An Open Letter to Nicolas Cage

Dear Nic,

Nicolas CageI recently caught your performance in Ghost Rider. Actually, I think I may have dozed off for fifteen or twenty minutes, shortly after the goth kid is interviewed on the eye of hell after you save her from the mugger, but I definitely got the gist of the film. Kind of cute casting Peter Fonda as a motorcycle Satan, by the way.

Anyway, here’s what I wanted to let you know:

You’ve convinced us. You’re Elvis reincarnated. Never mind that you were about thirteen years old when he died. We’ll just say that his spirit went from that toilet at Graceland straight into little Nic Coppola.

I understand now that you married Lisa Marie just to protect your little girl. I totally get why you’ve chosen the roles you’ve chosen. You’re the King. I believe you.

I guess that means you can stop now. You’ve got nothing more to prove.

No more swaggering across the screen. Enough with that lip curl. You can proudly wear your black belt and chow down on those banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Nobody’s going to question your authenticity.

Feel free to send me a scarf soaked in your sweat if you like. TCB, baby. Thank you very much.

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So Good You Can’t Even Tell

Warner Bros logoI finally got around to watching The Dark Knight on DVD last night. Fairly impressive, but I’m not here to write about the film itself.

I was struck by a promotional video that ran before the feature, right after the god-awful reworking of Casablanca into a warning not to pirate movies (Shame on you, Ilsa).

The promo featured big, impressive, immersive shots from some big Warner Bros. movies, including A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Goodfellas, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Batman Begins. For the most part, these were shots intended to make the audience go “oooh,” like Neo stopping a barrage of bullets (ooh), or the Houses of Parliament exploding (ooh).

The voice-over that went with these big visuals went as follows:

Something has come along that changes our movies.

It changes the way you see them, hear them, feel them.

It changes the experience.

It opens our eyes to something new.

We invite you to dig deeper, to find things that you’ve never experienced before.

This is the difference between watching our movies and living them.

Experience our movies on Blu-ray.

This is how our movies are meant to be… lived

Blu-ray logoOK. It was a promo for the glory, the splendor and the majesty that is Blu-ray. Fine. But it raised a few questions for me.

As I’ve already mentioned, these were big, impressive images. I was watching on a standard DVD, on an eye of hell that’s neither HD, plasma, giant, or even flat, with the sound running through a stereo that’s about 30 years old — well, the speakers are only about 10, but there are only two of them. And I got the message that I was supposed to be impressed by these images.

So if I’m impressed, how are they supposed to sell me on ditching all of my equipment and getting a Blu-ray setup? Obviously, they can’t show me how a Blu-ray image is better than what I’ve got if they’re showing it to me via what I’ve got. Maybe they should have lowered the quality of the images they showed me, like I was watching on a pitiful portable picnic player, as little Alex might point out. Then they could have told me that if I wanted to experience the true gorgeousness and gorgeosity of the pictures and properly hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones, I’d best upgrade.

Or I suppose they might have added a few lines to the voice-over (I think it might have been Kiefer Sutherland, using his “this is America” Bank of America voice rather than his “tell me now or you’re dead” 24 voice, by the way), like

Do these scenes look good to you? Then you’re an idiot. This stuff is pure crap. You can’t see how good these scenes really are, because your hardware is shit.

There needs to be some comparison if I’m to be convinced that what I don’t have is better than what I have. Remember the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati? The first few bars were engineered to sound like AM radio, and then it opened up to something fuller, so even though you were listening to the whole thing through a tiny, tinny monaural speaker, you could hear the difference. You got the message that AM radio sounds like KRaP.

And there’s that last line in the promo: This is how our movies are meant to be… lived.

Is it really? Have they forgotten about movie theatres, many of which still have bigger screens and better sound systems than the average living room? Are they suggesting that this is what the filmmakers had in mind?

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Buzz Words

NosferatuI remember a day more than twenty years ago, back when I was a teaching assistant in a course on European cinema at a huge state university deep in the land of white bread and mayonnaise. The professor was lecturing on FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens.

I’m just paraphrasing here, but this is basically what he said:

Don’t think of the vampire as a literal monster who can turn into a bat and who sucks blood from his victims. Instead, think of the foreigner, the other, the stranger, the alien, the carrier of unfamiliar diseases and strange customs… the Jew.

I watched him make this statement, and saw that he was making an effort to look out over the entire lecture hall, but that as hard as he tried, by the time he got to the end of it, his eyes were focused right… on… me. All I could do was smile right back at him, and that was enough to jar him into averting his gaze.

I was reminded of that incident while watching the Republican convention last night. The major speakers didn’t bother with even a sliver of subtlety. They polished up their old culture war buzz words and held them up like they were eternal truths.

Mitt Romney jumped all over the “eastern elites,” and proclaimed that the sun was getting ready to rise in the west. He left out the fact that he holds two post-graduate degrees from Harvard University, that he’s a leader of the eastern financial elite, that he has homes in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in addition to Utah (and maybe a few places I’m not aware of), that he claimed in 1982 to be a moderate who hadn’t supported Reagan-Bush, and that his own father was born in Mexico because his family had lived there in exile for a few generations due to the fact that a major tenet of their religious beliefs was deemed alien, immoral, and illegal in the US.

Mike Huckabee warned us of “European ideas,” leaving out the fact that this nation was founded by idealists who hoped to build a nation based on the ideas of a couple of European philosophers.

And Rudy Giuliani, life-long New Yorker, adulterer and three-time groom, multi-millionaire orator and security consultant to folks like Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, a supporter of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, further warned us that those bi-coastal elites — Hollywood and the East coast media — just don’t understand the real America.

And every time they mentioned the media, Europe, or Hollywood, I’d look in their faces and see that professor (who grew up in Los Angeles, by the way) who just couldn’t keep his eyes off the one Jew in the room when he talked about the Other.

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Murray Poppins

Hey, Kidz

If the jolly bowler-wearing, enormous-red-umbrella-carrying old man from Travelers should happen to come around when you’re in need…


We don’t know for certain who this man is, but he is not the magical new nanny who will turn your life into a singing, dancing fantasy with cartoon animals. I know, the English can be very entertaining, with their comical teeth and outrageous accents, but I don’t think they’ve gotten over the loss of their empire. They’re not to be trusted.

Umbrellas don’t fly. It’s as simple as that, little ones. If you and your little friend sit down in his handle with him between the two of you, insisting he hold you tightly so that you don’t fall, and it really does feel to you like you’ve been swept up into the sky, just promise me you’ll tell your parents about it as soon as possible. You may have been drugged.

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Know Your Audience

I was doing some research last week, looking for niche directories in the medical/health vertical, and there are quite a few out there. Some of them are quite general, others deal with specific parts of the field, such as various medical specialties, exercise and fitness, alternative health care, men’s health, and women’s health. One site in the latter category is the aptly named Women Health Links.

Based on its content, it looks to be a serious, authoritative site. I didn’t see any trashy or off-topic listings. The directory doesn’t have a ton of backlinks, but they all seem to be on topic. It’s been online for a couple of years, and it looks like it’s updated on a monthly basis.

It’s pretty clear why the site exists: to provide access to trusted sites that provide information on women’s health — sites on reproductive health, sexuality, menopause, pregnancy, abortion, infertility, etc. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that women make up the majority of the directory’s users.

And that makes me wonder why the advertising the directory displays is the sort you see below, in the lower-left of the image.

page from

Oooh. Hotties. Babes galore. Just what every red blooded male breeder wants.

Anna Nicole Smith in an advertisementHere’s another ad from the site:

But how many red blooded male breeders are checking out this site? Yes, I was there, but I was on the clock, so I didn’t click any of the adverts. Had I been on my own time… yowzah! (Well, maybe not.) Could I have been wrong in assuming that the directory’s audience was mostly female? No, I don’t think so. I certainly don’t think that anyone hoping to find porn is going to go to a directory about women’s health.

Maybe these ads are for porn sites for women… No, only if those women are looking for pictures and videos of women. And this doesn’t look like porn that’s being marketed to lesbians. I’ve been shown such things by real, live lesbians, and this ain’t it.

So what’s going on with these ads? They’re being served by a company called CPX Interactive. So, what do they have to say about themselves?

CPX is a different kind of ad network, focused on leveraging the underlying truths of the Internet to unlock unprecedented efficiency in the buying and selling of online display advertising. Advertisers leverage the network to receive optimized global reach at dynamically efficient pricing, while Publishers realize the benefit of 100% inventory fill technology.

The underlying truths of the Internet, such as “everyone loves boobies,” I suppose. And how do they do it?

Campaigns are continually optimized across our entire network, shifting placements, on-the-fly, toward sites where the offer is converting most cost effectively and away from those that are not.

How it works:

  1. Specific campaign goals and targeted audiences are honed.
  2. Maximum CPM necessary to deliver on goals is identified, based on historical data.
  3. Campaign is trafficked with a RON strategy developed to reach targeted audience, maintain maximum designated CPM and efficiently deliver ROI goals.
  4. Placements and CPMs are continuously monitored across network and optimized, in real-time, based on client’s specific goals and strategies.
  5. Conversion efficiency is continually “ratcheted down” as system “learns” perfect network mix for specific campaign.

So apparently the system has “learned” that straight porn delivers the best ROI for this site.

Drill-Down Targeting

Unlimited dynamically-created demographic channels.

More than 20 pre-defined psychographic interest channels (with more than 200 subchannel categories):

  • Arts & Humanities
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Entertainment
  • Automotive
  • Hobbies & Interest
  • Family, Home, & Health
  • Business / Finance
  • Lifestyle
  • Shopping & Retail
  • Career & Education
  • News & Reference
  • Sports
  • Dating & Social Networking
  • Science, Tech, & Web
  • Travel & Leisure

So which of those categories would include Your Tit Parade? Maybe a better question would be whether any of them doesn’t include it.

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Give It To Me Straight

Remember this?

At about 2:05 into the video, Cronkite says,

From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 PM Central Standard Time — 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.

“President Kennedy died”

I bring this up because I got up this morning, fed the cats, made myself some coffee, booted up the old ‘puter and switched on the eye of hell to see if there was anything in the news. That’s when I heard Heidi Collins, her hair done all wrong today (hey CNN hair people — it doesn’t help to make her head look like a rectangular prism) announce that “Henry Hyde has passed.”

“Henry Hyde has passed”

The moment I heard that, I remembered Cronkite from 44 years ago. Actually, as I remembered it, Cronkite had simply said, “President Kennedy is dead.” (N.B.: I was four months old when Kennedy was assassinated. Obviously, I didn’t remember it from seeing it live. In fact, my mother tells me that when the news of Kennedy’s death was announced, I was in front of our apartment building in Brooklyn, playing on a patch of grass.) But my point remains the same: he gave it to us straight.

Whether that particular phrase was in Collins’ script or she said it of her own accord, it just makes me wonder why journalists on the eye of hell have decided it’s better to feed us euphemisms. Is it their place to soften the blow when they bring us bad news? Not only does “passed” sound softer than “died,” to my ultra-sensitive atheist ears, it’s tied in with passed on to something else — that is, it’s tantamount to Collins announcing, “Henry Hyde is in Heaven, sitting at the right hand of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ.”

Hyperbole? Well, duh. I’d like to think that an anchor on any channel other than CBN would be fired if they took things that far. But the point stands. It’s the news. Give me facts, and don’t dilute them with the kind of language you use around children to keep from upsetting them.

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The Small Print

CIALIS is indicated for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

cialis-logo.pngCIALIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE. Tell your doctor about your medical conditions and all medications, and ask if you’re healthy enough for sexual activity. Don’t take CIALIS if you take nitrates, often prescribed for chest pain, as this may cause a sudden, unsafe drop in blood pressure. Don’t drink alcohol in excess (to a level of intoxication) with CIALIS, as this may increase your chances of getting dizzy or lowering your blood pressure. CIALIS does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

The most common side effects with CIALIS were headache and upset stomach. Backache and muscle ache were also reported, sometimes with delayed onset. Most men weren’t bothered by the side effects enough to stop taking CIALIS. As with any ED tablet, in the rare event of priapism (an erection lasting more than 4 hours), seek immediate medical help to avoid long-term injury. In rare instances, men taking prescription ED tablets (including CIALIS) reported a sudden decrease or loss of vision. It’s not possible to determine if these events are related directly to the ED tablets or to other factors. If you have a sudden decrease or loss of vision, stop taking any ED tablet and call your doctor right away.

Individual results may vary. In clinical trials, CIALIS was shown to improve, up to 36 hours after dosing, the ability of men with ED to have a single successful intercourse attempt. CIALIS has not been studied for multiple sexual attempts per dose.

When taking CIALIS, under no circumstances should you attempt to have sex before taking a walk through the wilderness and locating the tandem outdoor bathtubs.

couple in outdoor bathtubs

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The Casual Sex Vote

I was reading an article about Barack Obama on Yahoo News earlier today, and I noticed an image link containing the text, “Courting the Gay Vote.” I clicked through, and it was a slide show with sound of a group of people at a bar in West Hollywood watching and commenting on the / “debate” I wrote about earlier this week.

Yahoo News: Courting the Gay VoteThere were probably about a dozen images in the slide show, mostly of the crowd, serious-looking individuals, and happy couples. One image stood out as an exception however, and it just happens to be the image that was chosen for that link I clicked to get there. That’s it to the right.

Do you think that picture says “we’re serious about the upcoming election”? I don’t think so. These two may be an established couple. They may be married. But what that image says to me is something to the effect of “Don’t tell me your name. Just tell me you’re not a top.”

It’s like introducing a report about the annual NAACP convention with a picture of tap dancers eating watermelon. Yahoo.

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Rachel Maddow is Wrong. Imagine That.

Rachel MaddowI think Rachel Maddow is just great. She’s wicked smart, funny, fearless, decidedly lefty and kind of cute. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m not exactly her type. I didn’t mean it that way.

I don’t listen to her radio show, but it’s nothing personal. I just despise talk radio. I find it about as interesting as a weather report. But when she comes on the eye of hell, I just love watching her run rings around anyone who dares disagree with her.

Today, however, I find myself in the odd position of disagreeing with Maddow. Luckily, she’s not here to slap me down, so I’ll just go ahead and give my own opinion. So there.

I found the video below at Crooks and Liars.

Now, come on, Rachel. You’re not being fair. First of all, there’s nothing wrong with naming the group “Human Rights Campaign.” Just look at the title tag of their home page and you’ll see that they’re not ashamed of who they represent:

Human Rights Campaign – Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equal Rights

It’s long enough that if you look it up at Google, it gets cut off right before “Transgender”. So what were their options when they were thinking about naming the organization? Gay Rights Campaign? Would Rachel have been ok with that, or would she prefer Gay and Lesbian Rights Campaign? Or maybe even Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Campaign? That’s a hefty name. And what happens when those terms go out of style? Are they going to be stuck with an anachronistic name, like the NAACP? Do you think the members of that esteemed group refer to each other as “colored”?

Besides, the Human Rights Campaign is, in fact, a human rights campaign. So what if they happen to specialize in campaigning for the rights of a particular subset of all humans?

Maddow suggests that if someone happened to stumble across this debate (which was more like a series of interviews than a debate) sponsored by a group called “Human Rights Campaign” they would have no idea it had anything to do with gay people. But it was on Logo, the GLBT channel. I think that might clue people in, don’t you?

OK, I don’t have an argument with her about Melissa Etheridge, except that she is a very outspoken member of the community, and I don’t think Ellen Degeneris would have kept things on a serious level. But Margaret Carlson? First of all, it’s not fair to call her Fred Thompson’s ex. As far as I know, that was just a rumor. And who cares who she dates? She’s worked for the New Republic, Time, and she now writes for Bloomberg and the Huffington Post. I agree it would have been great if Maddow had moderated (Maddowrated?), but nobody can deny that she has a particular agenda, and that would have seriously changed the nature of the discussion, from GLBT issues to serious liberalism with a dash of GLBT issues, and I guess that’s not what they were looking for. They didn’t have Andrew Sullivan either, although I suppose the two of them might have achieved something akin to a balance between them.

Anyway. Rachel, if you’re out there (I know what a big fan of me you are), cut these folks some slack. They’re breaking new ground — maybe not in precisely the way you’d like them to, but it’s a good thing.

Oh, and by the way — I only saw the clips that were shown on other stations. My cable system requires me to spend a king’s ransom to get Logo, and as I’m both a breeder and a cheapskate, that ain’t gonna happen.

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Did Olbermann Chicken Out?

I was watching Countdown on Friday night (I usually catch the midnight replay) and of course, it being the night of the official premiere of the Simpsons Movie, they had a story about the global hype surrounding the film. After Monica Novotny was done talking about how the CN Tower “now has a sprinkilicious view,” our boy Keith, hero of lefty bloggers all over the interweb tubies, he who fears no Bushy, came back to say (from the official transcript):

And, of course, Monica meant squishies, not slushies. The woman behind Bart Simpson will be joining us live here on Monday. Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, dude, on COUNTDOWN at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific. Be there, aloha.

Bart Simpson as Tom CruiseI was so excited! No, not because I was going to learn all kinds of fun stuff about the show or the movie. I was excited because Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, is a Scientologist. We know how Olbermann feels about Scientology. There was no way he was going to interview Nancy Cartwright without one of them bringing up the Church — either he’d bravely take the interview off its planned course of plugging the movie and insist she tell the truth about Prince Xenu, or she’d at the very least demonstrate her disdain for the things he’s had to say about Tom Cruise. In either case, this was going to be good.

So I tuned in tonight at 8:00. I didn’t want to risk something big and ugly going down and having it deleted from the version I would have seen at midnight. No, I didn’t want to miss a thing.

And what did I get? An interview with Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson. What? It was supposed to be Bart, not Lisa. You said so, Keith!

What a disappointment. The interview was fine — perfectly infotaining. But it was not what I’d been waiting all weekend for. No fireworks. No name calling. Poo.

I want to know who blinked, and under what circumstances. Did the brave Sir Keith turn coward on us, afraid of things getting less than fun in his final segment of the night, when he normally gives us his powder-puff soft celebrity news? Did Cartwright refuse to speak with the heretic? Did MSNBC wise up to what was likely to take place and decide to play it safe? Somebody clue me in.

Update: I just noticed, in the repeat broadcast of the interview (hey, there’s nothing else on, ok?) that Keith makes a point early on about how the entire cast seems to enjoy working together, and he reels off a list of names: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Harry Shearer… but not Nancy Cartwright! Freudian slip, or spiteful omission?

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