Thursday, November 30, 2006

Just One More Quote From NO LEFT TURNS

You gotta savor this one for its sheer snake-eating-its-own-tail quality:
Comment 9 by David Frisk

...From a coldly Machiavellian standpoint, this may make sense for the Democrats. Stigmatization and demonization have worked very well for them, and it’s not hard when you control the entertainment multiplex, the schools and the (significant) media....

Just a tiny bit reminiscent of a Richard Lewis joke I can't get out of my head, in which he describes making love to a woman who cries out, "Oh God... Oh God... THE JEWS CONTROL THE BANKS AND THE MEDIA!"

And by the way, where does this guy get off calling Fox News insignificant? O'Reilly will be furious.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

While I'm On the Subject

Check this out! Man, I've just hopped right into a viper's nest there at No Left Turns.

The Golden Age Of Racism

The other right-wing blog I frequent, NO LEFT TURNS, is having a lively discussion on the subject of Nativism. What is Nativism? Perhaps this comment will illustrate.

An America full of 100,000,000 new immigrants will cease to be America. Are you OK setting back and watching that happen?

This whole thread has surprised me because the site is erudite and intelligent, and usually well-reasoned. Then again, I have to admit that most racism surprises me; especially my own when it rears its occasional head. But this past year, racism is out in the open, flying its freak flag and proudly proclaiming itself to the world. Remember John Gibson on Fox News saying we have to breed, because otherwise the majority of Americans will be Hispanic by 2050? Remember anything Rush Limbaugh has said ever?

By the way, maybe the guy is right. The country has never recovered since the Irish and Jews moved in. Those bastards, with their corned beef hash and their matzoh!
The main issue is the ethno-cultural dissolution of our Country. In that respect, it actually matters little whether they are legal or illegal. We need to send back all the illegals that we can, build a fence, and place a moratorium or seriously limit LEGAL immigration. And the native population needs to have more babies.

This comment, by a guy who calls himself Red, is clearly the cry for help of a guy who believes that the world is white folks versus everyone else. Christopher agrees.
The "war on terror" will not be lost on the battlefield, it will be lost when Muslim immigration rises to the point of dissolving our culture (which is already under serious stress from the ’cultural war’). Progressives/liberals live in a ideal world created in their own minds when it comes to anthropology (’what is man?’) and the ideas of human relations. ...I believe immigration, particularly of a robust belief system like mohammad’s, will test us like never before...

I'm flabbergasted. How do you argue with people like this? As the Muslims thought, the war on terror is against their very religion!

I'm thinking that this is going to be a very unpleasant Century, and it's going to take a lot of reverse momentum to prevent a war-torn dark age. In fact, I'm only partially kidding when I suggest that maybe you should plan to segregate your family, with a couple of shotguns and a barrel of rice and a lot of water, just in case. Or move to another country - just not one that we don't like.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Student Exchange Program Not Always Cool

19 Year Old Polish exchange student Michael Gromek spent a year in America. The first six months, which were as long as he could stand, were with a Christian Fundamentalist family in Winston-Salem. He writes an account of the experience for Der Spiegel Online.

Things began to go wrong as soon as I arrived in my new home in Winston-Salem, where I was to spend my year abroad. For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn't had sex for the last 17 years because -- so they told me -- they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.
See, here's the thing about exchange student hosting. They are supposed to learn about their culture, you are supposed to learn about theirs. Behavior like this kinda violates the host/guest equilibrium:
They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying 'Michael, it's time to go to church.' I hated that sentence. When I didn't want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn't allow me to have any coffee.
The dude is EUROPEAN, for God's sake! They need coffee more than Seattle residents!

Michael was eventually relocated to a more tolerant host family, where he stayed out the year presumably waking up in a cold sweat fearing he was surrounded by exorcists.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dying is NOT Easy

This weekend the play I'm in had another two performances. Saturday's was poorly attended but we got big laughs, and Sundays we had lots of people (including my in-laws, god help me) but the audience was... quietly appreciative. Especially during the first act. The second act went well because a lot of the plot dominoes that are set up in the first act start falling, but that first hour was deadly.

And I learned a lot. Not about show biz, or audiences. I learned how handy I can be with a metaphor.

During intermission my costar Scott, who has all kinds of acting experience except comedy on stage, was worried that we were doing a bad show. I said, you know what? It's like we are a tango dancer and the audience is our partner. We are actually doing as good a dance as always - but our partner is stiff and doesn't know the steps. We just have to keep dancing as best we can and hope she catches up.

And like I say, she did. I don't know that much about stage plays, but those years of improv taught me that you can be funny even if the audience is made of stone, or some bonded-carbon substance which is as hard as stone, but easier to carve into useful shapes.

Poor Scott though. I'm sure he was thinking of the old quote "Dying is easy - comedy is hard." Having spent a whole first act dying, he's probably re-thinking that position statement.

Monday, November 20, 2006

How The Play Is Going

Pretty good actually.

As you know, I am appearing in a mistaken identity farce for the next few weekends called HERE LIES JEREMY TROY. This is notable because I haven't been on a stage in about 10 years (karaoke doesn't count) and I haven't been in a show where I had to memorize lines in about 20 years. I don't like memorizing lines. It's anxiety-producing. If you get something wrong, or god forbid skip a line, you can not only throw yourself off but also the poor bastard who has to pick up cues from you. I don't mind if the other actors miss their lines because I have so much improv under my belt (oh, THAT'S what that is!) that I welcome the excuse to cover for 'em.

So after 3 months of rehearsal we finally opened this last weekend, doing two matinees to houses which were small and kind, like Mother Teresa. I should explain that we are sharing the space with a show that only plays evenings, another mistaken identity farce called WHO'S WIVES ARE THEY ANYWAY? It only makes sense because the sets are close to identical. The most important thing is to make sure there are plenty of doors to walk in and out of; the rest is gravy.

Who are my fellow actors? Well, the male lead is played by Scott, a very good-looking guy (too good-looking if you ask me, but that's just sour grapes) who up until now had no stage experience. Scott has been amazing. He started out making all the classic mistakes (not playing big enough, acting with his back to the audience... basically just being too realistic) and over the course of rehearsals he's become a farce machine. He's big, he can handle a broad take, he's even acquired comic timing.

Kim, who plays his wife, has plenty of experience - she's even written a show and had it produced there. It seems pretty effortless to Kim. She also has an infectious and uncontrollable laugh, which she kept succumbing to in rehearsal but somehow has completely wrestled to the ground now that we're playing to audiences. Kim knows what she's doing.

Rachel, who plays daffy artist's model Tina Winslow, also has all kinds of acting experience. Tina is further proof that women are perfectly capable of being funny. It annoys me that the high point of the show is a scene with Rachel and Kim that I'm not even in! Damn them! Rachel and I are also sharing our first stage make-out scene. I've seen pictures and it's surprisingly convincing. I gotta admit, it's awful difficult to get your bearings after a kissing scene - it really short-circuits a lot of connections in my brain, especially since she's so damn sexy. Rachel is a squeaky-clean person in real life, so she shapes up as the most ironic casting decision of the show.

Finally Don, who is the Boss Who Comes To Dinner. Don has acted for 20 years. He could do the show in his sleep but chooses not to. More than any one, Don knows how to play the audience like a harp. There is a speech he does toward the end of the show with a punchline that is so bone-crunchingly obvious that I would never believe it could be anything more than a sad anti-climax. Don makes it work. It got laughs at both shows this weekend. Hearty laughs. Don is a tremendous fan of classic comedy, i.e. the Marx Brothers, Abbot And Costello, W.C. Fields. Possibly he would be even funnier in black and white, but it would just be impractical.

And me? I have no idea how I come off. I know I'm responsible for a lot of the show and I haven't noticed dead silence during my scenes, so I'm probably holding up my end. I can't decide whether I mug too much or if I should be mugging more. At least I had the instincts to insert that most reliable of laugh-generators, a spit take, into act one. I'm proud of that. Unfortunately the stage manager (Jeannine, who is ruthlessly efficient and smart as a whip) has chosen Coca-Cola to stand in for coffee. I'd have gone with diet coke. I fear we are making the floorboards pretty sticky.

Finally a word about our director, Marc Del Monte. He's great. The man knows comic timing in a big way. He's very good to actors (this is his first directing job; he acts regularly and even has a regular gig playing a comical rabbi at bar mitzvahs and weddings. La Chaim!) and skilled at saying just enough to draw us out without saying too much. At the first rehearsal he gave us each a dollar, so we could say we are being paid to act in a show. I am a paid actor.

As much fun as I'm having, my next show should be a musical, and my next part should be something small and scene-stealing. Maximum benefit, less lines to memorize, wouldn't have to attend all the rehearsals. At my core I'm a very lazy man. I hear they're going to be doing THE SOUND OF MUSIC... maybe I'll try out for Max, the cynical talent agent. Failing that, perhaps I can be a nun. C'mon - if I shave, how could you tell?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Shortage Of Evils

Hearing about the reascension of Trent Lott got me thinking about punditry. Lott, who is a good Republican with some unfortunately quirky racial ideas, presents a problem for Larry Elder, a well-spoken African-American pundit who is also a good Republican. Can you guess what it is?

Why yes, that's exactly right!

I don't agree with everything the left stands for either. We are too often unfair to business, for example. We can be shrill and corrupt. Michael Moore isn't always as funny as he thinks he is. James Carville is probably not human. We insist on listening to all points of view, even the incredibly stupid ones. I'm a Democrat not because I think Democrats are swell, but because they're the lesser of two evils.

And when I'm arguing with conservatives (anonymously in the comments sections of blogs, just in case one of 'em is the guy who sent all that anthrax around) I am sometimes disingenuous because there are only two sides, and I don't want to weaken my own argument. Sometimes I have to defend positions I disagree with, because it's what Democrats support. I'd still rather defend raising property taxes then say, torture and wiretapping. Or Michelle Malkin's pet issue, internment camps.

The obvious problem here is that there are only two evils to choose from here. America would only benefit from a 5 party system. Center, Left, Right and maybe far left and far right; maybe we could call the last 2 left and right surround. And maybe have another center party that just handles a small portion of the important issues. We can call that party ".1".

Incidentally, just by publishing stuff like this, I am an amateur pundit. And I'm willing to go pro! With a little training I could be better on camera than either Robert Novak or Alan Colmes; for one thing I don't appear to be a reanimated zombie. Which reminds me: If Lott doesn't work out, maybe Strom Thurmond would take the gig.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Theatre Of Cruelty

I feel like doing a little trend-spotting. This month has seen the arrival of two movies that have more in common than you might think. BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT OF GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN is a pseudo-documentary in which a bumbling idiot reporter interviews real Americans and coaxes terrible statements out of their unsuspecting mouths. THE BRIDGE is a real documentary about people who committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate bridge, with actual footage of the suicides. Both movies are doing great business, although the real documentary is nothing compared to the fake one.
When my wife skipped work last week to catch the first matinee of Borat, she came back raving about it. Through a combination of phony guilelessness and false assurances that the "documentary" would never be shown in America, Sacha Baron Cohen somehow managed to coax the most horrible statements out of people. Apparently racism, homophobia and a wistful desire to keep slaves still lives on in the American psyche.
It takes a kind of cruel genius to do what Cohen does. Cruel because people spend their lives training themselves to keep some opinions to themselves, or at most express those opinions in whispers to their most trusted friends. Genius because somehow he got people to say this stuff out loud to a total stranger with a camera lens pointed at them.
Sacha Baran Cohen has refused to do interviews as himself, choosing instead to appear as Borat. This indicates that his own private thoughts are of value to him. He's not playing fair. Because of this, I hope the frat boys who are suing 2oth Century Fox win the case. Because they were tricked into making their racist remarks for the record. After all, the movie is making a fortune. They can afford to settle. Not that I would want to hang out with those frat boys - they are a bunch of racists.
THE BRIDGE is similar because it also shows people at their worst, and you can bet no one signed a release before they commited suicide. The last thing these people wanted was for their loved ones to watch them do this. And you can take "the last thing" literally in this case. But the movie also contains interviews with the loved ones and friends of these jumpers, and you learn a lot from them; chiefly that you cannot take responsibility for someone else's self-destruction. That's a very valuable message and you may not go to see it without the sick lure of watching these people fall to their deaths. Callous, but valuable.
And the same can be said for Borat. You can laugh at those horrible Americans and the awful things they say but sooner or later you have to recognize that they sound a lot like you. Potentially Borat could provoke a national dialog along the lines of "why didn't somebody tell me I came off like this?" Does this movie make my hate look big?
So these are movies which are cruel to individuals but offer tough love to society as a whole. Could this be the trend I've been waiting for? I'd like to think that as a nation we are strong enough to take a little valid scolding. Like Jeff Bridges said in TUCKER, it's not the heat, it's the humility.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You Can Only Steal A Close Election

The Burns/Allen match-up, for example, should be quite a little hotbed for skulduggery. Probably from both sides. Say goodnight, Gracie.
I feel like indulging my inner conspiracy theorist today. If you were able to fix elections, under what circumstances would you not do it? Well, when the narrative doesn't support it. If Republicans had won the house, people simply would not have bought it. Rove often goes too far but this would have been waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too far. And Bush was failing to win support for his policies from Republicans - now at least he can blame Democrats for failing. Two years from now the talk will be about those obstructionist moonbat Democrats, and how they're stopping governance. And that will be despite what I expect to be a marathon use of the previously hidden veto pen.
Other thoughts: Rumsfeld resigns? You'd almost think his whole tenure was about politics instead of the good of the troops. Bad signal Rummy! You should have faked a heart attack instead. His replacement should win an easy confirmation because if he doesn't, the back-up is Harriet Meyers.
If Government completely freezes, gridlocks for the next two years, then at least we won't be rocketing straight to hell like we have been. This, then, is progress.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Rove Hasn't Got It Any More

Sentenced to death? Hah! In the old days he's have arranged to have Saddam executed this weekend! I suppose he might be saving that one for the weekend before the Presidential elections, but how are they going to time Osama's capture now? Very bad scheduling all around.


I had forgotten how living in the west valley area of Los Angeles deprives me of my desperately-needed supply of celebrity sightings, until last night.
We were all out at Denny's in Hollywood, my castmastes and I. We had just done an improv murder-mystery at The Old Spaghetti Factory on Sunset. Not a bad gig, though it was also a singles party and solving a mystery may not have been on the top of anyone's agenda. Anyway, we went out for Breakfast Slams and what have you. And I spotted this guy in a nearby booth; skinny, bald as an egg, bespectacled. I kept nudging my peeps and whispering "Look! It's Moby!"
After a while I realized that the guy who was sitting in the booth in front of him, unmistakably, was Justin Long, the mac in the I'm A Mac/I'm a PC commercials. And I was excited about this, more so than a real Moby sighting.
On the drive home, I started thinking though - sure a Moby sighting would have been hilarious because Moby famously is careful about what he puts into his body. But Justin Long, who is reaping residual money in a big way... what the hell is he doing at Denny's? It was definitely him but what's the deal Justin - you know Musso & Franks is just down the street. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hidden Scary Discovered in Fun Flash Gimmick

This page is a "tag cloud" composed of words used in presidential speeches. It catalogs all the words used in a given speech and gives weight (bigger typeface) to words used most often. For example, Jimmy Carter has INFLATION featured prominently in speeches he made.
Here's the thing that sends a chill down my spine - next to the presidents names are their terms. GWB's term is listed (2001- ) - no end date! We know the date his term will end! Don't we? Don't we?


I'm just killing myself at WHERE ARE MY KEYS lately. We've agreed to disagree about media bias (I'm saying there is none, though I believe there is a slight conservative bias), but I spent most of the morning defending Keith Olberman's comments on COUNTDOWN the other night. Instead of doing this, writing in my own blog.
If you know any conservatives with easily countered viewpoints, could you please send them over here so I don't have to go outside for my argumentative kicks?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Atheists Not As Screwed As Previously Thought

This morning Wonkette links to an article which provides the only glimmer of hope that a man who doesn't believe in God can have - MANY AMERICANS NOT 'ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN' OF GOD.' For years I have bought into the meme that only 5% shared my faith in the lack of a deity. It's only slightly higher than Apple's market share. And that may be be true, but I hadn't thought of it this way.
While few people are convinced that there is no God, a whopping 42% aren't convinced that there is one. They're more along the lines of, "well, how do I know?" And this is a very sensible position to have. In fact it's more sensible than mine, because I can't back up my position with conclusive evidence.

The poll found that 42 percent of all U.S. adults said they are not "absolutely certain" there is a God, including 15 percent who are "somewhat certain," 11 percent who think there is probably no God and 16 percent who are not sure.

Interestingly among Born Again Christians only 93% are certain there is a God. 7% of those people lack faith, for chrissake! The study also finds that only 1% of people believe that God is female, though 37% believe God has no gender. No one brought up George Burns, unfortunately. Or Eric Clapton.

Anyway, this is very good news to me. I was tempted to say "There is a God!" when I read it, but obviously that would have been problematic.