Monday, January 30, 2006

#228 Generation "E" (for "Entitlement") - UPDATED

[UPDATE: Well, gotta say one thing for them. Whatever else the E-Generation are, given the fact that I wrote this thing over two years ago, they are slow on the uptake. Some guy found this post and linked it from some forum group on Halfpixel.com. "Controversial" he called it.

Heh.

Compared with whatever Kos and his Kidlings are churning out these days, this stuff is pretty tame.

Welcome to the Woundup anyway, folks. Thanks for the mini-Blogburst!
]

I understand the sociological need for labelling generations. I just don't think some of the labels we use are descriptive enough. For example, I'm a Baby Boomer. It used to be big news that people who had suffered through World War II began having babies in record numbers, and the Boom was born. In retrospect, however, I think a far more descriptive term would be "Babies Who Ultimately Created the Sixties." In my particular case, I actually belong to a subset that would be labelled "Babies Who Missed the Sixties but Got Fried During the Seventies." (Note to those who happen to be my mother: not that kind of "fried!")

I have always hated the labels of "Gen X" and "Gen Y" or "Millenials." They just don't do those generations justice. They're not descriptive enough of the social evolution of either group, nor do they help us identify anything but a chronological progression from generation to generation. So, if you asked me (realizing all the while that of course you haven't), I would have to describe this latest generation as the "Entitlement Generation," or "Gen-E."

Via Kimberly at Number Two Pencil we are pointed to this article in "Fast Company" magazine:
Beverly Hills psychiatrist's office is an unlikely triage center for the mash-up of generations in the workforce. But Dr. Charles Sophy is seeing the casualties firsthand. Last year, when a 24-year-old salesman at a car dealership didn't get his yearly bonus because of poor performance, both of his parents showed up at the company's regional headquarters and sat outside the CEO's office, refusing to leave until they got a meeting. "Security had to come and escort them out," Sophy says.

It gets worse.

The thrust of the story, actually, deals with understanding each generation as they come of age and hit the workplace. The idea is that we need to evolve our business practices and cultures in order to better integrate the new talent and thus take full advantage of what they have to offer. The only problem is, what they have to offer has little to do with what we used to term "reality."

Focusing on the scenario presented at the front of the article, we find that these young people now entering the workplace find it to be a confusing environment. Their work ethic appears to be defined by the edutainment principles of sound bites, podcasts, and text messages. If you can't communicate at that level, you can't communicate. And it's your own darned fault, too.

So it is that when a 22-year old pharmaceutical employee gets passed over for a promotion (at TWENTY-FREAKIN'-TWO??), his mother descends upon the HR department like the proverbial hawk. Seventeen times. She even demands and receives a "mediation" session. The kid reprimands the HR rep for being rude to his mother.

And he wants a promotion? With this company?

Not surprisingly, the aforementioned psychiatrist, Dr. Sophy, deals not with the poor kids who are obviously so traumatised by this treatment, but with the execs and HR people who have to deal with them. Go figure.

Like Kimberly, I'm all for making some adjustments to improve this new generation's chances for inclusion. They are a product, after all, of an increasingly ineffectual education system and a society that seemingly can only communicate in spurts. TV news organizations spoon-feed us our stories in 45 second increments. If a story takes longer than 2 minutes to cover, it's a "special assignment." Likewise, the entire stage of modern societal mores takes place on MTV using videos that encapsulate everything the developing mind evidently needs to know in 3 minutes or less. That's why the so-called "millenials" are coming in with such severe handicaps. They are to be pitied.

On the other hand, we, supposedly, are required to mollycoddle them through it all. Well, that may be fine in the commercial world where markets drive not only the creation of a product or service, but the culture of the company as well. But I live and work in a world where our primary customer is the federal government (or some branch thereof), and socially speaking they are perennially forty to fifty years behind the times. Sure, they believe in (and even encourage) e-commerce and paying millions of dollars to disguise common garbage as "art." But have you seen the men and women who make up the government lately? They (and their fashion designers) still live in the Fifties, for heaven's sake! They do not understand body piercings, nor do they get their news from their cell phones. They have staff to do that for them.

Now, when I was 22 and entering the work force myself, I was probably just as much into "entitlement" as I accuse this generation of being. I had both graduated from high school and served a mission in Central America, after all, and I felt I had done my time. My first hard dose of reality came when I was laid off from my job with only a few months remaining before my wedding. It was, they told me, my attitude more than anything that put my name on the layoff list, and they would not consider re-hiring me unless that attitude changed. Substantially. Dad was the first to jump into the fray in my case. "You messed up," he told me. "What're you gonna do about it?"

Welcome to reality, infant.

A month or two later I had re-evaluated my life to that point and realized that my former boss was right. I had been an S.O.B., and they had a business to run and grow. I had a nice long chat with my former boss about that, and he became my boss once again. And this time it worked. For me, for the company, and for my future family. I learned quickly that employees who play by the rules of engagement succeed far faster than those who only whine and complain about them.

Those who would effect a positive change in those rules go on to become leaders. It's nature's way of keeping the playing field a little more even.

CCWBASS chimes in:

The problem I have with thinking about whole swaths of people as "generations" is that when the term is used it seems to be with the implied understanding that some qualities of said generation somehow sprang out of whole cloth.

Or, to put it ironically, any jackass boomer who shakes his head at the idiocy of today's whining "but I earned a 'good student' bumper sticker four months in a row at McArthur Grade School!" group of new workforce really only has his own generation to blame. Thanks for the successful rebellion against your hard-working parents, ya knuckleheads.

Or maybe we can just blame California, since our state has always been at the front of the "happiness before results" marching column.

This phenomenon would seem to tie in with Gerard's recent evisceration of Joel Stein; we have turned our culture into one where feelings matter more than just about anything else. Witness Harvard's more or less recent debacle when it had to pony up $50 mil. to feminists because one feminist almost fainted when she heard the Dean say something she didn't agree with - the mean old man hurt her feelings, and there is quite possibly no worse crime to commit these days, at least when it comes to sparking moral outrage.

Be sure to follow the link at the bottom of Gerard's post.

Woody rejoins:

Fair enough. I can't disagree that each generation is always the direct result of the generation(s) that came before. But, man, oh man... if I gotta put up with the whining, at least put 'em in Congress where such things are vogue!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

CCWBASS exercises self-control! (not a review)

Can I blog about this here? I mean, this site is essentially political, and this little post isn't political at all, but I have to share this, and, besides, it's a pretty short post.

So, I walk into the 7-11 today to buy [a particular beverage in a 2-litre quantity] and I hear the following heavily-eastern-accented conversation between the clerk and a customer as I head for cooler:

[clerk] " . . . what? Four?"

[customer] "[unintelligible]"

[clerk] "Hold up your fingers. How many? Speak English!"

[customer] "[unintelligible]"

[clerk] "Learn to speak English!"

[customer] [angrily unintelligible]"

[clerk] "[drops an Indian-accented F-Bomb]-you!"

[customer] "No! [F-Bomb]-YOU!"

By this time I was in line watching these two swear at each other and make various gestures and mock each others' ability to speak English, and the entire time I was thinking about that character in the movie 40 Year Old Virgin - you know, the old guy Andy works with who has possibly the dirtiest lines in a movie replete with dirty lines - and I'm thinking "If I start laughing, will I end up having to hit one of these guys in the head with my 2-litre bottle if he comes at me?"

So I didn't laugh.

But, man, it wasn't easy, cause it was like hearing The Simpson's Apu and his brother repeat dialogue from an Quentin Tarrantino movie.

Really, it was great.

Um, to give this a political spin, I guess we can say that English is still the international language of commerce, so that's good news, right?

That's all I got. I told you this was a short post.

#227 - Where's the Beef?

In a classic portrayal of the "it's only acceptable when we do it" argument, producers of "Jerry Springer - The Opera" are upset that protests have diminished their ability to stage their musical.

Key oxymoronic quote:
Creators of "Jerry Springer - The Opera," the musical that sparked outrage among conservative Christians when shown on British television, say protests and lobbying have dented ticket sales for a tour in what they call a blow to freedom of speech.

That's right: protests and lobbies specifically protected as "freedom of speech" are a blow to the producers' "freedom of speech."

So... whose freedom should prevail?

The answer to that question always rests with the perspective of the person who framed it. And since I framed it, I get to answer it. In this case, the protestors are quite correct. They don't like the musical (or, more truthfully, the existence of the musical) and they want people to know how upset they are.

Go, protestors.

I'm guessing here that it isn't so much freedom of speech that has the producers biting their collective nails. It's more likely the loss of potential income from not being able to stage a production whose only purpose is to shock cultural sensibilities. There is no message we can attribute to Jerry Springer that can't be explained away as the megalomaniacal rantings of a bi-polar mind. Why should a musical based on his TV show be any more culturally significant?

But it's this protest against protestors that really sticks out here. The protests are, for the most part, religious in nature. Concerned Christians have organized (in ways that Christians rarely are capable of organizing) a solid protest of the depictions of religious figures in the musical. Jesus is considered to be "a little bit gay" and Eve is depicted as behaving in a completely inappropriate way. Composer Richard Thomas (no, not that Richard Thomas) explains such things as being nothing more than a depiction of a man's nightmares. Fair enough. The fact that 60,000 Brits felt strongly enough about it to call the BBC on the carpet for it means that, nightmare or not, they didn't like it. Not one bit. Thomas for his part feels that this is tantamount to religious censorship (in another article) and states that he'd rather be accused of being a blasphemer.

You got it, Dude.

Still, why castigate the protestors? Isn't this what democracy is all about? The ability to freely express opinions on any topic and have those opinions heard is a fundamental freedom. How is this any different from college students being allowed to throw pies at commentators with whom they disagree? Judging from the producers' arguments, I should be allowed to censure someone like Chris Matthews merely because I find him to be a loathsome, offensive, narrow-minded bigot. Not that there's anything wrong with that. And that goes double for Keith Olbermann.

So, you who really find some sort of entertainment or cultural value in "Jerry Springer - The Opera," go ahead and enjoy your show. We, in the meantime, will continue to hope that others will hear our arguments and choose to spend their money elsewhere.

Tithing comes to mind.

Friday, January 20, 2006

#226 - Cure for the Common (American) Idol

Kimberly of Number 2 Pencil is incredulous after witnessing this week's Americal Idol season premiere.

Now, I have never (willingly) watched American Idol. What I know of the show I have gleaned from various news reports, as well as the cameo appearance Simon Cowell makes in "Shrek 2." That's what I know. And that's all I care to know.

There was a time that I was fascinated by talent shows. When "Star Search" was big news, I enjoyed listening to what passed for "talent" since I was still full enough of myself to believe that I knew what really constituted "talent." Most of what I saw never qualified. Flash-in-the-pan stuff, for the most part. Pretty girls with big hair and voices that were canned copies of some gospel choir in Atlanta. Very few of the winners ever stayed famous for more than a few months after the show. Chuck Barris was probably the only guy who understood the value of bad (or no) talent when he produced "The Gong Show."

But this is the age of entitlement. Today's generation only knows that someone - it doesn't matter who - owes them, and owes them big. I have no talent, but you have to put me on your show. I have no idea what terrorists are all about, but you must listen to my opinions of why we should leave them alone. I cannot perform basic algebraic functions, but you owe me a diploma and a leg up on the college of my choice. And everything I know I learned on TV or in the movies.

Don't tell me this isn't true. Everything they do is colored by what Hollywood (and, by extension, the entertainment industry at large) perceives as being erudite. In Hollywood it is not enough to question authority; you must also have a complete disdain and contempt for authority figures. It is not enough to disagree with traditional family values; you must also do everything in your power to legally destroy the family unit.

So when we see spectacles of the type Kimberly (and the legions of "American Idol" fans) witnessed the other night, we needn't look very far to discover the source.

Neither does it require much energy to find the "Off" button on the remote.

Monday, January 16, 2006

#225 - Separated at Birth?

Ray Nagin: New Orleans' answer to Pat Robertson.

My only question: Wasn't New Orleans a "chocolate" town before? Isn't "chocolate" just another metaphor for "melting pot?" In fact, don't you melt "chocolate" in a "melting pot?" I mean, I live in a melting pot and I don't think the honorable Mayor wants to watch the melting process. It ain't pretty. Perhaps Hizzoner should pick another adjective.

Just sayin'.

#224 - Honoring Dr. King - UPDATED

My adult life has had an interesting learning curve. My political views have been pulled from one extreme to another over time, although I have always considered myself a "conservative" in the classic sense of the word. I am considered a right-winger by virtue of the fact that I am a devoted Christian and very active in my church. I have some latent "liberal" tendencies by virtue of that same religious devotion. I am a Republican, but not so staunch that I won't vote against the ticket if given a better offer. Political trust must always be earned.

Through that learning curve I have been influenced to one degree or another by many different schools of thought. These were generally presented by individuals with whom I had some sort of contact socially (hard to fathom, I know). Each of them felt at the time that their views were not only valid, but the closest thing to the "truth" as they understood it. During my flirtations with libertarianism, one such individual tried to change my views and perceptions regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By way of background I should probably mention that I am not a huge fan of revisionist history. I am also not a partaker of the histeria that every person of any historical significance was somehow flawed and should automatically color my appreciation for their contributions to this country and/or the world at large.

If I may wax philosophical for a moment (I'm not sure just how one would wax their philosophical, but I imagine it involves lots of elbow grease), it seems to me to be counter-productive to dismiss out of hand everything an individual says just because of some perceived character flaw.

I don't even really want to get into whether or not one believes that Dr. King was (pick the aberration of your choice) a philanderer, a socialist, a petty crook, or just plain wrong-minded. In carefully reading his more significant writings and speeches I must conclude that he had a good grasp of some very basic truths, and those truths are important to our society today.

It's unfortunate, really, that such people as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have taken up the torch, because they do Dr. King's work a distinct disservice. Instead of understanding, as Bill Cosby does, that Dr. King made it possible for black people to take control of their own destinies, Sharpton and Jackson instead believe that only through political intimidation can the case be made for blacks and other "minorities" to make their way in our culture today.

Such distractions aside, our realization that the fight for civil rights is an honorable one is largely due to the ideals that Dr. King preached. He deserves to be honored for having the moral courage to fight for those rights using the talents that God himself gave him. Setting aside any other considerations, his published works speak to some very basic human needs, and we owe them a careful study.

Thus, even if we choose not to honor the man, we can honor what he said by attempting to eliminate color as either a crutch or an excuse. Even if we don't feel he deserves a federal holiday, we can still honor his dream of judging people not by their color but by their character. Even if Dr. King's character was something short of stellar as a man, we can only look to ourselves and question how squeaky clean we are before we cast him into the collective pit of public personalities who fell short of our expectations.

He has lots of company.

UPDATE: Scott Johnson of Power Line ably demonstrates the legacy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Movie Review: Bloodrayne = Really, really horrible

I’m beginning to think that I am not merely drawn to bad movies, but that some part of my brain – one that I have no control over – actively seeks them out. Like Wednesday night, for example: I had nothing else better to do, so I thought, “Hey – I’ll see a movie!”

So what did I pick? Bloodrayne, of course. Now, bear in mind that I knew nothing about this movie going into it, and I mean nothing. I was completely at the mercy of this movie to declare itself to me on its own terms.

I knew I was in trouble when the beginning credits started rolling and Bloodrayne informed me that [1] it was based on a computer game and [2] it was directed by Uwe Boll.

I would like to say right now that I don’t believe that movies that are based on computer games are bad by definition, but as I can only think of one I’ve ever seen that was actually entertaining (Mortal Kombat), I feel confident in suggesting a rule that plots derived from computer games are at least indicative – if not always the cause – of movie wretchedness.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. A talented director can make even the most threadbare script into something entertaining, or at least lucid.

Alas, Uwe Boll [link is not Safe For Mom] helmed this effort, and his hammy fist of incompetence has left its greasy stains on every unwatchable second of every movie he’s been involved with, and so I knew as soon as his name appeared that I was in for a tough night.

[pause]

Hm.

[again, a pause]

Okay – you know those old Japanese monster movies, the ones with giant monsters that trash Tokyo? You know how weird the pacing and editing is, and how, when combined with the herky-jerky dubbing of English dialogue, the only thing you’re sure of as you watch is that somehow the plot is advancing itself even though you’re not sure precisely how, even when many characters are introduced strictly and precisely for the purpose of exposition, and so you feel headachy after a while because you know you should have at least some kind of basic understanding of what’s going by the time Godzilla has trashed the power station only it’s just out of your grasp because for all you know the dialogue could have been meant for the Gamera movie instead and then you start wondering if Japan shouldn’t start paying reparations to the United States because of the fact that they squandered our post-WWII rebuilding money to make ridiculous monster movies?

Got that in your mind? Uwe Boll kinda goes for that method, only there’s much less dialogue and there’s lots – gobs, really – of off-speed vampire sucking and stuff and a couple of flashbacks that you’re not sure are flashbacks until after the fact, and all I really learned in the first 20 minutes of the movie was that Billy Zane still can’t act. And, I dunno, maybe he was related to the main character, a hot-lookin’ blonde vampire who possibly wants to kill him. And I think some stuff had to be found. In order to kill some guy.

Or something.

Somehow, Ghandi was involved, too, but I never got the chance to figure out how. I kept thinking, “He’s broke. Ghandi is broke and now he’s doing the old Michael Caine ‘I’ll be in anything that pays’ schtick.”

[pause]

Okay – you know Joe Flaherty of SCTV, and how he did this one skit of Norman Gorman, this guy with a thick Bronx accent doing “Shakespeah in da pahk”?

No – wait! Here’s a better one: You know how funny it is when guys who learned Spanish in high school go to Mexican restaurants and talk to the waitresses in their high school Spanish and they do it in a total gringo accent? That’s just embarrassing, right?

It’s kind of the same way with guys who’ve spent their entire life speaking in casual, slang-ridden American English and suddenly they have to sound all middle ages or something stupid like that. Take out the contractions – make the guys says “Yes, I will do that” instead of “Yeah, I’ll do it,” - and you’re going to get one of two results: either the guys will sound like improv actors channeling Benny Hill doing Richard Burton, or you’ll get Flaherty’s “Shakespeah in da pahk” skit, and when the hapless actor doing “Shakespeah in da pahk” is playing it straight instead of for laughs, the results are First Week of American Idol bad. You just feel horrible for the guy, physically hurt on his behalf.

Michael Madsen, Michelle Rodriguez, and whoever that third guy was – well, I just wanted to crawl under my seat, that’s how embarrassed I felt. I mean, it’s bad enough to have your hair died by the C-Team so that you can see the areas the dye-brush missed, but to have to utter silly dialogue in a manner that is completely foreign to your acting sensibilities?

Whew! Is all I can say.

[pause]

Okay – the fact is that I left the movie twenty minutes into it, shortly after Billy Zane tells some other, better actor “You are SUCH a suck-up” and the hot blonde has been told by one of the few legit actors in the film in a different scene that . . . um . . . I can’t really remember.

It was some kind of fortune telling scene, I remember that.

You know, even the fortune teller seemed uncomfortable with her lines. Everyone did, now that I think about it. Even Ghandi.

The only really clear memory I have of Bloodrayne, outside of the register of embarrassed amusement that one of the utterly unsympathetic heroes in the movies was Tough Guy actor Michael Madsen, was that I just couldn’t take any more.

Really. I’d just had enough.

So I walked out.

Sorry, but even the most committed and cranky self-proclaimed lover of bad movies has his limits.

Not even the prospect of being able to write a longer review could keep me in that seat.

Not even the prospect of seeing what part Meat Loaf ended up with.

This is your Cranky Reviewer, logging off.

Monday, January 09, 2006

#223 - Literarily Kennedy

(H/T: Michelle Malkin)

Now this sounds like a wonderful idea. The Right-Reverend, Esteemed, and Honorable Senator Edward Somethingorother Kennedy (D - Chappaquiddick) is now the alleged author of a new children's book. The book, entitled "My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View of Washington, D.C." will be released this May in what I'm sure he hopes will be a media frenzy of the Potter variety. I'm guessing he envisions himself being invited to the DC Press Club for a riveting reading of his magnum opus.

According to the press release issued by Scholastic, Inc., the book takes its readers through a day in the life of the Senator, presumably from the dog's perspective. It even "explains how a bill becomes a law." As if Kennedy would know about that.

In what must be a Woundup first, we have exclusive excerpts from the original manuscript. Portions of this manuscript lead us to believe the Senator's dog, "Splash" (how utterly appropo!) was the true author, and that the Senator merely engaged him for ghost-writing purposes. There was a definite "air" surrounding this manuscript, if you get our drift. Excerpts follow:
What a day! It's only 12:30 in the afternoon, but Master is finally awake and ready for his first martini. Perhaps if I'm a good doggie, he'll save some for me!

...

Master's chauffeur called in sick again today. The man driving us to the Capitol today didn't understand what Master meant by "the usual detour, please," and tied Master up on DuPont Circle for two hours. If we don't hurry, Master won't be able to read his speech about why someone named "Alioto" isn't suitable for something called the "Supreme Court." I don't know anything about that, but if we're stuck in this limo for much longer, Master will need a very expensive shoe shine when we get there.

...

Master is talking to other humans with gray hair and suits that always remind me of fire hydrants. Hey, I'm a dog. Everything reminds me of a fire hydrant!

...

Finally! Master is working very hard to get a bill passed in the Senate. This morning he said some very bad words about not having had a good session of Congress lately. Something about a bush. I know what to do with a bush! Perhaps I can help Master!

...

Master just had a meeting with someone who passed Master a lot of greenish paper. Master said something about "helping democracy," which usually means we will be visiting Master's bank again soon.

As I say, this is a Woundup Exclusive. I have no doubt that you, like me, are anxious to see the rest of this significant contribution to children's literature. I'm sure Peabody nominations will follow.

I'm equally certain my kids will be too busy reading the Constitution to care what Kennedy thinks about it. Or his dog, for that matter.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

KING KONG! A mean-spirited review with PLOT SPOILERS!

[Yes - I know this one comes too late, but it's only a couple of weeks old, and I think some people have yet to see the movie, and, hopefully, this review will prevent said people from going.]

Short Version:

My evening’s entertainment, including the price of a “gourmet” pretzel and a tub-sized Coke, cost me $12.50. If I ever have the pleasure of meeting Peter Jackson face to face, I’m going to make sure I beat every single penny’s worth of my King Kong experience out of that sawed-off kiwi pipsqueak.

Long Version (the one with spoilers):

Einstein’s theory of general relativity has a lot of people confused, including your Cranky Reviewer, but tonight I think I got a little bit closer to understanding how mass acts on the space/time dimension.

See, when the movie was over and Kong finally – to my silent cheering – fell off the ol’ Empire State Building I took out my watch and saw that I’d been held hostage by the movie for three hours. Only I knew better than to trust my watch. By my calculations, each of the two-trillion-or-so scenes was at least five hours too long, which means that I’d actually been sitting in that theatre watching “King Kong” for roughly the same amount of time it took for me to sit through all three years of high school. Yes – it was only a mere three hours of time as far as my watch was concerned, but I felt years older, used-up, beaten to black and blue and nigh mental incoherence by the obviously angry vicissitudes of life that I didn’t even know were kicking me in the kidneys with their big, heavy boots as all of my attention during what I must now call my Lost Years were spent focusing on Peter Jackson’s gazillion-dollar masturbation project and how much I’d come to hate everyone involved in it even before the giant gorilla made his first appearance (winter-break, sophomore year, for those of you marking your viewing calendar).

How to account for this? Well, I can only assume it’s because the impossibly great mass of Jackson’s by-now well-known obsession with the original “King Kong” somehow got translated onto each print of the film, creating in each theatre a singular theoretical point which in its turn creates an event horizon in which movie patrons, once trapped, cannot escape as time stretches into the infinite unknown.

I mean, there it is: a lesson in cosmology and physics as close as your nearest movie house. The “twins” paradox is paradoxical no more for those of us who have watched both King Kong and Disney’s The Black Hole.

One thing about getting older, though, is that some of us get meaner as the years get packed on. By the time this movie was over, my fantasies about beating up Peter Jackson had morphed into unprintable transports of gory extravagance. I’m an angry man, is what I’m saying.

And I’ve been disappointed a LOT lately in my movies. Sort of. I mean, I absolutely knew Doom was going to be a stinker, but I wanted to see how low it would go, and I think I got my money’s worth, if only because I went hoping for a truly wretched movie.

But I went to King Kong hoping for a good movie, an entertaining movie, and I was NOT rewarded. Not one bit.

It occurred to me, shortly after my tenth-grade fall semester mid-terms, or, for those of you in the earth-bound space/time continuum, when the ship finally shoves off for Skull Island, that the real problem with scenes that go on too long is that it gives one time to think about something other than the all-important HERE and NOW of the story being presented on the screen. And the reason this is bad is because the last thing one wants to give one’s suspension of disbelief is a chance to get, um, whatever the opposite of suspended is.

Let me put it to you this way, and this, I suppose, is a SPOILER(!), so movie-going purists should stop reading right now.

Still with me?

Okay, look: You know that scene in the original movie where King Kong and the Tyrannosaurus Rex go at it? It’s, what, ten minutes long? Five? Stop-action photography took forever to do, so they couldn’t milk that kind of thing.

Well, in Jackson’s homage, in what is clearly a classic example of the “Because We Can” school of filmmaking, Jackson’s version has three – yes, three - T-rexes in a scene that accounts for fully one of my three Lost Years. It goes roughly like this:

August – Thanksgiving Break: four-way cage match, Kong vs. the three T-Rexes.

Thanksgiving Break – second semester mid-terms: Kong vs. the three T-rexes on swinging vines in a canyon (they all fell in, you see . . .).

Second-semester mid-terms through the end of the summer break: Jackson somehow – I can’t really remember because I wasn’t paying attention – gets around to the more traditional Kong vs. a single T-Rex match-up, and shoots the one scene that is shorter than the original, if we don’t include what happened during August through roughly July 18.

And while this long fight is going on I began thinking things like, “When is this over?” and “Three? Why?” and “Criminy! How many times do we need shots of Kong saving the idiot blonde in impossible grabs?” and “Not only would her neck have been broken 97 times if this were happening in real life, I wish this WOULD happen in real life so her neck WOULD break!”

And then you become comfortable with your bitterness and bile as you start using your free time – you’ve long since lost interest in the actual fight – to think about other things. You begin picking over all the stupid things you saw previously and didn’t want to complain about out of a sense of “maybe it’ll get less stupid” generosity. By the time the third T-Rex was introduced, I’d built quite a list, and I had plenty of time to mull it over, really sink my mental teeth into that list, and go over it point by delicious point.

And this is when the LOGIC portion of one’s thinking fully takes over, and for a movie like King Kong, this is death – the point at which a fantasy movie is utterly beyond saving.

Because THEN you start thinking about what a creepy knucklehead Kong’s love interest is. I mean, the hostages for which we coined the phrase “Stockholm Syndrome” didn’t cave in as easily or as quickly as the creepy knucklehead.

You start thinking, “You know, most rich guys would just have bought a large Hum-Vee to compensate for their size issues.”

You start thinking, “This movie is so bad I’ve decided to hate Jackson for his Lord of the Rings movies, too, even though I really like them, because now some sort of cosmic principle of karma or whatever is at stake.”

You start wondering things.

I wondered, for example, if God will punish me more for hating the movie so much or for having watched it in the first place.

I even wondered – I’m not kidding – if King Kong would need one gigantic heart to move that much blood around, or a bunch of little hearts, like the brontosaurus and similar dinosours had, cause of their long necks. Then I started wondering how large Skull Island would have to be to realistically sustain that many large herbivores and an apparently too-large predator population. Then I wondered if I should get cable so that I could watch the Discovery channel again because it was this really interesting documentary they showed several years ago about dinosaurs that got me thinking about it because Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” had come out and Crichton’s original novel was being picked over by on-the-bandwagon biologists looking to make a quick buck on the “Why It Can’t Be Done” publishing circuit, but it was all still pretty interesting, which is more than can be said about the “The Science of Star Trek” books, but only because I was never a real Trek fan anyway, and then I remembered that old Saturday Night Live skit where Shatner plays himself at a convention and says “Would you guys get a life?” and, man, I think tomorrow I’ll play his “Transformed Man” album because after this crappy movie I could really use a good laugh, and, you see, that’s just how the mind wanders when you watch Jackson’s King Kong.

You’ll think lots of interesting things yourself when you watch King Kong. You’ll have plenty of time and ammunition for it, that’s for sure. I mean, the “meeting the natives” scene alone is solid gold for haters looking for new things to legally hate.

Special Bonus Joke: As the First Mate’s final scene reaches its climax you’ll end up seeing just how useless a graduate degree in English Literature actually is. I’m sorry, but only those of you who’ve seen the movie can even begin to understand that particular joke.

Actually, you want to know the two points in the movie in which I first began to really despise the movie, and then despise Peter Jackson personally? I’ll tell you, if you don’t mind wading through a couple more SPOILERS:

It’s the two scenes where Kong and the creepy knucklehead bond and fall in love, or whatever it is they do.

See, the first scene is in the jungle, where Kong, a gigantic, man-eating gorilla, has finally set down the blonde bimbo and she’s looking for a way to not get eaten. Her solution?

She performs vaudeville pratfalls. See, in the movie she’s an out of work vaudeville performer, and . . . what ? No - I’m not joking.

Anyway, Kong sees her act and laughs. Once again, I ain’t kidding.

And so, of course, she thinks, “finally! A good review!” and she falls for the big, murderous lug. You’ll discover depths of emotion you were always afraid to admit you had when you see this scene.

The second scene, where they go ice-skating in New York on a winter’s evening and laugh and frolic and act all “Bambi On Ice For The First Time,” will be the scene where you begin imagining things for which you will have to repent, perhaps even confess to your local ecclesiastical authority, in order to save your soul from the eternal damnation that otherwise awaits you. Again, you only think I’m kidding, but you have not seen the movie yet and therefore remain na├»ve and unsullied. I envy you and your ignorance of true evil.

Completing the Bambi theme, the Ice Capades scene ends when Bambi – I mean Kong – meets WWI-era military ordinance for the first time. (“Man is in the forest, son!”) This is followed by several gazillion tedious months of Kong climbing a building, Kong being shot by planes (“How many civilians will those stray bullets kill,” you will logically think to yourself), and the creepy knucklehead getting right up there with him and saying:

“Stop! He only kills because he LOVES!”

Well, okay, she doesn’t actually say that, but you know that somewhere down the road, Jackson had his writers put that line in there, and only took it out because he needed those precious months of screen time for seventy-seven more shots of Kong looking poignantly at his growing collection of bullet holes. He’ll do that roughly 500 times before he dies.

And, finally, c’mon: Jack Black?

He couldn’t do a scene convincingly straight if his life depended on it. And because of this I can only hope that someday it does.

Yup. I guess you can say I pretty much hated Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

This is the Cranky Reviewer, logging off.

IL DIVO: A CRIME AGAINST GOD AND MAN! (. . . on sale now for $16.99)

[I may not have been blogging in December, but I couldn't stop writing. I grant that this review is too old to have stopped you from making a horibble mistake in 2005, but I hope it will serve you well 11 months from now.]

Aw, jeez. How do I approach this . . .

Let’s try metaphor, in the form of a true story:

Imagine, if you will, that it is the holiday season, getting close to Christmas, in fact, and, one day, as you sit in front of the television while channel-flipping, you chance to come across whatever equals the “religious channel” on your cable listing. (Many of you are aware of this channel as its owners – or whatever – are the ancient Dennis Weaver-ish guy and his freaky, pink-haired wife.) Now, you’re flipping through fairly quickly, but your brain tells you that the contortions and passionate squinting and the cramp-indicative doubling over of sweaty bodies and the jittery wavings of blown-dried mullets and permed hair pieces aren’t, in fact, being performed by an audience of faith-seeking donors – the suits and jewelry and various wigs/toupees worn by these circus contortionists are far too expensive. No – what your brain registers is that the station’s regular musical personalities are all grouped together doing . . . something; confessing sins? Experiencing The Rapture? Whatever it is, it is deeply intense.

So you stay tuned to the channel, and turn the sound up.

And discover they are singing.

Sort of.

It’s hard, at first, to know what they are singing. A couple of issues get in the way of quick recognition.

First, there is the fact that eight (or so) voices that are being wielded by singers not used to taking, oh, let’s call it a supporting role, are just not going to sound good together. Listen to any duet or group effort that involves Willie Nelson or Celine Dion and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Worse, all eight voices are SHOUTING their music, every note sung with not merely a vocal exclamation point, but an accompanying muscular twitch of the body – eight white, epileptic James Browns, but without the sexiness. It is simply the most unmusical thing you can imagine being performed that doesn’t involve Yoko Ono. The entire effect of this performance style is to obfuscate important things like words and notes. This slows down the recognition process.

Second, there is the fact that you’ve heard most of these clowns do their road-show-on-the-studio-sound-stage thang before, and you know exactly what kind of soulless, manipulative, cookie-cutter, pre-recorded pop-gospel faux-musical garbage makes up the entirety of their collective repertoire; thus, you are not equipped by prior experience to believe what you are hearing.

But eventually your brain registers that what you are hearing them mangle – no, callously abuse is the more appropriate word here – what you are hearing them abuse is Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from the Messiah.

And then morbid curiosity turns into a frank astonishment not felt since that day in your long-ago youth that you first saw a real small male dog being physically amorous with an oblivious, large female dog’s back legs. I mean, that’s pretty funny stuff at any age, but when you’re a kid, it’s like, woah.

And a slow ‘ya gotta be kiddin’ me, Pyle!’ grin begins to appear on your face as you both listen and watch this hideous display on your TV set and discover that some perms can gesticulate. It’s more gut-churningly fascinating than the first time you watched professional wrestling.

And then, when you think your smile can’t get any bigger, you are proven wrong as they get to the windin’-up part, and, O Lordy, every single man and woman is hunched over like they’re both passing kidney stones and trying to keep in bad diarrhea, one hand in the air all testifyin’ ‘n stuff, the other hand with a white-knuckle grip on the microphone, and each singer has his or hers eyes closed really, REALLY tight, and it is just really, truly equal parts the funniest thing you’ve ever seen and the most musically-insulting thing you’ve ever heard. (If anyone has this performance on videotape or DVD, you must send me a copy.)

Ok. Got that picture in your mind?

Any one song on Il Divo’s Christmas album makes that religious channel travesty seem like “Silent Night” being performed by a Presbyterian choir under the direction of John Rutter on Christmas Eve in a small, Cambridge chapel.

I tell you, kind readers, that Il Divo’s “The Christmas Collection” is easily the most obnoxious, arrogant, infuriating Christmas album that has yet been produced. I bought a copy pretty much for this reason and it gets a special place next to Shatner’s “The Transformed Man,” that’s how bad this thing is.

Needless to say, Barnes & Noble has assigned it to in-store play for the Holiday Season.

For the heck of it, co-worker D. and I decided to put all the really bad Christmas stuff in the store CD player this afternoon, just to get it out of the way and give us complainin’ rights. I almost fell on my knees laughing when I heard what they did to “White Christmas.”

“My Gosh!” I said a little too loudly. “It’s just a song from a Bing Crosby movie – it ain’t freakin’ opera!” Then I laughed and got dirty looks from customers, too many of whom watch Oprah and therefore think they actually like this noise because they have long since given over their ability to make critical decisions about what they do and don’t like to that horrible woman and if she says “I like Il Divo,” then they think “Well, I LOVE Il Divo!” and so we’re gonna sell lots and lots of Il Divo this year because people are idiots.

Anyway, during the next song, Ave Maria, the manager on duty came up and said, “What is this crap? Are we, like, obliged to play this right now? This is HORRIBLE!” We just laughed at her, because we’re jerks.

But during song number four, even I’d had enough – I was at work, after all, and was getting a headache – and I skipped to the next CD: Kenny G’s Christmas album, which I can now tell you is also not great. And, as if you couldn’t guess already, Barbra Streisand’s ain’t too hot, either. I TOLD you we put in all the bad stuff today. (Note: Michael McDonald’s Christmas album – what little I heard - seems indistinguishable from any other musical endeavor of his, save that it is funnier because as he ages his singing voice gets more and more alien and inscrutable.)

But, you know, as bad as Streisand and Kenny G are, they sounded downright musical in comparison to the FULL-THROATED PASSION that is Il Divo(!).

If the goal at the outside of this project (now into its second album) had been to find four voices that had the least ability to sound like they were meant to sing together, then the producers succeeded grandly.

I believe that when it comes to art, one way of gaining a better appreciation of what is well-done is to experience something along the same lines, but that is poorly-done. Like, if you want to more fully see the excellence of Kenneth Branagh’s wonderful performance of the Henry V ‘Saint Crispin’s Day’ speech, one could listen afterward to William Shatner’s performance of the same on his truly amazing “The Transformed Man” record. “Ah!” you’ll say to yourself. “Branagh really got it right! I can totally see that now, because Shatner is really, really bad.”

Il Divo is classical music’s very own collective 60’s-era Shatner – a quartet of utterly self-impressed blowhards, making everything else sound better simply because they have so deeply buried the bar that the excellent-by-comparison Andrea Bocelli was heretofore only able to lower to ground level. (In fact, I think I’ll start calling them SC – the Shatner Collective, like the Groove Collective, except that the SC’s suck really bad whereas the Groove Collective involves actual musicians.)

I highly recommend listening to Il Divo even to a few seconds. Just pick any track – they’re all the same.

But for those of you too chicken to do that, here’s a kind of play-by-play of – oh, let’s pick Ave Maria, easily one of the most-abused religious songs EVER in musical history. Here are my notes as I listen to it for the first time (thank God for the pause button):

[0:00] Right out of the gate you suspect you’re in trouble. Harps and oboes and lush strings all together can be used quite nicely in the hands of someone who loves music, but because we know going into this that Il Divo is not remotely about music we can take it for granted that the normally unthreatening pluckings of the harp instead signal the approach of something ominous.

[0:20] Said ominous thing begins its arrival in the form of one of the most unpleasant, weird vibratos you will ever hear sung through a tenor’s nose. It’s like he’s actually licking his vocal chords as he sings, and that’s why the tones can’t get past his lips and instead have to move up and out through his nostrils, which means he must have nostrils as manipulative as any tapir’s if he’s forming words through them, so I suspect that it’s the guy in the striped coat. As all instruments but the harp have dropped out to make room for this guy you find yourself thinking that, hey, that oboe obligato wasn’t too bad after all – wish they’d bring it back.

[0:51] And here’s the second tenor, or perhaps baritone(?). This guy ain’t too bad – if he’s a baritone, he’s got a good, lyrical upper range. Just a hair too sloppy, too pop-ish, but not badly so. The arrangement still calls for piano – pardon me, for quiet singing – at this point so this second tenor is doing a light, perhaps too-florid job. I’d give him a B-, but because he’s involved with Il Divo he gets a D on general principle, the jerk.

[1:15] And SC #2 must have been a baritone because now the third SC is singing a line, and this must be their token American. You can tell from the light “pop-swoop-grace-note” he seems unable to erase from his technique. A little too much breath. Not surprising for what was originally a Simon Cowell production, this kid just screams “American Idol.”

[1:33] What the heck? Is this is the bass? No – baritone. They have no bass. Ah.

Eh. He’s bein’ all fancy pants. I’m going to guess that this guy is the one who comes closest to looking like a leering Dean Martin on the record cover.

[1:51] Okay; they’re still singing more or less at piano, bu . . .

HOLY CRAP! [1:58] Somebody hit that baritone in the head with a lead pipe! Great Googly Moogly! Roland Corporation produces, like, fifteen voice processors, any one of which could have corrected in post-production the fact that this guy’s a full quarter-tone flat! These guys are making money hand over fist and they hire Helen Keller as their engineer? BAH!

I mean [2:00] they’re still holding that note and he’s STILL FLAT! He’s not even doing that annoying lounge singer thing where a guy starts flat but then brings it up to pitch as he lets his vibrato kick in. No – this guy starts flat, and HOLDS IT, like he’s PROUD OF IT! “Hey, look at me!” he’s saying. “I’m-a singing flat! Have-a some more wine while I sing-a the flat note!”

[2:09] Two descending notes later tonal equilibrium is more or less achieved by the group. Yeah – let gravity do your work, guys. Brah-freakin’-vo.

[2:10] Instrumental bridge to the next round of singing. It’s garbage, of course.

[2:24] And as the second portion begins, so, too, are we introduced to a drum machine giving the song a trap/hat beat.

A drum machine beat in Ave Maria, I kid you not, people.

[censored]!

Only two voices, don’t ask me who. I think Unpleasant Vibrato is the guy in the falsetto register because he’s warbling around up there like an old lady whose voice wore out a few decades ago. You know that Old Person vibrato I’m talking about? The sine wave as deep as the ocean and as high as mountain peaks? A roller coaster of tone? Yeah – that’s the one.

Oh no. Please, no. [2:34] Finger snaps.

Got that? FINGER SNAPS! On every other “one.” Lord help us all. (KICK!, cymbal, cymbal – SNAP!, cymbal, cymbal – KICK!, cymbal, cymbal – SNAP!, cymbal, cymbal – ad infinitum.)

[censored]!!

[3:34} Ok. Standard tag-team duet stuff up to this point because each singer needs mathematically equal amounts of “on” time, but now Mr. Pulled From The Part-Time Opera Company To Give This Group A Whiff Of Legitimacy Baritone is starting to light it up. And – oh, yeah! Tympanies backing him up on the forte. Inflate them gonads, bubbas, and let ‘em explode in musical passion!

Okay – that was gross, and I apologize.

[3:44] Fake! Dramatic Musical Pause after the build up. Tenor comes in at mezzo-piano.

[3:54] Fake! Tympanies come up with tenor to create the forte he couldn’t build on his own because he’s so obviously a wimp and here we get our Shatneresque Pique of Operatic Climax. And, oh my, this not-terribly successful blend of voices is being buried by the “orchestra” and drum box. Good luck trying to hide the sheets, Mr. Conductor, but we all know what just happened.

[4:20] What do you get when four guys all try to out-sing each other on the final round of “AVE!!!!! MARIA!!!!!!!!!!!!”? You get what’s happening at 4:20. I just about snorted my Dr Pepper out of my nose.

[4:50] Whew! Well, it ended quietly, thank goodness. But – oh, golly – this was really bad.

I mean, only two of these guys can actually sing loudly, and you can hear the problems of recording this group in the mix: the two loud guys sound like they’re singing from as far away as Antarctica and the two American Idol contestants sound like they’re singing a lullaby right next to you – I mean, these are guys who’d need microphones to sing in a small bedroom - and yet they all manage to sing equally loudly thanks to Helen Keller’s lucky engineering guesses.

Well, that, plus they’re being buried by the hideous orchestra. And I have to say that without something like that for them to be hidden behind this would have been so very, very much worse, and so very, very much more funny.

Hang on – gotta check out Silent Night . . .

Will this follow the same formula? It seems to as it begins with Mr. Unpleasant Vibrato. I think they just like to get his obligatory solo out of the way early.

Ooh! Here comes American Idol: “’Round yon virgin, multher and mild?”

“Multher.” – Yup. I just listened again – he’s mangling the word so badly that “mother” comes out as a pulpy, throat-squeezed “multher.”

Wow. Do you have any idea how bad your technique has to be to do that?

“Tender ‘n mild.” Not “and.” “’N.”

‘N??

[double checks]

“Tennnnnnnnder ‘N miiiiild,” he just sang, like he’s doing an ad for KFC.

And Jesus wept.

Over to SC #2:

Sle-e-e-e-e-e-e-p in h-e-e-e-e-E-E-E-E-E-ven-ly pe-e-e-e-e-e-E-E-E-E-E-EACE”

[listens some more – skips ahead]

Yup. They open up a Big Ol’ Can of Opera on this song’s hinder for the last verse, just like Ave Maria.

I repeat: Wow.

And when the heck did “Over The Rainbow” become a Christmas song? I mean, that’s just weird.

For collectors of bad music, I can’t recommend this CD highly or lowly enough.

This is the Cranky Reviewer, logging off.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CCWBASS Signs In!

Greetings, friends.

Oh, sure, I may have ditched my old blog after my post-40 Year Old Virgin epiphany (you Way Off Bass readers know what I'm talkin' about), but that doesn't mean I've lost the itch to screed.

See, I've decided to embrace the fact that underneath my pleasant exterior I am an angry, angry person. Not all the time, mind you, but after I watch a bad movie, or listen to a wretched CD I'm just spittin' mad.

Thus, I've decided to elbow my way into Woodys Woundup and take the position of Cranky Cultural Reviewer.

Look for my first couple of posts tomorrow.

This is Your Cranky Reviewer, signing off.

Woody appends: Buwahahahahaha! I warned you he was coming! Now it's too late! Your souls are forfeit! Aaaaahahahahaheeheeheee! *snort* *cough* Sorry. Getting too old for this sort of thing...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

#222 - Poor, Pitiable MSM

Writing in the Business section of the NY Sli... er, Times, Katherine Q. Seelye describes the MSM's paradox with new media in "Answering Back to the News Media, Using the Internet." (registration req'd)

In simplest terms, the MSM no longer can rely on their granite-walled fortresses to protect them from the slings and arrows of the little people. You know, the folks Jay Rosen now calls "the people formerly known as the audience." (My favorite quote!)

Specifically, the MSM loyalists are dismayed at the vehemence with which new media bloggers (and others) rip apart nearly every story they ever publish.

Danny Schechter, executive editor of MediaChannel.org and a former producer at ABC News and CNN, said that while the active participation by so many readers was healthy for democracy and journalism, it had allowed partisanship to mask itself as media criticism and had given rise to a new level of vitriol.

"It's now O.K. to demonize the messenger," he said. "This has led to a very uncivil discourse in which it seems to be O.K. to shout down, discredit, delegitimize and denigrate the people who are reporting stories and to pick at their methodology and ascribe motives to them that are often unfair."

Ah. But the stories you publish are analagous to evidence presented at a criminal trial. Even if the evidence is merely circumstantial, we can convict if it removes reasonable doubt. If the story seems to favor one political spectrum over another, we can justly accuse you of having a "bias," whether or not you care to admit it. To continue:

Thomas Kunkel, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said reporting on reporters had created a kind of "Wild West atmosphere" in cyberspace.

With reporters conducting interviews more frequently by e-mail, he said, "You have to start thinking a couple of moves ahead because you're leaving a paper trail. And the truth squad mentality of some bloggers means you are apt to have your own questions thrown back at you."

From their perspective, I'm sure this has more than a ring of truth about it. If I were an old J school graduate, I might react the same way. After all, to have one's work thrown under a microscope and have every flaw revealed is a little like having one of those uncomfortable close-ups in a TV drama; the kind where every needle mark reveals exactly how many botox injections the actress has received. Furthermore, reporters can no longer simply sit on their material and anonymous "sources" and hope the furor will simply go away. No, now we have Google and innumerable bloggers who seem to have unlimited time on their hands. These new media warriors seem to delight in the deconstruction of nearly every article published in any paper with the words "Times," "Tribune," or "Herald" in their mastheads.

Well, folks, now look at it from our perspective. For decades (for some of us, anyway) we had labored under the apparent truth that, crooked though your reporting might be, there was precious little we could do to correct the "reality" that you were creating. If Walter Cronkite said it, by golly, it was truth worthy of being chiselled in marble and placed on the pillars of the Supreme Court. No matter that the subjects of those truths occasionally cried foul. They were merely disgruntled that their malfeasance had been uncovered. No longer:

Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior correspondent at the Pentagon, said the traditional skills of sifting through information and presenting it in context were especially vital now because there were so many other sources of information.

"With the Internet, with blogs, with text messages, with soldiers writing their own accounts from the front lines, so many people are trying to shape things into their own reality," he said. "I don't worry so much anymore about finding out every little detail five minutes before someone else. It's more important that we take that information and tell you what it means."

Ah, yes. But what if it just happened that your traditional MSM version of "reality" didn't quite square with our own? What we PFKATA (People Formerly Known as the Audience) have long suspected is that you MSM writers and editors have been attempting to shape reality to fit your own vision of what we should perceive as truth. In other words, if you have a liberal bias, then those of us who are conservatives must by your definition be the bad guys. That's your reality. That's what you've been trying to peddle for centuries now.

If, as Mr. McIntyre pretends, it really is your job to tell us "what it means," then we reserve the right to disagree. Loudly, if need be. That we have the tools to do so must really stick in the MSM's collective craw. In other words, prepare to have more and more of your own questions thrown back at you.

This is war, after all.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

#221 - LA and NY Slimes

Several years ago I subscribed to the LA Times. I can safely promise you that is was far less for their theoretical journalistic integrity as for their coupons. I hadn't voluntarily read a Times editorial piece since I was a relatively idealistic young man at the outset of my first marriage.

It wasn't long (some might say not soon enough) before I realized that the cost of receiving this overcoat for deceased trout was somewhat greater than the perceived benefits of using their precious coupons. In fact, we only ever received the Sunday edition, and promptly recycled everything but the coupons, which sadly didn't get used quite as frequently as the Times sales staff would have had me believe.

Truth be told, I haven't as an adult read any major paper published anywhere in the United States unless one or more of the following conditions existed:

1. I was in an office waiting room or airport
2. I was bored out of my skull and there was literally nothing else, including Bassin', to read

As an emerging conservative, I quickly formed an opinion that these major papers were far less interested in telling a truthful account of any given newsworthy event than they were in forming (even forcing) public opinion. It wasn't anything I had smarts enough to articulate as a youngster, but I felt it instinctively. I felt it was a mark of the incredible stupidity of any given paper's reporters that I found myself trusting humor columnists to give me a more accurate picture of national stories. Even the ones I disagreed with.

Hence, I find it absolutely anti-climactic to learn that two of the country's largest bird-cage liners, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, find themselves being taken down - consistently - by Michelle Malkin and Patterico, respectively (if not quite respectfully).

Read their analyses. Add my "amen" to their thoughts.

Another year, another quest for published (and verifiable) truth.