Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cinema: Casino Royale--the new James Bond?

I have strong feelings about James Bond; like Roman Catholicism, that worldview has deeply influenced my own. That’s why I have mixed feelings at best about the latest Bond effort—this fall’s release, “Casino Royale.”

It’s probably the most faithful of the movies to the original book so far, and I agree with the verdict of most of the people who’ve seen it—that Daniel Craig is the best James Bond since Sean Connery.

What bugs me is the new “take” on Bond that the producers of the film decided to go with this time around. With each screen incarnation, the film series’ producers seemed compelled to do more than simply find a substitute for Sean Connery. They tried to find an angle on the character with each new actor—for example, with Roger Moore, Bond was more the “English gentleman” type; Pierce Brosnan, on the other hand, was the “pretty face” type, but more “politically correct”—less sleeping around, more serious with women, no more than two ladies per movie. (Yawn.)

But with the latest Bond picture, I think they’ve carried the political correctness thing too far. I take issue with their decision to make the new James Bond gay.

No, they don’t come out and say he’s gay in the movie, and the actor playing him is not doing some limp-wristed, lisping stereotype, but it’s all over the picture; you’d have to be a fool to miss it. This James Bond is a flaming closet queen.

Take the first real action sequence in the picture. We are treated to the spectacle of Bond—James Bond, remember—chasing a guy on foot for about ten minutes of film time. He chases him around a town, through an (all-male) construction site (what a giveaway), up the side of a building—he’s decided he wants this man, and he just will not let him go--he’s gotta have it! It’s embarrassing; the guy he’s chasing is a not very attractive African. The plot would have you believe that Bond is after the guy because he’s a terrorist bomber (oh, sure) but when Bond yells “I need him alive!”—well, I think we all know why, don’t we? And so does the African—that’s why he’s running like hell, up the sides of buildings, and so would you, with a horny gay Bond after your ass.

He finally chases the poor man into an embassy compound where they are held at gunpoint by so many armed desperadoes that it’s clear that Bond can never have his way with him. So what does this Bond do? He kills him and blows up the compound. "If I can't have sex with this man, no one will!" he seems to be saying. What kind of message does that send the audience about the gay lifestyle?

So this Bond isn’t just licensed to kill; he’s licensed to kill any man who rejects him romantically. Indeed, he’s licensed to kill any guy who’s just not his type. At the beginning of the film, he shoots a guy who is too old for him. Then he kills a guy he meets in a men’s bathroom (another giveaway, what is James Bond doing hanging out in public restrooms?)

Not once, but twice the filmmakers show us Bond emerging from the sea in tight swim trunks so we can all see how “buff” he is. (Okay, okay, we get it! He works out to attract men, enough already.) And when he does go through the motions of hooking up with a woman for sex (for a change), great pains are taken to show us that he’s only doing it because he has to—to get secrets out of her (“pumping her for information,” as the spies say.) It’s clear he doesn’t enjoy it; he’d much rather be chasing another African around a construction site.

And Bond’s main love interest in this movie is clearly some kind of a “femme,” a lipstick lesbian. Whose idea was that, to match up a gay James Bond with a gay Bond girl? Their mutual lack of attraction for each other is plain the moment she appears on the screen, snapping peevishly at him. Between the two of them they have as much sexual chemistry as a pair of matching ceramic floor tiles. Even if she was straight it would be hopeless; this particular James Bond would rather do a bowling ball than any woman, and everybody knows that by this point in the picture.

What ever happened to Ursula Andress in a bikini? Whatever happened to Shirley Eaton (the gorgeous blonde who got covered in gold paint in “Goldfinger”?) Where are all the nubile Japanese girls who climbed into a hot bath with Bond in “You Only Live Twice”? Instead of that, we are treated to the sight of ‘my name is Bond, the new James “Gay” Bond,’ bound (naked, of course) to a wicker chair with the bottom cut out of it so some French weirdo can beat him on the balls with a thick rope. Perhaps that’s this gay Bond’s fantasy; perhaps that’s your fantasy, buddy, if you run a quiche-a-teria in San Francisco.

But it does not happen to be mine!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Supernatural: What Lies Ahead For Bachmann?

I listened to MPR interviewing Congressperson-elect Michele Bachmann today.

Very interesting; it triggered my psychic powers. It was her happy tone, mostly--the fact that she is the only incoming freshman Republican in the House didn't seem to get her down at all...some of her repetitive comments about fighting to lower taxes means that she's putting her ass on display in the window, so that big money anti-tax contributors know it's available. And this jump-started my ESP...

I see... a vision... yes, it's becoming clearer, clearer now... it's in the near future...Bachmann's in her new office on the Hill...I see great big wheel-barrows full of cash contributions coming into her office, great big piles of money coming in from anti-tax lobbyists, in response to her mindless repetition of the "I'm going to fight to lower your taxes" mantra...There aren't that many "no new taxes"/Taxpayer's Bill Of Rights champions left on the Hill now--so a lot of the big money that was going to go to those guys who were just thrown out of office, is going to be directed towards Michele's re-election fundraising... She's wallowing in the cash, spread out all over the floor... throwing up great fistfuls into the air...

And I see a man... an angry old man... yes, it's James Dobson... he's calling Michele... he's telling her what she's going to do next week... she's nodding her head... she's saying that it's an honor and a privilege to speak with him... now I'm seeing... the very same vision! Over and over again...Ah, I understand now--it's happening every week, that same conversation with Dobson, every week of her term, for the rest of her political career...

Does anyone in the audience have a question for the Amazing Prendini, while he's on this psychic roll? Ah, a woman from the audience has written down a question, let's see if I can read it without opening it (holds envelope to his head, closes his eyes)

"Isn't it true that Michele will be largely marginalized in the new Democratic Congress, and okay, so she won, but she won't be able to do much harm with her nutty wedge issue stuff?"

Heh-heh. It's clear that the person who wrote this doesn't live in the 6th District. Let's see (puts his hands to his temples, concentrates) I see... I see... a newly empowered Michele Bachmann, for the next two years...A rising star in the Republican Party, for there are few conservatives for conservatives to support... She has a lot of charisma, and defeated a liberal handily despite an anti-war, Democratic tsunami that tossed out other "no-new-taxes" Republicans all over the country and especially here in our state... I see her becoming a hero to conservatives all around the country, pushing conservative plans and initiatives which have absolutely no chance of getting through, thus endearing her to conservatives in Minnesota--and nationally--as their only real hope...and I see her evangelical base building, as she continues to push theocratic wedge issues... she's getting stronger...stronger... I see her getting stronger because I see her not really giving a shit what happens to the people of the 6th district...her goal is beyond...far beyond...

The vision fades...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Iraq: Rumsfeld Cuts And Runs

Jeez—I bet a lot of people who’ve already done two or three tours of duty in Iraq wish they could just resign like Rumsfeld; just walk away from the bloody, endless mess that the Bush administration has created there.

I wonder if Rumsfeld submitted his letter of resignation with a real signature, or with one of those electronic computer signatures he used to inform families that their kid or spouse had been killed in combat?

The Iraqi figures for civilian casualties are about 150,000. Was it worth it to them, to get rid of Saddam? They’re not saying, unless you’ve got a Ouija board that speaks Arabic.

Rumsfeld has carved out a place for himself in U.S. history—as one of the worst military and political minds ever. But what was especially humiliating was the timing of his departure. Less than twenty-four hours after the mid-term elections, the returns from Virginia weren’t even cold yet—and Bush guillotined him.

It looks a bit…unprincipled, doesn’t it? It looks bad; it makes it look as if the administration’s Iraq policy is ultimately dependent on GOP election returns. It makes it look as though Bush would have kept Rummie on as head of the Pentagon and C-in-C in the Iraq War if the GOP had defied the polls and scored an upset win. I mean, unless you’re entirely unprincipled, what do the political fortunes of the GOP have to do with deciding who is the best man to command our troops in Iraq? If that’s the basis of Bush decision making, what sort of signal does that send, not just to the people of the United States, but the people of the world?

President Bush: “Who will command our troops and direct our strategy, in this, the armed struggle between freedom and terror?

"Well, to tell you the truth, it all depends on how the Republican Party does in the mid-term elections this year. If we keep Virginia, Missouri and Montana—Rummie’s still the right man for the job."

"But what’s this? My God, look at these numbers. Don, I told you what was going to happen to you if we lost the Senate! My political debacle obviously means you’re not the fine military mind I always said you were—if Montana went Democrat, you must be--an incompetent!"

"Give me back all those “great military leader” bouquets I’ve thrown in your direction for the past four years! Get out, you asshole, you loser, clear out your desk, you cost me the House and the Senate!"

"No, I will not give you a few weeks’ notice, for the sake of your reputation and mine—get out NOW, before George Allen even gives his concession speech, and don’t let the door hit you in the ass! Run, you mo-fo, run!”

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


I can see my strategic error, now.

With hindsight, all has become clear.

My GOP Property Tax Rocket has demonstrated its all too deadly effectiveness this election. After circling the area around Woodbury and Stillwater for the last few days, it descended with a shattering impact and destroyed the candidacies of incumbent GOP legislators LeClair and Charron.

Their careers in St. Paul were blown to smithereens this evening. But Matt Dean, the weakest of the four GOP legislators in the St. Croix Valley, escaped the holocaust and managed to defeat his opponent by the slimmest of margins.

Which is a shame, in a way, because House Representative Mike Charron, for all his loathsome fiscal policy, has twice the brains that House Representative Dean has.

I attribute Dean’s survival to my failure to accurately target his precincts prior to the election. Dean was also a political protégé of Michele Bachmann; the support of her local biblical literalist base was almost certainly instrumental in preserving his political life.

I bet that Charron and LeClair are sorry now that they didn’t submit to full-immersion baptism just prior to the election.

And what of La Bachmann? I fear that her ghastly triumph can also be laid at my doorstep. Despite months of alternately importuning and and insulting the most liberal of the Minnesota media, I was never able to persuade them to print or broadcast the documented collection of conspiracy theories and hate rhetoric that are her political career.

Thus, voters outside the St. Croix Valley remained largely unaware of her paranoia and hatemongering. I blame myself; I overestimated the intelligence, ethics, and dedication to duty of the staff of the Star Tribune and MPR.

Next time I will not let them break my heart and do a disservice to the voters of Minnesota. Next time, I will take my case directly to the streets—a forty-foot, glow-in-the-dark, anti-Bachmann rocket…

Monday, November 06, 2006


Tragedy struck a small town in Minnesota today when the fifteen-foot GOP Property Tax Rocket collided with a vehicle parked behind a Republican-managed auto repair shop.

The Rocket's pilot, Captain William J. Prendergast of Stillwater, Minnesota, was trying to guide the missile safely out the back way of a local gas station after fueling it up for another mission. But a safe launch was thwarted when Prendergast discovered that the small service road behind the gas station did not lead back on to the main highway. Instead the service road led him to the one-way exit for the gas station's built-in self-service car wash, and Prendergast found that he and the rocket were trapped.

The collision occured when Prendergast tried to back the GPTRLPT ("GOP Property Tax Rocket Launch Platform Trailer") out of the CWD ("Car Wash Driveway".) At that point the automatic door of the car wash opened and a LOLIAS(Little Old Lady In A Subaru) stared in disbelief at the giant missile pointed at her.

The LOLIAS was trapped inside the car wash, her way obstructed by the Property Tax Rocket, and the automatic streamers and BFDTs (Big Furry Dryer Things) continued to operate relentlessly on her already spotless vehicle.

Prendergast says he realized that he had to act quickly or the woman would panic. He put the RLV ("Rocket Launch Vehicle") into reverse gear and tried to back out. But the situation deteriorated further when Prendergast's IDGS ("Internal Directional Guidance System") failed him and he backed the GOP Property Tax Rocket into the RARSM's (Republican Auto Repair Shop Manager's) SUV (Suburban Utility Vehicle.)

Emerging from the craft without serious personal injury, Prendergast produced a cigar and lit it while he surveyed the damage. Seeing that no civilians had been injured, he returned to the vehicle and guided it to a safe harbor at the other side of the gas station lot.

Prendergast entered the manager's office and gave his name, phone number and address to the on-duty supervisor. It was here that he learned that the SUV belonged to the manager of the auto-shop. "I must admit I was a little worried when I looked around the shop and saw that they had posted up "Bush/Cheney '04" stickers," said Prendergast. "And I figured I was in for big trouble when I saw that other sign, the one that said "I'd rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than driving with Ted Kennedy."

What could have become a major political incident was avoided when the manager returned and Prendergast produced his automobile insurance card. The manager did not abuse Prendergast for pilot error, but made a photographic record of the damage to the SUV on a state-of-the art digital camera.

Damage to the GOP Property Tax Rocket was also minimal. "Just a bent tail fin," grinned Prendergast. "I'll take her back to base and get her fixed up--and she'll be flying again in no time."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stillwater: Hoffman's Support For The Levy

I bet I was not the only Stillwaterian who found retiring School Board member Nancy Hoffmann's Farewell Address On The Levy a little bit sad.

Hoffman's final pre-election word on the levy was printed in the local newspapers last week. Readers will recall that Hoffman won election to the School Board as a write-in candidate, riding a wave of outrage over spending on the new "school laptop computer loan program." (Her write-in candidate colleague also won election on the "anti-laptop rage" platform that year: Chris Kunze, who will go down in Stillwater history as the School Board member who betrayed his colleagues and tried to kill the levy after promising them he would support it.)

But Hoffman is retiring (health reasons) and her words of farewell are ominous. This undoubtedly conservative elected official tells us that if this levy fails to pass, the local schools will suffer mightily. According to Hoffman, folks who object to the high price tag are in denial--it is indeed a "replacement levy" and there is simply "no more fat to cut" out of the school budget.

So let's hope it passes. We all have a stake in keeping the local schools up to standard over the next five years--doing so makes our homes more valuable, builds the character of the community, it sends the smart kids off to good schools, and makes even the stupidest kids a little bit smarter.

Without the solid educational basics I got from our public school system, I doubt that I ever could have completed the G.O.P. Property Tax Rocket. Today, that rocket is flying. And that should inspire us all.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Science: GOP Property Taxes Rocket--LIFTOFF

Captain's log, Star date,
just before Election Day, 2006:

All systems are go!
(what comes after--
oh yeah--) 1!


The GOP Property Taxes Rocket is go! Go! Go! WHOOOSH! VRRRRRROOOOOMMM!

There it goes! Yaaay!

Weeks in the making, the first successful launch by PASA (Prendergast Aeronautics and Space Administration)--designed to hurtle at speeds up to fifty-five miles an hour across our crumbling state roads!

Street-legal! I'm driving this around Stillwater, Woodbury, Oak Park Heights, up and down our local spaceways at lite-speed! WHEEEEE! the G.O.P. Property Tax Rocket. Its five day mission--to inform, to seek out intelligent life, so that they won't vote for a bunch of idiots who keep taking the tax burden off the rich and putting it squarely on the backs of people who work for a living...

Some people honk the horn, some stare in disbelief, some smile, some just give the finger. But I pay no heed, I just turn up the theme from Star Trek and hurtle onwards. Through strip mall and past farmland, ignoring the disbelieving stares of the livestock and Republican voters.

Their eyes glaze over as the rocket's red glare reminds them of the skyrocketing property tax hikes they've taken since their local GOP representatives voted to cut the state taxes of the multimillionaires--which meant cuts in Local Government Aid to their municipalities--which meant that your property taxes and school levy price tag have gone:





Thursday, November 02, 2006

Stillwater: Prendergast to apply for vacant spot on School Board

Well, it’s startin’ to get cold again, and I’ve wasted too much time on this “Stop Bachmann” stuff, and she’s very likely to win anyway. (I think the Dems have underestimated—once again—the evangelical media factor, and their ground forces in the churches and on the streets: they do the turnout in the last three days of the election.)

So I gots to start thinkin’ about my future, a job of some kind. Let’s see if there’s anything in this week’s Courier, do they even have a “Help Wanted” section? Wait! What’s this?


Shit-fire! My fortune’s made! Every right wing nut in Stillwater says the school board members are getting rich off kickbacks from Apple for putting through that student lap-top loan program—if I can get me a piece of that action—DAMN! I can get the Bill-mobile out from under the blue tarp and down off the cinderblocks and back on the street again, where it belongs!

How tough are the questions on the application? (They can’t be too tough, look who’s serving on the Board now.) Let’s see:

--“Identify, describe and address the district’s three most important issues.”

No problem. The most important issue facing the district was that sex offender bugger that tried to sneak in disguised as a student at Stillwater High School about a year back. He told the kids that he was a deposed British aristocrat, Prince Caspian or something like that. The high school newspaper broke the story. He was like the villain at the end of an episode of Scooby Doo: “I would have got away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you darn kids—“

I’ll come up with two other bullshit issues later. Let’s see what the next question is:

--“To suggest ways of improving the overall achievement of students while remaining within the financial limits set by the community.”

Another easy one. They’ve already got a student lap top loan program in place—I’d supplement that with a “student X-Box/Game Cube/PlayStation” loan program. Why? Because it would give every goddamn anti-levy, no-new-taxes conservative in the district an effin’ heart attack, that’s why—and after they’re dead, we could get back to serious business of running a quality school system again.

Can you imagine that? They get their copies of the Gazette and the Courier and read the headlines: “SCHOOL BOARD VOTES TO FUND STUDENT X-BOX/GAME CUBE/PLAYSTATION LOAN PROGRAM WITH YOUR LEVY DOLLARS.” They’d drop dead on the spot after reading that, they’d have a stroke and their spouses would find them out there on the porch, the paper scrunched up in their hands, their tongues lolling out of their mouths, a big urine stain on the front of their pants, and their eyes popped out of their heads like two hard boiled eggs. It would be worth the money, just to see the pictures.

Ah, the hell with the application. I’ll just go down to the School Board for the live interview and do it like Quint did it in “Jaws”:

(While the remaining board members are still chatting about the last applicant, I rake my nails across the blackboard to get their attention. They go silent, staring at me. I clear my throat and spit on the floor. Then, I look up from under my cap, squinting at them:)

Bill: Y'all know me. Know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this Prince Caspian bugger who’s goin’ into yer schools posin’ as British aristocracy to git after yer kids. But it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycocks. This punk, swallow you whole. No shakin', no tenderizin', down you go. But it's not gonna be pleasant, chief. I'll find him for three thousand, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

Then I just get up and swagger out. They’ve got to give me the job if I do that, right?