Saturday, February 28, 2009

Yea Boooyyeee!!!!

Home of the world's best chicken parm sandwich.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Street Closings for Tonight's Obama Address to Congress

Thanks to DC institution Jason Cherkis for the timely information!

DCist also has the 411 for tonight's street closures, complete with map.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Oscar Predictions from MC RoboChrist

Tomorrow's the big night and I just got MC RoboChrist's picks, so here they are.

Before I get to the predictions for some of the least dramatic races in years, quick reviews on two movies I saw this past week...

Revolutionary Road *** - Solid film, horribly depressing. Kate Winslet, while very good in The Reader, is actually better in this film. Odd that she got the nom for The Reader - and that could cost her. Leo is good - he's really one of the few great pretty boy actors. And they both get to ham it up suburban angst-style, a la Liz Taylor and Richard Burton in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. There are bits of this movie that are fascinating. Winslet's character - a June Cleaver mom miserable in suburban New York - descends slowly into quiet madness, scene by scene. It's really a great performance. Just as unsettling are her arguments with hubby Leo, which are frighteningly reflective of REAL marital dust-ups. And Michael Shannon is great as the institutionalized son of Leo and Kate's neighbors. He pops up in two scenes visiting Leo and Kate while on a day pass from the nut house. He instantly pegs just how miserable they are in the burbs - and being nuts, he isn't afraid to say it in brutal fashion. Best parts of the movie, actually, and an interesting ploy by the writer - personifying the crux of their unspoken anger so it can in fact be spoken. We also get to see the nice boobs on Leo's mistress - played by Elia Kazan's granddaughter! I'm sure he's proud. In the end, though, the fact that the suburbs weren't all Happy Days and Father Knows Best just isn't all that original. Cutting half an hour might have helped.

Man on Wire ** - I usually dig documentaries. But I kept waiting for this one to say more, and it never delivered. It's the story of Phillipe Petit, a tightrope walker who got his 15 minutes back in the mid-70s by setting up a wire between the WTC towers (with many accomplices) and doing a 45-minute circus act 101 stories high. That in itself is cool - and probably warrants a 30-minute piece on History Channel. But the filmmakers instead make Petit out as some sort of counter-revolutionary hero ... and it just bothered the fuck out of me. I'm not a law-and-order guy by any means, but I just did not like the guy. He was - and is - the kind of egotistical dick who manages to surround himself with people so enthralled by his charm that they'll do anything to make him happy, including putting their lives on hold for months to pull off an admittedly cool stunt (and get no thanks at all - he in fact broke up immediately with his girlfriend and stopped speaking to his best friend). The other problem - besides the movie's horrid pacing (again, there were really 30 minutes of good material here) - is that there is no mention of 9/11. Would seem to me that if you're going to do a movie about the guy that pulled this stunt, you need at least five minutes of what he and his team were thinking watching the towers fall - even if it's kind the self-indulgent bullshit I expect. "I was sad to see my greatest canvas go away forever" ... or something like that. Who knows - maybe the fact that I hated the guy by the end of the film was the point. But I was left bored and angry.

Okay, now for the picks. Again, I don't see much drama here, other than the Best Actor category. There will be a surprise somewhere - there always is - but this could be the year where the surprise is that there are NO surprises. On top of all this, Hugh Jackman is hosting. That ought to be a drag. Count on 2-3 useless musical numbers and a few jokes about how bad Australia was. Jon Stewart, he's not. Heck, I'd be happy with Whoopi or Billy Crystal. Oh well.

Best Picture: There is virtually no drama here, despite some recent momentum PR-wise for Milk. Hollywood wants to thank Bollywood for reminding us all we can be happy. And in a year of no great films - and in which the best film, Gran Torino, was overlooked - it's as much a lock as a movie has been since Lord of the Rings.
Who Will Win: Slumdog Millionaire
Who Should Win: Gran Torino
Who Should Win Among the Nominees: Frost/Nixon

Best Director: No drama here, either. And I can deal with Danny Boyle winning. I just think he's going to win for what is, at best, his third best film. Trainspotting and A Life Less Ordinary were great movies. Slumdog tries to be great and fails, largely because it's trying. Plus, I get the sense this film is good despite the direction. The story and editing really make it stand up.
Who Will Win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog
Who Should Win: Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
Who Should Win Among the Nominees: Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon

Best Actor: There are two horse races in the major categories, and this is the tightest by far. Early on, everyone figured Mickey Rourke was a lock for The Wrestler. And he is very good. But the successful PR for Milk has been shifting the race toward Sean Penn for some time. In the end, I'm going with the notion that the Academy queens will not be able to stop themselves from writing the story - and reward Rourke's "career-redeeming performance" - rather that vote for the hammier, politically charged role (Penn) by an actor who has won before, and who would undoubtedly provide "the industry" with a satisfying FUCK YOU coda to the Bush presidency in his acceptance rant. In either case, I hope they both lose. I thought Richard Jenkins was great in The Visitor - he just didn't play the kind of ham role that wins Best Actor Oscars. Plus,he was great as the dad in Six Feet Under.
Who Will Win: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Who Should Win: Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Best Actress: Slight horse race here between Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Meryl Streep (Doubt). Streep could genuinely win an Oscar every time she acts. She's that good. (This is her record 15th nom.) And if she won, it probably wouldn't be a tremendous surprise, particularly since the Academy seems to have set Winslet up for another disappointment by a) shifting her role in The Reader to the leading category even though every other awards jag put it in the supporting category and b) nominating her for the lesser of two great performances. In the end, Streep has been suffering from "she's won before" syndrome for almost 30 years. And Winslet had a great year. Still, much as I lust for Ms. Winslet, I think the one who's really getting screwed is Melissa Leo, for her performance as the trailer park mom turned border smuggler in Frozen River.
Who Will Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Who Should Win: Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Best Supporting Actor: This is such a lock I'm not going to spend more than a couple lines on it. Heath Ledger was FANTASTIC in Dark Knight. He took on a role that a three-time Oscar winner mailed in 20 years ago and delivered a classic. Add in the maudlin sentimentality of his death and it's impossible for the Academy not to vote for him. Again, they LOVE to write the story. (They never release the final vote, but if they did, I'd bet this will be the most lopsided of the major categories.)
Who Will Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Who Should Win: Ledger

Best Supporting Actress: This is a mess since Winslet wasn't nominated here. I wouldn't be surprised by any of the nominees winning, but the prevailing wisdom (or lack thereof) is that Penelope Cruz is going to essentially get a Lifetime Achievement Award for playing the lunatic ex in Vicky Christina Barcelona. (Plus, remember that Hollywood's fave pedophile isn't Roman Polanski - it's Woody.) I'm cool with that. She's a good actress and has tremendous cans, to boot.
Who Will Win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Who Should Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Who Should Win Among the Nominees: Cruz (there are just no stand-out performances here)

Best Original Screenplay: I really loved the writing for In Bruges (Martin McDonagh). His script is certainly the all-time leader for the most gratuitous uses of the word 'cunt' in a movie - award-worthy on its own. Interestingly, McDonagh won an Oscar for best short film three years ago. If voters remember that, he has no chance. As it is, with the PR for Milk really striking a chord, this is where the voters will DEFINITELY reward the film. Also, it's the only Best Pic nominee in this category.
Who Will Win: Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Who Should Win: Martin McDonagh, In Bruges

Best Adapted Screenplay: The best thing about Slumdog was the writing, whether you loved the movie, as most people did, or just kinda liked it - like me.
Who Will Win: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog
Who Should Win: Beaufoy

Enjoy the boring show, all you pricks.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Spiritual Renewal, Pt. 2

I meant to write this post on Monday, but I got laid the fuck out with the flu for a couple of days. [update] I've now been trying to finish this post for a week.

I left off talking about my slow slide into emotional oblivion regarding my father's death. I don't know that I've hit rock bottom with this thing yet, I'd like to think that I have, but it seems kind of unlikely based on what others have told me about dealing with the death of a parent.

I had been feeling shitty (not physically, emotionally) all last week, but the lone bright spot was that Ta-Nehisi Coates had a book signing coming up in College Park that I planned to attend. If you haven't read his book "The Beautiful Struggle" run, don't walk, to your nearest book store and pick up a copy. Just like I try not to be too hard on stupid motherfuckers, I also try not to sweat dudes too much that I think are cool, smart, tough, or whatever. I mean, no one wants to be a dick rider, right?

But rules are made to be broken, so here goes the one time you will catch me on someone's tip like this. I won't go so far as to say this is the best book that I've ever read or that it's my favorite book of all time; I'll need to read and re-read the book several more times before I'll be comfortable making that pronouncement, but this book did speak to me in a way that no other book I have ever read has.

In the same way that "Catcher in the Rye" has been a cultural touchstone for generations or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is practically required reading for teenagers, "The Beautiful Struggle" deserves a place in the pantheon of great American coming of age stories. "The Beautiful Struggle" is an instant classic, written in a unique style that seamlessly melds literature and hip-hop into a brilliant narrative about fathers, sons, and the journey from boy to man.

Needless to say, I was very excited to meet Ta-Nehisi at his book signing. When I arrived I saw Ta-Nehisi browsing through the store so I approached him and introduced myself. I shared all of the thoughts above with him and he seemed to be truly humbled and grateful that his book evoked such a strong reaction from me. As cool as it was to meet Ta-Nehisi, it was a total mind blower to meet his father, Mr. Paul Coates, who was there that evening. Even though I had only read the book a few months before I had forgotten how funny it was and it took on a whole new life when I heard its author reading it in his own voice.

BigDaddyRat was a man who loved to read and he shared that love with me, it was one of the many, many gifts he gave me over the course of our time together. In some ways, I guess my upbringing led me to (incorrectly) believe that I was the only young Black man out there that was into Sci-Fi, that liked to read, and saw no disconnect with those things and being Black. So in that context it was reassuring and comforting to be at that book signing, to know that "The Beautiful Struggle" spoke to others in the same that it spoke to me.

Being at Vertigo with some other Black men of letters was exactly what I needed that evening. It gave me a sense of spiritual renewal to feel, to know, that no matter how isolated I may feel or be at a given moment, that I'm a link in a chain.

I had a rough couple of weeks, but for the time being I'm on the upswing.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spiritual Renewal, Pt. 1

Since the Super Bowl, I've been drying out a bit; partly in sympathy with my pregnant wife and partly 'cause I had really been getting after it for the last couple of months. Like DC, Fargo is a hard drinking city. Out there it's rare to go to someone's home and not be offered a beer at pretty much any time of the day or night, I was very much at home out there. The drinking culture of Fargo combined with an intense desire to avoid my feelings about BigDaddyRat's death led me to "self medicate" as they say. It's not like I was walking around hammered all the time, but rare was the day when I didn't have a drink or five.

I knew that the full force of my Father's death wouldn't really hit me until we got back to DC. Even though I'm mostly convinced it was to my benefit, I'm still debating whether or not it's a good or bad thing that I was in Fargo when Dad died. Fargo was my own personal la-la land, a working vacation where I didn't have to deal with real life and could largely avoid my family and situations that would make me think of my Dad.

As I finished squeezing whatever residual buzz was still in my liver over the last couple of weeks I started feeling worse and worse. I haven't been getting shit done at work, I haven't been taking care of other shit I need to get done, and I've generally been kind of zoned out and quiet. I manage to muster up some chit-chat with other parents when I'm out at the park with BabyRat, but whenever I'm not directly engaged with someone I easily get lost in my own thoughts.

I've buried four grandparents and a few other relatives and family friends that I was varying degrees of close with, so I thought that I knew how to handle death pretty well. Even so, I found myself unprepared for the emotional weight of the sudden (and very unexpected) death of my Father. Thankfully the last time we saw each other we had shared a couple of laughs and told each other "I love you", but we still had some serious unfinished business between us that will now never be resolved.

Ever the generous spirit, Dad had started us down the road towards setting things straight with an off-hand remark not too long before we left for Fargo. I had meant to go have lunch with him before we left town, but when we kept having schedule conflicts I didn't make it a priority. I just assumed that we had all the time we needed to finally put all our bullshit to bed. So if anyone reading this has something they need to get right with their parents or anyone else in their life, I'm begging you DO IT NOW!!! Do not wait, do not assume that you will have an opportunity to get to it later because that may not be the case.

So the point of me telling you all of this, was that I've been feeling down the last couple of weeks. Not some melodramatic, "My father died and I'm gonna spend the rest of my life regretting XYZ," nonsense; but more like I'm just really bummed the fuck out that he's gone. I won't ever get to whip his monkey ass out on the golf course again, he won't get to meet my second kid, and we'll never get to work together again and get it right this time. I don't have regrets, but I'm wistful about the future that we had been envisioning for ourselves that's never going to come now.

This post was about the trip down, next post will be about heading back up again.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I think everyone who should know already knows so I can go ahead and post about this now, but WifeRat is pregnant again. We're all excited and happy to be adding to our family, especially BabyRat who is eagerly anticipating her new role as a big sister. WifeRat's baby bump is noticeable now and BR & myself spend a good part of each evening rubbing on it and telling "Sprinkle" (so named because that's how big the baby was, the size of a sprinkle, when we told BabyRat) how excited we are to meet them when they arrive the first week in July. I use a gender neutral "they" 'cause we keep it old school and don't find out the baby's sex until they're born.

I'm not a weird-o with a pregnancy fetish, but my wife is never so beautiful to me as she is when she's pregnant and aglow with the light of a new life inside her.

The life of a family man who is doing right by his fam is not an easy one. One of the advantages that men have over women is that we have the luxury of acknowledging our conflicting feelings about family life without being made to feel guilty about our occasional ambivalence. Unlike my wife, I have no problem saying, "Yo, shit is too hectic for me I'm going out with the fellas for a couple of cocktails tonight." I feel no shame for saying that my wife and kid are getting on my nerves and quite honestly I don't know why any woman would have a problem saying that either, but it seems like they do.

Right now I'm worried about what this second child is going to cost me. Not financially (I already know the answer to that: a fuckload), but in terms of how much of my life is left for me. Part of my feelings right now have to do with the time of the year. When rugby ends in the Fall sometime in early November, the holidays follow soon after, and then the NFL playoffs come right after that. The holidays and football provide me with some built-in excuses to go chill and get a couple of hours to myself every week, but once football season is over there's usually about 4-6 weeks before rugby starts up again where I'm just kind of stuck in the house all the time and tend to get a bit stir crazy. But there's more to it than just that right now.

I've got a pregnant wife, a three year-old who's getting ready to lose her status as the center of the universe, and a Mother who is grieving the loss of her husband of over 40 years. All of these people need me right now and they all need a lot from me, more than they usually do. I work hard for my family and to continue to work hard for them I need time and space to recharge my batteries, those things are in short supply these days. I feel as if I'm no one's priority right now; I'm getting ready to have a second kid and I'm still dealing with my Father's death, but that seems to pass by most of the people in my life almost without notice.


Sunday, February 08, 2009

More Movie Reviews w/MC RoboChrist

From an e-mail from MC RoboChrist

Ok, so I've finally seen what is probably the best movie of the year. While it isn't a classic and no one will be surprised by my choice, you gotta see this move.

Gran Torino - *** 1/2 - Clint does it again, falling just short of three late-era masterpieces (Million-Dollar Baby, Mystic River and Unforgiven) with a smart movie in the minimalist style of Million-Dollar Baby. If anything, that is its main failing - it's a bit TOO simple cinematically. There are maybe a half-dozen settings, and you get little sense of the town being a Chicago suburb, rather than, say, a New York or Boston suburb. ... But that's splitting hairs. The story is filled with the surprises Clint's been giving us ever since he stopped playing some version of Dirty Harry/Blondie (fun as that was) with Unforgiven. And unlike Unforgiven, where you think you knew what's coming at the end and were right, trust me - in this one, you don't. And you'll think about that ending for hours if not days after you leave the theatre. ... The true acid test was Mrs. RoboChrist, a non-Clint fan, who declared this her favorite film of the year before I had a chance to cast judgment. ... While the story could have been message-y (old white racist living in Asian neighborhood finds redemption), Clint never stops showing this character's racism - in some of the funniest dialogue he's ever uttered - in every scene, and at every race, right up to the finish. In deciding to defend his Asian next-door neighhors against a local gang, Clint isn't looking for redemption as much as he's acting on principle. That alone makes it the smartest, if not the best, film of the year. The world is not black and white, and neither is this story. Clint's character is a bad man with a few good qualities, not a bad man who becomes good. ... Somehow, Hollywood missed this one altogether. No nominations, which I attribute more to Clint's decision to cast (other than himself as lead) a no-name cast of largely minority characters. Fuck the Academy. Go see this movie.

Rachel Getting Married - **1/2 - Decent film, with the best attribute being a smart depiction of an addict in recovery by Anne Hathaway (surprisingly good). It avoids the Hollywood myth that addicts are either doomed to die miserably (Leaving Las Vegas) or instantly cured after the miracle program (Clean and Sober, 28 Days) - all of which presumes that the drug/drink itself it the addict's sole issue. Hathaway's character, set loose the weekend of her sister's wedding, battles not just the urge to drink or use, but her own immaturity and emotional baggage (including one REALLY large bag), the pressure of the wedding, and family members who each have major issues of their own. You know - reality, which Hollywood rarely does well. One scene - Hathaway makes 12-step style amends to her sister in front the entire family during her rehearsal dinner toast - is about the most uncomfortable thing I've seen in a movie. Throughout, you're left wondering not only if she's going to use again, which you expect at every turn, but whether she'll survive the weekend. The movie falls shorts, though, mainly because the director/writer either ran out of dialogue and usable footage or because the filmmakers fell in love with what was an admittedly cool soundtrack. Minutes at a time are spent watching the characters dance to and/or listen to the wedding band. It gets repititive and made me wonder if there were only 75 minutes of script, so they pushed the movie closer to 2 hours by adding music videos.

WALL-E - ** - Great animation, but the over-the-top message - oh, we are ruining the environment; oh, we're such lazy fucks! - was only slightly less insulting when Al Gore spewed it in An Inconvenient Truth. Thirty minutes in, I was bored. Plus, it wasn't funny. Unless they are billed as graphic novels or avant-garde animated horror, cartoons are supposed to make you laugh. Meh.

See Gran Torino, or eat a dick.


Saturday, February 07, 2009


I got an e-mail about this stuff from one of my uncles and I thought it may be of use to folks out there. Read more for all the details. -HR

FREE!! MIT announces its MITES Program, a challenging 6 week summer program that prepares promising rising seniors for careers in engineering and science. If you are selected, all educational, housing, meals and activity costs are covered. You must, however, pay for your own transportation to and from MIT. To apply, go to Deadline is Feb. 2.

GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY Science & Engineering Apprenticeship program (summer) -Applications due: Feb. 27, 2009 - This program places academically talented H.S. students (at least 16 yrs old, sophomores/ juniors) with interest in science & math in Dept. of Defense laboratories for an 8-wk period over the summer. This is an invaluable experience in the world of scientific research, with hands-on exposure to scientific & engineering practices not available in the HS environment. It is a paid apprenticeship ($2,000) and the students are assigned a scientist or engineer as their mentor. To apply online or get more information about the program:

FREE!! Princeton University announces its Summer Journalism Program for low-income sophomores or juniors with at least a 3.5 GPA (on a 4.0 scale) who have an interest in journalism. The cost is free including travel costs to and from Princeton! Apply now! Go to Deadline is Jan. 23. Please note: The deadline has been extended to February 20, 2009 (11:59 p.m.).

FREE!! The National Center for Health Marketing's Global Health Odyssey Museum is pleased to offer the 2009 CDC Disease Detective Camp (DDC). DDC is an academic day camp for students who will be high school juniors and seniors during the 2009-2010 school year. Campers will take on the roles of disease detectives and learn how CDC safeguards the nation's health. The camp will be offered twice from June 22-26 and July 13-17. For more info and to apply to go Deadline is April 20.

FREE!! The American Legion sponsors a week-long summer leadership program called Boys State. [Editor's Note: there is also a similar program called Girls State] This year's program will be held at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland from June 21-27. If you are a junior interested in a leadership opportunity see your guidance counselor right away for more information.

NASA sponsors the National Space Club Scholars Program, a 6 week summer internship at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It is open to students who will be 16 years old and have completed the 10th grade by June 2009, have demonstrated high academic success, and have an interest in space science or engineering as a career. Applicants must be U.S. citizens. Applications are available online at Apply now! The application must be postmarked by February 17, 2009.

University of Maryland, College Park: Women in Engineering, E2@UMD, July 12-18 or July 19-25; rising juniors and seniors. Go to or call 301-405-3283 University of Maryland Young Scholars Program targets rising juniors and seniors who have a strong academic record and a desire to excel to experience college life while earning three academic credits. 14 courses are offered for three weeks from July 12 - 31, 2009. Visit

CITY YEAR, WASHINGTON DC (Americorps) - Graduating seniors who are not sure what they want to do after high school should consider applying for a paid community service position with City Year, Washington, DC., a group of 17-24 year olds committed to full-time service for ten months in the Washington, DC community. Benefits include: living stipend ($200 per week), health care coverage, free metro pass, and $4,725 educational scholarship. For more info: or email: or call: 202-776-7780, Amanda Seligman. Recruitment open houses will be held once a month at their headquarters: 918 U Street, NW, 2nd floor, Washington, DC 20001.



Here's something else I received via e-mail from my man who holds it down six nights a week at the 18th Amendment. Yeah I've been posting a lot of stuff that's coming to through e-mail, but I was never down this stadium deal and having a lot of friends in the service industry this hits close to home. I haven't independently verified any of this, so there's my disclaimer. Read more for the scoop.

From an e-mail

If you follow the goings-on at National's Park, then by now you'll know that the Lerners have terminated its contract with Centerplate, the foodservice provider. As of January 31, dozens of good, hardworking people are now out of jobs, and are receiving no severance pay. The new food company, Levy Restaurants, will be the third concessionaire in three years to be brought in for food service.

What you probably don't know, is that Centerplate executives received a letter of termination on December 24,2008, for reasons that the Lerners "Want something different this season". Merry Fucking Christmas, right? The contract was extended until January 31, as events had been booked with Centerplate up to and on the 31. Per the Nationals, all food, equipment and employees had to be off the property by the end of the day. Employees working that day were expected to alternate between servicing the party, packing all supplies,cleaning up the areas used...and be ready to vacate the premises after the day was over; not exactly a realistic expectation is it?

As an added insult, the Nationals are now refusing to pay for all items on the asset inventory taken by Centerplate, of all items that had been purchased at the start of the season to be used for food service. These items are owned by Centerplate and it was agreed upon in the form of a legal document that the inventory would stay behind for use by the next company, and the Nationals would reimburse Centerplate in the form of a check. The amount owed is currently in the area of $2,000,000.

This is quickly becoming known as typical Lerner behavior. They just recently paid backrent for the entire 2008 year on the South Capitol Street stadium, after the District of Columbia threatened to seize the property for non-payment. Their reasons for not paying? The building "was not complete to their satisfaction". Construction crews and contractors worked around the clock to meet the March 29 deadline demanded by the Lerners (how many sides of their mouths do these people want to try and talk out of?), and in the process,did a rush job and cut more than a few corners.

The result is a blatant example of shoddy, haphazard work in the form of a structurally unsound building. Ask anyone who worked this past off season. Pipes bursting one after another, hood vents and heating units malfunctioning, refrigeration units being cut off, resulting in thousands of dollars in spoiled foods, and other problems too numerous to mention. This stadium was paid for by YOUR tax dollars: is it fair that your money was squandered in an attempt to improve the performance of one of the consistently worst teams in the MLBA? NO! Did the team improve after being given a new home? NO!

Have the Lerners paid rent this year so far? NO! Their attitude and behavior is a slap in the face towards not only the hardworking people responsible for the daily operations of National's Park, but also to the everyday taxpayer, and unfortunately to the baseball fans who supported this team from day one and are truly the ones deserving of the new stadium. Hardworking people who are trying to survive are being punished because a bunch of douchebags feel a sense of undeserved entitlement. WAKE UP D.C- THIS CAN'T CONTINUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Thoughts on Capital Punishment

Here's the problem in the US, we have capital punishment but we kill the wrong people, in the wrong way, for the wrong things.

The Death Penalty is not a deterrent to gang bangin' accidental nihilists or people strung out on meth robbing liquor stores, those dummies are gonna do what they do heedless of the consequences. Naturally, I understand that if your loved one is senselessly killed in a robbery you think whoever did it should be put to death and I have trouble disagreeing with that sentiment. Idiots who kill because it's easier and quicker to pull a trigger rather than spend five minutes tying someone up probably deserve to die for being lazy and stupid.

Then there's the matter of how we go about putting people to death. A lethal injection 10 years after the fact that no one sees? BORING!! When executions go down usually all you ever see is people marching outside the prison talking about how the death penalty is inhumane, blah, blah, fucking blah and precious little talk about the victim and their family. Where is the spouse of the victim or their kids talking about recovering from the emotional and financial scars of having a family member killed? Just once I would like to see the victim's spouse/sibling/parent/child looking the killer right in the eyes as they throw the switch on the electric chair and tell them, "See you in Hell!"

But let's not kid ourselves, we value money more than we do human life in this country. If we didn't we wouldn't give corporations the same rights as people, but with none of the responsibilities or have insurance companies denying people coverage because they aren't a good risk. I'm complicit in all of this, I'm a capitalist that owns a condo with granite counter tops and shiny appliances, but I think we should update our criminal code to reflect what our true values are and make destroying shareholder value a capital offense.

Junkies and career criminals don't worry about the death penalty much, but I suspect that CEOs and other top level corporate execs might act a little more carefully if they knew a date with the executioner could be in the cards if they fuck up badly enough. We could set the bar high too, you have to destroy a billion dollars in shareholder value before a case even gets reviewed by the HillRat Star Chamber ®. If it's an honest mistake; new technology renders the company's primary product irrelevant, bad year for crops causes wild fluctuations in prices, judgment errors, etc.; you're off the hook and you may even be allowed to keep your golden parachute. For the most part that's what I would expect to find judgment errors.

However, in the case of accounting fraud and other kinds of shady shit that's kind of legal but ethically dubious, well that's a whole different story. The very top cut of corporate officers, (CEO, CFO, and COO) who profited from false earnings reports or other fraud or gross negligence that ultimately leads to a corporate meltdown that cost shareholders more than $1B, would become eligible for the death penalty.

Executions would be vastly different too, no sanitized room where you get strapped down to a gurney to meet your maker. I'm talking about sending in MOB Six to their gated communities, where these thieving motherfuckers would be snatched up and killed in front of their families live on pay-per-view. Or maybe we could get all Running Man (the book, not the movie) and see how far one of these coddled jerkoffs gets with a few grand, his wits, and every person in the country calling a tip line to get themselves paid and to see the dude killed live without having to buy the PPV.

Now that's change I can believe in!


Monday, February 02, 2009

Oscar Talk with MC RoboChrist

MC RoboChrist is a long time friend of mine and an embittered former sports reporter who sold his soul by becoming a PR hack. RoboChrist is also a bit of an obsessive movie geek and every year around this time he spends countless hours watching movies and writing about the Oscar race. His movie reviews and breakdown of the Oscar race are too funny and entertaining for me and the rest of our friends to keep all to ourselves. For the remainder of the "awards season" I'll be posting lightly edited versions of RoboChrist's various rants about the movies. When I say lightly edited, that means I'll be removing people's names and maybe adding a hyperlink or two when applicable. -HR

Taken from an e-mail by MC RoboChrist

The dance may be a tradition, but most Indian movies I've seen are comedies or musicals, so it fits. This time it was out of place. In a movie [Slumdog Millionaire, ed.] that contains scenes SPOILER ALERT in which a little boy's eyes are boiled out of his head with hot oil, numerous characters meet grisly ends, and a gorgeous woman is disfigured, the happy dance was as appropriate as making Schindler's List a musical.

This movie will win Best Pic, and a lot more Oscars. It is very good, but I don't think it is a classic. It's great for international cinema that a non-Hollywood/London film is going to win, but I think that's one of the reasons it will win (voters love to write the news story) -- along with the fact that the other four contenders aren't classics either. As I said, Slumdog comes close - it is very well-shot, well-acted and well-written - but it didn't grab me as much it has grabbed others.

Saw Milk last night. Three stars, mainly due to Sean Penn's chameleon act as doomed SF Supe/gay activist Harvey Milk. Penn may a tremendous asshole, but he continues to improve as an actor. It's really hard to name five actors as consistently good as him on the planet. Seymour Hoffman, Downey Jr., Clint, O'Toole ... that might be it. And unlike Clint and O'Toole, you always forget it's Sean Penn. That's how good he is. He might snatch the Oscar from Mickey Rourke, which would be fine by me b/c the weeks-long steroids/drug/alcohol rage that would elicit from Rourke would be better than any 'I've been to the edge' acceptance speech Rourke would give. Plus, Penn is bound to put the unnecessary Hollywood fuck-you coda on the Bush presidency in his speech, and I don't think the voters can resist that.

Others I've seen:

Changeling - *** - Okay, so I've got wood for Clint (director here) - long-established fact. But take my word, this is a good movie. It is not a classic along the lines of Mystic River, Unforgiven or Million-Dollar Baby. But it's very well done. Angelina Jolie plays the real-life mom facing the dual horror of a kidnapped child and a corrupt police force (LA) trying to pawn off ANOTHER kid to her as a replacement so they can close the case and get good PR. Like Mr. Penn, Jolie's a cunt in real life. But she can act - and Clint once again proves he can get the best out of cunts (Penn, Jolie, Robbins, Streep). And as is typical of late-model Clint films, it's well shot, the casting is perfect, it's a got a nice score, and it moves along well. No dead parts.

In Bruges - ***1/2 - This is my new favorite film of the year. It's a farce about low-end London thugs hiding out in a Belgian tourist trap that includes some of the best dialogue I've seen on film outside of a Coen Bros. movie in ages,and a script that is worth a second view. Watch the film VERY closely. British humor rules. And while Colin Farrell (who won a Golden Globe for this role) and Brendan Gleeson are great, Ralph Fiennes steals the movie in the last 30 minutes as their insane boss done wrong. His over-the-top Cockney accent reminds me of Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast (another great performance -- and actually you can add Kingsley and Fiennes to that list of great actors who always deliver in diverse roles.) While billed as a comedy, it's got enough blood and gore to make Mr. Steaks fill his pants -- and a tender side that'll make your date fill a Kleenex or two. Add in midgets, coke and whores and I cannot understand how this film scored just a single nom (Screenplay).

The Reader - *** - Lots of nekkid Katie Dub, which I already said is worth a star on its own. They ugly her up for the movie - plus she ages over time - but it's still a visual feast. Still, the film's a tad long and plodding. Kinda tough to get into a Holocaust picture that doesn't actually take place DURING the Holocaust (but rather in a) post-War Germany and b) a courtroom). And the basic point of the script - that it is less embarrassing to admit you let a pack of Jews burn in a Church than to acknowledge you could not have committed the crime BECAUSE YOU ARE ILLITERATE! seems a bit hard to grasp. Ralph Fiennes shows up again , playing the aged version of Kate's post-War teen-age lover. It's a different and yet still perfectly acted role than the ones he played in In Bruges or The Duchess.

Doubt - **1/2 - There's a very interesting race for Best Actress shaping up between Kate W. and Meryl Streep, who is so fucking mean in this movie you want to jump into the screen and punch her in the crotch. In all of the other major award competitions, Winslet's role was listed as Supporting Actress (and she won everything). For whatever reason, the Academy nominated her for Best Actress. Not only did this DQ her performance in Revolutionary Road (by Academy rules you can only be nominated for one performance per category in the acting races), but it turns what was a slam-dunk win in the Supporting category into a horse race with the best actress ever. Someone's getting fucked here. At any rate, the acting in this movie was great, but the direction blew. It did not translate to the screen. It was just a filmed play. Great acting. Bad direction. Think I wrote about that already. Apparently this guy's only previous feature was Joe vs. the Volcano. Explains a lot. (BTW, with Winslet out of the Supporting category, two actresses in this film - Amy Adams and Viola Davis - could end us an beneficiaries, especially if voters picking Winslet for Best Actress are looking for a way to give Doubt an Oscar. Davis is in two scenes - both with Streep - and holds her own. That alone is worthy of an award. Adams, as the mousy nun/teacher whose vivid imagination sends Streep on a witch hunt, continues her run of great performances by an actress who could be (but isn't) a box-office star if she chose shittier roles.

The Wrestler - **1/2 - This movie hinges entirely on Rourke's so-called resurrection. He is in every scene, so if you don't like him, you won't like the movie. It's got a few other bonuses, including an oft-naked Marisa Tomei (looking GREAT at 44), but this is mostly about Rourke. The fact that he's playing a has-been adds to the life imitating art bullshit that has Hollywood jerking off over him. Rourke is VERY good. The movie is good - again, really nothing else going on besides Rourke's acting and a cool '80s hair metal soundtrack For rasslin' fans, there's plenty of good ol' fashioned blood bouts. Staple guns!

Still on my list:
Rev. Rd.
WALL-E (somehow I missed this despite having three kids)
Happy Go Lucky
Rachel's Getting Married
Frozen River
Gran Torino


Sunday, February 01, 2009

BBQ With the Monkey

So yesterday after seeing Monkeyrotica's tweet I got a direct tweet from NylonThread (aka Mrs. Monkeyrotica) inviting me and the family to a BBQ over at their crib. We (the Monkeys and Rats) had been trying to get together in meatspace since we got back from the Hinterlands and finally our schedules cooperated.

After BabyRat's nap WifeRat said she had to shower and whatnot before she could go anywhere. Once you've been married for a few years you get pretty good at reading the signals your partner is giving you, and this was a clear signal that WifeRat wasn't really that into going. While the wife is very supportive of my blogging, she finds it strange that I have been developing friends and friendships in a strictly online setting.

I'm the social butterfly of the family and the "outside" parent. I'm the one that goes to 90% of the birthday parties with BabyRat, takes her to the park, and (now) sporting events. So it's not unusual for BabyRat and I to attend social engagements and leave the wife at home, which is what we decided to do.

When we arrived at Casa de Monkeyrotica the party was just getting started, we were greeted at the door by NylonThread and introduced to the two couples who were already there chillin'. The little Monkeys (ages 6 and 3) were downstairs watching "Wall-E" and we took BabyRat down to introduce her, but they were in a TV coma in front of a 120" projection setup and BabyRat was doing her shy bit so she came back upstairs with me.

As I suspected, the Monkeys and their friends were my kind of people. The crowd was in equal measures literate and profane, polite and sarcastic, gourmet and gourmand.

For a couple of years I've been stalking Monkeyrotica in the comments section at DCist and knew that we shared a deep appreciation for good food in whatever form it takes. Monkey often tweets about where and what he's eating and/or cooking, so I was really looking forward to sampling his food. Let me tell you son, it was as good as I thought it would be, perhaps better. We gorged ourselves on Monkeyrotica's insanely delicious BBQ offerings of Texas style brisket, North Cacalacky style pulled pork shoulder, and Memphis style ribs. He also hooked up some mustard and turnip greens cooked in chardonnay, charra beans, vinegar slaw, and some mac & cheese that was good, but not as good as mine.

BabyRat and the little Monkeys didn't really start playing until after they got done watching "Spiderman 2." The movie was a little intense for BabyRat and she was up and down out of the basement (more up than down) several times during the course of the movie, but once they started playing dress up it was like they had known each other for years. BabyRat even went so far as to invite the little Monkeys to her birthday party in March.

We had a great time and were sent home with a huge "meat bag" containing all manner of savory delights. I look forward to partying with the Monkeyrotica family soon.