And the Winner of Least Watched Movie of the Year is…

February 25, 2007

Welcome…to today, the day of the 79th Academy Awards, Hollywood’s annual presentation of self-fellation. And by “annual” we mean “something that happens pretty much every single day.”

This year, the host is Ellen DeGeneres, breaking with the Academy tradition of having a comedian host the awards. The presenters themselves include a wide variety of individuals, including Jodie Foster, who has arrived after disengaging the cryogenic freezer she’s inhabited since 1997 in accordance with the wishes of her Not My Girlfriend, Honest; the parts of Diane Keaton that aren’t synthetic; and Al Gore, who no doubt is going to be overseeing the counting of the Academy’s votes.

The five nominees for Best Picture, as always, are a perfect and proportional representation of exactly what absolutely no one went to go see in the theaters. Far from being an embarrassingly unprofitable endeavor, most directors are content to allow their baby to be released a few hours before midnight on New Years’ Day to make it eligible, and then let it die a slow and painful death to obscurity until the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards it the opportunity to put a gold sticker on the DVD claiming that it was nominated or, if the studio has spent enough money but not in an effort to specifically persuade the members to vote for their entry (cough, cough), won an Academy Award.

The Departed: This dramatic tale, set in Boston, is a movie about good cops gone bad. Or perhaps bad cops gone good. Quite frankly it doesn’t matter because MARTIN SCORSESE directed this film. The Departed has been critically acclaimed due to its gritty and realistic portrayal, provided by MARTIN SCORSESE, of the relationships between police officers and those they must deal with every day, something that MARTIN SCORSESE, who, again, directed the film, has tried to bring to the motion pictures many times before, such as in the following movies that MARTIN SCORSESE has directed but, we should point out, has NOT won an Oscar for: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, the Aviator, Gangs of New York, Casino, Goodfellas, and Cape Fear. Since many people believe that MARTIN SCORSESE should win an Oscar, The Departed should be a lock for the win for Best Picture, since it is obviously his best work out of all the movies that MARTIN SCORSESE has directed. Ahem.

The Queen: This is the second time in a row this movie has been nominated; last year it was named Capote. (You think this gets any better? It doesn’t.) This remarkably current tale is about the royal family’s reaction (or lack thereof) to Princess Diana’s death. This particular rendition of events, where HRM Queen Elizabeth II takes more than what the media determined was the appropriate amount of time to make a sufficiently public condolence about Diana’s death somehow makes Katrina look about as slow (and as important) as ordering Combo #2 at the Chik-Fil-A.

Babel: Babel takes the attention-span-deficiency of most Western audiences and converts it into a piece of art. Or so I think; the concept appears to have done wonders for Crash. In Babel, there are three interwoven stories about different people in different cultures, using themes so vaguely generic and blandly universal they could have shot the movie with half the budget by having a WASP walk into a Taco Bell.

Little Miss Sunshine: The token comedy of the group, this film follows the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family that is forced to take a road trip together. Both Alan Arkin and newcomer Abigail Breslin are nominated for Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress, respectively, a shame since they actually seem to have deserved it.

Letters from Iwo Jima: This rather unusual tale about WWII takes the provocative step of filing it from the Japanese point of view. The film has plenty of merits standing on its own as a dramatic representation of a society that, despite its emphasis on martial superiority, are still conflicted with the same emotions that all individuals at war are. In this case, the contract of the two sides is readily apparent; one side becomes a wealthy superpower, while the other side specializes in insane game shows and creepy, weird-ass cartoons.

The winner should be reasonably easy to pick. Following the standard Hollywood formula, we can determine the following: Half-baked, unfocused tale that thank goodness is at least about the deficiencies of Western Culture > The story of the combatants in a deadly, crypto-fascist, repressively militaristic society who otherwise are sympathetic to the viewer because of Fat Man > A dramatic criticism of an antiquated Royal institution during a short period of questionable importance > Morality tale of justice vs. MARTIN SCORSESE WINNING A FREAKING OSCAR > Dysfunctional family road trip movie even though at least one of the characters is gay.

Outside of the Best Picture, there are still plenty of opportunities of dramatic tension. Will Jack Nicholson be sober? More importantly, will be look sober? Is this finally the year Clint Eastwood actually shoots a man onstage? Will someone let it slip out why Leonardo DiCaprio keeps getting work? Will some viewer, somewhere in America, actually have heard of any of these movies? Tonight…we shall see.

This Video Game Heroine Can Be Used As A Floatation Device

February 23, 2007

Eidos Interactive has recently announced that they are releasing the 10-year anniversary edition of Tomb Raider, a pioneering video game that brought to the game-playing public’s consciousness that a strong-willed, highly intelligent female archaeologist can truly make it in the male-dominated world of video games, so long as she is scripted as being clever, exciting, interesting, and has huge, gravity-defying cans.

Every once in a while, a video game is able to capture the imagination of 12-year old male adolescents everywhere. Usually, it’s a mixture of graphical exuberance, wanton violence, and hackneyed I’m-the-first-person-ever-to- listen-to-Pink-Floyd-lyrics misallocation of wasted wonderment. Tomb Raider upped the ante, so to speak, by adding one more ingredient to the recipe: latent sexuality. How this particular element of gaming had heretofore eluded the video game industry can only be attributed to the marketing concepts that game developers came up with and wrongfully discarded, along with stealing cigarettes from gas stations and detailing the various trials and tribulations of one Deeper Deeper.

The well-endowed protagonist of the game, Lara Croft, soon became a mascot of sorts to those impressed with the blending of incredible graphics and single-minded imagination. Not that Croft’s sexuality is really all that much of a factor in the game proper. Just like any other game, there’s plenty of mindless shooting, jumping, and trap-avoiding, but it just so happens in this case the person doing all that shooting, jumping, and trap-avoiding is trying to hide two overinflated basketballs under her blouse.

Personally, I only played the game once and was fundamentally unimpressed. Mostly it was due to the fact that, as far as I can remember, the first level involved trying to shoot something like 13,000 bats moving at the speed of light in a dimly lit cavern with what appeared to be an ancient artifact known as a Glock 22, an activity roughly equivalent to standing in Madison Square Garden and shooting a three pointer at a basket located on the moon 13,000 times in a row. So I ended my game unceremoniously by trying to get the camera angle to get a good, salacious overhead shot until getting bit to death by a slow, steady stream of winged vampire rats, a process that took roughly a fortnight.

But, lackluster gameplay aside, Lara Croft quickly became either a 1) archetypical feminist icon, representing a very underdeveloped concept in the testosterone-dominated video game market, or 2) a glorified and blatant sexual stereotype catering to the base emotions of the overwhelmingly juvenile demographic that purchases these types of games. Those of use who are astute enough to not be in the camp of those who hunt and seek attributions of virtue onto anything of social insignificance or those who relish the superficial qualities of media icons and stop before they delve any further before they inadvertently discover something of consequence know that in real life, those two qualities—role model and prurience—are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Thank goodness.

Still, as interesting as all of this is, even I was appalled at how much Lara Croft’s sex appeal drove the game to new commercial heights. I was astounded that such a little effort in “accidentally” bumping the 150% button on 3D vector graphics applications when the mouse was hovered over the funbag area would have such a big impact on sales. And this is coming from someone who at one point seriously considered purchasing Manga-themed dishware at full retail.

The instant media sensation of Lara Croft’s attributes as an action heroine was surprisingly robust as well. She appeared on every one of the two thousand gaming magazines in existence in the 1990’s, each in a different provocative pose, such as posing with a gun in her left hand, posing with a gun in her right hand, and posing with both hands on her gun. Some even came with Maxim-style photo spreads, centerfold and all, with Croft in swimsuits or revealing evening wear. The emphasis on her physical attributes seemed to be an almost unconstructive distraction from the actual development of the game itself to an almost negative degree, or even to her face, which until well into the series has a very angular, Geena-Davis like quality to it.

The popularity of the Tomb Raider series quickly eclipsed that of the video game industry. A highly profitable movie based on the game was released in 2001, starring the stunningly underendowed Angelina Jolie (and, perhaps uncomfortably, her real-life estranged father, John Voight). While it promised to be a hypersexualized version of Indiana Jones, a disappointing second movie, released in 2003, effectively ended the franchise as a motion picture venue. The video game series, however, has continued to be a moneymaker, even as Croft’s dimensions have been reduced and more emphasis has been placed on gameplay, apparently in the hopes that the 12 year olds who bought the game in the mid-90’s are now in their mid-twenties and therefore are no longer interested in sex.

Still, the impact of Tomb Raider on the industry as a whole seems to be pretty minimal. There have been few strong heroines that have penetrated the market, aside from Dixie Kong and the Virtual Jenna Jameson. And the push-this-stone-to-make-that-stone-move style of game has given way to more WWII first-person shooters than there were actual soldiers in the European theater and one new Everquest expansion approximately every six hours. Still, the evolution of the video game market being what it is, we’ll no doubt soon see a massively multiplayer Vichy France environment where all of the now-female soldiers’ cups, of course, runneth over. I, for one, can hardly wait.

A Blonde Descent

February 18, 2007

Sometimes, I lie awake at night and hope that things, when taken in the full context of our times, used to be a lot, lot worse. There is some unended chapter in the 1960’s or ’70’s, where, if we were to invent some form of time machine and take a virtual snapshot on some camera, no doubt developed by Apple (presumably called the iTime iCamera or something) and find that things were much, much crazier and more hedonistic than they are now. I do, I lie awake at night and I hope.

Not that it’s going to do any good, of course.

I’m not one to usually follow the various self-inflicted trials of celebrities. Sure, I’ll listen with amusement at the latest television star to be caught in an affair, and I’ll laugh heartily as another movie star gets caught with a DUI, and I’ll scratch my forehead in puzzlement at yet another nightclub shooting. Actually, I like hearing about how people who make more undeserved money than me screw up, because then when I put the coffee filter in wrong or forget to mail the mortgage payment I can smile mildly to myself in a self-congratulatory sense of entitlement. At least I didn’t pass out drunk at a truss boutique on Rodeo Drive.

But lately the absolute frequency and intensity of misbehaving young starlets seems to point more towards the supply end of the graph than the demand. Sure, it’s great to see some young blonde get her (ahem) comeuppance, but when everyone’s doing it, no one is shamed. And there’s much more by way of surprises than I’m comfortable with.

Anna Nicole Smith’s behavior has been reliably unfavorable, a remarkable feat for a woman who has been dead for at least week. She has an ambiguous, incoherent will that is going to tie up the probate courts for (no doubt) decades, though one has to concede that it’s still more lucid than anything she’s verbalized in the last ten years or so.

The newest problem child is Britney Spears, whose increasingly erratic behavior has raised more than a few eyebrows in…well, pretty much the studio of Access Hollywood and maybe per parents’ house. But even her latest adventures are close to slapping the “crazy” tab on her. After a few days of rehab rumors swirling about the tabloids, she shows up at a modest tattoo parlor and demanded to have some body art added to her already remarkably tousled appearance, specifically on her wrists. Now, I’ve never been very fascinated by tattoos—not on myself or others—and it’s not from some fear of needles or, more logically, hepatitis, it’s just that I have an inherent aversion to activities with little positive contribution to someone’s well-being and an extremely expensive opt-out cost, in this case presumably successive skin grafts or some Star Trek laser they developed at the Robert Schuller Deprogramming Clinic and Health Food Laboratory, Inc. But if there was one place I would not want to have a tattoo—besides, you know, there—is the wrist. There’s just too much in the over/under in that transaction to make me think a permanent body art representation of a Chinese proverb that unbeknownst to me really means “I Crave It From Behind” is best displayed on one of the weakest areas of your blood flow continuum.

Of course, you would think that the story would stop there, but if you did, you not only haven’t been watching a television in the past fourteen centuries or, hopefully and more likely, you have successfully blocked out all reports containing information about Spears as a colossal waste of time and effort for everyone involved in society. (Which, by the way, means you shouldn’t be reading this right now.) Previous to receiving her tattoo, Spears took a razor from a conveniently nearby salon and shaved off all of her hair. This, of course, being somewhat of a shame, since Spears’s hair seems to be the last part of her body that hasn’t been sold out to the highest bidder.

If there is one look that is pretty much confirmed as not being particularly unbecoming, the female bald look is it. It didn’t particularly work for Sinead O’Conner, the only other pop star who deliberately shaved her head to make up for her talent of not having any talent. It’s not hard to believe that she’s doing it in a moment of guilt and weakness to desexualize herself after effectively whoreing out her wholesome image at the expense of her dignity, and wants to bring back even a small modicum of self-respect to her new role as a mother. Either that or she has lice.

This stands in stark contrast to her perceived arch-rival in the total skankification competition, Christina Aguilera. Spending the last few years in kind of a low-key, whore detox schedule, Aguilera managed to redeem herself with a presentation at the James Brown tribute at the 2007 Grammys. In what has generally been a well-received performance, she belted out “It’s A Man’s World” with such force and enthusiasm it can only be assumed that she either had to pass a kidney stone or trying to sweat out the gin, either of which could be perfectly amenable to be a fitting emulation to the Godfather of Soul.

It’s hard to bring up that much moral outrage about all these young girls. Since Hollywood cracked open its doors almost a century ago, young actors and actresses have misbehaved publicly and brutally ever since Clara Bow’s amazing display of muscular conditioning and gastronomical tolerance in terms of volume astounded the world, or at least the collegiate football system. It’s no wonder than they succumb to the pressures of stardom, but it does add a little bit of perspective as to how things work in our society. When Russell Crowe goes on a four-day bender and leers at the teenagers down at the mall after suckerpunching the waitress at Appleby’s, it’s on the news for the next three weeks and adds a few million dollars to his asking price. When our Uncle Jim does it, we call it Tuesday.

Reign of Terriers

February 15, 2007

This week was the presentation of one of the most highly esteemed dog shows in America. As with most newly commercialized extravaganzas, it has a long and illustrious history. Back in the late 1800’s, there were those in America who decided that what the United States needed most was to organize a confirmation show for canines. They spent countless hours making sure that not only was it going to be a prestigious show, but a uniquely American one as well. This is telling in their decision to name the show, when they chose a uniquely American name, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

These competitions are orchestrated beauty pageants for an animal that occasionally warrants a two for one deal. These dogs are trained, groomed, and paraded about by their owners, officially called “handlers,” because “creepy, lonely aunts” is too disturbing a phrase for basic cable. These dogs are then judged by their peers (ahem), and ultimately one of them wins the much-coveted “Best in Show.” This is also the procedure for finding a spouse.

There are seven different categories where dogs compete:

·Working: The poor dogs in this category are the James Brown of the canine world. They are the tax-evading, wife-beating, laying-in-state-for-three-rank-months, Christina Aguilera-inspiring coronary waiting to happen. No, wait. Wrong metaphor. I mean, they’re the hardest working dogs in the species. They are primarily known for dogs that perform normal tasks as part of their breeding, such as taking out the trash, washing the car, or playing the under on the Cavaliers.
·Terrier: The terrier group is the classification of dog that has fallen the furthest from respectability. At one time, they were know for their exceptional hunting abilities against small varmints. Nowadays spend most of their time lounging around, mooching off the government, and waiting for the occasional sitting for pillowcase tartan-pattern crotchetiers.
·Toy: This category includes those dogs that, if they were not dogs, they would be manufactured by Nerf and marketed on Nickelodeon. They are classified as dogs simply by the biological fact that if you were to cut them open there may be a mess involved, though to be fair even if you don’t cut them open there may be a mess involved. Toy dogs lack such normal features that most dogs have, such as a prodigious snout, a tail, prominent ears, or a soul. Batteries not included.
·Sporting: Sporting dogs are dogs that are willing to go to the pub with you and play wingman. Or, perhaps, they are good at retrieving whatever it was that a hunter shot and hit from a field full of cattails. They also laugh at you if you hold the gun an inch away from the screen and still miss.
·Hound: Hounds tend to be the most contemplative of dogs, and by “contemplative” I mean “lazy.” While the mighty bloodhound may have a reputation as a stellar hunting dog, all he does in reality is the same thing all hunters do; namely, tell the wife they’re going hunting, and then spend six days drinking beer and staying away from the wife.
·Herding: Herding dogs are those trained to herd animals, primarily sheep. Most owners of herding dogs are proud of this unique, innate, and fascinating ability, even though the herding dog’s only ability is simply to be smarter than a sheep.
·Non-Sporting: The veritable “none-of-the-above” canines, these poor mutts are the recycle bin of the dog world. Nonclassified and unwanted, they are given a nondescript “Miss Congeniality” equivalent award, and then sent home to work in a shady cubicle while poodles and golden retrievers become prom queens and quarterbacks. The non-sporting dogs are most likely to stay up until midnight to change the will when no one is looking.

It’s kind of fun to watch the show, though, and not only for the dogs. Why these women handlers who I know deep in their heart of hearts love, adore, and cherish their beloved, insist on wearing tight skirts when presenting their dogs is beyond me. I guess it’s kind of amusing but wholly impractical. Especially for those women who have been at the show year after year, then when they are expected to parade their dog around the stadium, have the nerve to act vaguely surprised when they realize exactly what kind of logistical nightmare it is to trot a few paces behind their dog in an outfit that has more compressed tension than Isaiah Washington at a Kenny Chesney concert.

I also find it amusing that dog experts are able to compare two entirely different breeds of dog and find out which one is better, even though the dogs’ only similarities diverged in the gene pool around the time of Noah. They make a show of checking underneath the dogs and prod them gently with an inquisitive stare and, immediately afterwards, the unwavering look of Catholic disapproval as the dog chomps happily on the treat they were undeservedly given for successfully standing still for forty-five seconds.

When it is all said and done, of course, the judges make their decision based on what qualities are truly the “best in show,” a phrase I put in quotes because it’s such a comical concept. What do they use as a qualifier? There’s no swimsuit competition and no chance for the Pekinese to tell us how she wants to end world hunger or the shingles epidemic or anything. Do they base it on their ability to bark incessantly for no reason in the middle of the night, or how fast they can eat their own feces? Whatever private criteria they use, of course, it can’t be any worse than how we pick our real estate agents, Presidents, or crotchetiers.

Love, and Other Mercantile Pursuits

February 11, 2007

It’s that time of year again: young men and women from around the world become star-crossed and dewy-eyed as winter turns into spring; romance fills every empty crevice, emanating from every flower, every cloud, every sunset; people, walking, jogging, running, filing taxes hand-in-hand, looking deep into the eyes of that special someone and thinking about the same universal thought that has driven mankind since time immemorial: Money. Er, Love. I mean Love.

Capital-L Love is one of the few things that we cannot put a quantitative price on, at least not until we get married. And, to represent this upswelling of emotion, we have an entire holiday devoted to love: Valentine’s Day. (As opposed to, say, Thanksgiving, the main purpose of which is not to recognize love, but, rather, to restrain yourself from killing every member of your family with a carving knife, or Memorial Day, so government workers can leave work to get half price off of shoes.)

Valentine’s Day was invented by all those tenth grade guys who were much taller and better-looking than you and had pretty cars and fast women and could afford to blow their money on such frivolous items as sweaters from Kaufmann’s for their girlfriends. Valentine’s Day directly benefited them. And, despite the fact that the average teenage romance lasts about as long as a sitcom on the CW, it left people who took AP Calculus sitting at home on Valentine’s day reading J.R.R. Tolkien novels and wishing that women didn’t have the inherent power of being so attractive that state secrets should be kept from you.

Not that I ever had that problem. I hated The Hobbit. But Valentine’s day is still very popular, especially for Hallmark store managers and reality show producers, and the superseding emotion of Valentine’s day has certainly never been forgotten: Forgiveness.

This is the day that all men buy very expensive and very unnecessary items in a badly misguided but well-intentioned attempt to get their mates to forgive them for every rotten thing they have ever done, which, if publicly revealed, would probably be reasonable grounds for execution in many states.

There are many ways for men to do this. Take chocolate. Chocolate was invented decades ago by Latin American leaders who, for some reason or another, do all their business through banks based out of the Cayman Islands. There are typically two kinds of chocolate:

1. Chocolate manufactured in America that tastes like chalk and is used to bait mouse traps, and

2. Chocolate that tastes so good that, if it were biologically feasible, you would want to marry it.

Men who are not in trouble buy chocolate from acceptable if pedestrian American companies that like to experiment with toffee and other vaguely defined atrocities. Men who are deeply in trouble buy chocolate produced in small European countries that have no armies. The best bet for men who feel like taking out another mortgage would be to buy something like Godiva’s chocolate, which is apparently manufactured by extracting traces of candy from gold nuggets and of which a single box is worth at least two affairs.

Men who don’t feel like watching their significant others blow up like Tyra Banks could take another route: flowers. I never quite 100% understood what the big deal about flowers is. The main purpose of flowers are to A) smell up the place and B) lay around and eventually die. That’s what dogs are for, yet men still buy them for women who still act like you just gave them a winning lottery ticket or crystal meth.

Yet another way for men to create that “romantic” feeling is to take out their spouse or girlfriend on a “Mystery Date,” or, in technical terms, “sheer torture for everyone involved.” This entails surprising their female acquaintance with a trip to an expensive fancy restaurant, where the underlying principle is to serve the worst-tasting food in the smallest portions scientifically possible for the largest amount of money.

The female is so pleased to see that the object of her affection (or, perhaps, affectation) has committed so many resources to not taking her to the Eat ‘N’ Park Valentine’s Day pancake breakfast buffet that she forgets that the entire purpose of the date, at least by his perspective, is to make her forget that the only instance in which he would remember her birthday (or her name, for that matter) is if it was somehow connected with the outcome of the Super Bowl.

Is all of this pseudo-bribery worth it? To many people, the answer is: yes. Otherwise, our national economy would plummet and we would have to invent some other holiday based on a different emotion, like envy or greed. I, personally, favor greed: we could go around, trying to make as much money as we want, and then we could go home and gloriously bask in our newfound infatuation with materialism. And, really, isn’t that what love is all about?

Anna Nicole Smith, RIP

February 10, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith, actress, model, and control group for intelligence, has died. Parts of her were 39.

Smith, a former Playmate of the Year, has had a reasonably seasoned and controversial career as a model. Her unique mix of outrageous behavior and girl-next-door innocence made her a celebrity. But her dramatic home life, which she made no effort whatsoever to keep from the public eye, enhanced her popularity beyond Brangelinic proportions.

The death of Smith by a probable drug overdose has surprised many people, the same people who were surprised at the fact that Hillary Clinton is running for president. It’s an unfortunate fact that Smith has had a long, public battle with substance abuse, one of the many, many hurdles she has had to work to overcome in her life, along with obesity, grammar construction, and being Texan.

Smith’s goal in life was to emulate Marilyn Monroe. In many ways, she succeeded by becoming a blonde sex bombshell, causing controversy with her sexual openness, and having a cyanide capsule anally inserted into her body by the mafia to cover up an affair with Bobby and Jack Kennedy.

Granted, their career paths differed in many ways as well. For instance, Marilyn Monroe has been on record as being able to successfully tie her shoes without there being a step involving inserting ground up coca leaves in her nose. And when Marilyn had sexual relations with Hugh Hefner in order to get on the cover of his magazine, it didn’t require significant pharmaceuticals to be injected directly into both of their bloodstreams in order for them to finish to completion, though for completely different reasons altogether.

Smith has somehow managed to become a legitimate figure not for her occasionally coherent outbursts or her limited acting roles, but through the behavior of her quixotic marriage to an oil tycoon, the WASPishly named J. Howard Marshall. Despite there being a 60-plus year difference in their ages, Smith professed that she loved him with the same amount of conviction in her voice that she uses when proclaiming that TrimSpa isn’t just a placebo that tastes like cough syrup and sawdust.

A golddigger marriage isn’t enough, in and of itself, to legitimize Smith—if it was, half the women in the world would be on the front page of the New York Post. However, when Marshall did something entirely unexpected—die at the age of 90—then it became a newsworthy item. Smith and Marshall’s family have fought a decade-long battle for his estate, which totaled in the billions. The escalating legal battle went all the way up to the Supreme Court, and much was made in the media of the admittedly lightweight Smith walking into one of the most austere institutions in America’s government. Many pundits were concerned that Smith may not feel comfortable in such a serious, grandiose setting. Thankfully, despite the Supreme Court’s honorable tradition, there was, indeed, plenty to make her feel at home; Clarence Thomas kept a stripper pole in his chambers, William Rehnquist kept a full stock of amphetamines hidden in his top drawer, and her and Ruth Bader Ginsburg discussed their favorite lap dancing techniques.

Alas, the court case is only a small part of the drama. She recently gave birth to a daughter while in the Bahamas, and only a few days later her son, Daniel, died of a drug overdose while visiting his newborn sister in the hospital. Then, the paternity of the daughter came into question. Smith declared her lawyer, Howard K. Stern (he insists on using his middle initial so as not to damage his, uh, reputation) to be the father, but a few others seem to have a valid claim for parentage, notably Larry Birkhead, Frederic von Anhalt, and, at least statistically likely, Kevin Federline.

Smith’s descent, unlike most people, was televised, and usually with her encouragement. She appeared on many of the entertainment magazines and awards shows with slurred speech and ambiguous statements. Her reality TV program, The Anna Nicole Show, was a surreal look into her private life, which seemed to chiefly revolve around her dog Sugar Pie having amorous feelings towards unfortunate inanimate objects. While it introduced many characters in this unfolding real-life drama, such as Stern and Daniel, it also opened up an entirely new view into the weirdness that was her life. In ways, it was funny, but it was mostly sad. (In case you’re wondering, both funny and sad make plenty of money.)

Still, many people are legitimately saddened by her passing, while others are irritated that this is more than a one-day story. The seemingly disproportionate interest in the tawdry is hardly a new development, yet Anna Nicole Smith walked that fine line between Cracker Jack prize and cultural icon, never quite slumping drunkenly one way or the other. Unlike other notorious deaths, however, it’s the sad fact that for most people her real legacy will probably be bounced around the 9th circuit court of appeals for the next decade or so. For the rest, her legacy will live on as long as that May 1992 issue is floating around.

…One Giant Leap For Moonbat Crazy Women

February 6, 2007

Money. Sex. Love Betrayed. Extramarital affairs. Astronautical engineering.

The story of US Navy Captain Lisa Nowak is somewhat sad, though that certainly does not preclude us from laughing at her. A successful astronaut, Nowak has rapidly descended from well-respected scientist to accused attempted murderer, a public disgrace unmatched since every comment about every quarterback on every losing team for every Super Bowl game ever played.

Society expects those people who have attained a rather remarkable amount of specialized talent, such as physics, calculus, or TiVo, to also have a certain level of common sense. Occasional classroom massacres aside, those kids who broke the curve on that bear of a trig test in tenth grade tended to be quiet and not prone to second degree assault against imaginary rivals for their love interest, at least outside of the context of the latest EverQuest campaign. Yet when something like what happened to Nowak occurs, we begin to doubt our own selves…if a NASA scientist can go crazy on someone when she’s on the rag, what does that mean for the rest of us?

Nowak was charged a few days ago with attempted murder. She found out that a fellow trainee was pursuing a relationship with a NASA engineer, and, being the jealous type, decided to drive from Houston to Orlando to confront the other woman. Apparently, however, the logistics of love triangles aren’t in the NASA entrance exam, since by her own admission she had no type of relationship beyond professional with the man involved. This made the triangle a bit more like a straight line with an unwanted and uninvited dot somewhere on I-10. Though, really, I think it would be hard to tell. One can only imagine how NASA scientists hit on each other.

Engineer: Station, we seem to have some kind of interference. I can’t seem to get a clear signal from you.
Lab Assistant: Responding. What are your chances of success?
Engineer: There appears to be a 79% chance of me getting to first base with you tonight if I can grab a case of Kendall-Jackson. What’s your status?
Lab Assistant: Affirmative.

After assaulting the Kind Of But Not Really Other Woman, Nowak was found with an alarmingly varied set of tools. The police found a trench coat and black wig (the refuge of those whose only exposure to espionage is by watching old Pink Panther cartoons), a BB gun (apparently in case she needed to really, really cause a sharp, irritating pain to someone at the point of attack), a 4-inch buck knife she no doubt borrowed off of any 9-year-old boy from anywhere in the world, a brand new steel mallet, black gloves, rubber tubing, pepper spray, and (of course) a bag of diapers. Most people seem to have been puzzled by the diapers (when I find out that a woman has procured any item from the personal hygiene aisle, I immediately stop asking questions) but I, personally, am more puzzled by the steel mallet and rubber tubing. Was this some half-remembered dream from her glory days as a gold medal winner at the Olympics of the Mind? Is this some third-rate Apprentice task with no known goal? Is there some NASA fraternity we’re all better off not knowing about?

Physicist: OK, if you want to join, you have to find a way to assault your imaginary friend’s imaginary lover with nothing more than a steel mallet, rubber tubing, and one hunting accessory of your choice.
Nowak: Can I bring diapers?
Physicist: That’s it. You’re out.

Before this unfortunate incident, Nowak was a reasonably experienced astronaut. She has been in orbit, making one trip to the International Space Station in 2006. In retrospect, it should have been obvious then as it is now how foolishly insane she was when she demanded to make interstratospherical phone calls to her husband every three hours to “see who picks up”. (Several profiles seem to make a point that Nowak is the “first Italian-American to be in space,” apparently there being a heretofore untold story of discrimination against Italians in the space program. Otherwise, it seems a designation that is about as remarkable as, say, being the first Irish-American to do his taxes, or the first WASP to wear sneakers.)

Alas, for Nowak, the vagaries of the criminal justice system are not looking kindly towards her. She was originally charged simply with kidnapping, intended assault with random hardware store appliances apparently not a crime in the state of Florida (though, with the track record in Dade County and Palm Beach, there apparently aren’t many things that are classified as a crime in Florida). After finding the gun and establishing that she paid everything with cash, though, it was determined to be attempted murder, a much worse crime than kidnapping by any standards outside of Singapore.

Still if there is any redeeming value out of the entire sorry episode, it’s a small parable that we can find somewhat comforting: it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to be a crazy bitch.

The Bear and the Colt

February 4, 2007

There’s a reasonably large sports contest that is going to be played soon, a de facto holiday in many parts of the country. Usually in two parts of the country more so than others. This year, the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears will fight a grand simulated battle to the death, otherwise known as How Many Points Will The AFC Win By This Year.

In some ways, the two Super Bowl contenders have many striking similarities. They both come from two different yet easily confused states, at least in the context of putting together those awful wooden jigsaw puzzles third grade teachers are convinced are challenging because the state names have been removed but whose only impact on the American education system is that every male at the age of 12 thinks they were the genius that thought up that joke about what the shape of Florida resembles. They’re both teams who have overcome tremendous tests of faith and skill; the Colts have had a decades-long frustration of choking in the playoffs, whether it be Peyton Manning’s occasionally faltering laser-rocket arm or some idiot kicker. The Bears have to deal with the legacy of the Super Bowl Shuffle.

Granted, there are some differences as well. Chicago is the home of Oprah, the O’Leary cow, and that musical starring Richard Gere pretending to sing and Catherine Zeta Jones pretending to not be sleeping with him. Indianapolis is the home of David Letterman, car racing, and Hoosiers. One of Chicago’s nicknames is the “Second City,” a testament to how great cities with low self-esteem can become with a little bit of love, devotion, and a strategic economic location along Lake Michigan. Indianapolis’s nickname is the “Circle City,” with “Flat Land Stolen From the Indians City” and “Culturally More Significant Than, Uh, Let’s Just Say Botany Bay” already taken in the Least Imaginative City Nickname Ever sweepstakes.

The two quarterbacks are also stealing a fair amount of the spotlight, and with good reason. Peyton Manning has been the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts since approximately the Age of Reason, and has achieved important football statistics that make Dan Marino look like Brett Favre’s vagina, but has yet to win a Super Bowl ring due to (please choose all that apply) 1) A defense that couldn’t hold off an invasion of Italian photojournalists; 2) the insistence that playoff games actually be played as opposed to being determined by an automatic statistical resolution; or 3) the inability to convince the NFL to hold every single game at the RCA Stadium. So many feel that this is a grave injustice, despite the fact that Manning has thrown over 37,000 yards, 275 touchdowns, saved 415 babies from burning buildings, and personally bayoneted 1,735 Germans at El Alamein.

Rex Grossman, however, is a slightly different case. Unlike Manning, Grossman is a relative newcomer, having only started a few seasons ago. His performance has been both lauded and criticized for his uneven yet skillful playing. His career started auspiciously when he threw his first touchdown and immediately broke every finger in his right hand. In his second season, he led the team all the way to the preseason before severing several parts of his spinal cord and breaking both of his legs. And this season, he helped defeat the Seattle Seahawks after disjointing his elbow, snapping his neck, losing eight toes to frostbite, and simultaneously developing diabetes, chronic meningitis, and aplastic anemia. And he led the Bears to win over the Saints despite suffering from eight heart attacks and losing all muscular function in the right half of his body.

Despite the Super Bowl’s ominous presence, it’s not the only event this year for football fans. The feel-good story of the season, of course, concerns the New Orleans Saints. Last year, their home—the Superdome—was converted into a shelter for those who needed to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and, deprived of their usual stomping ground, ended the season with a painful yet forgivable given-the-circumstances 3-13 record. This year, though, they made it all the way to the playoffs, eventually falling gallantly to the Chicago Bears with an upset, allowing Reggie Bush only one elaborately conceited taunting the entire game. Since this is the first time the Saints have made it to the playoffs without being a wild card team in the history of all mankind, it had led many analysts to wonder when a hurricane can be engineered to hit Detroit.

Truly, the winner of the Super Bowl is, really, the fans. And by the fans, I specifically mean Peyton Manning. Regardless of who wins, Manning’s folksy manner and irrepressible charm just may—just may!—be able to be converted into a shot at an endorsement deal. I’m not a betting man, but I strongly believe we might be seeing him in a few commercials when this football nonsense is all said and done. Just a thought.