FOX PRESENTS: WHEN LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS ATTACK

Given Chicago's long and proud history of bringing unmitigated, irrational violence to the baseball diamond (which I chronicled a few weeks ago as Chicago Baseball Uber Alles) I see the no option but for a Chicago team to trade for Kenny "The Gambler" Rogers.

la_kennyrogers2_372.jpg

Without provocation, Rogers went bat-shit loco on a pair of hapless TV cameramen Wednesday. After deciding that he did not want them cameras in his face, he shouted "Get them cameras out of my face" toward reporters as the Texas Rangers began the pre-game warmup. He then struck 50 year-old cameraman Larry Rodriguez (who ended up in the hospital) and smashed his camera on the ground. He informed others present that he would "break every fuckin' one of them" before a teammate removed him from the field.

My favorite part about this is not that Rogers (miraculously enjoying his best season as a pro at age 40 after nearly two decades in the league) has embarassed himself, cost himself money, and forfeited a spot on the All-Star team. No, the humor provided by the team and his teammates explaining his actions is much more entertaining.

  • Rangers owner Tom Hicks said the team won't condone Rogers' actions and will handle the matter internally. Well thanks for not condoning felony assault, Tom. And I'm not sure the ol' Catholic church "we'll handle this internally" theory will fly.
  • GM John Hart: "Kenny obviously realizes his actions were incorrect." Are we talking about an adult or my three year old nephew?
  • Rogers: "I didn't handle this right. I'm frustrated. My integrity and toughness is being called into question." Well, assaulting an old man has cleared up questions about your integrity.

    Gotta love those pro athlete double standards. Try beating a cameraman up next time you see one. Let us know if you go to jail or are allowed to "handle the matter internally."

  • WELCOME, WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU

    Every day I read about President Bush's free-falling approval ratings (now at record lows for those of you keeping score) and desperate efforts to have history remember him as something other than the architect of a failed military quagmire. And throughout it all I can't help but wonder about the identity and mindset of people who are suddenly changing their opinion about him from the positive category to the negative. Did we learn something since November that we didn't know beforehand?

    I can't get angry about it given the overwhelming sense of pity I feel towards them. It must really, really suck to know that you are entirely too stupid to have figured out in 2004 what the intelligent among us knew in 1998.

    Ideologically Pure

    I've always associated the idea of being "Ideologically Pure" in American colleges with the activist left community. Perhaps it's because of the community of activist vegans I knew and lived with for a year (long story – but don't worry faithful readers, it involves me eating lots of hamburgers!). It's a bum rap that the hippie-esque left gets associated with the value of "relativism" – because those people tend to be more in line with a True Believer in The Cause, and tend to be distrustful of those who don't believe (or worse, believe only half-heartedly or have doubts), than any good old fashion antipositivist could imagine.

    There were the vegans who, in private no doubt, loathed the vegetarians for not being willing to suffer enough in the cause. There were the vegans who raced to be even more pure than their brothers-in-arms. And there were the members of the GLBT community who might have been more comfortable leaving the Bs at the bottom of the rainbow (one wonders if there were secret GLT "Bs: make a choice already!" meetings).

    And for those who the very idea of getting a college education reeked of indoctrination or those who felt that colleges didn't go far enough in ordering society there were schooling alternatives (Personally, for the purposes of designing society I'll always take my chances with the capitalists' Culture Industry than with Phish and white girls who have dreadlocks).

    Mind you, the only 'conservatives' I knew were a few kids holed up in the local church and attached Newman House, more concerned about how they would match up in baby output versus their contemporaries than in matters of ideas. That and the various frat people I encountered were also more concerned with managing the upcoming weekend party (and the legal troubles afterwards) or young Republicans making little Michael-Mooresque pranks.

    So I'm equal parts happy and horrified to see the New Yorker's profile on Patrick Henry College. I know Christian focused college have existed for quite some time, but I've always sensed that they were like a giant Newman House run amock. Lots of odd 'socials', lots of making sure you get married before you graduate, etc. Little did I know that the Will to Believe was as strong there as any campus activist group.

    The school was originally started as a college for homeschooled children and as a repertoire for aides and volunteers for hard-right politicans. So picture classroom after classroom of children who have been 'untainted' by classroom interaction and having to deal with, or be inspired by, teachers who aren't their parents.

    The article doesn't have any links to the webpage, but it is worth it to explore around. First up is the Statement of Faith all kids who matriculate to the college have to sign. Check it out. " The Bible…is the inspired word of God, inerrant in its original autographs … Man is by nature sinful and is inherently in need of salvation…" All I had to sign was a Academic Integrity agreement. Sadly I could not find the dress code students adhere to online. If it is anything more strict than a stained, slept-in comic book t-shirt, I would have been in major trouble…

    A lot has been written on the high-level policies of these Christian Colleges – their bans on inter-racial dating, their Full Support of republicans on the march, their disturbing speakers and sources of funding, attitudes toward Evolution, etc. But little has beeen written on the student's day-to-day life. As smoking and drinking are strictly forbidden, I genuinely don't know how they would spend their free time. I thought perhaps they sat around and listened to Minor Threat.

    I should have known the answer: they try and become the most pure. This must be hard on a campus of virgins, non-drinkers or drug takers. But they find their way. One student sent out an email reminding women to dress modestly for the Spring Dance because "

    Coming to a town near you – less affordable housing, more Home Depots.

    In a move closely watched by suburban townships and housing advocates across the country, the Supreme Court came down against homeowners today in Susette Kelo v. City of New London in a 5-4 vote. Susette Kelo lives in a middle-class home in the city of New London. The city decided to claim eminent domain to seize her house and neighborhood to hand over to the New London Development Corporation, a private company who intents to use the property for private developments – specifically a development involving hotels and a marina.

    At issue is determining whether or not there is any check to local governments claiming eminent domain as long as they are willing to compensate for whatever the property is worth. Let's clarify what this is not: (a) The intended use is not public (schools, roads, parks), or even for a third party developing a public use ("Taco Bell Presents: The Gordita Public Park"). It's entirely for the economic benefit of a third-party. This is a hurdle to jump – as the 5th amendment is pretty specific in saying – "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." (b) The land in question is not blighted – a word that has a legal and regulatory meaning. Blighted property can be grabbed for whatever reasons with compensation – as the Supreme Court has determined in 1953. The area is question are full of safe, comfortable, older-middle class homes.

    Well The Supreme Court found in favor of the city and economic developers today.

    Oh Shit, I hope I don't have one.

    In a stellar display of "actual science" researchers at UCLA and Cal Tech have located what they beleive to be a "Jennifer Aniston neuron". That's right, a epiletic research patient was shown to have neuron the fired specifically in recognition of Jennifer Aniston and only Jennifer Aniston.

    It is presumed that this neuron is designed to recognize one individual person, or specifically in this case:

    anistonpic.jpg

    Even more disturbing is the fact that they seem to have also located a "Friends" neuron. I am not talking about a neuron that recognizes people with whom you are friendly, but rather a specific neuron devoted to recognizing reference to the situational comedy "Friends." The concept is really quite simple. Basically, when you are exposed to stimuli a number of neurons fire as a result. These neurons map to sort of a matrix of "learning" neurons. As time passes, and you are exposed to the same basic stimuli over and over again, this matrix shrinks. Essentially it can be said that your brain is getting more adapted to recognizing what you are looking at, hearing, smelling, ect. The logical end to this process would be that after repeated, brain numbing exposure to something your brain would adapt to the point where a single neuron fired in recognition of a particular set of stimuli- in this case Jennifer Aniston, and also the show Friends.

    Now, the logical end to this post is to conclude that it is both disturbing and exceptionally amusing that the first time scientists were able to locate such a fantastically adapted neuron it was adapted, not to recognize your wife, girlfriend, or grandmother, but Jennifer Aniston and the situational comedy Friends (two seperate neurons by the way). So if ever we are asked if our culture has been saturated with celebrity, we now know the answer…as well as the answer to some important questions about brain mechanics.

    If you think that this is all been made up, here is the original research in pdf format. The publication Nature is the single most well respected source in the scientific community. Having papers published there means very rigorous peer review as well as groundbreaking work.

    Have fun.

    A more scientific summary from Nature:
    "Friends and Grandmothers" -Charles E Connor

    The actual original paper:
    "Invariant visual representation by single neurons in
    the human brain" -R. Quian Quiroga et. al.

    It was a simple matter of an "Unfavorable Decision"

    When people around the world came together earlier this year to send millions of dollars in cash and resources to Asia to assist the victims of the tsunami, it was my understanding that the aid was generally appreciated. However, it would seem that Sri Lanka's government has found a new and unique way to appreciate the aid.

    The charity Oxfam has been instrumental in attempting the rebuild the country and has imported 25 large all terrain vehicles from India to get the job done in remote locations. You would think that the government would love the fact that there are independent organizations willing to help rebuild their country. However, I guess they decided that the best course of action was to charge them upwards of

    $1,000,000.00

    For the privlege of helping them out. Although this seems ridiculous, the government is claiming it is regular import duties. Somehow I guess the trucks that are being used to transport aid workers and supplies around the country are viewed in the same light as all other imported goods.

    It is not like the government of Sri Lanka is completely out of its mind. (I am sure the $5000 dollars a day storage fee Oxfam is having to pay while the paperwork is processed is par for the course) Nonprofit organizations get the chance to apply for these taxes to be waived.

    Their request was denied.

    Batman Begins

    For those of you who like such things, Neal Stephenson writes about the new Star Wars movies versus the old ones in a Times editorial. He's right to point out one of the important things about the Star Wars movies, at least the original ones, is that it made technology a 'fun' topic for movies. Everything before then had the new digital age as the end of democracy (Lucas's own THX-138) or the end of the current form of humanity (2001: A Space Odyssey). Star Wars predicted that the age of digitization would more or less involve silly drunken digital pictures, finding cheaper airline tickets and looking up tour dates for obscure bands – and not at all involve evolution replacing humanity by star babies or emotionally odd machines.

    It's also funny where he asked "who was the republic fighting?" and nobody, including myself, was actually all that sure.

    Batman Got on my Nerves

    Now I can all see exactly the idea behind the Indiana Jones and Star Wars movies. When the kids of the 70s all had B-movies reels, Flash Gordon and diabolical Nazis in their pop culture vocabulary, they got the same products repackaged back to them as their “own” movies. My generation grew up on comic books. Not just any comic books – but the moody violence of Alan Moore and Frank Miller, and the expressionistic teen angst put to four-colors of the Image artists (Mcfarlane, Liefeld, Silvestri, Lee).

    Harry Potter aside, there isn't much left in terms of new bankable franchises where the audience already knows most of the story walking into the theaters. The miners are getting deep, hitting the last remaining ores of 50s television (Bewitched, The Hooneymooners), late 60s/early 70s cinema (Guess who's coming to dinner?, The Longest Yard) and 70s television (Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch). It doesn't help that the some of America's “auteurs" are aping the sentiment by re-making successful foreign films as American films – the most egregious example being Soderbergh's "Solaris", and the most accomplished is probably a tie between "The Ring" and Christopher Nolan's "Insomnia."

    He was running me amock.

    And now Mister Nolan has inherited the Batman title. In the same way all of our parents knew what a swashbuckling space smuggler looked like, everyone my age knows who Bruce Wayne is, even if they've never read a comic book. I feel silly trying to expand an essay out of this movie; you probably already know if you are going to go and see it or not. So I'll make this short.

    The first thing is that more money went to the supporting cast than extensive special effects, which was an excellent idea. There are less fireballs or bizarre Matrix-esque freeze frames, and more Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. Caine's old-school butler and Oldman's perplexed cop especially standout against the background. Chicago kids will love that the movie was filmed here – seeing the Batmobile fly over the Wacker Street bridge and later screech across Lower Wacker drive was a nice touch (I think the Merchandise Mart was Arkham Asylum).

    It's been a day and the editing for the action scenes are still making me queezy. The editing is all Michael Bay – you never are quite sure where the actors are standing or what they are doing in relation to each other. This shouldn't be that hard – the movies where people kick and fight each other that audiences adore (the first Matrix, Crouching Tiger and other Hong-Kong action, Blade) all allow you to clearly see what is going on. They are entirely composed of mid-range shots with a strong linear focus to them (The vampire missed his kick, then Blade stabbed him with his sword). It's particularly bad with the chase scene, which should be a perfect Blues Brothers style pileup of cars (cinematically, if Chicago is good for anything, it’s for car chases). But the jump-cuts and non-sequitur shot sequencing gave nobody the simple, but essential, satisfaction of watching a car make a fast turn. This becomes even more of a problem during the last battle set on the El.

    Perhaps the idea of perfectly framing a grown man in a rubber suit kicking someone was too much for Nolan to bear, and that he thought he could dodge, or perhaps even make atmospheric, a lot of what was going on by making it incoherent. It didn't work. It is notable that he didn’t do this in the beginning of the movie where it was just Bruce Wayne learning how to sword-fight in the hills.

    He ridiculed me, calling me a bum.

    The co-scriptwriter is David Goyer, who in addition to being an excellent comic book writer, brought you the script for the 2nd and 3rd Blade movies. Blade can get away with chatting it up about Big Ideas while delievering a roundhouse kick to someone – Christian Bale in a rubber suit cannot. The scenes where he's supposed to be the scariest as Batman come off as the most absurd. Bale plays the best asshole in current movies (see American Psycho, the new Shaft), and his Bruce Wayne is perfect – at least they keep the standing around in the Batman suit to a minimum.

    At the end of the film you have gotten three movies – an excellent first one of the training of Bruce Wayne, a pretty good one of Batman's first days on the job, and a third one where Batman has to save the day that may make you dizzy. Don't feel ashamed to leave 2/3rds of the way through the movie.

    TENNESSEE: COME FOR THE MUSIC, STAY FOR THE GARGANTUAN COCKFIGHTS

    Tennessee is usually associated with Elvis, blues guitar, rolling mountains, and the last great hope of the Democratic party. But it has now put itself on the international cockfighting map. Take that Juarez, Mexico!

    ps – Five new album reviews up on the Music page. I hate to be a spoiler, but it may shock you to learn that my review of the new White Stripes album is uncomplimentary.

    THANK GOD HIS NOMINATION IS NO LONGER DELAYED

    Oh, where to begin on the long-awaited nominations to the Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal that have been wasting the Senate's time for about 6 weeks. There's so much to say, and so little restraint available. After a protracted battle of chest-beating in which the President and Republican Congressional majorities made it perfectly clear that they were willing to shit on the Constitution and then set it on fire in order to win approval 9 psychos who base most of their legal opinions on the combined writings of Moses and Henry Clay Frick, the path for their nominations was cleared today.

    To better put in focus exactly how many of your rights the Republican party is willing to disregard in its myopic quest for camera time with James Dobson (p.s. – God wants you to send more checks! Quick! Pretend I'm a legitimate clergyman and not a dime-store televangelist who can't keep his hands out of your pockets!) let's take a look at the record of Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, now better known as Federal Judge One-Step-Away-from-the-Supreme-Court William Pryor.

    Why Pryor? Well, simply because he's more heinous, and he proves my point better. The other contested nominees may be corporate whores, and they're certainly all mindless Bible-thumping drones. But Pryor seems to actually be anti-humanity. I've never seen an elected official come out and make statements like "My job isn't to come here and help children" upon taking office, but Pryor did. He is part of the bizarre, soulless breed of conservative who takes his only joy from victories based in abstract principles while simultaneously and completely disregarding the tangible impact. It doesn't matter if unregulated water supplies could poison us – the important thing is rolling back federal authority (which, to get you up to speed, is the antichrist in any and every situation). See, states (remember, he's from Alabama) and the local Pigsknuckle County Board are the organizations that should hold all regulatory power. Yes, it's William Pryor's wet dream to return America to the days before that pesky 14th Amendment came along – the days when the amount of consumer, environmental, and civil liberty protection an individual received was entirely a function of his zip code.

    Among his other hits:

  • In Board of Trustees of Alabama v. Garrett he successfully argued to prevent the federal government from requiring states as employers to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of the ruling, which effectively eliminates individual recourse if a state/local government refuses to accomodate a disability, Pryor gloated in pride for "protecting the hard-earned dollars of Alabama taxpayers when Congress imposes illegal mandates on our state." Way to go, Billy! Show them cripples who's boss!
  • In Nevada v. Hibbs (2003) Pryor filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court defending Nevada's argument that the Family and Medical Leave Act is an unconstitutional extention of federal power from which states should be immune. Are these the words of a judge or Skeletor? Is he fucking kidding? No, he isn't. Even the Rehnquist court didn't buy that argument. But soon enough, Billy Boy will be in a position to change that. Thanks, pro-lifers!
  • He fought hard in Reno v. Condon (2000) to overturn the Driver's Privacy Protection Act (which prevents personal info from being obtained by – well, basically anyone off the street – through drivers license records) using a state's rights argument. The court went 9-0 against him. Guess what, shithead – when Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia won't buy your conservative argument, you're a fucking lunatic. Oh, wait. Now you're a federal judge.
  • When the Violence Against Women Act was challenged in United States v. Morrison (2000), Pryor made Alabama the only state to write an amicus brief in favor of repealing the law (36 other states wrote briefs in support of it). He chastised supporters as being "so willing to sacrifice their liberty…to the behemoth of federal power." Yes, truly is federalism more important than spousal abuse. Boy, I'd hate to be an abused woman in Alabama. But then again, all them bitches had it comin', right?
  • In an argument that would have gotten a lawyer disbarred and/or laughed off the planet in the non-Bush world, Pryor justified Alabama's failure to enforce the terms of a consent decree intended to protect foster children from being abused and molested by arguing that Alabama's former Governor, former Attorney General, and other state officials had conspired to defraud the state by entering into the consent decree (AL Supreme Court R.C. v. Nachma). Even the Alabama Supreme Court (several justices of which cannot read or write) didn't buy it. Hell, I don't think Thomas Cooley grads would buy it.

    How on Earth is someone like this identified as someone who can serve the highest courts in the land effectively? God only knows. Wait. I know.

    Pryor explicitly opposes abortion in cases of rape and incest (which usually coincide in Alabama and are celebrated as legal marriage). He supports a law making the state the legal guardian of fetuses from the time of conception until birth – yup, he's really on the lookout against government power. And he told the Federalist Society (feel free to read up on those whackos to get a good laugh and calm down) on 10/16/97 that "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe and of the mystery of human life.”

    Sounds like a pro-choice argument to me, but I believe he misspoke. What he meant to say was that he holds that right, and the rest of us should be appropriately supplicant.

    Congratulations on your victory, pro-life America! I hope it was worth it. Which it most assuredly won't be if you're female, disabled, concerned about your privacy, or a sexually-abused foster child.