Saturday, December 30, 2006

In Which I Paint Scientologists With More Than One Brush

Greg was kind enough to write the other day, wondering what I have against Scientologists. I'm grateful that he asked, because I'll often forgo nuance for the sake of a cheap gag, and that was definitely the case here. Plus, nuance allows me to up the word count.

The reference I made:

And further apologies to certain right wing/scientologist/hater readers who shall, by their own choice, remain nameless.
Was wholly scurrilous. I've had a an anonymous poster appear a few times on this and other blogs to hurl insults, question my sexuality (I dig chicks, Anonymous) and attempt to make me more miserable than is my natural miserable state. And since the guy is both anonymous and fails to connect his comments to anything I said, I've come to assume he's either someone from a right-wing blog where I said something I didn't like, or he's a Tom Cruise fan because I've made plenty of fun of Tom Cruise. So more likely, the guy (or very angry woman) is right-wing and not Scientologist at all.

Having said that, I AM uneasy about Scientology. More so than about other religions. I'm a skeptic. Just as I find it unlikely that there is a man who will reward you for your good behavior with eternal life and punish you for eternity with fire if you're bad, I think it's silly to adopt a belief system that is said to be centuries old but somehow was never known until a dude who wrote science fiction brought it up in the fifties.

Especially one that is so adamant about punishing outsider scrutiny. And so profitable. It just seems that there are more plausible explanations for it.

Having said that, I'm fully aware that I can be wrong; and whatever works for you, I'm all for. Scientology vexes me but I have no beef against individual Scientologists as long was we're not trying to convert each other. And I've even met Tom Cruise! This was about 10 years ago but he came to my movie theater frequently and seemed like a really nice guy, especially for a mega-star. So if people are stronger and more confident from being Scientologists, let 'em be Scientologists. Or Catholics, or Muslims or whatever. Or combinations thereof. If I meet you at a cocktail party though, let's talk about showbiz.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Recommended Listening (Or If You Have To, Reading)

Just a quick note - iTunes last week put John Hodgman's THE AREAS OF MY EXPERTISE up as a free download, and it's weird as hell. Funny too, but it takes a while to find its unique, rich, strange rhythm. From the list of 700 Hobo Nicknames to a table of interesting trivia about the 51 states (oh, didn't you know there is a 51st state? It's called AR.) it's just great listening. Bonus points for the participation of longtime cohort and Popular Science troubador Jonathan Coulton.

I fear they're charging for it by now, but it's surely worth the money. I may even pay for the book once I'm done with the audio.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Why I Haven't Comitted Suicide

And why I ain't gonna! First, apologies to anyone reading who doesn't have depressive tendencies. And further apologies to certain right wing/scientologist/hater readers who shall, by their own choice, remain nameless.

If you aren't, well, if you aren't either Skot or Anonymous, you've probably googled "suicide" which probably means that like me, you get a little blue around the holidays. I suppose I don't have seasonal affective disorder, because as Skot points out you have to live some place where there are seasons for that to be a problem. Still, my blinding hatred of Christmas surely feeds into the depression I feel around this time of the year; and visa-versa. Perhaps it's a spiral of my own making. In either event, welcome stranger. I feel your pain.

In any event, most Decembers I either go all nihilist (nothing matters!) or withdrawn (see you next Wednesday!) Bonus points for a source for that last reference; further bonus points for an explanation of it. And like a misshapen hideous elf, the thought of suicide will dance through my mind, if only for a second. C'mon, Elfie says. Wouldn't it just be so much easier? For some reason, Elfie is played by James Mason. Memo to self - bring this up at the next session, it could be important.

And every year I consider and reject the idea. This is your bullet point, your takeaway. Note it well:

  • Suicide is for chumps.
Because you kill yourself based on the idea that it's always going to be this bad, and there is no hope for the future. However, you have to be at the lowest ebb of your existence to consider this; it's only logical that your life will get better. It HAS to. So you're basically denying yourself the thing that you claim you need.

It's easier for yours truly because I know that by the middle of January I'll be back to my cheerful, un-soulful self. I have seen the future, and it's NOT like living at the bottom of a dark pit. You, the unknown Googler, are going to have a harder time seeing that; please take my word.

And no matter how bad it looks now, it's going to look better. Only idiots kill themselves. I've got a lot of antipathy towards Catholicism, but at least they had the sense to make suicide a mortal sin. I think a lot of other religions do too, and this makes much more sense that threatening people with hell over breaking dietary laws.

Anyway, my tortured unknown friend, know that it is inevitable that your life will improve. And because it's inevitable, you're obligated to stick around to see it happen.

(And incidentally, I also have antipathy toward the drug companies for renaming tendencies so they sound like treatable illnesses; but if you have a bad elf in your head you might want to consider Welbutrin or Celexa or one of the dozen others. It's the lesser of two evils.)

Okay, now how about the See You Next Wednesday reference. Anyone? Skot, you can answer in private.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Inevitable Icy-cold Hand of the Reaper

Look, I'll miss Gerald Ford. But we all go. You want proof? The guy who wrote his obituary for the Washington Post has been dead himself since last January. Given the way the system works, I fully expected to see his own byline on his obituary, but the credit goes to Adam Bernstein who was alive at the time of publication. Allegedly.

Hat tip to Wonkette, who tips a hat to Matt Drudge. I refuse to tip my hat directly to Matt Drudge, if for no other reason than his superior taste in hats.

You know how it works, right? The newspapers keep obit files on all news makers who are expected to die, so they can have a fully-researched article ready to go. When Frank Sinatra died, it probably freed up a tremendous amount of file space. Bob Hope? Spring cleaning. I bet people found half a dozen earrings at the bottom of drawers when Reagan shuffled off.

Ford was an okay guy, especially when you compare him to the current Republican president. At least he did no serious damage. That's all it takes to look good nowadays.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

There Is No "Xmas" in "Las Vegas"

So the wife and I took the desolate I-15 to Las Vegas for the holiday weekend. For a lotta reasons, since you ask. One, attendance drops in that town as Christmas people prepare for the holidays so there are bargains to be snapped up. We got a room at the Golden Nugget for $29 a night. Two, Vegas is almost completely Xmas free. Sure there are Santa hats here and there, and a few shows throw in token nods to the holidays (no specific holidays, of course) but for the most part it's the second best way to avoid Christmas. The first is a sensory deprivation tank, but that will wrinkle you up something furious if you stay in for a whole weekend.

The Golden Nugget is quite elegant for a downtown hotel. If it were on the strip perhaps they would put in a shopping mall and a showroom or two, but they most they do is provide a single lounge (very nice, BTW), an enormous hunk of gold in a glass case and, out by the pool, a shark tank. Yep, right in the middle of the pool bar. It only makes sense that the closest you'll get to a great white shark is downtown Las Vegas.

Downtown, even with the weird 3-block-long light show over Fremont street, is a depressing experience in the dead of winter. It's more like old Vegas downtown, which means less kids but more of a pervasive evil vibe. It's as if everywhere you walk you are passing through the ghosts of mob bosses. In front of the Orleans (I think it's called that, the whole place is blurring in my over-stimulated mind) a couple of girls in colorful Cajun outfit pass out free beads. They look tired, like crack whores with second jobs. A few doors down, there is another casino with the same girls in black-and-white Cajun outfits doing the same thing. Downtown freaked Mrs. K out enough that we have vowed to never stay there again, bargains or not.

To me, the clearest indication that the holidays were nigh came at the Rio, where they have an hourly Mardi Gras parade with a stage show and overhead floats. The dancers all wore sexy elf costumes instead of their usual Caribbean fare; and it was over-amplified Christmas music. A couple of floats which were built to accommodate 8 dancers had only two.

A lot of shows were dark this weekend, which made choosing much easier. We scored a couple of discount Penn and Teller seats. I've always wanted to see those guys live and they did not disappoint. We also caught 2 lounge acts, Dirk Arthur's Xtreme Magic show at the Trop and Hypnosis Gone Wild! at the Aladdin. I think I've finally maxed out on Magic shows. I spend the whole time watching and thinking, "it's not her real hands" and "he's been out of the box for a minute already; when the cover drops it will probably be the white tiger." I'm almost certain now that I can't be hypnotized, and I don't understand people who can. Next time I'm sticking to music.

For some reason this trip I became fascinated by people in casinos in wheelchairs. What are their stories? Are they in that chair permanently or are they just recuperating? What if they're just lazy? Why can't I get a wheelchair? That bald guy - did the same thing that made him bald put him in the chair? How much has be bet?

I liked the spa at the Nugget. Reminded me of Burke-Williams but with exercise machines.

Because we were downtown, I kept my eyes peeled for the Amazing Colossal Man. He didn't show up, perhaps because it was too cold to be running around in just a diaper; or maybe he couldn't get to that cowboy sign because it's blocked by the Fremont Street Canopy. Good thing too. Until someone knits the Amazing Colossal Sweater we should assume he's staying in a cave somewhere.

For the record, I bet about $6 and won about $7, so I'm finally ahead for a change. I'm going to spend it on stamps!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Stale, Weary, Flat, Unprofitable

So I'm prone to what they call SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. Basically, I get depressed around December time. Maybe it has to do with Christmas, maybe it's the the solistice, whatever. Right now I hate everybody and I want to stay in bed until January. And I don't even have a cold.

On the plus side, Ellen and I are going to drive to Vegas on Friday, and we're staying the weekend until this whole Godforsaken Christmas thing blows over. We return Monday night. I don't know if it will improve my mood, but at least I'll be cranky in the craziest city in the world.

I think Hamlet said it best: "How stale, weary, flat and unprofitable all the uses of this world seem to me." Assuming that's what he said because I'm too unmotivated to look it up. I'll tell you what else, it makes me feel worse to know that the best description of my own state was written 400 years ago, and he's already made money off it. Unless it was Marlowe. Don't get me started.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Heritage Foundation Endorses Taliban!

The Heritage Foundation has published a study called "A Portrait of Family and Religion in America: Key Outcomes for the Common Good." Worth checking out. To summarize:

The study compares a number of social outcomes among four groups of teenagers: (1) those from intact families with frequent religious attendance, (2) those from intact families with low or no religious attendance, (3) those from non-intact families with frequent religious attendance, and (4) those from non-intact families with low or no religious attendance.
As you may imagine, the Foundation believes that teens in "intact families with frequent religious attendance" are less likely to do hard drugs, have premarital sex, and drop out of school.
"Intact families" are defined as families with two biological parents who are married or cohabiting; "non-intact families" are defined as families without two biological parents. For religious participation, "frequent attendance" indicates at least monthly attendance at religious services; "low attendance" indicates less than monthly religious attendance.
In the interests of science, the Foundation skips the most important detail, I think: the money shot. It fails to specify a religion. So presumably, the foundation is more in favor of a nuclear family of Muslim extremists than a single Christian mom, or a mom with a husband overseas fighting Muslim extremists.

Also a household run by lesbian ethics professors is probably not as good a conventional nuclear family, even if it is of church-going alcoholic snake handlers. And if you are married to an abusive sociopath, don't divorce him and marry a nice guy - he's not the biological parent, and it would bad for the kids.

Now a word about MY methodology - I am assuming that, like any study designed to culminate in a press release, the terms of this one were rigged to obtain the results that they wanted. If I am wrong, then I am quibbling with hard scientific fact. I don't know enough about science to judge the helpful pdf they link to so I'm going apply observation of previously observed similar phenomena to this situation to form a hypothesis:

The Heritage Foundation is feeding you a load of crap.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Last Night's Disappointing Holiday Xmas Party

My company had its annual Christmas bash last night, and I was disappointed. It was all very pleasant, and everyone had a good time. That's my least favorite kind of Christmas party.

Understand, I have really high standards. I have been at the two sloppiest, sad, horrid Christmas parties ever. As a guy who feasts on Schadenfreude, I have to tell you last night's party (Ellen said, "everyone you work with is so NICE!") just didn't make the cut.

My first favorite Christmas party was for United Artists in the mid-nineties. The district manager made the tactical mistake of providing an open bar. For whatever reason, people were inclined to drink like fish that night. Everybody aired hidden resentments, there was an awful lot of...

I meant to post this half a month ago, and I just plain forgot to finish.

Let's just say I prefer xmas parties where everyone is drunker than I am, because I get to tease them later. Now fly, post, fly!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Really Brings Me Down The Most

I'm really trying this year. I said to myself this year I'll just finally enjoy the holiday and behave like a normal person. But I find that everything irritates me, or even depresses me mildly. Only mildly! Still, I was going to exchange gifts with Ellen and actually call them Christmas gifts instead of "Krause Day".
I wonder... is it possible that I've played ol' Ebenezer for so long that I can't stop? "I am become Scrooge, destroyer of holiday spirit."
I think I'll watch SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS and see if it cheers me up or just makes it all even worse.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Quick Note To Anonymous

"wow, you're a douchebag. i read a few of your blogs and realized you're an idiot. nice pic fag, take the dildo out of your ass... oh, really cool gel job on the 'do! I think even Ryan Seacrest would laugh his ass off at you. "Keepin' It Real, Yo" holy shit you're a desperate piece of crap aren't you? I still can't stop laughing at your picture... classic"

Yeah, I'm mighty desperate.

So look, "anonymous," my guess is you aren't enraged by my picture as much as you are by my opinions. I could be wrong... even I'm a little uneasy about the hairstyle. But look, why not comment about the opinions. What is it that bothers you? Do you think that all the Muslims want to kill us? Are you mad that I said nasty things about Tom Cruise? (*gasp* OMG, you're not in love with Tom Cruise! Dude, I'm so sorry!) Do you think I sunk the comfirmation of John Bolton? What is it?

Your opinions are valid, and to hide behind both anonymity AND posting to an unrelated topic does you a disservice. Show a little backbone, dude! You're making everyone who thinks like you (however that is) look weak.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Alright Already - A Webcam Pic

So this is what I look like now. Check back next week to see if anything changes.

Welcome Aboard, Hammer

Tom DeLay, who needs no introduction from me, has started his own blog. I cruised on over there right now to see if what I read is true - it was said on Think Progress that DeLay was filtering out all the disagreeable comments. However, this apparently is no longer true, which suggests that DeLay didn't realize there would be some, then learned how much ridicule he would engender by censoring. So kudos, Hammer.

In Which I Describe My New Look

Here in today's media-rich world, on the Internet which is the media-est richest of all media, it seems strange to describe something by you know, describing it. However, I'm at work and I don't have access to a webcam.

The play ended this weekend, and I took the opportunity to ditch my 50's era goatee in favor of a clean-shaven, non-itchy look. Additionally I have, as promised to my lovely wife, re-frosted my hair and I now have a blond cloud over my forehead, augmented by spiky bedhead stylings. So I'm back to looking like a pudgy 14-year-old.

I think I'll follow this up tonight with a picture, if I remember. It's either that or keep writing until I reach a thousand words.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Geopolitics as Barfight

I've been having a lot of comment-section chats with people who insist that yes, all the Muslims want to kill us and therefore we must get them out of the country. So far no one has insisted that we have to kill them all first, in self-defense. So far.

So I've come up with this handy metaphor to explain how I see the world situation. Next time someone tells you we need to bomb Iraq, try this on 'em!

America is a big muscular guy, sitting at a bar. A little guy comes up to him and starts insulting him, calling him a pussy, saying he's going to wipe America out. Now the way I see it, the strong thing to do, the thing that will make that cute waitress want to go home with America, is for him to say, "hey man, I don't want no trouble." America moves to another side of the bar, maybe shoots the little guy a look that says "but I'm not afraid to beat your scrawny ass if you try anything." Then if the little guy tries anything, America is free to kick him around.

If America throws the first punch, he looks scared. Plus since he's so much bigger than the other guy, the rest of the bar is gonna throw in behind that guy because America is obviously dangerous and must be stopped. And the bar is full of little guys.

Right now, a little guy threw the first punch; but America responded by pounding his landlord and then, for no discernable reason, the family that lives next door to the landlord. And we're talking about wailing on a guy who LOOKS like the little guy. America, drink up and go home. You've had enough.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Tolerance Achilles Heel

As much as I'm against prejudice and racial profiling and painting every member of a group with the same brush, I have to admit that cephalopods give me the creeps. Take this for example:

(shudder) Ever since that day at the Monterey marine museum* Aquarium when I spent time in a room where an octopus sat in the center, in his enormous glass tank, pulsating like a giant brain bent on seizing my will and forcing me to perform evil; ever since then I have hated the spongy creatures of the deep known as Octopi.

* I had to go back and re-edit this entry because I could not, for the life of me, remember the word "aquarium." How could that be anything BUT cephalopod mind control?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Whither 007

Finally managed to see CASINO ROYALE last night. Loved it plenty. I will now throw out spoilers like free waffles as I explain what was great and not so great about it. Spoilers... they give away important surprises and plot points. If you want the movie to be a surprise to you, stop reading. I'm being as plain as I can about this. I will ruin the movie for you.

First and foremost, the good folks at Broccoli Inc have finally succeeded in making Bond vulnerable again. He hasn't been since GOLDFINGER. I almost said "making him human," but the interesting thing to me about James Bond is he's really not. He's psychotic. He's a sociopath who has found an acceptable role in society. The biggest reason that Sean Connery made such a splendid Bond isn't his physicality or his acting chops; it's that he understood that the character likes having a license to kill. You never got that from any of the other Bonds, especially Roger Moore, even from my favorite Pierce Brosnan. Even Timothy Dalton (who looked more like the literary Bond than any of them) didn't enjoy killing. He didn't seem to enjoy anything.

Bond is an antihero. He's a criminal. And Daniel Craig, with his opaque blue eyes and inscrutable expressions, is able to draw you in when you need to feel what he feels. But he's also able to keep you out when it gets really ugly.

I like that the movie kept in the most horrific plot point of the novel, Le Chiffre's crude bottomless-wicker-chair torture of Bond. I never thought I'd see the day. Just now, as I write this, I'm wincing. Like the rest of the movie, it's refreshingly low-tech and effective. No ritual introduction of deus ex-machina gadgets! Just a rope, a chair and a scrotum is all you really need to tell this story. And cell phones -- dozens and dozens of cell phones.

What the movie gets wrong, I fear, is the procedural - specifically, the famous stunt set pieces that are a hallmark of the series. What's with the implausible leaping chase through a construction site? Why allow Bond to blow up a foreign embassy? Or rather, why does he still have a job after?

Somewhere along the way Bond went from being a spy, someone who lies to you so he can steal your secrets, to a state-sponsored terrorist. Now everyone knows who he is, and he's very good at going to foreign countries and assassinating people and blowing up their property. Not only is it hard to root for a terrorist, it's so implausible a situation that the story can't recover. On the other hand, if you don't include these sequences then it just isn't Bond, old fellow.

My thinking is this: Sony had the rights to this book, which is why they were able to muscle in on the Bond Franchise. If they were smart, they would have started COMPLETELY from scratch. Called the movie Casino Regale, name the character Jim Bande or something. Make him more like John Drake from Secret Agent, a quiet guy who actually protects his cover. Do press telling people, yeah, it's really Bond. Then start a whole string of sequels with the new guy. Maybe in fifteen years have a face-off between Bande and Bond, like Frankenstein Vs. The Mummy. You know who I'd be rooting for.