong?

Where does the conservative movement of this country come up with these people? Can't anyone have even an iota of intelligence when debating issues? Having a rational argument with someone really requires both sides to practice some intelligence and logic. The problem with arguing with morons is that they will never, ever admit or even realize they are completely wrong.

UPDATE: I think this is a great example of how conservatives actually think. In their universe, nothing will ever go wrong. Everything will always go according to whatever plan they have devised. This leads to some amazing conclusions, such as the U.S. will be in and out of Iraq in two weeks and will be greeted as liberators, no one really needs health insurance because no one ever gets sick, we shouldn't give unemployment benefits because everyone who wants a job can get one, et. etc. And when something DOES go wrong, it's obviously someone else's fault, because they can never be wrong.

Like I said, it's hard to argue with a mentality like this. You might as well go try to teach a pig to recite Shakespeare. You'll have just about as much success.

God, what an idiot.

From TPM:

Jesus, can't we just go back to talking about her being "stalked" by her neighbor and building a really big fence?

How is it that people can just make such asinine, obviously untrue statements and think that no one notices? Do they not care they look like idiots? Sure, she wasn't at all talking about drilling offshore deep water oil wells for the last two years. Nope. And notice, at the same time she is trying to make it look like the events in the Gulf over the last haven't proved her to be 100% WRONG, she is ALSO attempting to blame "extreme" environmentalists for the current oil spill. Yeah, complete lack of oversight of the oil industry and the desire to cut as many corners as possible to save time and money had NOTHING at all to do with this. It's all those evil "extreme greenies" fault. I wonder how long it took her to come up with this approach? She probably had some help...

No wonder our country is in such sad shape. We have people like this running what passes for our national discourse. I'm serious. Our democracy stands absolutely no chance if people like her ever get in charge. We can't even stand an electorate that stupid, much less our politicians.

"I dunno, Hal. We're supposed to release the ones under four feet tall."

I hope that kid didn't wake up during the photo shoot. That could scar a kid for life.

Photo from Picture Is Unrelated.