The American Conservative, 6 April 2009


The man who gave the speech

Sean Scallon argues that Jimmy Carter’s 15 July 1979 address to the nation, known to political infamy as the “malaise speech,” showed an awareness of America’s limits that made it the most truly conservative public statement any president has made in recent decades.  Nor does the speech deserve its reputation as a political disaster.  Carter’s approval ratings went up after he delivered it, and only dropped when he engaged in the “political gimmick” of demanding that his whole cabinet resign.  Carter didn’t really lose the public, the piece claims, until he responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan with an ultra-hawkish policy.  His hard line contradicted all the wisdom and humility in the speech; coming on its heels, it seemed to spring from a fit of hysteria.  The contradiction between Carter’s sober words of July and his sabre-rattling of a few weeks later left him intellectually defenseless when Ronald Reagan, a cheerful man unburdened by any public record suggesting cautious realism, presented the same hard line militarism as the centerpiece of his campaign to unseat Carter. 

The man who responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

The man who responded to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan


Movie Review- Ghosts of Mars

Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Starring: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Cetrone

Cymast’s synopsis: It’s a slow starting, slash and burn zombie fest. On future terraformed Mars, sleazy dumb-asses team up with dumb sleaze-asses to kick zombie Earthling-Martian ass, which makes more zombie Earthling-Martians so the sleaze-dumbs can kick even more zombie Earthling-Martian ass.

Mr. Cymast’s synopsis: Mars is inhabited by GWAR zombies.


I kept expecting it to get better.

The premise is promising- dormant Martian dust gets let loose on Mars and takes over colonists from Earth with the goal of turning the entire planet into Martian-dust-controlled colonist zombies. The story starts out with a legal hearing and continues with flashback testimony of what happened during a police-squad pick-up of a notorious criminal at a small outpost.

The most likeable and convincing (by comparison only) character is Ice Cube’s “James ‘Desolation’ Williams.” That leaves the other characters annoying and incredulous at their best. At least Desolation isn’t perpetually trying to get laid amidst the zombie attacks like a few others are. The zombies are more interesting than scary- they’re a cross between Mad Max’s Armalites and Hellraiser’s Cenobites.

I watched half-way through to get to the premise explanation, and then made myself and Mr. Cymast watch the rest of the movie because I am a sado-masochist wanted to write another Mars movie review am obsessive-compulsive about finding out what happens “in the end.” Three minutes before “the end,” the writers apparently had synchronous strokes decided to commit cinematic suicide gave up and wrote the most eye-roll-inducing end in the history of movies. Which, I suppose, could be an achievement in itself. Sort of.

“Driven by Carpenter’s synth-metal score, this violent free-for-all has a few brief highlights, but it’s suspenseless and ultimately absurd. It’s not much, but for loyal fans it’s probably enough.”- Jeff Shannon

“John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars starts out as a fairly effective sci-fi horrorshow, then quickly devolves into a mindless action movie that involves a small group of survivors machine-gunning hordes of possessed zombies. Carpenter, who cowrote the screenplay with Larry Sulkis, has an interesting central idea . . but, in the end, he lets it get away from him in a frenzy of bullets and headache-inducing industrial rock music.”- James Kendrick

Oh yeah- I actually got a headache, but not from the music. I think it was from the void created from the extreme thoughtlessness of the movie’s “conclusion.” You are warned.


The Nation, 13 April 2009

nation-13-april-09Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon review Caryl Churchill‘s new play, Tell Her the Truth, which tells the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict in ten minutes.  “Why is the play so short?  Probably because Churchill means to slap us out of our rehearsed arguments to look at the immediate human crisis.”  Churchill cares about what human beings are doing to each other and how they justify what they have done to themselves and to each other, especially in the justifications parents give their children.  Tell Her the Truth consists of a series of lines giving the parents of seven unseen Jewish children advice as to what they should tell those children about various historical acts of violence, some committed against Jews in the name of antisemitism, some committed by Jews in the name of Zionism. 

Tell Her the Truth, like every publication critical of Israeli policy, has attracted charges of antisemitism; much of the case against it apparently hinges on a line that does not appear in the play.  Some have claimed that the play raises the spectre of “blood libel,” the old idea that Jews ritually murder Gentile children.  “Those who level the blood-libel accusation insist that Churchill has written “tell her I’m happy when I see their children covered in blood.””  What she actually wrote was quite different: “tell her I look at one of their children covered in blood and what do I feel? tell her all I feel is happy it’s not her.”  Kushner and Solomon interpret the real line thusly: “The last line of the monologue is clearly a warning: you can’t protect your children by being indifferent to the children of others.”


Lab Meat

Cruelty-Free for Your Carniverous Dining Pleasure

More on the Destruction of ViewMaster


It did not die a natural death

In November, I posted here news that had come to me in a mass email from Las Vegas’ 3Dstereo Store, a report that Mattel would no longer produce ViewMaster reels that might appeal to adults.  Today, another mass mailing from the same source brings more bad news:

Since the the end of last year, the news from the world of View-Master has been earth shaking, but then hasn’t all the news been earth shaking.

Scenic and Custom Divisions Close:
Late last year, Fisher-Price notified all its dealers that the Custom Division which encompassed the Scenic Division was closing permanently. All of its products, every scenic title of View-Master, and the Model L viewers will be discontinued. Custom and commercial reels will never again be made. The factory in Mexico where everything from Beaverton, Oregon was moved, will close. And the remaining View-Master products (children’s View-Master) will only be produced in China at the location that produced the poisoned Mattel/Fisher-Price toys which brought Mattel to the edge of destruction in the first place.

The economy can be blamed for a lot of changes in this world, but the demise of View-Master came unassisted at the hands of Mattel/Fisher-Price executives.

But one thing that Mattel/Fisher-Price will never kill is the joy that tens of thousands of View-Master collectors will always possess in the fascinating product that thrilled the world for 70 years. 


Caltrans Eagle Cam


What did I just see?


I’ll take a bag of perish, please. Thank you.

VOTE ____ FOR ____

VOTE ____ FOR ____

Some kids singing along with an album by Victoria Vox

When I hear this song, I make these same hand movements.  The first time I did,  Mrs Acilius laughed.  All the other times she’s smiled politely and looked the other way.  Anyway, there are three possibilities as to why these children do the same thing I do: (1) It’s a meaningless coincidence; (2) Mrs Acilius secretly contacted them and taught them to imitate me; (3) I have the mind of a small child and we all think alike.  I favor possibility (1). 

Bush Truth Commission

Why a commission?

Petition to Investigate Bush/Cheney