Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pop Song of the Week: “I Want To Be Evil”

In honor of the late Eartha Kitt, one of her most famous songs (apart from the oft-played “Santa Baby,” of course).

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Movie Quote of the Week

When I find myself in a position like this, I ask myself what would General Motors do? And then I do the opposite!
--Cary Grant, Holiday (1938)

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It’s Over

I won’t pretend that this will be the most popular list on this theme but it includes my favorites so I’d like to think it qualifies as a worthy contender. Isn’t it pretty to think so?...

I. The Obvious:

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

"Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown."

"Nobody’s perfect."

"Buck up - never say die. We'll get along."

"The stuff that dreams are made of."

"Always look on the bright side of life!"

"That'll do, pig. That'll do."

"You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!"

"I don't have to see it, Dottie. I lived it."

"You be careful out among them English."

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."

"There’s no place like home."

"Some men get the world. Others get hookers and a trip to Arizona."

"Thank God for that. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble."

"I used to hate the water..." “I can’t imagine why."

"That was the boogeyman."

"There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have?"

"Tomorrow is another day."

"We belong dead!"

II. The Not-So-Obvious

"Closer than that, Walter.” “I love you, too."

"How do you know they'll print it? You can take a walk. But how far if they don't print it?” “They’ll print it."

"That son-of-a-bitch stole my watch!"

"Shhh!….Listen….Bombs!"

"I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning... even if I can't remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world's still there."

"Hogarth, you stay. I go. No following."

"All right, you great git, you've asked for it. I'll cover the world in Tastee-Freez and Wimpy Burgers."

"Better keep the doors closed and keep out the drafts as Dr....Starr used to say."

"He was madly overacting, as usual, but you must admit he knew how to make an exit."

"Allow me to introduce myself. I'm the Invisible Man."

"Alex, will you come in, please? I wish to talk to you."

"Boy!"

"I live inside the weak and the wounded."

"Yes, smaller than the smallest, I meant something, too. To God, there is no zero. I still exist!"

"Oh, I suppose not. Only, which three books would you have taken?"

"Never. Oh, never. Nothing will die. The stream flows, the wind blows, the cloud fleets, the heart beats. Nothing will die."

III. Images

Poor Diane Keaton getting the door closed in her face in The Godfather.

Michael Corleone remembering his father's birthday in The Godfather, Part II.

The mirror scene at the end of All About Eve.

Amy Irving’s dream in Carrie.

The aftermath of the shootout in Cutter’s Way

The aftermath of the shootout in Blood Simple.

Vincent Price singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the end of Dr. Phibes Rises Again!.

The final shot in Spellbound.

Warner Baxter celebrating his "success" in 42nd Street.

Gwyneth Paltrow emerging from the surf in Shakespeare in Love.

The top men in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The sled burning in Citizen Kane.

The cane in the window in Miracle on 34th Street.

Linda joining the club in Holiday.

The final car ride in Harold and Maude.

The marble game in Men in Black.

Jean Arthur looking at the coin in Only Angels Have Wings.

The finale of The More The Merrier.

IV. Musical Numbers:

Well, there's this:



And on a lighter note...



Ochi chyornye to you all too.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

R.I.P. Eartha Kitt



African-American singer Eartha Kitt, best known for singing the original version of "Santa Baby" and playing the world's first black Catwoman on the original Batman TV series, passed away on Christmas Day. She was 81.

She will be missed.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “White Christmas”

I should post this song tomorrow but for obvious reasons, tomorrow promises to be a busy day and I'll be spending most of it away from the computer.

So, from 1942's Holiday Inn, a song that really needs no introduction.

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Christmas Song of the Week: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”

As long as we're celebrating the memory of those who are no longer with us:

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R.I.P. Patty Donahue



I should have posted this on the ninth of December but I didn't. Perhaps it's just as well since Ms. Donahue would probably prefer to be remembered for the songs she sang when she was alive than for the day of her death back in 1996.

Granted, she's not the only member of the Waitresses who deserves to be remembered by music lovers of all ages, but as their former lead singer, she was obviously the most visible. I hope that wherever she is right now, she is being treated well.

She is most definitely missed.

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Latest Proof That We Indeed Live in a Harsh and Cruel Universe



Apparently there are no decent videos of Waitresses songs to be found on YouTube right now. However, there are several videos devoted to the various godawful cover versions that have been made of their songs -- the most obvious being the Spice Girls' cover of “Christmas Wrapping” and Katharine McPhee's recent cover of “I Know What Boys Like.” (I'm not going to link to these videos for obvious reasons.)

On the plus side, one can get a mp3 version of the Waitresses' classic LP Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful? on Amazon.com. So sometimes one does get some good news to offset the bad.



If only they'd go ahead and release WTW? on CD as well. For that matter, I wouldn't mind seeing the other two Waitresses albums on CD as well. Perhaps if I'm really really really good this coming year...

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Movie Quote of the Week

Christmas is a very busy time for us, Mr. Cratchit. People preparing feasts, giving parties, spending the mortgage money on frivolities. One might say that December is the foreclosure season. Harvest time for the money-lenders.
--Michael Caine, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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TV Quote of the Week

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'”. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
--Christopher Shea, A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Song Quote of the Week

You mean you forgot cranberries too?
--Chris Butler of The Waitresses, “Christmas Wrapping”

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “Silver Bells”

From 1951's The Lemon Drop Kid, it's the original movie version of “Silver Bells,” a song that has become as identified with Bob Hope as the song “Thanks for the Memories.”

I don't always care for most of the Bob Hope movies I've seen but I did like this one. Perhaps because the movie was inspired by an old Damon Runyon short story. Or perhaps because it has moments that are actually funny. Plus you have Marilyn Maxwell, who plays Hope's girlfriend and vocal accompanist in this number and who is easy on both the eyes and the ears.

Btw, if that guy in the Santa suit at the beginning of the clip -- the one who isn't Bob Hope, of course -- looks familiar, it's because he's William Frawley, an actor who is most famous for playing Fred Mertz on the TV series I Love Lucy -- as well as for having a key role in another famous Christmas movie.

Anyway, I hope you all like it.

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Pop Song of the Week: “You Wouldn't Fool Me, Would You?”

Well, since the powers that be seem bound and determined to make all of us Americans relive 1929, I might as well post an actual song from 1929 that should be more pleasant to listen to than the latest economic news. In this case, it's Annette Hanshaw's 1929 hit “You Wouldn't Fool Me, Would You?” a nifty little number in which she -- among other things -- imitates her friend and rival Helen Kane (a singer of the same era who is most famous today for singing “I Wanna Be Loved By You” and providing the vocal inspiration for Betty Boop.)

Anyway, halfway through this song, Hanshaw sounds like she's dancing but I have no idea what she's actually dancing on. I keep imagining she's on top of a table but that's probably my overactive imagination speaking more than anything else. Besides, she sings too sweetly to deserve any cheap shots about table dancing. Especially since her definition of “table dancing” would be way different than our own.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the song.

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Christmas Songs of the Week

“All I Want for Christmas Is You” -- Mariah Carey
“All I Want for Christmas Is You” -- Vince Vance and the Valiants
“Christmas Wrapping” -- The Waitresses
“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” -- John Lennon
“It's So Chic to Be Pregnant at Christmas” -- Nancy White
"Rockin' Little Christmas" -- Deborah Allen
“Rudolph the Manic Reindeer” -- Los Lobos
“Santa and His Old Lady" -- Cheech and Chong
“Text Me, Merry Christmas” -- Straight, No Chaser featuring Kristen Bell
“Twelve Days” -- Straight, No Chaser

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Song of the Week: “Twelve Days”

A friend recommended this video by the men's a cappella group Straight, No Chaser and I liked it so much I just had to share it with you all this week.

I hope you all like it.

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Movie Quote of the Week

BUSINESS? Mankind was my business!
--Michael Hordern, A Christmas Carol (1951)

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Movie Quote I Identify With Far More Than I'd Normally Admit

Oh, I fiddled with the idea one summer but it was over by fall.
--Elizabeth Patterson, Remember the Night (1940)

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All The Classic Movies That I Have Seen

1. Dancing Lady (1933).


One would think that a movie that stars both Clark Gable and Joan Crawford and which features performances from not only a former member of the Algonquin Round Table but also the Three Stooges would actually be pretty good.

And as long as the movie is focusing on the relationship between ambitious showman Gable and equally ambitious Crawford, the movie is not that bad.

However, in the end, it just was not my cup of tea. I suspect that I have been spoiled by both Busby Berkeley and Astaire and Rogers.

2. Thank You, Jeeves! (1936).

This is allegedly the film that first introduced actor David Niven to American audiences -- which is a big shame because this movie is not all that good. Perhaps because it was not so much inspired by the original P.G. Wodehouse books that first introduced Jeeves the definite English butler as it is by American spy movies. I suppose if you like slapstick, it is okay, but for the most part I found it a disappointment. And its use of a black character for cheap comic effect does not help matters.

David Niven played Bertie Wooster, the man who was Jeeves’s employer in the book but the way his character was written in this movie has almost nothing to do with the way the character was written by the original author. And the less said about Arthur Treacher’s Jeeves, the better. Though it does explain why Mr. Treacher is more famous today for his seafood business than for his acting career...

3. Step Lively, Jeeves! (1937).

This is just a tad better than its prequel, Thank You, Jeeves, though I can't help but find it funny that it accomplishes this by writing out Bertie Wooster as soon as possible -- David Niven apparently proved too popular to appear in the sequel so his part is played by a less-than-famous actor who does not appear on screen for more than two minutes -- and devoting the lion’s share of attention to characters that are not Jeeves. The plot revolves around the attempt by two con men to bilk Jeeves out of his hard-earned savings by convincing him that he is an heir to Sir Francis Drake. Their efforts eventually get covered in the legitimate media and attract the attention of a would-be social climber whose husband is a former gangster. The woman assumes that Jeeves is just what she needs to get the social respectability she has been so ardently craving and orders her husband to have Jeeves forcibly “invited” to their estate.

Poor Jeeves is under the assumption that his invitation is legitimate and only the con men suspect something is amiss. However, by the time they find out that they are right, they find themselves faced with the unpleasant task of having to confess all to the former gangster -- a man who is not above punishing bearers of bad news in a not-so-legal fashion. So the conflict is set. The would-be petty criminals (the con men) versus the real criminals (the former gangster and his thuggish employees) and it says something that the movie actually kept me in suspense as to which side would end up winning despite the fact that neither side was all that sympathetic. However, the movie was hardly true to the spirit of the original Wodehouse stories and certainly not something I would recommend seeing unless one is very, very desperate.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Cold Outside. There's No Kind of Atmosphere. I'm All Alone, More or Less...

Dallas had its first snowfall of the year today. Actually it was more like frozen drizzle and didn't last long. But for a while, it looked like snow.

That said, I can't wait until spring. Despite all the love I have for my hometown of Detroit, there's something about thirty-degree temperatures that drives me up the wall. Perhaps because my nose always seems to get stuffed up, no matter how much vitamin C I get or how conscientious I am about my annual flu shot.

On the plus side, this weather does make me appreciate more my modest dwelling place. At a time when so many people have little or no protection from the elements, I feel quite spoiled living in the place where I'm at.

Plus, there's something magical about coming home to a warm residence on a cold winter night that just can't be duplicated during the summer.

Someday I might actually find an excuse to use my condo's fireplace but not just yet...

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Things That I Have to Say

I don't normally comment a lot on political matters but I can't resist noting the following observations that seem astonishingly obvious to me but not -- alas -- to most people.

1. The U.S. Treasury is neither a bottomless piggy bank nor a magic coin purse. One can't perpetually take money out of it without eventually having to put something back in.

2. No matter what Obama does next year, a lot of people is going to be unhappy. And things aren't exactly helped by the way everyone seems to be clamoring for their share of the public purse. One female friend of mine is already discussing the size of the tax rebate she'll receive next year -- it apparently having not occurred to her that tax rebates aren't likely to be -- nor deserve to be -- a top priority of the Obama Administration.

3. As neat as it is to have a black president here in the US, I really doubt Obama is going to put an end to racism anymore than the fall of the Berlin Wall put an end to class issues. Indeed, the notion that most black Americans will shut up about racial issues after January 20 seems rather insulting.

4. One should have the decency to wait until the president-elect has taken office before criticizing his actions. Especially if said criticisms are going to be so painfully trivial. This doesn't mean that we should pretend Obama is perfect just because he won the last election. But such criticism tends to be taken more seriously when it addresses something a person has actually done and not something he's likely to do. And if you waste all your time criticizing Obama at a time when few of his actions have significant impact, you're not likely to be taken all that seriously when it comes time for you to make a serious accusation against the guy.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “All Alone on Christmas”

I'm not too crazy about the visuals for this video -- mainly because I wasn't all that fond of 1992's Home Alone 2. Nor am I all that fond of seeing a genuine talent like Darlene Love (former “unofficial” lead singer for The Crystals who is best known today for playing Danny Glover's wife in the Lethal Weapon movies) kowtowing to flash-in-the-pan Macaulay Culkin, even if it's just for comic effect. And wasn't this song originally used in the first Home Alone movie back in 1990?

I hope you all enjoy it.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

R.I.P. Robert Prosky

This past Wednesday, Robert Prosky, an actor best known for his roles in the TV show Hill Street Blues and in the movie Thief, passed away at age 77.

He will be missed.

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R.I.P. Bettie Page

I was all set to write a post last week about how surprised I was to find out that former pinup girl Bettie Page -- the same Bettie Page that inspired the movie The Notorious Bettie Page -- was still alive. But then I got busy with other things and I forgot to write it.

Unfortunately, Ms. Page was in the hospital at that time so it's just as well I didn't write that post. Especially since she has since died this past Thursday at the age of 85.

For what I've read of her biography, she seemed to be a good woman whose most recent life was not quite as happy as I would wish for someone so famous.

She will be missed.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Song of the Week: “All I Want for Christmas Is You”

On a cheerier note, there is this song by Vince Vance and the Valiants. No, it's not the same song I posted last week. It's a different song with the same title and sentiment but different lyrics. (And, of course, a different singer.)

I hope you all like it. If you all want to see a more conventional video version of this song, you all might want to go here.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it.

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Pop Song of the Week: “If We Make It Through December”

My late father used to quote this Merle Haggard song every now and then but I never realized how much truth it contained until this year. Granted, my immediate family has been in better shape than most, but then again many of my relatives up North still work for the Big Three so it's way too soon to pretend that all members of mi familia have dodged the traditional holiday pink slip.

Anyway, there are times when you just need a country song to say what needs to be said. This is one of them.

I hope you all understand.

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Movie Quote of the Week

Some people say “Yes.” Some people say “No.” I’m inclined to agree with them.
--Barbara Stanwyck, Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Jean


Jean Arthur’s most memorable scene in Only Angels Have Wings involves a coin so I guess it’s no coincidence that her most memorable scene in 1937's Easy Living involves a coin as well. In this movie, she ponders breaking open her piggy bank to extract one last coin. And the expression that appears on her face while she’s doing this is almost worth the price of admission. So is her expression when she almost loses the coin, only to unexpectedly retrieve it.

The movie starts when Arthur’s character -- Mary Smith--accidentally receives a mink coat that has been thrown out the window by an irate businessman -- J.B. Ball -- who was attempting to punish his extravagant spouse. Ms. Smith is mistaken for Ball’s mistress and is eventually fired by her employer for setting a bad example. She eventually receives free lodgings in a nearby hotel whose owner hopes to parley Ms. Smith’s “reputation” as Ball’s mistress into free publicity for his otherwise failing enterprise. Poor Ms. Smith has no idea that she is the object of such controversy -- though it is fun to see how she adjusts to her new lifestyle. She spends her last dime -- the coin mentioned above -- in a local automat where she attracts the attention of an employee who just happens to be Ball’s son. And after that, things get really complicated.

It’s tempting to dismiss this movie as mere fluff but it’s still a lot better than what passes for mere fluff nowadays. Arthur does a great job of portraying someone who isn’t necessarily the smartest person in the room but not quite as dumb as the traditional blonde stereotype would have you believe. Her character has none of the child-woman qualities that one associates with the typical Marilyn Monroe character but she’s not as hard-boiled as your typical Barbara Stanwyck character either. Indeed, she occupies a happy medium between the two types that isn’t all that easy for an actress to pull off. I could see from this movie alone why she became such a popular actress because it certainly made me want to see more of her -- even more so than her appearance in Only Angels Have Wings.

Besides, the movie’s main points -- (1) that society often makes wrong assumptions about people and (2) society is more often prone to reward bad behavior than good -- are worth noting. While it’s tempting to see these points as being old-fashioned and out-of-date, one need only note how often the media trashes celebrities like Britney Spears for the most trivial of offenses -- and how often they reap attention upon people like Marla Maples who have little reason to deserve such attention -- to see that we haven’t come all that far from the era depicted in Easy Living. Given the weaknesses of human nature, we may never get all that far. But at least we can keep a sense of humor about it.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Feliz Cumpleaños, Mi Hermano y Mi Mamá

It's my mother's birthday today. We celebrated it yesterday, but it's still worth noting.

It's also my youngest brother's birthday today. We celebrated that yesterday as well -- mostly by arguing politics, it seemed. But we still enjoyed ourselves despite the arguing. And given the way my late father encouraged my siblings and I to think for ourselves, such arguments are almost inevitable during family gatherings.

It's also the Catholic religious holiday known as Feast of the Immaculate Conception but you all probably knew that.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Movie Song of the Week: “My Favorite Things”

I have no idea how this song from 1965's The Sound of Music came to be considered a Christmas song. After all, it says nothing about Christmas or the Virgin Mary or Jesus or even Santa. Yet I've heard it on many a Christmas record and mix tape.

Oh, well. It's still a good song if not exactly one of my -- ahem -- favorite things.

I hope you all like it.

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Christmas Song of the Week: “All I Want for Christmas Is You”

It's that time of year again and what more appropriate way to honor it on this site than by posting one of the most famous Christmas songs of a fellow “half-breed.” (Not that I'm implying that Mariah Carey needs my help to get attention but hey, it couldn't hurt.)

Of all the video variations Ms. Carey has done on this one song, this version -- which pays homage to the black-and-white videos of yesteryear -- is my favorite.

I hope you all like it too.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Movie Quote of the Week

Yeah, there’s a lot of bad “isms” floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same -- don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.
--Alvin Greenman, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

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TV Quote of the Week

Oh, it’s great, isn’t it? People buying gifts, tugging bags around, maxing out their credit cards... It’s like everyone in the whole world is joined together to embrace financial ruin.
--Kristen Johnston, 3rd Rock from the Sun

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Song Quote of the Week

Tell me, say it again,
how things are getting better.
I’ll pretend to believe it
as long as this foot’s on my neck.
Now what’s being taken away?
What else am I giving up?
--Chris Butler and The Waitresses, “Bread and Butter”

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Literary Quote I Like

“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.”
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

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Rules of the Internet (Reglas del Internet)

1. The same person who complains about having been insulted during adolescence due to his or her appearance will inevitably feel obliged to insult the appearance of various celebrities on a regular basis.

2. The same blogger who gave a rave review to the latest Hollywood film denouncing materialism will devote more than a few blog posts to bragging about all the nice stuff he or she has.

3. The same person who regularly denounces people for using dirty political tactics will routinely write about certain political candidates in the nastiest way possible.

4. The same person who regularly raves about lowbrow films will be the same person who complains about the large number of dumb movies released by Hollywood.

5. The same person who regularly ridicules all the people who went shopping on Black Friday will inevitably spend a ton of money while shopping online on Cyber Monday.

6. The same person who regularly complains about the growing trend toward anti-intellectualism in American society is the same person who will rarely admit to reading a book that wasn’t written by J. K. Rowling.

7. The same person who talks about Hollywood not spending enough time dwelling on class issues will also complain about having to rub elbows with the masses at the local movie theatre.

8. The same person who regularly writes about how stupid religious people are will regularly champion lowbrow movies.

9. The same blogger who brags about how little he or she cares what people thinks about him or her will inevitably take offense at any readers who choose to qualify a compliment by noting that they don’t always agree with the blogger in question.

10. The same blogger who complains about Hollywood filmmakers interjecting politics into their work will inevitably interject politics into his or her work…

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With Apologies to Wham! UK

Last Christmas I gave you my heart…

And then…

1. You put it in the recycling bin.
2. You put it in your blender and pushed “puree.”
3. You took it back to the store for a refund.
4. You gave it away to a homeless person.
5. You gave me yours too.

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Possible Responses to Joan Osborne’s Song Lyric “What If God Was One of Us”

1. What is this “If”? How do you know God wasn’t one of us?

2. What is this “One”? I happen to believe in a triform deity myself. I just don’t believe in this newfangled monotheism.

3. What is this “Us”?

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Friday, Bloody Friday

This is depressing. One man was trampled -- apparently, he was later found to have died of a heart attack -- and one woman suffered a miscarriage at the opening of a Long Island Wal-Mart last Friday.

If that wasn't bad enough, there was a shootout at a California Toys R Us in which two men were killed on the same day.

Nice to see this year's holiday season getting off to such a pleasant start.

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Muddle on the Orient Express

From the "Gosh, I wish I wrote this item" department:

Byzantium's Shores's take on a recent movie.

Well-done, sir!

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