GET THAT CORN OUT OF MY FACE

Nacho Libre is hilarious. I'm sorry, but it is. I know many of you are likely to be skeptical (when I first heard about this film getting green-lighted last year, I declared it to be the worst idea since Battlefield:Earth) but unless you hate Jack Black, I can't see this failing to amuse you.

If fart jokes, pratfalls, physical comedy, ludicrous Wes Anderson-style costuming, and absurd dialogue ("Luchadores have it all – beautiful women, fancy clothes……various…creams and lotions") make you giggle, you will enjoy this film. It contains all those things in abundance.

You also get to see a preview for Clerks II. It didn't make me start swearing in the theater. Really.

Not tolerating BS

Hi all. I'm in graduate school all of a sudden, and up to my neck with statistical curves. I've meant to post this for a while, and since I have little to say that isn't going to be on a midterm next week, I feel better about just posting someone else's writings.

Earlier this year the New Yorker did a profile of Bill O'Reilly, which was one of the funnier and snarkier things I've read this year (certainly from them). They refer to The Factor as being in a baroque period, and drop this one-liner: "Once, when Howard Stern was asked to explain his success, he said that he owed it to lesbians. O’Reilly owes his to child molesters."

They explain a bit about O'Reilly's lesser known fiction from the late 90s. This was written right around the time that a lot of conservative's bizarre paperback fiction was coming to light, most notably Scooter Libby's novel that featured this line: "At age ten the madam put the child in a cage with a bear trained to couple with young girls…"

Unlike some conservative talk-show hosts, O’Reilly hasn’t had a career in politics or government; he has never been based in Washington. Long Island notwithstanding, he really comes from a place called television news. After college, he taught high school in Florida, then got a degree in broadcast journalism and worked his way around the country’s media markets, starting as a consumer reporter in Scranton, Pennsylvania. In the early eighties, he landed at CBS News, as a correspondent for the “Evening News.” It should have been his big break, but it didn’t work out. Although he had a happier time at another network, ABC, before joining the syndicated show “Inside Edition,” in 1989, and then Fox, the CBS episode has stayed with him. It hurt—it still hurts. No matter how big a star he becomes, he’s eternally the guy who was banished from the charmed circle.

O’Reilly’s account of what went wrong at CBS has him, as always, pissing off powerful people because he won’t play their phony games. The key moment seems to have come when, during the Falkland Islands War, O’Reilly and his crew got some exclusive footage of a riot in the streets of Buenos Aires and it wound up being incorporated into a report from the veteran correspondent Bob Schieffer, which failed to mention O’Reilly’s contribution. O’Reilly was furious, and after that, by his account, he was in career Siberia at CBS. During this period of forced inaction, he later wrote, “on a visit to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I stumbled upon an amazing story. The tiny fishing village of Provincetown had become a gay mecca!” O’Reilly took a cameraman there and did a piece on the dangers this posed to local kids, but the network wouldn’t air it. Not long after that, he left.

In 1998, after the launch of “The O’Reilly Factor,” but before superstardom, he published a thriller called “Those Who Trespass,” which is his most ambitious and deeply felt piece of writing. “Those Who Trespass” is a revenge fantasy, and it displays extraordinarily violent impulses. A tall, b.s.-intolerant television journalist named Shannon Michaels, the “product of two Celtic parents,” is pushed out by Global News Network after an incident during the Falkland Islands War, and then by a local station, and he systematically murders the people who ruined his career. He starts with Ron Costello, the veteran correspondent who stole his Falkland story:

"The assailant’s right hand, now holding the oval base of the spoon, rocketed upward, jamming the stainless stem through the roof of Ron Costello’s mouth. The soft tissue gave way quickly and the steel penetrated the correspondent’s brain stem. Ron Costello was clinically dead in four seconds. "

Michaels stalks the woman who forced his resignation from the network and throws her off a balcony. He next murders a television research consultant who had advised the local station to dismiss him: he buries the guy in beach sand up to his neck and lets him slowly drown. Finally, during a break in the Radio and Television News Directors Association convention, he slits the throat of the station manager. O’Reilly describes each of these killings—the careful planning, the suffering of the victim, the act itself—in loving detail.

In the novel, O’Reilly splits his alter ego in two, by creating a second tall, b.s.-intolerant Irish-American, a New York City homicide detective named Tommy O’Malley. O’Malley is charged with solving the murders that Michaels has committed, while competing with Michaels for the heart of Ashley Van Buren, a blond, busty aristocrat turned b.s.-intolerant crime columnist. Michaels, a possibly once good man driven mad by broadcast journalism, tells Ashley, “Journalism, as you know, is a profession that requires its participants to be aggressive, skeptical, and persistent in pursuit of the truth. Yet, the moment you enter your own newsroom, you’ve got to drop all that. The managers want total conformity. They want you to play the game, to do what you’re told to do.” And, later, “It’s a self-obsessed business. ‘How are things going to impact on me? Is this person my friend or my enemy? I’ll get him before he gets me.’ That kind of thing. It’s a brutal way to live.” Again and again, O’Reilly’s characters remind us that on-air broadcasters are among the most powerful and glamorous people in America, and so the stakes in television newsroom politics could not be higher.

Tommy O’Malley, too, has a lot of ambition and rage, but he channels it into bringing bad guys (not just Michaels but a collection of urban ethnic street punks out of the old “Dirty Harry” or “Death Wish” movies) to justice. Michaels, though rejected by the suits, the swells, and the phonies, is not entirely immune to their values. He lives in a mansion, eats filet mignon, dresses stylishly, and can’t dismiss the A-listers from his consciousness. He is drawn to places like Malibu, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Upper West Side, partly to carry out his murders and partly because a kind of psychological undertow pulls him there. O’Malley seems not to know that they exist; he is broke and not stylish. He is morally redeemed by the police mission, just as Michaels is morally damned by television.