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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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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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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Romney’s Hipocrisy

When Mitt Romney was running for Governor of the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he said a number of things I just couldn’t bring myself to trust.

When he was Governor, he put a good deal of effort into placing blame for problems on anyone but himself and taking credit for things that he didn’t really do.

When he decided to run for President, he started telling people that he’d basically been lying about a number of things the whole time he was running for and serving as Governor. How else could he get the support of the Republican base after telling everyone he’d be better for gay rights then Ted Kennedy?

Do I think Romney’s a hypocrite? How could anyone not? Now we get this little tidbit of information from the Democratic party’s site.

Oh, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt. Whatever are we going to do with you?

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John McChrist

I used to have a decent amount of respect for John McCain. Back in 2000, he was a Republican I could have actually considered voting for. Of course, he was pushed out of the race by the kind of dirty tricks that would later be used against quite a few Democrats.

I lost a lot of respect for him when he strongly backed Bush in ’04. This was the guy whose people had used the religious right and ugly rumors to push him out of the way four years earlier. This time around, the Democratic nominee was one of his closest friends in the Senate. There was even talk of McCain as Kerry’s running mate. But McCain stuck with Bush, Bush’s war and Bush’s alliances, clearly hoping the party would view 2008 as McCain’s turn.

Since then he’s brown nosed the right, started talking nonsense in support of a nonsensical war, cozied up to the religious fanatics he’d previously attacked, and in general tried his damnest to be just like the jack-off who cheated him out of the nomination before. And now this.

Clearly, there’s a lot of editing in there, so maybe the context of what he’s saying here might allow one to see it in another light, but I kind of doubt it. Fuck him.

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The Dylan Virus

This is an absolutely terrific use of a film clip that’s already recognizable by a huge number of people, which serves to make it even more viral. Apparently, it’s been around for a few weeks, but I’ve only just found out about it from a post by Muhammed Saleem at Pronet Advertising.

It’s all to promote a new Dylan greatest hits album, because the world just can’t live without yet another Dylan greatest hits album, but who cares? Sometimes the promotion is better than the product being promoted. Remember Subservient Chicken? I thought that was great, but it sure as shit didn’t convince me to eat at Burger King.

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Bill Maher on Religion and Politics

Have you seen this yet? Skip to about 2:30 (around 3:55 on the countdown timer) for the relevant part.

Maher makes some great points, one of which I pointed out early this year when Mitt Romney responded to someone saying he’d never vote for a Mormon.

One of the great things about this great land is we have people of different faiths and different persuasions, and I’m convinced that the nation does need to have people of different faiths, but we need to have a person of faith lead the country.

Translation: you may not like my religion, but at least I’m not an atheist.

A few of Maher’s points don’t quite work for me, however. I don’t know where he got his data, but I don’t think nonbelievers (atheists and agnostics combined) make up 20% of the voting public in the US — or to be more precise, I don’t think enough nonbelievers would admit they are to bring our numbers up to 20%.

But the main problem is that, if as he points out 70% of Americans believe it’s important to have a president with strong religious beliefs, then you simply can’t compare nonbelievers (or “rationalists,” as he prefers to call us) to other minority groups. If a politician makes a point of telling the African American community that s/he’s on their side, that does not automatically equate to not being on the side of white people. You can support women without losing the male vote. There are enough straights who support gay rights that you can come out in favor of at least some semblance of equal rights for the GLBT community without losing the support of everyone else.

But about as close as you can come to supporting nonbelievers is one of those namby pamby statements about how the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of religion includes the freedom not to have one. You can’t say that there’s nothing wrong with the idea of an atheist president, although we’ve undoubtedly had some. If a candidate dared say they weren’t religious they’d be dead. It was only this year that a single member of the House, Pete Stark of California came out as a nontheist, and that’s after being in office for some 34 years.

Sorry Bill, but supporting us means losing support from the majority. That’s just the way it is.

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My old bud Blue Gal, for some unknown reason, posted this video on her blog today:

In the summer of 1979, I had a job at “Pizza Pub #1,” right by the train station in Roslyn, NY. We had one very very regular customer who’d come in every day without fail. He’d order two slices and a coke, and put two songs — the same two songs every time — on the jukebox: I Will Survive and Roundabout.

After all those plays almost 30 years ago, plus all the times my older sister played the song (she used to go see Yes in the round at Madison Square Garden every year), plus having it slowed down for me here… I STILL CAN’T UNDERSTAND THE DAMNED LYRICS!

Call it morning driving supersonic in and out the bonnet?

Mamas come out of the sky and stand there?

Tent your summers we’ll be there and laughing too?


One other thing: if you watch the video, take note of how bored Rick Wakeman looks. He’s got one word going through his head, over and over: faster!

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Supermarket 2.0

It’s shopping the ultra-modern way: Tags! UGC! Wish lists! Feeds! Wiki!

Hat tip to Brand Infection.

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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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