Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nom nom nominations

List of people who'd make an ideal running mate for Donald Trump:
  • An ovarian tumor (who hates women even more than Trump does).
  • The guy who posted the comment on Fox News' web site calling Malia Obama the N word.
  • Ronald Reagan's brain being kept alive (or at least as alive as it ever was) inside a jar.
  • The Juggalos. All of them.
  • Caesar's noble horse Incitatus.
I wonder now if the Republicans will back off and let the current President fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court. Because now they're going to get an appointment either by Hillary Clinton (who will have even less incentive to play ball with them than Barack Obama has) or Trump. Whom might he name? Judge Judy? Jesse "The Body" Ventura?

The possibilities are endless.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Tonight we tart in hell!

Not sure what prompted me to actually look at the back of a Pop Tart box before tossing it into the recycle bin. But when I did, this is what I found:

The whole back of the box was decorated with odd tart-related images, of which this was the most bizarre.

Help me out here. Pop Tarts are being threatened with Toaster invasion, and the King of the Pop Tarts is deliberately killing the Toaster emissary? Who even gets this joke? Nobody under the age of ten was even born when 300 came out (and it was released with an R rating, so likely audience members skew even older).

Clearly Pop Tarts are being marketed to someone besides kids these days. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for other famous movie moments that could be tarted up a bit:
  • Your mother eats tarts in hell.
  • Say hello to my little tart!
  • Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatart.
  • I ate his liver with Pop Tarts and a nice Chianti.
  • I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my tart.
Or at the very least perhaps this could breathe new life into an immortal classic of the silver screen:

For what it's worth, the tag line at the top of the poster is pure coincidence.

Or is it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Some thoughts on Making a Murderer.

During the holiday break I watched the new Netflix series Making a Murderer. As apparently did a lot of other people.The series has sparked petition drives to obtain pardons for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey, two men convicted of murder in rural Wisconsin.

At least in Avery’s case, these petition efforts are misguided. The folks bugging Barack Obama about this should understand that the President doesn’t have authority to pardon state prisoners. The folks bugging Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker about it … well, I’m guessing that’s a non-starter. Walker strikes me as Wisconsin’s version of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. If the comparison is apt, there will be no mercy from that quarter (unless the Averys are secretly billionaires and have cleverly concealed it).

However, if Walker happened to be in the pardoning mood, he should issue one for Dassey. Unless something dramatic was omitted from the documentary, the guy was convicted almost solely by his own confession to law enforcement officers. Were I a juror in the case, I would have regarded the admissions dragged out of a mentally-impaired 16 year old as self-contradictory, coerced and worthless as evidence.

Avery is another matter altogether. Here’s what I think the evidence shows:

When he was 18, Avery burglarized a bar. He was convicted and spent 10 months in jail.

When he was 20, he poured gasoline on his family’s cat and threw it in a fire, burning it alive. He did prison time for animal cruelty. Early in the documentary he lies about the crime, claiming the cat’s death was accidental.

Three years later he was convicted of assaulting a female cousin with a shotgun. In the documentary he admits to the assault, though he claims the gun wasn’t loaded. Not that his cousin would have known that. Not that she wouldn’t have feared joining the family cat in the afterlife.

This evidence clearly establishes Avery as a violent man capable of complete indifference to the suffering of others and incapable of conforming his behavior to the requirements of the law. It also establishes his willingness to lie.

Though that might mitigate the amount of sympathy one ought to extend to him, it shouldn’t by itself be enough to convict him of other crimes.

Sadly, this principle was demonstrated when Avery spent 18 years behind bars for a rape he didn’t commit. Shoddy work by the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Department led to the conviction, which was overturned later when Avery was exonerated by DNA evidence. The tainted investigation was either the result of “round up the usual suspects” law enforcement or part of an ongoing family feud involving Avery and some members of the sheriff’s department.

On or around October 31, 2005, photographer Teresa Hallbach was murdered. She was employed by Auto Trader Magazine, and her last appointment of the day was a car photo assignment at the Avery family salvage yard. Steven Avery had an established pattern of specifically requesting Hallbach when he did business with Auto Trader. And Hallbach had asked not to be sent to the Avery property anymore, citing a previous incident in which he came to the door wearing nothing but a towel.

Nobody saw Hallbach alive after her appointment with Avery. Her bloodstained SUV was found parked on Avery’s property. Charred fragments of her bones were found in the ashes of a bonfire set by Avery on the evening of Hallbach’s disappearance.

For obvious reasons, Manitowoc deputies were supposed to be excluded from the murder investigation. But some participated in it nonetheless. Evidence strongly suggests that they planted the SUV’s key in Avery’s trailer and smeared Avery’s blood (obtained from an evidence file from a previous investigation) in the SUV itself.

Avery was clearly convicted based in part on tainted evidence. And that’s exactly why he shouldn’t receive a pardon. If he’s pardoned, he can’t be tried again for the crime. Both Avery and the people of Wisconsin deserve better than that.

Of course he isn’t entitled to a new trial. He had expensive, competent counsel during the first go-around (another benefit denied Dassey, who was tried separately). His lawyers challenged the validity of the evidence, so the jury had the opportunity to question it.

But in this particular case, a new trial would be a fascinating experience. Personally, I believe Avery would be convicted anew based on the non-tainted evidence from the investigation.

And if he happened to win acquittal, perhaps someone will make a ten hour long documentary about how broken the justice system is when it can’t keep a brutal killer like Avery behind bars.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

DOE warns of threat of Taylor Swift Star Wars match-up

WASHINGTON DC – In a rare Monday morning press conference, the US Department of Energy warned the nation against the potentially catastrophic consequences of a match-up between singer Taylor Swift and the Star Wars franchise. According to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, an appearance by Swift in a Star Wars movie would cause American popular culture to reach critical mass, an event that could destroy society as we know it.

Moniz said he called the press conference in reaction to an announcement that Swift was going to reveal "big news" on morning talk shows.

"Fortunately, it turned out to be a false alarm," he said. "She's just releasing a video on Apple Music or something like that. Further, consultants working with the Rand Corporation have assured us that advance screenings of The Force Awakens have revealed the movie to be completely Swift free.

"And that's a good thing. Because our computer simulations indicate that even a cameo role as Spaceport Bartender or Stormtrooper #7 would be enough to trigger a chain reaction."

The resulting Taylor Swift Star Wars Event would cause massive bursts of what scientists call Disney Radiation to explode out of television sets across the country.

Describing a TSSW Event as "the most horrible thing since the invention of the neutron bomb," Moniz said that clinical trials last year in theaters screening Frozen indicated that D-Rays directly targeted neurons in human brains, rendering them incapable of storing or conveying the electrical impulses that enable people to think.

"If a TSSW Event were to occur, cable subscribers would be the lucky ones," he said. "The initial blast would instantly turn their brains to Jello. Wall-penetrating D-Rays would also render anyone in the house permanently incapable of thought, whether or not they were watching TV at the time.

"Plug pullers will not be so fortunate. Anyone whose mind isn't wiped clean by the detonation itself is in for slow death caused by D-Ray-heavy fallout. Even people who are currently willing and able to read books will soon find their thought processes reduced to the level of TSSW rule 34 memes. Eventually they will become too stupid to feed themselves and will die of starvation."

During the question and answer session, a reporter reminded Moniz that viewers accustomed to stories about fuzzy kittens and celebrities doing charity work would expect at least some positive news.

"You want an up side?" the secretary testily replied. "The only up side I see is that maybe millions of years from now the archaeologists among the lizard people who inherit our planet will be able to use our example to prevent a match-up between Lizard Taylor Swift and Lizard Star Wars."

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In memory of Kronsteen

The subject of this evening's meditation is Kronsteen, one of the supporting villains in From Russia with Love (the second James Bond movie, released in 1963). He was played by Vladek Sheybal, a slight and creepy-looking actor who in real life was a member of the Polish resistance during World War Two.

In the movie, Kronsteen was a chess master who moonlighted as an operations planner for SPECTRE, the international agency of evil from the Bond series. He designs a scheme to steal a Soviet decoding machine and sell it to the highest bidder, tricking Bond into sneaking it out of Istanbul.

Needless to say, the operation fails. Through his usual blend of panache, skill and pure blind luck, Bond manages to defeat the incompetent minions of SPECTRE field operative Rosa Klebb (Lotte Lenya) and save the day.

Back at the evil overlord's lair, the evil overlord calls Kronsteen and Klebb to account for the failure. Having determined that Klebb caused the problem, overlord then has Kronsteen killed.

I first saw this movie when I was a kid, and that moment made me extremely angry. For starters, Kronsteen was a skinny, dark-haired, spooky-looking guy who was too smart for his own good, which naturally meant that I identified with him. But more than that, the guy did his job. His plan was perfect. Klebb fucked it up. Shouldn't she be the one to get the poison boot blade to the calf?

When I got older, I understood this a lot more. The failure was Kronsteen's for not producing a plan that would take Klebb's failure into account. It isn't enough to do your own job. You also have to be accountable for the failures of the people you have to work with. Your plan isn't perfect until it takes all possible breakdowns into account.

Plus at that point if you're going to salvage what you can from a busted operation you really need a field operative more than a strategy guy. Thus Klebb has to stay in the game. Possibly unfair, but logical and practical nonetheless.

I think more and more we're all facing our own personal Bonds and Klebbs, “challenges” who have the devil's own luck on their sides. There's no way to plan around them, nothing we can do that will put contingencies in place for all the world's possible fuck-ups. And as failure upon failure mounts up in our lives, it becomes such an overwhelming tide of dysfunction that it's almost enough to make one long for the sweet nepenthe of a swift poison boot blade to the calf.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's like a whole other country

Fade in to a picnic table in the middle of a grassy park. In the background children are playing on a seesaw. Satan is sitting at the table, his golf shirt and casual jeans spotless and immaculately pressed, his hair carefully sculpted to draw attention away from his horns without completely hiding them.

Satan: Hello. You might recognize me from your children’s album covers or perhaps my many successful business ventures and runs for public office. I’ve bought time during the show you’re watching to talk to you about a subject near and dear to my heart: Hell.

Cut to close-up.

Satan (continues): My home has gotten a bit of a bad rap over the years. (Sarcastic tone) It’s a land of evil and darkness, a pit of eternal torture, not an ideal tourist destination. The only time Hell comes up in conversation is when the drive-thru moron who forgot your french fries needs to be told where to go. (Sincere again) Well, I’d like you to start seeing Hell in a whole new light.

Cut to a montage of shots from popular movies and TV shows.

Satan (voice over): Upcoming Hollywood releases. The networks’ fall line-ups. Nearly everything on high band cable. Where do you think that kind of quality entertainment comes from?

Cut to a montage of clips from American Idol and music industry awards shows.

Satan (voice over continues): Where would popular music be without singers who hail from my neck of the woods?

Cut to a montage of shots of well-known talk radio personalities.

Satan (voice over continues): And if the Hell border should ever close, your airwaves will fall silent in a flash.

Cut back to close-up.

Satan: So the next time you’re about to mention my home town because you just hit your thumb with a hammer, stop and think about just how much Hell does for you.

Super: HELL. Nor am I out of it.