Thursday, March 30, 2006

American Sheeple...

I can't believe how easily distracted Americans are. I live here and work here and realize that Americans are inherently lazy and generally stupid, but even I am stunned by how easily manipulated the American public has become. For nearly six years our country has been struggling to recover from terrorist attacks. Regardless of which political camp you come from, the fact is clear that America is in trouble.

The president is suffering from a staggering lack of public support. The war in Iraq has not gone as planned and the reasons for invading Iraq have become increasingly unclear. Fuel prices are high, wages are down and national debt is spiraling out of control. Republicans running for office in November have distanced themselves from the Bush administration and many self-described conservatives have taken the very public position of declaring Bush a liberal Strong words in today's political arena, where a politician would rather be called a child molester, drug addict or even a conspirator. Anything but the "L" word.

So it would stand to reason that this November's election would revolve around fiscal responsibility, a definitive exit strategy for Iraq and a new foreign policy that would restore our country to its former position of benevolent global constable instead of maintaining our current status as self-righteous international bully.

That's not the case. This November the touchstone issue will be immigration. Somehow this issue, which has been smoldering on the back burner of partisan politics for decades, has suddenly become a hot button topic. It covers all of the meaningful bases: Jobs, budget, and national security; while it relegates both parties to their core constituencies.

In the border states, Republicans will play to hard-working white Americans who are besieged with brown-skinned people speaking a foreign language. Democrats will reach out to the immigrants and promise to work hard to make the pursuit of the American Dream a little easier. In short, both parties will play the race card.

In the working class states the Democrats will go on the offensive against the guest worker provisions in the bill rallying unions and blue collar workers to the cause of protecting American jobs and benefits. The Republicans will cater to the business owners and champion their cause of securing low cost labor that will allow businesses to remain profitably competitive. In other words it's all about the money.

Some mavericks will surely dig into the meatier issues such as the war on terror, the national debt and the heavy handed national security measures employed by the Bush administration, but they will largely be ignored by the rest of the partisan hopefuls looking for a good clean fight over a topic that both parties will happily ignore once elected. Nobody wants to make this election about something that can come back to haunt them in two years. Immigration is that shiny new toy that the kids fight over for a few hours before realizing that the box it came in is a little more interesting. By the end of November, immigration will be forgotten and everybody will go back to sparring over partisan politics while they feel out the platform for the next big election.

Isn't it ironic that in an era where this country is so bitterly divided over such critical issues, the ruling parties can find common ground and work together to continue to deceive the people? America truly is a great place.

For politicians.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dr. Coulter, venom woman.

My name is Steve Croyle and I'm a liberal.

I never expected it to go this far, but I look in the mirror and I just don't recognize the guy in looking back at me. I guess it started in high school. I befriended a couple of black guys. It wasn't like I was hooked or anything. We only hung out on the weekends and before I knew it I was listening to Public Enemy on headphones in my room, but that's as bad as it got. I mean, I think I might have had a gay friend, but we never did anything together and he didn't tell me he was gay. It's just looking back I think it was obvious. Excuse me, but pegged jeans are so 1985.

Sure, I hugged my share of trees every now and then, but what self-respecting kid doesn't? It's not like I was eating granola! Although I did enjoy the occasional bowl of Grape Nuts. I had a Nature Valley bar once, but I don't think people should be held accountable for youthful indiscretions. Besides, I didn't really like it.

College is where things got out of hand. I got caught up in the "issues". First it was the environment, then it was affirmative action and I even formed an opinion on abortion. That being that I wasn't ready to have a kid or abstain. It was college, girls were putting out and I was 18. Most guys are pro-choice until they get married and then they are only pro-life if their wives get pregnant. Mistresses should always be allowed to choose not to have a child.

Still, it wasn't that bad. Yes, I openly associated with admitted homosexuals and several blacks who were taking full advantage of affirmative action by accepting minority scholarship money, but I still hadn't strayed too far. Everybody experiments, right?

Then I changed my major and took journalism classes. That's where I think things spiraled out of control. We used to close the door to the mass media center and mainline the first amendment until we were giddy. The professors supplied all of the copies of the Constitution we needed and seemed delighted when we got all hopped up on ideals. They pushed their free expression dope on us and we were their junkies. They encouraged us to think for ourselves and question everything, even the government. Even Operation Desert Storm!

I got hooked on liberty and questioned authority at every turn. I didn't want to play the game by somebody else's rules. I was a squeaky wheel, a whistle blower, a square peg. I couldn't even see the writing on the wall when I was fired for challenging an employer's discriminatory HR practices. I was blinded by my own bleeding heart. Letters and essays piled up. I raged against machines I was powerless to stop. I bought organic vegetables. I donated money to and I even considered joining the Green Party. I actually voted for Ralph Nader. Twice! Still, I couldn't see the evil of my ways.

It wasn't until I finally decided to focus on a book that I saw myself for what I was: An America-hating pinko communist. It was the rational writing style of sage columnists such as Ann Coulter and political commentator Bill O'Reilly who enlightened me to the error of my ways. Now I realize the terrible damage I have done to myself, my family and my country by embracing such heinous concepts as civil rights, environmental protection, social services and mutual cultural respect. How sick!

Liberals are destroying America with their sinister compassion and diabolical sensitivity. Issues like women's rights and racial equality have turned this country into a septic pit of moral corruption and hopeless depravity. Tax codes that require the wealthiest people to shoulder a reasonable burden of responsibility for the country's long term success have crushed the American Dream of benevolent monopolies that control prices and ease the minds of consumers by eliminating choice. And unions, that relentlessly empower workers with the ability to consolidate their influence in order to negotiate better pay and benefits, have reduced our workforce to a mindless hoard of gluttonous pigs devouring the resources of our country's major corporations. There are CEO's out there who haven't seen a seven figure Christmas bonus yet... and it's 2006! And for what? Family medical coverage? Liberals passed child labor laws years ago, but the unions still want to cut Jr. in on medical coverage. How American is that? If the family wants medical insurance, the family should earn it.

And they won't stop there. Liberals want this country to find an alternative to fossil fuels which would force Americans to drive zero emissions vehicles and ultimately rob thousands of the rewarding (and safe) careers offered by companies that drill for oil and mine coal. Some liberals even want to legalize industrial hemp which would reduce our consumption of lumber and force manly lumber jacks to trade in their chain saws for pruning shears. Imagine that. A world full of paper made from a plant that only takes a few months to grow. Ridiculous.

And free healthcare! Please. What possible purpose could that serve? If everybody has access to the best medical care available, what advantage would the wealthy have? None. The lord works in mysterious ways, if he wants to poor to die that's his call. We shouldn't question.

I only hope it's not too late for me to undo the damage I have done. There is no telling how many children I have turned gay, or how many of the terrorists I was directly responsible for letting in to this country. I only know that I have done America a grave disservice by being a liberal and now I will spend the rest of my life trying to right those wrongs. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to order some NASCAR tickets.

Monday, March 13, 2006

And you thought Utah was bad?

We mock Utah. It's got a reputation for being a bit, umm, Mormon. Those who haven't been to Utah get the distinct impression that the Osmond family patrols the streets of Utah looking to bring swift Mormon justice to anybody who might be having fun. This is not true. Not entirely anyway. Only half of the Osmond family patrols the streets looking for wayward heathens.

Compared to neighboring Nevada, where prostitution is legal, Utah is a puritanical empire but so is California when held up to that standard of liberty. Yeah, Utah's endured some pretty aggressive overtures from religious zealots but over all it's pretty laid back. Believe me when I tell you that great snow notwithstanding, skiers and snowboarders would not make Utah a destination if the authorities cracked down as much as people think they do.

Utah might not be as progressive as some states, but at least they aren't regressing. Like Ohio. Yes, Ohio is leading the way back to the days of Indian wars and slave auctions. It seems as though Ohio doesn't like what the future holds so the whole state is running back to the turn of the century. The 18th century.

In 2004 Ohio passed a so-called defense of marriage act. Apparently marriage was under attack and needed legislation passed to protect it from people who wanted to get married. I still don't understand how gay people getting married has any impact on straight people getting married but to many Ohioans this issue was of critical importance. More than toxic sediment in Lake Erie; more than corruption in the governor's office. Homosexuals posed the biggest threat to families in Ohio.

Granted, other states passed similar legislation. Even Oregon, the liberal stronghold, passed these gay marriage bans. Although it in Oregon's case you have to wonder if homosexuals secretly supported the ban so that contractual option would remain a moot point. Nobody ever accused a homosexual of being stupid. Prissy? Sure, but stupid? No.

Ohio's ban went a step beyond simply making it illegal for gays to marry. The language in the amendment is written so as to render common law marriages and domestic partnerships legally invalid. So not only did they limit who could get married, they made all other relationships worthless in the eyes of the law. So you've been living together as domestic partners for 30 years? Too bad. You're not family so you'll have to leave the ICU. Very nice. Oh yes, it's that specific. In a medical emergency the state will have the authority to make decisions over your partner. Take that you queers! Oh, and everybody else.

Nevermind the fact that there are some people who aren't religious and don't believe in marital contracts. Many of these people are heterosexual (not that this should matter) and maintain more successful and enduring monogamous relationships than their married peers. Ohio's law punishes them.

Now, with another election coming up, legislators are drafting another moral agenda bill. This time the issue is contraception and whether or not medical professionals have a right to refuse to dispense it. The talking points supporting this bill center on RU486 or Plan B, which is the pill a woman takes immediately after sex to prevent the development of a fertilized egg, but it the language of the bill also allows doctors and pharmacists, who are licensed by the state, to refuse to distribute any contraception.

This is not about personal choice. This is about suspending subjective religious beliefs when you perform your duties as a licensed medical professional. Where do you draw the line? Sure, one doctor might not want to prescribe RU486, but what happens when you need a blood transfusion? What if that doctor believes that treatment is morally objectionable?

That's why I think Ohio's new state anthem should be rewritten. I have submitted the following lyrics to be sung to the tune of Bowling for Soup's 1985:

Ohio just hit the wall
we'’re watching freedom fall
taking evolution away
won'’t let you marry gay
Bill of Rights went out the door
back in 2004
gave our money to one man
and a coin investment plan

We were going to make some progress
shake up history
we were going to change the world
and clean up Lake Erie
but now the Jesus freaks are controlling me
they took my normal life
and drove me back in time, to:

Indentured servants, burnt witches
and knickers were your britches,
we had baked beans, and toiling
there was no time for enjoying
went to service on Sunday
they'’d stone you if you went astray
because things were so cool in 16, 16, 1692.

Those people had it made
it was a simple way
follow the word of god
or they made you pay
women were just like cows
who took marriage vows
you had to obey your spouse
it wasn'’t a thing like now.

Where'’s that burning smell in Salem,
and when did TV become the devil'’s new haven
when did liberty become objective
whatever happened to fire and brimstone
(and no radio)


Monday, March 06, 2006

And the Oscar goes to...HUBRIS!

What a glorious year for Oscar. This year every movie nominated made a statement. This was an Academy Awards night that made everybody in Hollywood feel good about patting themselves on the back. Even Jack Nicholson, who appeared drunk when he presented the award for best picture, can bask in the glow of self-righteousness. You've all earned it. Good day at the office.

Never mind that I don't want to see any of these movies. Look, I'm not some conservative Christian who thinks that watching Brokeback Mountain will force me to reconsider my choice to be heterosexual, I just don't like romance movies. Brokeback Mountain is a chick flick with no chicks. Eventually I'll see it when it shows up on Starz but I don't pay good money to see anybody kiss. Not without an "X" rating anyway.

I'm surprised that Heath Ledger didn't stand up and scream when Best Picture went to Crash. Frankly, I'm surprised Spike Lee didn't do the same. Surely Heath was thinking about Oscar the whole time he sucked face with Jake Gyllenhall. Why else would you do that? His heart probably sank when that fat pig Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who played a gay guy not involved in a love scene, waddled up to take the Best Actor trophy, but he held it in because he might have taken one for the team. Best Picture was the payoff, right? besides, Russell Crowe kind of screwed things up for Australians acting surly. Can't embody a stereotype right? And that stocky jerk isn't even Austrialian! He's from New Zealand. Where does he get off? When Jack opened the envelope and read Crash, Ledger must have been ready to kill somebody. WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I KISSED A FREAKING DUDE!!! A DUDE!!! GIVE ME MY OSCAR, YOU SCHEMING BASTARDS!!!! Good job on keeping cool. Give the kid an Oscar for class.

Spike Lee had to be stark raving mad because Crash was only every movie he ever made. It was like Do the Right Thing without Rosie Perez. Where's his Oscar? A couple of white folks rehash his genre and you can't wait to honor them, but let a brotha make a movie and it gets snubbed. OK. I admit I didn't see Crash, but through the previews I was able to get the gist of the movie and I took the liberty of jumping to conclusions. Besides, how good could the movie be? Matt Dillon was in it.

Ironically, Crash was a movie about racism and prejudice, but didn't Hollywood put on one of the whitest Academy Awards ceremonies in recent memory? Sure, they gave 3-6 Mafia an Oscar for best song, but didn't that have TOKEN written all over it? Yeah, I know a couple of years ago Halle Berry and Denzel Washington claimed Oscars for best actress and actor respectively, but anybody who endures a sex scene with Billy Bob deserves something for their trouble and Denzel's wasn't an award for his over-the-top performance in Training Day, it was a payback for screwing him out of the nod for his performance in Malcolm X (Spike Lee, again). Still doesn't make up for snubbing The Color Purple now does it?

It was obvious this year's awards were carefully considered. Normally you've got one good movie amidst a bunch of garbage but this year there were so many heady offerings. Everybody had to be honored.

Best Picture went to Crash because of it's prolific use of black characters and poignant social commentary. It was a life lesson with beautiful people. An after school special with talented performers. A humanities class you pay $7.50 to see. Brokeback Mountain edged itself out of the running because one of the male leads was not black. Had Ang Lee opted to throw race into the mix with the homosexuality, the movie would have swept every important award. As such he fell short.

Best Director was Ang Lee. Partly because people like saying his name but mostly because his father died recently. Nothing spells gold like giving a Hollywood insider a chance to dedicate an Oscar to his dearly departed.

Best Actor: The portly Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It's likely people simply got confused and thought he was actually Dustin Hoffman who is due for one of those lifetime achievement nods they hand out periodically. They tried to sneak one of those in for the brutally aged Judi Dench, but the sympathy votes were split between her and Felicity Huffman and that opened the door for perpetually perky Reese Witherspoon to win Best Actress for what had to be an easy roll in Walk the Line. Does anybody know anything about June Carter other than the fact that she was married to Johnny Cash? Of course not, so how hard could it be to get into character? Cop a southern accent and yell a lot. Easy.

For the record, Felicity Huffman would have wonthe award if she wasn't a regular on a current television show. The Silver Screen bluebloods don't take kindly to those who make a living on the small screen. Playing ugly always scores points (Just ask Charlize Theron) and Huffman worked the freakshow in Transamerica, but it wasn't enough to overcome Desperate Housewives. But she gets to see Eva Longoria naked backstage so there's a trade off.
I'd take a steady paying gig and access to naked Eva over a golden statue anyday.

Do you like how I tied those two categories together? Efficient, wasn't it. Too bad The Academy can't do the same, eh? Do we really need three and a half hours of blah?

Supporting Actor went to George Clooney for his work in Good Night and Good Luck, which was artfully filmed in black and white. Yes, Syrianna was the film he was nominated for, but that's just a technicality. He won for directing Good Night and Good Luck. Nobody watched Syrianna. I don't even know if I'm spelling it right and I'm not going to check because I know that nobody will catch it if it's wrong. Hollywood simply can't ignore a film that reminds everybody that Joe McCarthy tried to destroy everything the Academy stands for.

Supporting Actress went to Rachel Weisz of Mummy fame. Apparently she's a good actress but you wouldn't have known it watching The Constant Gardener which was really a Ralph Fiennes vehicle. She was in the movie featured in flashback sequences that actually made the film hard to watch (You see, I actually watched this one! I was tricked by the DVD jacket and a couple of previews that made me think it was exciting. It wasn't.) Here's the rub: She was nominated for Supporting Actress which leads one to believe that some other actress had a more prominent role in the movie, right? Well that's not true. She was the lead actress but she gets killed early and the whole movie is about her husband trying to figure out what happened. It wasn't the cyanide pill that English Patient turned out to be, but it still left something to be desired.

Why did she win? My guess is that The Academy doesn't like the rest of the nominees. Frances McDormand already got an undeserved Oscar for Fargo and Catherine Keener made the mistake of starring opposite Steve Carrell in The 40 year-old Virgin. She's officially blacklisted for that one. Worse than being on TV. The other nominees weren't important enough to garner Academy love, so Weisz won by default. Besides, she English so that kind of makes up for Dench not winning her "Boy, is she still acting" award.

Here's a category that confuses me: Screenplay. They have two. Adapted Screenplay means that somebody took the idea from a book and created a movie script. Original Screenplay is when somebody makes a movie from scratch. It's just a nifty little way Hollywood honors both writers and plagiarists.The Movie business has a long tradition of lacking orginality. Remeber Deep Impact and Armageddon were released in the same year? Tombstone and Wyatt Earp battled for box office love. Not much going on in the creativity department. Brokeback won for adapted screen play, while Crash won the award for being original, or as original as you can be when you steal Spike Lee's career. It's really not that important because the big award is Best Picture. That's the pinnacle. Nobody except the writers care about the screenplay nods. That's why they start pushing the wrters off the stage as soon as they get their hands on Oscar. You got your trophy now go home!

It's the redundancy of the awards that is interesting. What does it say about a director when a movie wins best Picture but he doesn't get Best Director? You'd think that was the end of the road. That's got to be the biggest slap in the face. The Academy just lauded every aspect of the movie you directed but snubbed you. It's like saying that the movie was great in spite of you.

And what does it say about the cast and crew if a movie gets the Oscar for Screenplay but failed to take home best picture? Isn't that a coulda woulda shoulda award? Does that mean Brokeback Mountain would have swept the awards if Phillip Seymour Hoffman had been the lead over heath Ledger? How would Jake Gyllenhall felt about smooching the pudgy PSH?

When you think about it that way, you have to pin the blame of Brokeback's failure on the cast. Ang Lee won for Best Director. The plagiarists...I mean writers...won for best adapted Screenplay. Nobody from Crash won any acting awards so the difference had to be Ledger and Gyllenhall. They must have squandered the brilliant direction of Ang Lee and the careful adaptation of the writers.( Notice how I, a writer, refuse to give them their props? It's because I have no idea who they are. I think Larry McMurtry helped out but that's all I know.) How else do you explain it? Unless the whole thing is a premeditated sham. HMMM.