Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Love Bites

Scheduled for publication this May, Michael Schiefelbein's latest novel, Vampire Transgressions, continues the story of Victor Decimus, a 2,000-year-old vampire struggling to follow the rules for survival: Don't associate with other vampires and, once he's convinced a human to take his place, immediately depart for the "Dark Realm."

But Decimus is in a bind, having fallen in love with his human replacement, whose name happens to be Paul. Yes, according to St. Martin's Press, "the two enjoy an intense life as vampire lovers, living in Georgetown and mingling at their private nightclub where little is forbidden. But their transgression is not taken lightly and agents for the Dark Realm are now on the prowl, looking to enforce the rules and, if necessary, punish Paul and Victor by threatening all that remains precious to them."

Imagine that: Vampires in Georgetown!

Friday, February 17, 2006

No More Happy Endings

The sheriff of Spotsylvania County, Va., has announced that his detectives, while pursuing suspected prostitutes, will no longer go all the way with them and then charge them with said crime. In bringing down the nearby Moon Spa, local law enforcers spent $1,200 in "massages" and one officer even left a $350 tip. Sheriff Howard Smith said the repeated visits were necessary "so detectives could build trust with the operators" and that sexual contact was required for a conviction.

But, as noted by the Associated Press, "law enforcement officials say undercover officers only need to get an offer of sex for money to move the case forward."

On the other hand, Sheriff Smith said his men needed the sex "because most professionals know not to say anything incriminating. And conversation is difficult, he said, because masseuses at the Asian-run parlors in the northern Virginia county speak little English."

Good point. And besides, haven't we all seen Full Metal Jacket?
An IOC panel has found Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva guilty of using carphedon, a banned stimulant. As a result, Pyleva loses her silver medal--the first such incident at the Winter Games.

Dr. Nikolai Durmanov, who heads the Russian Anti-Doping Committee, blamed Pyleva's doctor for giving her a medication containing carphedon to treat an ankle injury. Said Durmanov, "This was 100 percent the physician's mistake."

It is unclear how else Pyleva may be penalized. But the larger question is what will happen to the doctor.

"Send him to Siberia!" you say?

Actually, the doctor is from Krasnoyarsk. Which is in Siberia.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Galley Slave reader had mentioned this and I've just finished reading it. I'm talking about Gene Weingarten's essay for the Washington Post, "The Peekaboo Paradox", about Washington children's entertainer Eric Knaus, aka The Great Zucchini.

Knaus earns $300 for making kids laugh, does about eight shows a weekend, and has no idea where the money goes. (But Weingarten does take a side-trip with him to Atlantic City.) All in all, an exemplary piece of reporting.

Score One for Foul-Mouthed Writers

The California Supreme Court has found that the writing staff of Friends was not guilty of sexual harrassment even as the scribes joked, in the workplace, about masturbation, genitalia, and had recourse to certain names for the female sex that women do not at all like, you know, those words starting with B and C. here

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

If Man is Five

I've been reading Josh Friedman's screenwriting blog, I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing. It's quite something. That something may be vicious, hilarious, startling, or any of the various, not entirely consistent terms that must go under the rubric of morbid humor. Subjects range from the professional to the personal. And Friedman's dissections of the Hollywood filmmaking hierarchy are hilarious, though not quite as breathtaking as what he has to say about his run-in with cancer.

Friedman, who wrote the screenplay for War of the Worlds, is an atheist, as his blog's name suggests. One notes also that this science-fiction-loving materialist refers often to poop and matter. They are among his favorite words. And there is something Darwinian in the recurring metaphor of the infinite monkey. See his blog's a zoo and you get to look at his life, like that of a monkey in his cage, but, wait, Hollywood is also a zoo and the executives and operators and actresses are also zoo-animals or zoo-keepers. I have yet to parse the whole thing out, but what makes me stop short and worry about the durability of Friedman's faithlessness is instead the adjective he uses to dress up his main monkey metaphor: infinite.

Awful Euphemism Watch

Who knew that Newsweek's Periscope section had an obituary sidebar called "Transition"? The two personages transitioning out of a living state mentioned in last week's issue were Wendy Wasserstein and Betty Friedan.

I don't mean to be flip about the end of life, or what some crass bastards refer to as death. So let me just offer my condolences to the families of the transitioned.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

In case you had your doubts about the way things are going in Russia, check out Nina Khrushcheva's depressing op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post. A few stats: 51 percent of young Russians (ages 16-29) believe Stalin was "a wise leader." Was Stalin a "cruel tyrant"? 47 percent say no. And 56 percent of young Russians think "Stalin may have made some mistakes but did more good than bad."

As Khrushcheva, the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev, explains: "We yearned for monumental--if oppressive--leaders, like Ivan the Terrible or Stalin. Yes, they killed and imprisoned, but how great were our victories and parades! So what if Stalin ruled by fear? That was simply a fear for one's life. However terrifying, it wasn't as existentially threatening as the fear of freedom, of individual choice, with no one but oneself to blame if democracy turned into disarray and capitalism into corruption.

"This is why the country rallies behind President Vladimir Putin."
Because it's Valentine's Day:
What an age of wonders we live in. Finally the day has come where you can make gay cowboy dolls based on movie characters hump each other, because some genius on eBay is selling a handmade 'Brokeback Mountain' doll set, including dolls based on the Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall characters, 2 horses, a campfire, a dog, a tent, a liquor bottle and a tree. The dolls come with a hand painted background set and are fully pose-able. Or at least it says they're fully pose-able. My Kim Possible and Catwoman dolls said the same thing, but it's almost impossible to keep them in a 69, and they usually fall over, sometimes before I'm even finished. Couple of teases is what they are.
Best college basketball cheer of all time?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Harrison Ford for President

The always great Jenny has this awesome Harrison Ford quote:
I grew up in the mid-west. You don't ask what a person's religion is, you don't ask what their politics are, you don't ask how much money they make and I pretty much still have that attitude about it. It's none of anybody's business and I don't advantage anyone by telling them what my personal politics are... The arguments are much too subtle to be entered in that way, to my mind. There are things that I think are happening in the world that are egregious mistakes but I'm only operating out of my own box and I don't have any expertise. I'm a voter... I have one vote, that's all I should have.

Peerflix: The Answer to Netflix?

Does anyone have thoughts on Peerflix as an alternative to Slightly Evil Netflix?

Farewell to Jaws

Peter Benchley, R.I.P.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Netflix = Slightly Evil

Did you know that Netflix isn't really "as many movies as you want":
Manuel Villanueva realizes he has been getting a pretty good deal since he signed up for Netflix Inc.'s online DVD rental service 2 1/2 years ago, but he still feels shortchanged.

That's because the $17.99 monthly fee that he pays to rent up to three DVDs at a time would amount to an even bigger bargain if the company didn't penalize him for returning his movies so quickly.

Netflix typically sends about 13 movies per month to Villanueva's home in Warren, Mich. — down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company's automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.

The same Netflix formula also shoves Villanueva to the back of the line for the most-wanted DVDs, so the service can send those popular flicks to new subscribers and infrequent renters.

The little-known practice, called "throttling" by critics, means Netflix customers who pay the same price for the same service are often treated differently, depending on their rental patterns.

Confucius Say...

Or maybe it was Dr. Ruth? Either way, attendees at a children's fundraiser in New York last week got a real treat when they broke open their fortune cookies. The host, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz, intended the cookies to contain messages like "Brooklyn--the 10th planet" or "Brooklyn--it's like an everything bagel." Instead, some 350 fortunes (out of 1,750) turned out to be "graphically lurid." Yes, due to some mix-up, the guests were served porno-fortune cookies.

"They were not cutesy. Triple-X to say the least," said Markowitz. Still, I'd take them over the usual mundane ones ("You are patient in times of trouble," "You enjoy traveling," "You are kind to strangers," "You like Chinese food").

And at the very least, the guests probably didn't have to add the words "in bed."

Friday, February 10, 2006

Play Ball?

Duncan Currie has an excellent piece on Cuba's participation in the World Baseball Classic.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Unrealistic Real-Life Bank Heist Story

I expect to see this worked into a movie script some day. The bad guys abduct some unsuspecting teenagers and threaten them into walking into banks and passing notes to tellers demanding money. Or else? Not quite clear from the WashPo story. But if I were writing the movie, the kids' notes would say the kids would be killed if they didn't come out with money. Or make them suicide-bank-robbers, kids strapped with explosives that will go off unless they exit with a lot of cash. The obvious reversal: The kids are the real robbers, pretending to be abducted and acting out orders, while one of their accomplices scoots away with the dough.

The paper does note that the kids were unarmed. So it's possible the actual criminals in this story have outwitted my lumbering scenarios by forcing the kids to do the job armed with confidence alone, like George Clooney in Out of Sight. That's even more elegant with the reversal: The kids turn out not only to the bad guys, but wicked smart.

But now that I've written this post, I wonder if all the movie-savvy people around here will tell me, oh no, that's been done like a hundred times.

Gitmo-style Corporate Management Techniques

Galley friend Brendan Conway, primarily of Washington Times but also an editor for Doublethink, has a terrific story in this week's NYPress about a military interrogator who's going into the private sector as, what else, a consultant. He wants to bring the lessons of military intelligence to a cubicle near you.

This issue of the New York Press sadly marks the end of Harry Siegel's tenure as editor, as Siegel and several of his colleagues—some of them good friends of ours—resigned after their publisher refused to allow them to reprint the infamous Danish Muhammed cartoons. Ruling that these cartoons were beyond the pale was an especially craven and hypocritical decision for the Press management, which takes a huge chunk of its revenues from lewd ads promising escort services, phone sex, and the like. Indeed, the Press's own pages have known any number of examples of filth, not least of all in its prose. When I worked there for about five minutes in 1996, the most often-uttered word in the office was the F-Bomb.

Ah yes, but risking the displeasure of Islamists looking to shame their critics and enemies into silence, that's another matter.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Stephen Schwartz has a great piece on the Brandeis jihadist.

The Next Washingtonienne?

Probably not, but the U.S. Senate isn't taking any chances. According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Stormie Janzen, a scheduler for Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, was recently asked to shut down her weblog, which was on It supposedly showed Stormie in a bare midriff and unzipped jeans. Her biggest turn-on? Men in button-fly jeans.

The 34-year-old staffer is "single, straight, and a Scorpio." She also earns an annual salary of $64,139 as a scheduler.

First they came for your blogs, then...

The Fight Club: A Love Story

In the tradition of Shining comes the new trailer for The Fight Club, courtesy of Galley Friend B.W.

Update: Also from B.W., this terrifying trailer for Sleepless, in Seattle. So good.

Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades

Gillette CEO James Kilts, in the Onion, courtesy of a GS commenter:
Would someone tell me how this happened? We were the fucking vanguard of shaving in this country. The Gillette Mach3 was the razor to own. Then the other guy came out with a three-blade razor. Were we scared? Hell, no. Because we hit back with a little thing called the Mach3Turbo. That's three blades and an aloe strip. For moisture. But you know what happened next? Shut up, I'm telling you what happened—the bastards went to four blades. Now we're standing around with our cocks in our hands, selling three blades and a strip. Moisture or no, suddenly we're the chumps. Well, fuck it. We're going to five blades.

Sure, we could go to four blades next, like the competition. That seems like the logical thing to do. After all, three worked out pretty well, and four is the next number after three. So let's play it safe. Let's make a thicker aloe strip and call it the Mach3SuperTurbo. Why innovate when we can follow? Oh, I know why: Because we're a business, that's why! . . .

We didn't claw our way to the top of the razor game by clinging to the two-blade industry standard. We got here by taking chances. Well, five blades is the biggest chance of all.

Here's the report from Engineering. Someone put it in the bathroom: I want to wipe my ass with it. They don't tell me what to invent—I tell them. And I'm telling them to stick two more blades in there. I don't care how. Make the blades so thin they're invisible. Put some on the handle. I don't care if they have to cram the fifth blade in perpendicular to the other four, just do it!

Worst Super Bowl Ever?

I love the city of Pittsburgh and generally admire the Steelers. Cower is a great coach; Hines Ward is a fabulous player; they beat the Colts--what's not to like?

But it's not clear that the best team won last night. (Actually, it's not clear that either the Steelers or the Hawks really looked like championship-caliber squads.)

If not for the benefit of some highly questionable calls, Pittsburgh probably loses that game. They trailed the Seahawks in first downs, total yards, and time of possession. They had more turnovers than the Seahawks and their quarterback finished with a passer rating of 22.6.

That's 22.6 for the winning quarterback! Makes you long for the legendary days of Brad Johnson and Trent Dilfer. Does anyone have a link to a page with quarterback ratings for previous Super Bowls? Because I'd be surprised if there was another game in recent years where the rating of the two quarterbacks--combined--barely broke 90. (Hasselbeck and Roethlisberger put together totaled 90.4.)

In any event, maybe this was a fitting finish to one of the more disappointing NFL seasons. Everywhere you looked, the league suffered from disappointments that stemmed from things not on the field. The Eagles had their undefeated season demolished in the first week, when McNabb was speared. Before the season was over, they were playing without their star quarterback, running back, or wide-out. The Colts had their undefeated season wrecked when their coach suffered a debilitating family tragedy. And the Patriots, clearly still the class of the league, were so riddled with injury that they never really had a fair shot.

With the elite teams hobbled, the playoffs stunk with few close games and many, many instances of lousy officiating. So maybe last night shouldn't have been much of a surprise.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I'm not saying there were any great commercials during Super Bowl XL, but there were a few good ones. My picks go to the Nextel/Sprint homage to Benny Hill and Ameriquest's mile-high club spoof. Not bad was ESPN's mobile ad to the tune of Chad and Jeremy's "A Summer Song." As for bad (or lame), I would say Gillette's Fusion razor (five blades!) is up there. No doubt you all have your own best and worst.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Oscar Marketology

If you're thinking about getting in on an Oscar pool, now is a good time to look at what the HSX market thinks of the race.

Somewhat surprisingly, the HSX market favors Brokeback for Best Picture, but has Crash a close second. We'll see if this trend holds.

Ang Lee is favored by a slightly wider margin over George Clooney for Best Director.

The Best Actor race is still wide open. Best Actress is also still close, with Reese Witherspoon getting the early edge over Felicity Huffman. (How tragic would it be if Huffman won an Oscar before Bill Macy?)

The market is still sorting out the other awards, with most races very close. Of course, intuition says that Brokeback will win nearly across the board, so it will be interesting to see if the market catches up with intuition, or if the conventional wisdom turns out to be wrong.


Ricky Jay--Ricky Jay!--is back in a series of internet shorts called, ESPBilly. Not vintage stuff, but it's Ricky Jay.

Ricky Jay!

I don't know what I'm saying.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Is Spengler the new Gary Brecher?

A Lesson for All of Us

Wilfred McClay at First Things, writes about Nelle Harper Lee:
How is it that a book and author that have been so indisputably influential remain so obscure? As this article makes clear, it’s partly because the author chose to let her book speak for itself, and has for the nearly five decades since the book’s publication quietly but firmly rejected the cult of authorial celebrity. She did not even play the Salinger-like game of being the well-known recluse. She simply refused to become a public person.

Jennifer Aniston

Blog crush:
Man what an awesome year Jennifer Aniston is having. She's had three movies come out that bombed, she got her ass dumped and now gets to see daily updates as her ex starts a family, and now her prized investment blows up and basically becomes worthless. I think I read somewhere that science proved stuff like this happens because a girl isn't pretty or thin enough. Makes me feel bad for that time during oral when I thumped her on the forhead and said "do it better".

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another Defense of Richard Cohen

Why he's great:
In due course we will be told that what Hamas has been insisting on for years -- the utter destruction of Israel -- is not really a serious goal. Hamas should not be taken literally, and anyway it will be forced to moderate both its platform and its policies by the reality of governing. When, for instance, it repeats the words of its charter -- "The solution of the problem [Israel] will only take place by holy war" -- we will be assured that it is just throwing red meat to what in America is called "the base." As for its truculent anti-Semitism -- not to be confused in this case with anti-Zionism -- it, too, will be dismissed as without consequence. Hamas will have to deal with reality -- and Israel, in the region, is the mightiest reality of them all. Yasser Arafat came to understand that.

But Arafat's Fatah movement was secular and nationalistic. In this sense it was modern -- another secular nationalistic movement, much like Zionism. Hamas, on the other hand, can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood and its 1928 declaration: "The Koran Is Our Constitution." It is not modern; it is medieval. It gleefully sends people off to their death as suicide bombers, spackling the walls of Tel Aviv restaurants with the flesh of the innocent while assuring the bombers a place in paradise. This is loathsome. This is terrifying. That is the whole idea.

The mistake of the Bush administration is to think, based on not much thinking to begin with, that people are people -- pretty much the same the world over. This is why the president extols democracy. It must be what everyone wants because it is what everyone here wants. To denigrate this kind of talk suggests racism -- You mean we are not all the same? -- or a musty neocolonialism. But the hard truth is that culture and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas.

So hot.

Thanks, Dick Thornburg

Timothy Noah sums up the CBS 60 Minutes imbroglio:
At issue, you may recall, was whether some "cover your ass" memos purportedly typed for the file by George W. Bush's superior, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian—files expressing dissatisfaction with Dubya's special treatment in the Guard—were genuine. Immediately after the 60 Minutes story aired, multiple bloggers produced evidence "showing" that the documents couldn't have been genuine, for technical reasons. This was accepted as gospel truth by Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post and other mainstream reporters. In the end, however, the evidence was found to be specious. We still don't know whether the documents were genuine.