Friday, December 31, 2010

Tweet of the Day

BaltimorePolice: 3:30pm today, 3201 Boston Street. Penny the dog will thank Officers from the Marine unit for rescuing her last night from the Harbor.

(More on the story here.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MoneyGrabber

Fab new song by a fab new band:



Fitz and the Tantrums: "MoneyGrabber"

Monday, December 27, 2010

Atomic Books



Jackalopes, John Waters, zines, art, records (records!) and other cool stuff.



Check out their website.

RIP Teena Marie

Teena Marie was found dead on Sunday at her California home. The singer and songwriter was found by her daughter after apparently dying in her sleep. She was 54.



Teena Marie: "Lovergirl"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Xmas From Juni & Potter!



Another Festivus Miracle!

Miramax and The Weinstein Company announced last week they've reached an agreement to bring a sequel to Bad Santa to the big screen. God bless the Talking Walnut!

In honor of that, here are some of my favourite quotes from the original film:

  • "I don't think you should be digging in your ass."

  • "He's not going to say 'fuckstick' in front of the children, is he?"

  • "I beat the shit out of some kids today. But it was for a purpose. It made me feel good about myself. It was like I did something constructive with my life."

  • "Fuck me, Santa! Fuck me, Santa! Fuck me, Santa!"

  • "Well they all can't be winners."

  • "Good night, Santa. Good night, Mrs. Santa's sister."

  • "I'm on my fucking lunch break!"

  • "I called you a fucking guinea homo from the 15th-fucking-century, you dickhead!"

  • "Are you fucking with me?!"

Friday, December 24, 2010

Xmas Wishes From the Miser Brothers

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Housewerks



Housewerks architectural salvage, Pigtown.



The place to go if you need something truly unusual to decorate your home with, like a 20ft. tall circus sideshow poster for a guy with a 6ft. long beard.

You Have No Idea...

...how badly I want one of these:

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Block



The Block, Baltimore's titty bar zone, does a brisk business, despite nearly burning to the ground not two scant weeks ago.

Basilica of the Assumption



Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (jeepers, that's a mouthful), America's first cathedral.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bromo Seltzer Tower



Snow falls on the Bromo Seltzer tower, Eutaw and Lombard.



The tower was originally capped with an oversized, blue Bromo Seltzer bottle. It was removed early in the 20th century, when it was deemed structurally, and perhaps aesthetically, questionable.

Snow Day



Snowing downtown.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Potter Under the Couch



Potter wedges himself under the couch, to avoid the maintenance crew working on the heaters in the building.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Overton Window: Chapter Thirty

Where were we? It's been a while, so maybe we need to get caught up. Oh yeah, Molly slipped Noah a mickey and he just now woke up, some days later. (Elsewhere, Bailey and Kearns are off to sell their nuclear warhead, but that's not important in this chapter.)

Noah showers, puts on some clean clothes, and heads to Darthur's office. Darthur is there, "long fingers knit together." I wish he'd been doing this, but c'est la vie.

Charlie Nelan, Gardner family lawyer, is there, though no longer looking like the fancypants he is. (From chapter thirteen: "No matter where you happened to see him, he always looked as though he'd just stepped out of the 'Awesome Lawyers' issue of Gentlemen's Quarterly.") But tonight, he's a mess:

Charlie Nelan was standing by the window. He looked over, then shook his head almost imperceptibly as Noah met his eyes. Charlie seemed worn-out and wired at the same time, his wrinkled shirt undone at the collar, sleeves rolled up to the forearms, no necktie. This was far from the lawyer's polished public face; it was the look of a man who'd been awakened from a sound sleep to help fight a five-alarm fire.

So, you know things must be really bad if Nolan's shirt is wrinkled. Noah pops some pills the doctor gave him "to counteract the lingering effects of that anesthetic patch she'd peeled off his chest when they found him." Okay.

Also there is "the boss of the firm's security service, an ex-mercenary hard guy named Warren Landers." Yay for new characters! boo for ex-mercenary hard guys. No offense to any ex-mercenary hard guys in the audience, but that is just a clunky, and seemingly disingenuous, descriptor.

Landers was the bully in the schoolyard who'd grown up and found himself an executive job where he could dress up and get paid for doing what he still loved to do. There was always an undertone when he spoke, a smirk in his eyes as if something about you was the punch line of a running joke he was telling in his head.

That is certainly a timely, if unfortunate, choice of words from our author. Anyway, Darthur is glad Noah wasn't hurt, but there are more important things to discuss.

"How did you find me?"

"The same way I found you last Friday night, at the police station," Charlie said. "We found your cell phone. They'd taken out the battery, but someone put it back in and turned the phone on about an hour ago."

Whut? They tracked his cell phone on Friday, too? Wasn't he supposed to be on a date on Friday? Do they always track his cell phone on his free time? Is that how they gauge his outstanding record of success with the ladies? Or did they know something was up from the beginning? And if they knew something was up on Friday, why'd they let all that business of breaking into to office happen Saturday? Jebus, that makes no sense.

Even assuming they had no clue on Friday, after Noah was arrested with the teabaggers, you'd think they'd have kept an eye on him and not let him break into the conference room and steal the Powerpoint presentations.

I must say, The New World Order's security team does not impress me very much.

"The first piece," Landers said, "was that we figured out who leaked that government document to the press last week."

"Who was it?"

"It was scanned and sent out from right here. About two hours after it came into the mailroom."

Whoops!

The next four pages or so detail how Molly infiltrated Doyle & Merchant, got herself close to Noah, and then used him to steal the Powerpoint presentation.

Noah looks at the dossier on Molly Ross, and it is apparent she sent out the document, and did her best to hide that fact.

"Keep going," Landers said. "It gets better."

And by better, Landers means, quite obviously, "even more ridiculous":

The next page was a photo of her in some academic environment, and it took Noah a few seconds to recognize all the things that were different. She wore glasses, thin half-rim frames and subtly tinted lenses. Her hair was longer and lighter, almost blond. But the changes went beyond her appearance. There was a sophistication about her in this photo, a style and a seriousness that he'd either overlooked or that she'd somehow hidden in their short time together.

In another shot she appeared to be at a rally of some kind, with her mother on one side and the ubiquitous Danny Bailey on the other, his arm around her waist and hers around his as they all pressed together for the camera.

The next picture seemed more recent. Molly was alone, wearing aviator sunglasses, a backward baseball cap, cut-off Daisy Dukes, and a camouflage tank top. In her hands was what looked like a military-grade automatic rifle with a drum magazine, held as if it were the most natural accessory a pretty young woman could be sporting on a bright summer day at the gunnery range. For whatever reason he was reminded of that famous shot of Lee Harvey Oswald in his backyard, holding his radical newspapers in one hand and his murder weapon in the other, just a few months before his appointment with JFK at Dealey Plaza.

Seriously? Cut-off Daisy Dukes and a military-grade automatic rifle? What garbage.

"The way we figure it," Landers said, "these people wanted to get some dirt on the government, our new clients, specifically, and they identified our company as a weak spot in the security chain. So they sent this girl to a temp agency we use, and you can see right there"-he tapped one of the papers in the open folder-"she wrote up a résumé that made her look like a perfect fit for a job here, and talked her way in. This Ross girl, she can be a charmer, I understand.

"But it wasn't enough just to get into the mailroom," Landers said. "Oh, it gave her some limited access, but to do the kind of damage they wanted to, they needed some inside help."

Whoops!

And blah blah blah, Molly had been sent in to put the moves on Noah, teabagger style. She used "his Facebook profile, his Twitter history, his full set of responses from a variety of questionnaires at his online dating sites, the rambling, soul-searching posts from his personal blog, even his browser history from a number of recent consecutive weeks" to get inside his head, as it were, and sidled right up to him.

"You didn't stand a chance, Noah," Charlie said. "She came here specifically to get close to you and then make the most of it."

Blah blah blah Molly copied the key to Noah's apartment while he was asleep and then used it to break into his place later. ("We'll know pretty soon if they planted something there, but it doesn't look like they took anything.") Then, after she drugged him, she took the teabaggers back to Doyle & Merchant to steal the rest of the Powerpoint files, which Noah just showed her how to do. Whoops again, Noah.

Noah "had a brief impulse to ask how Landers had managed to gather all of this" information, and it seems a really good question. Well, sort of. I mean, if Landers found out all this info so easily, why the fuck didn't they do this before she made her way into the mailroom?

I get that this is just a mailroom clerk form a temp agency, but still. You're trying to enact the New World Order or whatever. Wouldn't everyone get a background check? They just caught a fucking janitor stealing secrets, right? You think they'd tighten up security just a bit after that. (Nevermind that the woman the janitor called (Molly's mother) appears in the very fucking dossier everyone is mulling over right now.)

Like I said: The NWO's security detail: Less than impressive.

"They cleaned out that squatter's apartment where we found you," Charlie said, "but they left some conspicuous incriminating evidence behind: some radical wing-nut literature, a couple of weapons, and some other assorted contraband. They were probably going to call the police to the place with an anonymous tip."

"Why would they do that?"

"We think they wanted you to be found there with that stuff, so you'd be implicated as an accomplice in this whole thing. That way we'd want to keep it quiet to protect you, and we'd be less likely to make a federal case out of it."

That makes even less sense. They wanted to frame Noah for stealing files from work? To keep it quiet? Huh? Oh, who cares.

So, yeah, that's chapter thirty, more or less. The good news here is that this has brought us over the two-hundred page mark. So, yay for there being only eighty more to go! Though, that is gives us precious time for something to actually happen.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"In A Hard Town By The Sea"



Arc de Défaite, West Baltimore street.

And on a completely different subject, a place for men:.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Kooper's Tavern



Natty Boh in bottles and great burgers.

Self Portraits With Camera Phone

Scenes from a Mall

A local shopping mall last night, around six p.m., two weeks before Xmas:



Yup, the economy is fucked.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Red Emma's



Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, Mount Vernon. Vegan food, coffee and anarchist literature. Cool place. Cool grafitti. I had the tofurkey sandwich, if you can believe that.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This Might Come In Handy

Tips for Getting a Good Start in a New Job:

Here are some tips to get off to a good start in a new job:

1. Ask for an organization chart of your company and department. Use that organization chart to be sure you have met as many people as you can within the first 30 days.

2. Come up with 10 questions to ask as you get to know the organization's employees. These questions will show others that you're interested, and that you want to understand more about how the company runs and what it needs to succeed.

3. Be ready to succinctly tell your career story. Be able to explain how you got to where you are, and what you're hoping to accomplish in the future.

4. Focus on helping others. Don't leave any conversation during your first month without asking your new colleague or boss, "What can I do to help you?"

Via.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You



Sly and the Family Stone: "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)"

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Seen

Last night while exiting the gorcery store I saw an SUV with this vinyl decal on the window:



Huh? Is there something controversial about Gardisil? I checked Wikipedia (facts, bitchez!) and there was something about Rick Perry and Merck and promiscuity, but... Whut?

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Remember last chapter? The one where Noah woke up? Yeah, thrilling stuff, huh? In this chapter, there is three times the action! I'll just sum it up before we get started, in case you feel like skipping ahead.

First, Bailey sets his watch. Then he sends an email. And finally Kearns puts the cat out.

Seriously.

I think I've figured out why this book is called a page-turner. It's keeping me intrigued. Not in the usual sense, mind you, that one would apply to a thriller. I am not soldiering on to see what happens next. I keep reading to see if anything happens next.

I am tempted just to skip this chapter myself, but duty compels me to give you all the lowdown, as it were. Do people still say "lowdown"? Or did that go out of fashion when Starsky & Hutch was cancelled?

For a man so worldly and knowledgeable, Bailey is ignorant of time zones:

"What time zone is Nevada?" Danny called out toward the trailer's kitchenette. His watch was a Rolex knockoff and it wasn't easy to reset, so whenever he was traveling he always put off messing with it for as long as possible. This, however, was shaping up to be a day when he'd need to know the time.

I guess knowing the time is good if you're going to sell a nuke to terrorists? Maybe? Okay. Duly noted.

They'd both overslept a bit and now there was a rush to get on the road. To add to the tension Kearns had said he'd been unable to reach his FBI contact the night before, and this morning he'd received a rather cryptic e-mail from their new terrorist brethren.

Do you feel that? The tension? Yeah, it's there. It says so right in the text. It's tense. Because they overslept. And they are going to be late for work school terrorism. Mom is going to be sooo mad.

About that cryptic email:

The message had been from the missing man, the one named Elmer. There was to be another meeting this afternoon, the real meeting this time, at which the weapon would be exchanged for the money, and some final brainstorming would take place on the eve of tomorrow's planned bombing in downtown Las Vegas. The rendezvous was set for 5 p.m., out somewhere in the desert so far from civilization that only a latitude and longitude were provided as a guide to get there.

I guess the meeting in the desert is the cryptic part? Just points on the GPS. I hope Kearns has a spare GPS. Because his other one is strapped to a bomb! If not, they're going to have to stop by Radio Shack.

And in case you forgot this is faction, check this out: "Between the two of them Danny was more capable on the computer, so it had been entrusted to him to plan the route to this remote location through a visit to MapQuest." Mapquest! For authenticity! That's what all terrorists use. And soccer moms. Are there still soccer moms? Anyone know?

Also, did you note that the man in charge of a vast internet-based sting operation is not all that computer savvy? Oh, that can't be good. That can't be good writing, I mean. Though, that is in line with him being a sorry agent all the way around:

While Kearns was in the bathroom Danny had logged on to his favorite anonymous e-mailing site and fired off a quick text update to his staff in Chicago, with a copy to Molly and a short list of other trusted compatriots:

* FYI ONLY DO NOT FORWARD DELETE AFTER READING *
Big mtg today, Monday PM, southern
Nevada. If you don't hear from me by
Wednesday I'm probably dead*, and this is
where to hunt for the body:
Lat 37°39'54.35"N Long 116°56'31.48"W
> S T A Y A W A Y from Nevada TFN < * I wish I was kidding


Kearns has let Bailey off the proverbial leash long enough now to get out text messages and emails? And this is the guy standing between Harry Reid's office and a nuclear bomb? Between five yokels and the largest act of terrorism the U.S. has ever suffered?

And Bailey has a staff? Does Double Rainbow guy have a staff too? I guess someone has to hold the camera when you're making Youtube videos. Sounds a little... what's the word? Not-boot-strappy? Don't tell me Bailey is a dilettante. Is that the right word? And why the hell is this chapter inspiring so many questions? Nevermind.

Bailey and Kearns load up the bomb again, and Bailey settles into "the shotgun seat."

Kearns appeared a minute or so later, but when he was halfway out to the vehicle he stopped and lightly smacked himself on the forehead as though something important had almost slipped his mind. He turned back and hurried to the front door of the trailer, unlocked it and held it open, called inside, and gestured for half a minute until that moth-eaten cat appeared and scampered past him out into the barren yard. Then Agent Kearns knelt and filled an inverted hubcap with water from the hose and set it carefully near the stairs, in a spot where it would stay cool in the shade for most of the day.

And that is that. The watch, the email, the cat. Yay for chapter twenty-nine.

Tears Run Rings



Marc Almond: "Tears Run Rings"

Just FYI

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lost News

Jorge Garcia is returning to primetime, starring in a new show from J.J. Abrams, titled Alcatraz.

The project, described to be "about secrets and the most infamous prison of all time," centers on a group of missing Alcatraz prisoners and guards who reappear in the present day. It chronicles the efforts of a team of FBI agents to track them down and unravel the mystery behind their disappearance thirty years prior. Garcia will play the hippy geek Dr. Diego Soto, the world's foremost expert on Alcatraz.

Time travel, mysterious islands, Jorge Garcia: I am sooo there.

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Eight

A small fragment of his awareness saw everything clearly from a mute corner of his mind, but that part had given up trying to rouse the rest of him. Noah still lay where Molly had left him, not exactly asleep but a long way from consciousness.

Ah, yes, Noah. I was wondering what happened to him. He's been lying there, with a small fragment of his awareness seeing everything clearly from a mute corner of his mind. Whatever that means. He's kind of groggy?

Noah dreams he's drowning. And then hears the door kicked in. "People ran past, guns drawn and shouting."

There was a boom, a clattering much louder than the earlier sounds, then a grip on his shoulders, someone shaking him. He struggled against the pressure and somehow forced his eyes open.

A woman leans over Noah, a doctor, it seems. She sticks him with a needle, shines a light in his eyes, and generally gives him the Dixie McCall routine.

The doctor snapped her fingers in front of his face. "Noah? Can you tell me what year it is?"

Noah only asks "Where am I?", which annoys me. I have no idea what year this was supposed to be, but we've just been cheated out of the answer. As an aside, if there is a doctor (or other healthcare professional) in the house, but do they really ask people if they know what year it is when they wake up? I know they do it in the movies and on TV, but I was wondering if it happened in real life.

"What happened? How long have I been out?"

"It's Monday, about noon," the woman said. She snapped off her gloves and returned her things to the medical kit, then stood and turned to one of the men. "I'll take him now. Three of you come with me and the rest should finish up here, then be sure to call in."

Damn. Noah has been out all weekend? I guess that's a convenient way to move forward the timeline. Got him out of the way so we could enjoy The Kearns & Bailey Show.

Noah is helped to his feet and asks where they're going. "Your father wants to see you," is the ominous reply.

Well, it is supposed to be ominous, I guess, since we've heard how evil Darthur is. Not there we really have any sense of that. But it's a thrilling way to end a chapter, right? No? Maybe? Just a little? I dunno. Frankly, I am so past caring at this point.

So, yeah, if I may recap this chapter: Noah wakes up.

How many pages of this garbage are left?

Friday, November 19, 2010

This Is The Greatest Thing Ever



The life-size TIE fighter. (Not the kid in the (wrong) uniform.)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Cat from Outer Space

I originally saw this in the theater with my best friend Rocky Parks way back in 1978. Rocky was a cherubic looking boy, with light blonde hair, who would, on occasion, ask me to squeeze his winky. I wonder whatever happened to him.

Back then Disney knew how to make a decent family film. One that is cute without being saccharine sweet. One that actually tries to entertain, not shove an "important" lesson down the viewer's throat. This was before tie-ins to Happy Meals and there is not one fart joke in the entire movie.

The title sums this one up pretty well. It's about a cat from outer space.

Suffering from technical difficulties, Jake makes an emergency landing on Earth in a farmer's field. The military immediately seizes his craft and takes it back to base. They're trying to figure out where it came from, who was piloting it, and how it works. They don't seem to notice the cat who is invariably lurking around.

Jake befriends an unorthodox scientist named Frank (Ken Berry) to help him repair his flying saucer so he can make his rendezvous with the mother ship. They've only a few days to do it, and they have to dodge the military and a corporate spy (Roddy McDowall) who are trying to muck things up.

When it's discovered that a gold circuit needs to be replaced on the ship, things become dire. Frank does the math and figures they need $120,000 worth of gold to get the job done. But where are they going to get that kind of cash? Hustling pool, of course! Jake uses his psychic powers and space age glowing collar to rig the game and win the money.

With the ship repaired and Jake about to blast off, Frank's girlfriend (Sandy Duncan) is abducted by the corporate spies. They demand Jake's space age glowing collar for her safe return. They've a few games of pool of their own they want to hustle.

So it's up to Jake and Frank to save the day.

The film, as a whole is entertaining, though it does drag a bit near the end. The whole final chase sequence with Jake piloting a ragged biplane in pursuit of the bad guys' helicopter didn't seem at all necessary. That particular subplot could have, honestly, been left out altogether and the film not suffered any. Otherwise it's a decent Disney entry, not a classic mind you, but fun nonetheless. Plus, if you like cats, it's pretty high on the cute factor.

Directed by Norman Tokar • G • 1978 • 104 minutes

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Seven

Faction time, kids!

Fortunately, that "long story" about Kearns' career has been summarized in four short paragraphs. Whew. But, like I said, faction. So, not so whew.

Kearns "worked in the top levels of counterterrorism with a man named John O'Neill, the agent who'd been one of the most persistent voices of concern over the grave danger posed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s."

John O'Neill is a real person. A one-time special agent and Assistant Director at the FBI. He investigated the USS Cole bombing in Yemen, among other things. According to Wikipedia:

In 1996 and 1997, O'Neill continued to warn of growing threats of terrorism, saying that modern groups are not supported by governments and that there are terrorist cells operating within the United States. He stated that veterans of the insurgency by Afghan rebels against the Soviet Union's invasion had become a major threat. Also in 1997, he moved to the FBI's New York office, where he was one of the agents in charge of counterterrorism and national security.

And as Beck puts it:

John O'Neill had seen a woeful lack of preparation for the twenty-first-century threat of stateside terrorism, and he hadn't been shy about expressing his opinions. The people upstairs, meanwhile, didn't appreciate all the vocal criticisms of the Bureau specifically and the government in general, especially coming from one of their own.

In August 2001, O'Neill left the FBI (after losing some sensitive documents and equipment) and took a job as the World Trade Center's head of security. He died on September 11.

All of which isn't really Kearns' backstory so much as it is O'Neill's. But "Stuart Kearns's FBI career had likewise been derailed by his outspokenness and his association with O'Neill, but he'd stubbornly chosen to try to ride out the storm rather than quitting." I guess that's how Kearns ended up selling a fake nuke to a bunch of would-be terrorists in Nevada.

Kearns' career never much recovered from being O'Neill's protégé:

A bureaucracy never forgets and they'd kept pushing him further and further out toward the pasture until finally, for the last several years, he'd been banished so far undercover that he sometimes wondered if anyone even remembered he was still an agent at all.

I think, though, that the reason Kearns is being pushed out is because he's not a very good agent. For example: Bailey convinces him to pull over at the Pussycat Ranch so they can have a beer.

"You've got to be kidding me," Kearns said.

"We've had a rough night, Stuart, and I'd like to have a beer."

"I've got beer at home."

"A beer in a can in a house trailer with another dude and a beer in a Nevada brothel are two totally different things, and right now I need the second one."

I guess the Pussycat Ranch reference is more faction. It's not quite as tasteless as including John O'Neill as a character, but it is still pretty bad. Of course, Kearns opts to stay outside. "Fake or not, I'm not going to leave an atomic bomb unattended in the parking lot of a roadhouse."

Okay, now, you see where this is going, right? This is what I meant about Kearns not being the best agent the FBI has in that institution's employ.

Inside, he'd barely taken a seat at the bar and placed his order when one of the more fetching young ladies of the evening caught his eye and invited herself over.

"What can I do for you?" she asked.

"That's a loaded question in a place like this, isn't it?"

She frowned a bit and looked at him a little closer. "Do I know you, mister?"

The bartender had returned with his beer, taken his twenty, and left a ten-dollar bill in its place. Danny picked up his glass and his change and took the woman's hand.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"My name's Tiffany." Her eyes lit up suddenly. "You're that guy," she whispered, "on the Internet, in that video."

"I am indeed," Danny said. He leaned in a little closer. "And Tiffany, I need for you to do me a little favor."

Kearns stays with a fake, inert, prop outside, instead of keeping an eye on his wily, doesn't-play-by-the-rules stool pigeon. Whoops, no more promotions for you, Kearns! Seriously, that's pretty damn stupid.

Also stupid: "You're that guy, on the Internet, in that video."

And more stupid:

Outside at the bar the television had been showing the news, and in the crawl along the bottom he'd seen that over the weekend the national terrorism threat level had been raised to orange, the last step before the highest. Maybe that was related to this thing with Kearns, maybe not.

Just FYI, the threat level has been at orange (high) for air travel for more than four years. It's been at yellow (elevated) for everything else for more than five. There is a whole conversation to be had about the implications of a warning system that never moves, and the implication of constant and unending fear. Or maybe the lack of fear, the lack of vigilance when everyday normal is an elevated level of threat. Whatever. That is not the conversation Beck is interested in having.

As he composed the text message to Molly Ross he began to realize how little intelligence he actually had to pass along. He knew the code name of this operation he'd become involved in; he'd seen it on the paperwork they'd made him sign upon his release from jail. He knew when it was going down, and where. And he knew something was going wrong, and that the downward slide might be just beginning.

He checked the message one last time, and hit send.

molly -
spread the word --- stay away from las vegas monday
FBI sting op --> * exigent *
be safe
xoxo
db

Whew! Thank you Hooker With A Heart Of Gold for letting your favourite celebrity use your phone, and thank you Kearns for being such a shitty federal agent! Without your help Bailey wouldn't have got word to the patriots about Operation Exigent!

Now, what will Molly and Noah do? Oh, wait, Noah ain't doing shit, he's been kicked to the curb, proverbially speaking. You remember that old proverb about curbs and kicking and whatnot, right? Nevermind. Anyway, thing are really starting to thrill up around here. Are you excited?

Psychedelic Hell



Courtesy of Coffin Joe and This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Six

There's an old trick producers of b-movies would use when some element was too expensive to film: They'd just have someone from the cast, or maybe even a narrator, describe the events we never get to see. "The Alien invaders destroyed New York City! Trust me, I saw it with my own eyes." Nowadays a movie producer doesn't have to do that, because you can just have an intern Flash animate your alien invasion for free, and it doesn't even impact the budget. So, yay for technology! (Boo for crappy movies!)

All of which I bring up because for reasons wholly unrelated to b-movies. For reasons wholly defying explanation, the very same thing happens in chapter twenty-six.

The entire meet-up between the terrorists and Kearns and Bailey is described, after the fact, in a conversation between the two. Bailey asks a lot of leading questions and Kearns dutifully answers. Which is strange, because Bailey was there, so why does he need to be told what just happened?

"Why don't you tell me what's going on."

"First," Kearns said, "we still have their bomb, because they didn't have our money. It might be that they just couldn't get it together until tomorrow, like they said, or it might have been a test of some kind."

"A test of what?"

"Of us. Maybe they wanted to see if we'd leave the goods with them anyway, without the payment. If we are who we say we are they'd know we wouldn't stand for that. But if we were a couple of feds trying to set them up then we might, just so they'd be in possession of the evidence for a bust tomorrow."

It is, I suppose, an economical choice. Why spend an entire chapter describing the conversation between Kearns and the terrorists? You'd just need to flesh out characters, or at least give them names. And then the author would be forced to come up with some dialogue, and figure out a way to convey the tension and unease that permeated the meeting: The nervous looks, the awkward pauses, maybe an ominous rumble of thunder as if Mother Nature herself was eying the proceedings with cloudy angst.

Or, just go the Burt I. Gordon route and describe what happened "off-screen" in a half-assed conversational manner. Or let the "narrator" fill the audience in:

The plan, plainly agreed upon, had been to leave the dummy bomb with their five co-conspirators in exchange for twenty thousand dollars the men had agreed to pay to cover Kearns's expenses. Tomorrow the men would make the eight-hour drive to Las Vegas and pull up to the target address. Instead of achieving martyrdom they'd be met by a SWAT team and a dragnet of federal agents who'd be waiting there to arrest them. None of these guys seemed the type to allow themselves to be taken alive, so FEMA would be running a local terror drill at the same time. With the area evacuated for blocks around there'd be less chance of any innocent bystanders being caught in the anticipated cross fire.

This thing is making less and less sense as we go along, isn't it? Or maybe my brain is melting into corn syrup. Who knows.

The FBI's plan is to let the terrorists drive all the way into downtown Vegas and then apprehend them there, where crossfire is anticipated? Why not stop them somewhere in the desert in between Whereverthefuck, Nevada and Vegas? Did the FBI learn nothing from Waco? It sounds to me like Kearns and Co.'s plan is not well-thought out. And is Bailey a complete dumbass for falling for this?

And why are all five of the terrorists driving together. Why are the all willing to be vaporized together? Couldn't they have drawn straws? Shouldn't someone stay behind and, you know, contact media outlets and explain why they nuked Harry Reid's office? It sounds to me like the terrorists' plan is not well-thought out either.

So, as all this discussion and exposition is going on, Kearns and Bailey are speeding away from the meeting, not sure if they're about to be killed by their new friends:

"Can you handle a gun?" Kearns asked.

"I'm no expert, but yeah."

"If things go bad, there's a pistol in the glove box. The safety's off but there's a long twelve-pound pull on that first round. After the first shot the trigger's really light."

And there are more stupid questions:

"So what's next?" Danny asked. "Am I done? Can you cut me loose now?"

"Not yet. I told them to e-mail me when our friend Elmer gets back in town later tonight, and we'll have to arrange another meet-up tomorrow. Meanwhile I'll check in with my contact, and we'll have to play it by ear from there."

Again Kearns has to explain to Bailey what just happened. Maybe he had to wait out in the car or was in the bathroom or something when all this was discussed. They make it to the highway, and listen go some "golden oldies" and Bailey asks why Kearns is still doing undercover work. "Don't take this the wrong way, but shouldn't a man your age be retired by now?"

Kearns is vague.

"It's a long story."

"Well," Danny said, "it's a long drive."

I sure hope the author pulls another of his cheap tricks and skips this whole conversation too.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Take This Job and Shove It



Johnny Paycheck: "Take This Job and Shove It"

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Five

Contest time:

If you can guess what happens in chapter twenty-five, you might win one gently used gummi worm! Hey, who wouldn't want that? (You wouldn't want that, trust me.)

If you said "nothing happens" then you're a winner! But we're all winners here, aren't we? By reading this book, we've all had the opportunity to Grow and Learn, and that is something to be proud of. There is no second place in learning and there is no crying on Glenn Beck's TV show. Oh, wait, there is lots of crying on Glenn Beck's TV show. Nevermind.

Okay, so there are two plot points revealed this chapter, which, I guess makes them a slight bit more engaging than the previous three installments of The Kearns & Bailey Show. Maybe this story arc is starting to pay off.

To the plot point, the most important one, I am guessing:

Danny took a printout from his pocket, a transcript of the most recent chat room conversation, and matched up the four men with their screen names. The fifth, he was told, a guy named Elmer, had taken an unexpected trip to Kingman, Arizona, on a related matter and wouldn't return until well after midnight Monday morning.

Elmer is away. That is ominous, isn't it? Where do you suppose he is? I mean, aside from maybe Kingman. (Winona? Barstow? San Bernandino?) Wherever he is, I assure you it is not good.

No matter. "All of them agreed, though, that Elmer was a serious player and absolutely a man to be trusted." I think they had the same ideas about Kearns & Bailey too. No one in this bunch seems especially thoughtful. No one seems to have a name yet, either, aside from Ron, who has "been wise to those Zionist bankers and the good-for-nothing queen of England ever since [he] saw what they did to us on 9/11." (I guess that is supposed to be a joke.)

Nameless, faceless terrorists. At least they've not been saddled with the label "diverse."

Bailey explains the bruises on his face, the beating he took, and how it was the final straw, so to speak.

He'd been picked up by the cops after a patriot meeting in New York City, he told them, and then they'd beaten him within an inch of his life while he was in custody. Everyone has their breaking point, and this had been his. He knew then that there wasn't going to be any peaceful end to this conflict; the enemy had finally made that clear. So he'd called his old friend Stuart Kearns to come and bail him out so he could be a part of this plan.

Sure. Everyone who gets roughed up by the cops decides the best recourse is to nuke a major American city. That makes sense and is totally believable. By which I mean it isn't. Not even in the confines of this novel does that sound plausible. Maybe Beck is trying to demonstrate how far out there these terrorists are. Or perhaps, this is just shit writing.

Kearns shows the men the bomb.

As the men looked on with a mix of awe and anticipation, Kearns began to provide a guided tour of the device. The yield would be about on par with the Hiroshima bomb, he explained, though the pattern of destruction would be different with a ground-level explosion. The device was sophisticated but easy to use, employing an idiotproof suicide detonator tied to an off-the-shelf GPS unit mounted on top of the housing. With the bomb hidden in their vehicle and armed, all they'd have to do is drive to the target. No codes to remember, no James Bond BS, no Hollywoodesque countdown timers—just set it and forget it. The instant they reached any point within a hundred yards of the preset destination the detonator would fire, and the blast would level everything for a mile in all directions.

There is no "Hollywoodesque countdown timer" just a GPS trigger which does not qualify as Hollywoodesque either. Kearns arms the bomb, and "a line of tiny yellow bulbs illuminated, winking to green one by one as a soft whine from the charging electronics ascended up the scale." That is also not Hollywoodesque, in case you were wondering. Nothing Hollywoodesque to see here, move on!

Now, that second plot point I mentioned. The target: "the home-state office of the current U.S. Senate majority leader, the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard, Las Vegas, Nevada."

Oh. My. God. The target of the plot is Harry Reid (D-NV). What the fuck? How is this appropriate, even for fiction? Even for faction? I realize Reid is a public figure and all, but this seems beyond the pale. Maybe I am overreacting. I don't know. However, I do know that I do not like this book at all.

I understand nuking a city is acceptable for a thriller. I think Tom Clancy did it once, right? And I've read enough post-apocalyptic fiction to not get all squeamish about California sinking into the ocean or whatever. It happens. It's supposed to be scary, in a roller coaster sort of way.

But...

There is something frightening, and in a whole different way than the author intends, no doubt, about using a real, sitting U.S. Senator as the target for a fictional assassination in a book that is a thinly-, at best, veiled manifesto on the evils of the Left.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

For Some Reason This Happened



Gwyneth Paltrow & Vince Gill sing "Country Strong" at The CMAs.

[Via Michael K.]

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Four

You know what? I am getting plenty tired of chapters where fuck all happens. Here is the third Kearns and Bailey chapter in a row where absolutely nothing happens. Frankly, I am sick of padding these posts out. If Beck and Co. can't be arsed to put in the effort, why should I?

Here:

Kearns and Bailey are driving on a dark desert highway, cool wind in their hair. Kearns suggests Bailey stick his head out the window and look up. Bailey does and sees lots and lots of stars. Then they arrive at their meet-up.

End of chapter.

End of post.

Go to hell, Glenn Beck.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's Raining Men



The Weather Girls: "It's Raining Men"

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Three

Nothing much happens in this chapter aside from a phone call. That's not an exaggeration either. Chapter twenty-three clocks in at a whopping 435 words. Who the heck writes a chapter that is only four hundred words?

I wonder how much blank space is in this book. You think it's ten or fifteen percent of the total page count? Maybe more? It would be interesting to sit down and figure that out. Well, maybe not interesting, per se, but maybe it'd be a solid basis for a class-action lawsuit against Beck's publisher. What's the tipping point between a blank book and a novel anyway?

Kearns calls the terrorist cell using "a hacker gizmo called an orange box to fake the caller ID display" to make it appear he'd called from Bailey's cell phone. I guess it was too much a liability to just bring along Bailey's actual phone. And if he did, we wouldn't get to read about hacker gizmos.

By the end of the call "Stuart Kearns was heartily endorsed as a verified patriot who could absolutely deliver the goods." Whew.

The phone is passed around, since the entire terrorist cell I guess was sitting wherever together waiting to take the call. That's convenient. Everyone talks to their hero Bailey, who I think maybe is the Beckian figure in all this.

Something began to nag at [Bailey] after they'd hung up. The troubling thing was that, though each of those men had laid claim to being his biggest fan, and had seen every video he'd ever produced and read every word he'd ever posted online, they'd all apparently seen and heard and read things that Danny Bailey was pretty sure he'd never actually said.

Aww, the poor thing. He's had his words taken out of context. His violent, dangerous rhetoric has been taken to heart, maybe a bit too literally, by violent, dangerous men. Don't ya just hate when that happens? Whoops! The overthrow-the-government schtick ain't so charming when some douchebag has pinched a nuclear weapon and is actually prepared to detonate it.

Speaking of which...

The cousin of a man arrested for threatening Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in response to her healthcare vote is claiming the man was "under the spell" of Glenn Beck.

Charles Alan Wilson left a series of threatening messages on Murray's voicemail, saying:

"Just remember that as you are politicing for your reelection. It only takes one piece of lead.... Kill the fucking Senator! Kill the fucking Senator! I'll donate the lead.... Now that you've passed your health-care bill, let the violence begin. Let the violence begin."

"By your attempts to overtake this country with socialism, somebody's gonna get to you one way or another and blow your fucking brains out, and I hope it does happen. If I have the chance, I would do it."

"Kill the fucking Senator! Hang the fucking Senator! I hope somebody puts a fucking bullet between your fucking eyes. Far left liberal socialist democratic bitch. You mother-fucker. You sold the fucking people of the country out for socialism. I hope somebody fucking erasers your fucking life. Yes, I hope somebody assassinates you, you fucking bitch."

"We are going to fuck you up. We are going to fuck you up as bad as we can. Yes, the independents. The real people of this country, not you spineless fucking socialists. You better watch your fucking back, baby, because there's people gonna come after you with fucking both fucking barrels, bitch."

Wilson was arrested by federal agents in April.

Wilson's cousin, in a letter to the court, blamed Glenn Beck's "persuasive personality" as the driving force behind the threats:

What happened later with Charlie is something I think I can understand. He became basically housebound due to illness and his small world became even smaller. His brother got him a computer and he was able to stay connected with family. And he watched television and found Glenn Beck... I found Glenn Beck about the same time Charlie did. I understand how his fears were grown and fostered by Mr. Beck's persuasive personality. The same thing happened to me but I went in a different direction with what I was seeing. Rather than blame politicians for the current issues, I simply got prepared for what Glenn said was coming. I slowly filled our pantry as Glenn fed fear into me. I did not miss watching his show and could not understand why the rest of the world didn't get it -- Glenn became a pariah to me. But I was finally able to step away and realize the error of my ways. The media lost its grip on me. But it still held very tightly to Charlie.

While his actions were undeniably wrong and his choices were terrible, in part they were the actions of others played out by a very gullible Charlie. He was under the spell that Glenn Beck cast, aided by the turbulent times in our economy. I don't believe that Charlie even had the ability to actually carry out his threats.

Another of his family members states that Wilson "has had many surgeries in the past and has battled some major health issues." It seems, irony of ironies, that Wilson actually stood to benefit from healthcare reform, but had been so manipulated, so frightened, that Beck's lies and misinformation "scared him beyond comprehension."

Wilson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bizarre

This film certainly lives up to its name. Bizarre consists of seven vignettes detailing "the battle of the sexes." Men and women vie for power in the age-old struggle of sexual dominance. Or whetever. But that isn't really what makes this one so odd. It's the way these stories are tied together. You see, the whole affair is narrated by a mummy. Yes, a mummy. You know, the Boris-Karloff-wrapped-in-bandages-B-movie type.

I suppose it's more interesting to have a mummy host the proceedings than a stuffed shirt scholarly type, but I am not entirely sure this fellow is all that credible. His only qualification seems to be the fact he's very old and has seen quite a bit. Or so he claims. I'm not convinced he can see much through all that dusty linen.

The tales themselves aren't that strange, and most are told with a misogynistic bent, the women being portrayed as conniving seductresses. That is, when they're not shown as dumb and whorish. And there is the occasional detour off into Twilight Zone territory, as in the story where the female scientist gives birth to a mutant child as revenge upon her new husband. (At least, I think that's what she did.) But mostly the stories are rather straightforward, just delivered in the oddest manner possible.

Take, for example, the story of the female cat burglar who is discovered mid-heist by a horny house husband. She convinces him to forgo calling the police in exchange for a roll in the sack. But this episode is, quite inexplicably, intercut with shots of airplanes jetting through the dusky sky. And as if that isn't enough, all dialogue fades away only to be replaced with a radio program on gardening.

Of the vignettes my personal favorite is the tale of a photographer and her model. She's shooting a book on Medieval torture devices, and spends the day dangling her model from the rafters. Of course, things take a bad turn near lunchtime. The lad is left straddling a "Spanish Horse" while the photographer and her assistant dine across town. Here the women aren't so much conniving seductresses or dumb whores as they're misanthropic man-haters, taking any opportunity to knife the closest man in the crotch. Well, anything for art, I guess.

Which is, of course, the filmmaker's motto, no doubt. How else do you get a mummy to narrate your sexploitation film? It probably explains the Milton quote the film opens with. Or the scene with the topless women being pummeled with rotten vegetables. Or the immortal dialogue "Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy. Imagine you were making love to this girl. Imagine you were making love to this boy..."

Directed by Antony Balch • R • 1969 • 92 minutes • AKA 'Secrets of Sex'

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-Two

Kearns and Bailey, remember them? They're like Glenn Beck's own Odd Couple. "One's a narc, the other's a rat, they're Kearns and Bailey, Bailey and Kearns!" (Sing along!)

They're hanging out in Kearns' "double-wide" with "an ugly off-white cat, and a full-scale model of a small atomic bomb." (No singing!) The two are In Winnemucca, which is somewhere between Reno and Salt Lake City, prepping for their big sting operation.

"I don't want to come off like a puss, but is this bomb-looking thing, like, radioactive?"

"Nah, not too much." Kearns returned with their coffee and sat in a nearby chair. "The core's inert; it's just a big ball of lead. There's some depleted uranium under the lining, so it'll set off a Geiger counter in case anybody checks. Here, look." He flipped a switch on a boxy yellow gadget on the table and brought its wand closer to an open access panel at the fore end of the model. The meter on the instrument twitched and a rapid clicking from its speaker ramped up to a loud, raspy buzz as the tip of the wand touched an inner metal housing. "Sure sounds hot enough though, doesn't it?"

Oh, man, Bailey is such a puss! What a fag! Who's afraid of a little radiation? Radiation: You hear the most outrageous lies about it. Half-baked goggle-box do-gooders telling everybody it's bad for you. Pernicious nonsense. Everybody could stand a hundred chest X-rays a year. They ought to have them, too.

Ahem...

Where was I?

Oh yes, so Bailey asks how Kearns convinced his partners that he scored a real nuclear weapon. There is some faction (faction!) thrown our way as Kearns references this incident, except makes it more John Travolta/Christian Slater by saying "six nukes left the base, but only five showed up" on the other end.

"Now we both know that something like that can't just happen, not as an accident anyway. It's like the Secret Service accidentally putting the president into the wrong car and then nobody missing him until noon the next day. It's impossible; there are way too many safeguards in place. Unless, of course, it was an inside job."

Plot point! Plot fucking point! An inside job? The deuce you say! Anyway, blah blah blah, Kearns' story is that he, being the anti-government online superhero that he is, made some connections at the AFB and arranged to smuggle a nuke out before anyone knew it was missing.

Bailey asks more leading questions, delivers some clunky dialogue ("I haven't slept for twelve hours like that in twenty years"), and basically exists to give Kearns someone to exposit to.

"I would have thought you guys had all kinds of labs and engineers back at headquarters that would have built a model like this for an undercover operation. You know, so someone like you wouldn't have to bother with any of it yourself."

Plot point, part two, electric boogaloo!

"Yeah, they do, but these last few years I've gotten accustomed to working alone. The less contact you make when you're undercover, the safer it is. Hell, I've been out in the cold so long on this one, as far as I know only one guy inside even knows I'm still on the payroll."

Plot point III: Revenge of the Sith!

Woah! Are you getting all this? Because if you're not, I might be a little worried about your deductive capabilities, Miles Archer. Kearns' supposedly fake nuke is suspiciously real. Why? Because Kearns is so far undercover no one even knows he's still with the FBI! OMFGWTFHolyGuacamole! I am beginning to think Kearns ain't on the up and up. Danny Bailey, what have you gotten yourself into?

Is Kearns on the Doyle & Merchant payroll? Is the nuke active? Is Bailey a stooge? Yes! Yes to everything! Yes yes yes, and more yes!

At least that's my guess. What's your pet theory at this point?

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Crablouse



Lords of Acid: "The Crablouse"

Dead Ahead

Frank is a bankrobber with a plan. But, like most movie villains, his is not a very good plan. Frank (Peter Onorati) and his gang of generic bad guys are going to rob a tiny bank in a tiny town, drive two hours through twisting mountain highways, then meet up with an awaiting plane at a mountian-top airstrip.

Much like in real life, British Columbia poses as Oregon, and proves to be no friend to gun-toting thugs in SUVs. On the twisting mountain highway, Frank's driver crashes the getaway car, spilling the gang miles from their rendezvous point.

Meanwhile... The Loch family is enjoying a nice family outing. Okay, honestly, it isn't so nice. There is strife. Maura wants a career (in the big city) and continually argues about it with her husband (he eventually storms off), and their teenage daughter is just plain bratty (but she will Grow and Learn before things are through, be sure of that.) And the son? He has no characterization at all, despite being central to the plot.

The gangsters stumble upon the Loch's cabin, attempt to steal their car (that goes badly), then try to kill Maura (that goes badly), before finally settling on abducting her son to serve as a guide to the airstrip (that actually goes okay).

But Maura (Stephanie Zimbalist) doesn't take this lightly. Her maternal instincts kick in and she grabs her quiver and bow, a handful of scrunchies, and sets off after them. Her plan is to track the...

What? Scrunchies? Yes, I said scrunchies. You know, those little elastic things women put in their hair. Did you think that was a typo? No, really, the scrunchies are part of her plan. So, she sets off to...

Yes, seriously, scrunchies. I know, I know, but let me finish. Her plan is to track the thugs through the woods, leaving behind her a trail of scrunchies to mark the way for the authorities, while picking off the bad guys with her trusty bow. Her plan really isn't much better than Frank's getaway plan from the beginning of the film, but she's the film's heroine, so it works.

Directed by Stuart Cooper • PG-13 • 1996 • 92 minutes

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty-One

I think we all agreed that chapter fifteen was the creepiest, right? You remember the whole "don't tease the panther" incident, I hope. (And if you're fortunate enough to have scrubbed that from your brainpan, go here and re-read it.) I only bring this up because, somehow, Beck et al have produced a chapter even more unsettling. And there is no sex in it at all.

The taxi takes Molly and Noah to Molly's ... ummm ... safehouse? Hideout? Crash pad, like maybe the teabaggers are going to the matresses? "Come on up. See how the other half lives" is her invite. And the author spends the next page describing how run down and ramshackle the building is. I suppose this is to contrast with opulence of Noah's condo.

Inside, however, the place is quite nice:

Great effort had obviously been taken to transform this space into a sort of self-contained hideaway, far removed from the city outside. What had probably once been a huge, cold industrial floor had been renovated and brought alive with simple ingenuity and hard work.

Ah, yes, those ingenious and hardworking teabaggers. They made their living space nice. Not like Noah, who got his from Daddy. Noah is a schmuck for not living in a shitty apartment, obviously. He could learn a lot from these teabaggers.

"How many people live here?" Noah asked.

"I don't know, eight or ten, so don't be surprised if you see someone. They come and go; none of us lives here permanently. We have places like this all around the country so we can have somewhere safe to stay when we have to travel."

I don't know, but that sounds... well... vaguely communist, what with all the sharing of housing and whatnot. It also sounds, to be perfectly honest, a little like a criminal hideout. Or maybe a terrorist cell. Why the fuck are there "places like this all around the country"? Why do they need somewhere safe to stay? Is the Hyatt not an option?

Molly offers to fetch Noah some tea (of course!) while he settles in.

He walked about midway into the front room and found a slightly elevated platform enclosed in Japanese screens of thin dark wood and rice paper panels. There were a lot of bookshelves, a dresser, a rolltop desk, and a vanity. But the space was dominated by a large rope hammock, its webbing covered by a nest of comfy blankets and pillows, suspended waist-high between the red shutoff wheels of two heavy metal pipes that extended up from the floor through the ceiling. This room within a room was lit softly by small lamps and pastel paper lanterns. The total effect of the enclosure was that of a mellow, relaxing Zen paradise.

How ingenious and hardworking. And creepy:

A glance through the nearest bookcase revealed a strange assortment of reading material. Some old and modern classics were segregated on a shelf by themselves, but the collection consisted mostly of works that leaned toward the eccentric, maybe even the forbidden. There didn't seem to be a clear ideological thread to connect them; Alinsky's Rules for Radicals was right next to None Dare Call It Conspiracy. Down the way The Blue Book of the John Birch Society was sandwiched between Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, Orson Scott Card's Empire, and a translated copy of The Coming Insurrection. Below was an entire section devoted to a series of books from a specialty publisher, all by a single author named Ragnar Benson. Noah touched the weathered spines and read the titles of these, one by one:

The Modern Survival Retreat
Guerrilla Gunsmithing
Homemade Grenade Launchers: Constructing the Ultimate Hobby Weapon
Ragnar's Homemade Detonators
Survivalist's Medicine Chest
Live Off the Land in the City and Country
And a last worn hardcover, titled simply Mantrapping.

While there is no "clear ideological thread" that explains the commie lit jumbled up with works by professional homobigots, I think the list of survivalist manuals is more than telling.

"Those are some pretty good books she's got there, huh?"

It was only the tranquil atmosphere and a slight familiarity to the odd voice from close behind that kept him from jumping right out of his skin. He turned, and there was Molly’s large friend from the bar, nearly at eye level because of the elevated platform on which Noah was standing.

"Hollis," Noah said, stepping down to the main floor, "how is it that I never hear you coming?"

The big man gave him a warm guy-hug with an extra pat on the shoulder at the end. "I guess I tend to move about kinda quiet."

And certainly, Hollis, gentle giant that he is, likes Homemade Grenade Launchers. Hollis, though, seems to like guns. And bullets. And guy-hugs. Yay for guy-hugs! He shows Noah around the compound, taking him to his own room for a moment.

In the room that Hollis identified as his own there was a low army cot, several neatly organized project tables, and a large red cabinet on wheels, presumably full of tools. All these things were arranged as though bed rest wasn't even in the top ten of this man's nighttime priorities.

"What is all this stuff?" Noah asked. One table was covered with parts and test equipment for working on small electronics, another was a mass of disassembled communications equipment, and a third was devoted to cleaning supplies and the neatly disassembled pieces of a scary-looking black rifle and a handgun. More weapons were visible in an open gun safe to the side, but his focus had settled on the nearest of the workbenches. "Are you making bullets there?"

Yes, Hollis is spending his Saturday night just like any American patriot, making ammo. In his safehouse. With a complete stranger looking on. Okay, maybe Noah isn't a complete stranger. He did get Hollis out of jail and all that. Still, seems odd to me.

Noah asks why he's making ammo, instead of, you know, buying it at Walmart like most folk.

"Noah, do you like cookies? And which do you like better? Do you prefer those dry, dusty little nuggets you get in a box from one of them drive-through restaurants? Or would you rather have a nice, warm cookie fresh out of the oven, that your sweetheart cooked up just for you?"

So... homemade bullets are just like cookies from your sweetheart? Gak! WTF? This book is really starting to get to me. I just so cannot comprehend the sentiment here. It is so far beyond my reasoning.

Molly returns with tea, and shows Noah around the rest of the apartment.

At the end of this hall they came to a large room with a diverse group of men and women sitting around a long conference table. On a second look Noah saw that this furniture consisted of a mismatched set of folding chairs and four card tables butted end to end.

The people inside had been listening to a speaker at the head of the table but the room became quiet when they saw the newcomers.

"Everybody," Molly said, "this is Noah Gardner. And Noah, these are some of the regional leaders of the Founders' Keepers.

The regional leaders of the Founders Keepers are a diverse group. Just like the diversity at the Stars 'n Stripes pub. Just like the diversity in the real teabagging movement. What? They're diverse! It says so right there! Molly introduces the group, all using pseudonyms: Patrick, Ethan, George, Thomas, Benjamin, Samuel, John, Alexander, James, Nathaniel, another Benjamin, Francis, William, and Stephen. Oy.

One of the Founders Keepers leaders readers reads from a Thomas Jefferson text to the group. Noah is confused. I am unsettled.

"So what's the meaning of all this?" The book was clearly hand-bound and not mass-manufactured. It looked old but well cared for, and there was a number on the inside front cover, suggesting that this one and the others were part of a large series.

"It's one of the things the Founders' Keepers do," Molly said. "We remember."

"You remember speeches and letters and things?"

"We remember how the country was founded. You never know, we might have to do it again someday."

What? Now I am confused too. They need to remember how the country was founded in case they need to found it again? That doesn't make much sense, does it? I could see needed to know the Constitution, so you've a good base of law... but the how it happened? I'm not sure the how of it would translate, contextually. Unless slave-owning white dudes are somehow relevant in the post-NWO landscape. That seems a stretch.

"So you keep it in your heads? Why, in case all the history books get burned?"

"It's already happening, Noah, if you haven't noticed. Not burning, but changing. Ask an elementary school kid what they know about George Washington and it's more likely you'll hear the lies about him, like the cherry-tree story or that he had wooden dentures, than about anything that really made him the father of our country. Ask a kid in high school about Ronald Reagan and they'll probably tell you that he was a B-list-actor-turned-politician, or that he was the guy who happened to be in office when Gorbachev ended the Cold War. Ask a college kid about Social Security and they'll probably tell you that it was intended to provide guaranteed retirement income for all Americans. Ask a thirty-year-old about World War II and they'll recite what they remember from Saving Private Ryan. Do you see? No one really needs to rewrite history; they just have to make sure that no one remembers it."

Okay. So, Ronald Reagan wasn't a B-list-actor-turned-politician? I mean, I get that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme and should be outlawed, it's the one thing I really learned from reading this book. But what the hell is she talking about? I need me an elementary school history text, pronto. I'm getting lost here.

Molly throws out some Thomas Paine quotes and hands Noah his tea. Noah asks about Hollis' guns.

"That looked like a small arsenal Hollis had back there," Noah said. "Are all those guns legal?"

"Two of them are registered. The rest are just passing through. He's on his way to a gun show upstate."

"So the answer's no, they're not legal."

"Do you know what it took to make those two guns legal in this city?"

"I can imagine."

"It took over a year, and the guy who owns them had to get fingerprinted, interviewed, and charged about a thousand dollars to exercise a constitutional right."

Then, of course, there's a long bit about the Second Amendment. No need to tell you where Molly and Beck come down on that issue. Molly says "The militia was every citizen who was ready and able to protect their community, whatever the threat. It was as natural as having a lock on your front door." And no, I have no fucking idea what that even means. Militias are as natural as locked doors, maybe?

Noah asks about Molly's books:

"I was noticing some of the titles. That's quite a subversive library."

"People use some of those books to smear us, and some of them were written by our enemies. I read everything so I'll know what I'm up against, and how to talk about them. You don't see any harm in that, do you?"

"Who's this Ragnar Benson lunatic?"

She smiled. "He's not a lunatic. That's a pen name, by the way; hardly anyone knows who he really is. He writes about a lot of useful things, though."

"Like how to make a grenade launcher in your rumpus room?"

"That one was from his mercenary days. He's mellowed out some since then. Now he's more about independence, and readiness, and self-sufficiency, you know? The joys of living off the grid."

Ah yes, the joys of living off the grid. Whatever those joys are. It's not clear. Nor is it clear which books in her library are used to "smear" teabaggers, and which are written by their "enemies." But when Noah asks about Ragnar Benson, Molly confides two things.

First, Ragnar Benson is Hollis' uncle. (Faction!) Secondly, Ragnar has retired and Hollis now writes books under that name.

See? I told you this chapter was creepy. There really is a Ragnar Benson (a pseudonym) who writes books with titles like Guerrilla Gunsmithing, Breath Of The Dragon: Homebuilt Flamethrowers, Home-Built Claymore Mines: A Blueprint For Survival, The Most Dangerous Game: Advanced Mantrapping Techniques. These books are real. Scary as that may be.

And one of the characters, one we, the reader, are supposed to have some affection for, is now revealed to be that author. It's mind boggling. It's really unfathomable. I don't want the heroes of my books to be people who've authored Homemade C-4: A Recipe For Survival. The idea that someone else does is really unsettling.

Molly and Noah sink into the hammock, with Noah suggesting "What do you say we just stay here like this, for a really long time." Molly would love to, but she can't. Though, I am pretty sure Noah wasn't being literal. Molly encourages him to finish his tea, which he does in one long swallow.

Molly shows Noah her bracelet. It is inscribed with a Thomas Paine quote "We have it in our power to begin the world over again" on one face. On the other: "Faith Hope Charity."

"I guess I don't really understand," Noah said. "I mean, I understand those words, but that's not really a battle plan, is it? Do you know what you're up against?"

"Yes," Molly said. "But I doubt that our enemies do."

"So tell me."

She explains, sort of, what it all means. No, it doesn't really make sense. She tells how 'no taxation without representation' was coined by a preacher and how the French revolution failed because they don't believe in God in France. (Which totally goes against what I learned in The Da Vinci Code. Wasn't Amélie's grandpappy Jesus? She was French, right? No? Argh!)

"Our rights come from a higher power, Noah. Men can't grant them, and men can't take them away."

Okay. God doesn't like taxes? Or something. And we should definitely not render unto Caesar what is Caesar's? And all of our rights, like not having to quarter soldiers in our homes in time of peace, come from God? And no man can interfere with your right to own an assault rifle? Because God? Whut?

"And charity is simple. We believe that it's up to each of us to help one another get to that better tomorrow."

Unless the way to help your fellow man is by paying taxes to ensure a social safety net for the disadvantaged. Because that is bullshit, my friends. Remember when Mel Brooks quoted Jesus in Spaceballs?: "Fuck the poor!" Amen, sister!

If anyone can make sense of this, you're clearly smarter than I am. (And if you can't, well, it's probably safe to assume you're still smarter than I. At least you're not reading this claptrap voluntarily.)

Suddenly, Noah feels dizzy. He thinks, for a moment, that maybe he's drunk. Like in college. He tries to get up, but Molly tells him to be still.

As the cloudy room began to swim and fade he saw that three strangers were standing nearby, young men dressed in business suits and ties.

"It's time to go, Molly," one of them said, the voice far away and unreal.

Whoops! Looks like Molly slipped Noah a mickey.

Whut?

"You'll stay with him, Hollis, won't you?"

"I'll stay just as long as I can."

He felt her arms around him tight, her tears on his cheek, her lips near his ear as the blackness finally, fully descended. Almost gone, but the three simple words she'd whispered to him then would stay clear in his mind even after everything else had faded away into the dark.

"I'm so sorry."

Molly, our hero, has spiked Noah's drink. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it will become clear later. I doubt it. Nothing in this book has made any sort of sense, so I don't think this will either. Just another random plot point in a series or random plot points.

In good news, at least something happened in this chapter. Right? That sort of makes up for nothing much happening the last five or six. Though, we didn't really need fifteen pages to get there. She could have just drugged him at the start of the chapter. But I guess then we'd never have learned that Hollis is Ragnar Benson. And we'd have missed all that bullets as cookies stuff. Truthfully, I could have stood to miss that. Gun fetishism always gives me the creeps. But then, so does our hero poisoning her love interest.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Halloween Parade



The annual Halloween Lantern Parade at Patterson Park last Saturday.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Potter Plays Tag

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

National Aquarium

Remember

Wandering through Baltimore Sunday night, I happened upon The Baltimore Holocaust Memorial. It's stunning, and harrowing, and in the coldness of the Fall night air, it enveloped me, as each piece of the memorial revealed its significance.

At the front, facing Lombard street, is the sculpture I photographed below. I started reading the words cut into it, "Those who do not remember the past are destined to repeat it" nearly wrapping around the entire piece. I wasn't much looking at the top of the sculpture, focusing instead on the words. When my eyes finally went up, I froze, as the full horror of the work settled into my consciousness.



Not too far away is a quote, taking prominence over the square, from Primo Levi. And somewhere between that, and the sculpture, is a plaque with a short essay on the Holocaust.

It's unflinching, unforgiving, perhaps as it should be. Here is the text in its entirety:

THE HOLOCAUST

The German attempt to annihilate European Jewry between 1933 and 1945, took the lives of six million Jews. Although genocide was not unprecedented, the Holocaust was unique not just in its numerical magnitude. Never before had a state government attempted to annihilate an entire people who were not military enemies but a defenseless civilian population. Gypsies and German handicapped were marked for death as part of the holocaust. Nazi Germany tyrannized homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish nationalists and resistance fighters. Millions died as a result.

Elected by the German people in 1933, the Nazi party quickly instituted a totalitarian regime built on pseudo-scientific racial and anti-Semitic principals. The German people ardently supported the Nazi regime until the latter stages of World War II, when defeat was imminent. Hundreds of thousands of German citizens and nationals of other countries allied with the Germans were involved in the killing process either as guards at camps, members of mobile killing units, architects who designed gas chambers, engineers who built crematoria, railway personnel and bureaucrats who oversaw the distribution of the victims possessions’ including the gold in their teeth. Although many perpetrators claimed they had no choice, there is no record of anyone being punished for refusing to participate in the killings.

Though the Holocaust occurred as part of World Was II, it was in fact something distinct. Its objectives often directly impeded the military effort. Trains, materiel, soldiers and munitions needed for the war were used instead to deport Jews and kill death camp inmates. During the last twelve months of the war, when it was obvious that Germany was going down to defeat, the pace of killing continued and in certain cases increased in intensity.

Many countries and neutral international agencies were aware of what was being done to Jews and other victims. Few, if any, were willing to speak out in protest. To compound the horror, most countries closed their doors to those who tried to escape the Holocaust.

Deborah E. Lipstadt
Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies
Emory University

There is more information on the memorial here.

The Most Important News On Election Night


Most of last night, and continuing into today, Yahoo News' most emailed story is about the return of McDonald's pressed-meat-garbage nightmare sandwich, the McRib. I am glad we, as a culture, are paying attention to the important things going on around us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Radio Shakesville

New Podcast:

Halloweentown

Here is a link to the podcast blog where you can download the show.

You can also play the show in a pop-up.

Tracklisting:

Electric Hellfire Club: Halloween
Siouxsie & the Banshees: Halloween
Panic! At The Disco: This Is Halloween
Dead Elvi: The Creature Stole My Surfboard
Little Tibia and the Fibias: The Mummy
Frankie Stein and His Ghouls: Be Careful, It's My Throat
Dynamite Magazine presents Count Morbida's Chamber of Horrors
Phyllis Diller: You're Different
Oingo Boingo: Weird Science
Clear Static: Dead Man's Party
Kidz Bop: Monster Mash
Book of Love: Tubular Bells
David Byrne: A Walk In The Dark
Phantom Piano
Tones On Tail: Movement Of Fear
Dead Can Dance: Carnival Is Over
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: The Lights Are Going Out

The show is available via Feedburner.
The RSS is here, if you need it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

(Everyday Is) Halloween



Ministry: "(Everyday Is) Halloween"

The Overton Window: Chapter Twenty

Is it wrong that I feel relieved, that I feel thankful, that this chapter is only two pages long? "Once you've paid five dollars for a gallon of gas, three-fifty suddenly sounds like a real bargain." Yeah, and once you've read all twelve pages of chapter nineteen, the scant two in chapter twenty is like a Tuesday night rimjob.

The other nice thing is that we've made it more than half-way through the book, page number wise. This must be what Lewis and/or Clark felt like crossing the Continental Divide. It's all downhill from here. No doubt, in more ways than one.

This chapter is another cab ride. There's a lot of movement in this book. In taxis. In limos. On planes. Down halls. Up elevators. As if to suggest the story is going somewhere by virtue of the characters doing so. It's a cheap visual trick employed by filmmakers all the time. Unfortunately this is a book, not an episode of Criminal Minds.

The cab ride is nothing more than a short, silly conversation between Noah and Molly. Of course, there's the requisite proselytizing along the way. Noah suggests there was no clear indication when the NWO was going into effect, not in the Powerpoint. It's happening as they speak, according to Molly. How can she tell?

"The economy is crashing, Noah. There's no net underneath it this time. That's why they're rushing through all this stimulus nonsense, both parties. All the cockroaches are coming out of the woodwork to grab what they still can. It's a heist in broad daylight, and they don't care who sees it anymore. That's how I know.

"They've doubled the national debt since 2000, and now with these bailouts, all those trillions of dollars more—that's our future they just stole, right in front of our eyes. They didn't even pretend to use that money to pay for anything real, most of it went offshore. They didn't help any real people; they just paid themselves and covered their gambling debts on Wall Street." She looked at him. "You asked how I know it's happening now? Because the last official act of any government is to loot their own treasury."

Got all that? Good. I have just one question: When Molly says "that's our future they just stole," what exactly does she mean? The bailout and stimulus money was her/our future? How so? Okay, obviously she was being more philosophical. I just don't know what the philosophy is. It doesn't seem to mesh with the whole bootstrappy Libertarian viewpoint to say the government owed her some sort of future.

Noah offers to help Molly and her mom, no strings attached. He's rich. He'll be okay.

"You're wrong—you won't be okay. No one will. If they accomplish half of what we saw on those screens then money won't protect you. Nothing will."

Ummm... what? So if Darthur puts the New World Order into effect, Noah is hosed how exactly? Darthur won't protect his only son? What's he going to do? Put him to work making cogs in a cog factory in Cogtown? Huh? I don't even understand this book at all. I really don't. It soooo badly written, so poorly thought out, it doesn't hold up to even the smallest amount of scrutiny.

Especially literary scrutiny:

After a time her clasp on his hand tightened for a few seconds, but it didn't really feel like affection. It was more like the grip a person might take on the arm of the dentist's chair, or the gesture of unspoken things an old love might extend at the end of a long good-bye.

Huh? Oh, who cares...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Caligula

This is a jumbled, disjointed mess of a movie. It's a random collection of scenes interrupted by random sections of pornography. How Peter O'Toole and John Gielgud ended up in this I don't know. At least Helen Mirren and Malcolm McDowell can blame it on youthful naïveté, but the elder thespians should have known better.

When Bob Guccione calls you up, says he's making a movie and asks you to be in it, your instincts better be warning you. And if they're not, then your manager or agent should be.

Here is the story: Caligula becomes emperor, humps his sister, and then is murdered by his own soldiers. In between all this there is rape, sodomy, fisting, torture, murder, necrophilia, and tons of shitty dialogue. The sex is graphic, the sets elaborate, but the film is, ultimately, rather dull and completely incoherent.

It's one thing to be in a crappy porno flick, it's another thing altogether to be in a crappy porno flick with pretensions it's a grand piece of art.

The orgies, the fisting, the intrigue, it becomes all rather pointless without any proper context in which to frame it. Unfortunately the film is slapped together in such a way that it's difficult to know what is going on or why, though I suspect that all may be beside the point.

As a historical drama Caligula is a failure. One cannot watch this and expect to learn anything, let alone be entertained. As porn it fares even worse, lacking eroticism, instead wallowing in its depravity. What titillation there may have been suffers from being surrounded by all the violence and degeneracy.

Avoid this one like a go-go boy with crabs.

Directed by Tinto Brass & Bob Guccione • Unrated • 1979 • 156 minutes