Friday, September 29, 2006

Dumbth (with a dose of gay)

Dig these emails from Congressman Mark Foley (R-Fla), who resigned today over some pretty icky messages he sent to a male 16-year-old former Congressional page. I could go on and on about another hypocritical closet-case Republican jerk-off getting what he deserves, but here's what struck me most about the emails Mr. Foley sent: He doesn't know how correctly to use "your" and "you're," and "it's" and "its." And notice his misspelling of "weird."

It's one of those words that flouts the "I before E, except after C" rule. Here's another rule the Congressman should have heeded: "Secretly ho before mo, from office you'll go."

In another nauseating twist, Foley was co-chair of the Congressional caucus on missing and exploited children. In emails not revealed in the link (but shown on ABC News, which broke the story), Foley IMs the teen sexually explicit comments, including asking the boy to "strip down and get comfortable" and if he's getting horny. All together now: Ewwwww.

Ah, just found a link to the most egregious of the IMs. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Every day, in every way

This country's getting dumber and dumber.

A teacher in Frisco, Texas, takes her class to the Dallas Museum of Art. Kid goes home and tells parent, "Hey, I saw a nekkid statue!"

Teacher gets fired.

Read and weep, folks.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Hannity: College pin-up boy

Well, over there he is. Here's my friend Ed Bark's wrap-up of the Hannity & Colmes Fox News roadshow stop at the university just up the road. Egads. Just reading this made me throw up a little inside my mouth.

Celebrity muscle

My brother the cowboy (no, for real, he is) was stuck on the highway this morning and called to tell me the scene. On every overpass and at every exit ramp for 100 miles he had seen uniformed cops. Highway patrol. Local police. Big city and smalltown forces. They were there for hours, watching...for something. What was up, brother asked?

I checked local newscasts. Nada. Newspaper website--zero (as usual). Radio? Dallas radio stopped doing actual up-to-the-minute news more than a decade ago.

Then I heard from a friend who works at a fancy hotel hereabouts. She said there was a foreign dignitary checking in. Aha. Must be the reason for the massive police presence on the roadways. But who was it? Middle Eastern royals maybe? They've been known to rent the entire hotel, reserving rooms for pesonal food tasters and multiple wives.

They were searching everyone who was checking in, my friend said, including the luggage and car of comedian Jeff Foxworthy. He was staying at the fancy hotel, where he had booked a massage this afternoon. (Hey, if you're getting a massage at the most exclusive hotel in this city, you might NOT be a redneck anymore, Jeff.)

Anyway, the dignitary turned out to be Pakistani President Musharraf, in case you were wondering, too. Here's the Houston Chronicle's coverage of his visit to a doctor in podunk Paris, Texas.

Deja view

"Stuckinna." That's a Marshall-ism. As in TV sitcom producer Garry Marshall, who started out as a writer for The Odd Couple series and went on to mega-success as creator/producer of Happy Days, The Odd Couple, Perfect Strangers and other shows.

He used to say that when he was low on ideas for Oscar and Felix, he'd do a storyline called a "stuckinna." Oscar and Felix stuck in a busted subway car. Later, Laverne and Shirley stuck in a weight-loss camp with nothing to eat. Balki and "Cousin" stuck in a sleeping bag. Every time he needed it, Marshall said, the "stuckinna" device was a goldmine for laughs.

Lately, I feel like I'm living in a stuckinna. Stuckinna rut. See some theater, write about it all weekend. (And here's the latest column, if you're interested.)

Get up Monday and rush around before teaching the film class. Drive, drive, drive. Try to carve out some hours at Starbucks to work on book chapters. Try not to get depressed about looking at old chapters and thinking they're not funny/sexy/provocative enough.

Same faces at the gym. Same roll of fat not going away around my midsection. Same intentions to eat steamed veggies for dinner and somehow grabbing the bag of fishsticks out of the freezer instead.

For diversion, Professor Lunch Guy when he's in town, which isn't much these days. MySpace, looking up people I used to know (how did every liberal hippie I went to school with in the 1970s turn into an O'Reilly-loving Republican?). BBC America's Shipwrecked series (supermodel-pretty boys and girl do Survivor without the dumb "challenges"). Laundry on Tuesdays. Grocery store on Wednesdays. Lunch at Celebrity Cafe in Highland Park Village on Thursdays.

I see the same people in the same places all the time. At the gym, the schizophrenic lady who wears the headscarf to keep out the voices, keeps coming up to me in the dressing room and shouting "Don't let the monkeys jump on the bed!" I assure her I won't. But the next day, there she is again. Damn monkeys! Damn it, lady, tell those monkeys to fuck off or just let them jump on the damn bed!

My baristas at the Starbucks in Old Town know me so well I don't even have to speak the order anymore. It's ready before I get to the counter.

Bored much.

Which is why a great night at the theater can work like such a tonic. Kitchen Dog's production of Fat Pig by Neil Labute is freakin' phenomenal. More about it in my Observer writings this week, but here's a brief plot synopsis: A good-looking guy falls in love with a chubby woman. She's everything and the bag of chips (and not the baked kind), as far as he's concerned. But his friends rag him for dating a "beast." He crumbles under peer pressure and dumps the sweet, supersized gal.

On the way out of the theater, I heard another critic opine that "nothing like that would ever happen if he really thought he loved her." Oh, really? Oh, REALLY? Honey, I've lived it. More than once.

But that was a rut I refused to get stuck in. Now it's love me, love my "squishiness," as the Lunch Guy once dubbed it. And if you don't love it, you can just stick it.

What was it Auntie Mame said? Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.

I won't starve myself for a man, but late I seem to be starved for excitement fer sher. Got to get unbored and take me a big bite of life. But how? (Don't say skydiving--did that one already.)

Any other suggestions? Post them in comments. Best one, as judged by yours truly, gets a thrilling goody from the prize closet. Creativity will be rewarded, y'all!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

ABBA vs. Joan Crawford

Bring me the ax! Shoot, how I do admire clever use of film editing and bad 1980s EuroPop.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Voices at the end of the hall

Back when I was the lonely adjunct at yon university up the hill, I felt most days like a ghost in the machine. As an adjunct, you're the outsider let part-way in--not quite a professor, not quite a maintenance worker. Something in between (although maintenance workers get better benefits, including free tuition for their kids).

Here's another blogger toiling away in the halls of academe: New Kid on the Hallway. Good stuff.

In my new post at the college over the hill and through three toll booths, I feel like a star. The head of the curriculum committee found me after class yesterday and uttered these words: "We've looked for years for someone like you! We're so glad you're here!"

And I almost wept. With those good vibes around, the paycheck is gravy.

Just like last spring, the students are so enthusiastic about the topic (I'm teaching another film history class) that almost every seat was filled 30 minutes BEFORE class started yesterday. I have 75 enrollees, requiring the borrowing of extra chairs to accommodate the overflow. A full half-hour after class I was still standing in the room, answering questions about Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard.

So. Much. Fun.

On other fronts: Professor Lunch Guy bought me a salad today. Not sure that the thrill has completely gone. But if he doesn't show some emotion soon, I'm going to tear off his back cover and have the worn out wires and chips replaced.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A critic gets his voice back

My friend and TV critic colleague Ed Bark recently took the buyout from Belo and no longer works for The Dallas Morning News. Now, at last, after a couple of decades of being muzzled by the Belo idjits, he gets his real voice back. On his new blog he's gnawing on the hand that once fed him and it's a by-god juicy read. Thinking about a career in print media? Read Uncle Barky to learn the truth about what it's like to work at Dallas' only daily when you're a TV critic who wants to write honestly about local TV.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Parsing Katie

In her first week as the CBS anchor, Katie Couric did some unprecedented, exclusive firestorming of the English language--stuff that will really knock your socks off. Read this blogger's word-by-word analysis of her newsreading rhetoric. (Now if Katie could only learn to pronounce the "-ing" at the end of words, instead of saying "-een.")

Charlie cheats death

The scene is the fall semester get-together for instructors. Cookies, chit-chat, lemonade (the kind made from pink powder in packets, not lemons). Lots of talk of summer cruises to Alaska and how the price of gasoline made driving the RV to Disney World a little tougher this time around.

We're about 15 minutes into the party when one of veterans hobbles into the room on two canes. "Charlie! [Not his real name] We didn't think you were coming back!" Charlie, who's in his late 70s, is greeted with much enthusiasm and surprise by the others. He teaches a political topics course that's so popular it's one of the few in the program offered during the summer.

"Yeah, I nearly died two weeks ago," says Charlie, slumping into a chair. He has everyone's attention now.

"I was teaching a class at 8 in the morning and started bleeding out my anus. Somebody called 911. By that afternoon I'd lost eight pints of blood. The hospital only had six so they thought I was a goner. The docs told me to call my family in and tell them goodbye."

You can hear a crumb drop at this point.

"My daughter and her husband got to the hospital. They were standing at my bed when I started to go. I saw the tunnel, the whole thing.

"The nurse says, `Do you see the light?' And I say, not yet. But I could see the tunnel getting deeper and deeper. I was on my way out. I heard the nurse say `His BP is 60 over 40. This is it.' And I knew I was dead. Then I went out. And five minutes later I woke up and my blood pressure was normal and everything was fine. And here I am."

I'm amazed at this. He seems pretty nonchalant about the whole experience. "So you went right to the edge of the abyss and came back?" I ask Charlie.

"Sure, honey," he says, tapping me playfully on the leg with one of the canes. "Done it plenty of times. It's not so bad."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Easy way out? Not really

September 10, 2006
Outsourcing Homework
At $9.95 a Page, You Expected Poetry?
THE Web site for an outfit called Term Paper Relief features a picture of a young college student chewing her lip.

“Damn!” a little comic-strip balloon says. “I’ll have to cancel my Saturday night date to finish my term paper before the Monday deadline.”

Well, no, she won’t — not if she’s enterprising enough to enlist Term Paper Relief to write it for her. For $9.95 a page she can obtain an “A-grade” paper that is fashioned to order and “completely non-plagiarized.” This last detail is important. Thanks to search engines like Google, college instructors have become adept at spotting those shop-worn, downloadable papers that circulate freely on the Web, and can even finger passages that have been ripped off from standard texts and reference works.

A grade-conscious student these days seems to need a custom job, and to judge from the number of services on the Internet, there must be virtual mills somewhere employing armies of diligent scholars who grind away so that credit-card-equipped undergrads can enjoy more carefree time together.

How good are the results? With first semester just getting under way at most colleges, bringing with it the certain prospect of both academic and social pressure, The Times decided to undertake an experiment in quality control of the current offerings. Using her own name and her personal e-mail address, an editor ordered three English literature papers from three different sites on standard, often-assigned topics: one comparing and contrasting Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Orwell’s “1984”; one discussing the nature of Ophelia’s madness in “Hamlet”; and one exploring the theme of colonialism in Conrad’s “Lord Jim.”

A small sample, perhaps, but one sufficient, upon perusal, to suggest that papers written to order are just like the ones students write for themselves, only more so — they’re poorly organized, awkwardly phrased, thin on substance, but masterly in the ancient arts of padding and stating and restating the obvious.

If they’re delivered, that is.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Hazing claims another team's season

The NY Post today has the story of a stupid hazing incident at Manhattan College:

A slew of smutty Internet photos showing coeds drinking and partying at a hazing ritual that featured a male stripper has prompted Catholic administrators at Manhattan College to cancel the women's lacrosse fall season, The Post has learned.
One photo shows a half-naked man in a straw hat prancing in front of three young women, their faces, arms and matching tank tops stained with marker.

Another shows a young woman being hoisted upside down and sucking on the spigot of what appears to be a beer keg.

None of the women in the photos appears to be uncomfortable with her circumstances

It's that last sentence that's the grabber, isn't it? To see some of the photos, go here.

There's more of the Post story here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

From now on...

...this is the answer I'm going to give when nosy parkers ask why, at my advanced age, I'm still not married. If it's good enough for Brangelina, it's good enough for me.

Just finished blowing the afternoon reading the new Vanity Fair and staring at the photos of Suri. Anyone else thinks she looks a helluva lot older than they're saying she is? That's a lot of head-fur for a three-month-old.

Most horrifying sight of the day: Two young, perfectly fit, male matriculators at my alma mater up the street rolling to class on matching Segways. Lazy much?

Facebook gets all up in your grill

The WashPo writes about the new features on Facebook that blare your bidness to everybody and their brudda. Be careful, kiddos.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Um "femoribilia"?

New book out about women in college. Ho. Hum. Read about it in USA Today.

And included with today's "No shit! Really?" headlines: Paris Hilton arrested for DUI. Yes, we're shocked! shocked! that there is gambling in Casablanca!

If you're thinking of seeing Death of a Salesman at the Plano Arts Centre this weekend, read this first. (My column in the Dallas Observer.)

And if you're winging somewhere fun on Southwest Airlines this month (September), reach behind the barf bag on the back of the seat in front of you and pull out Spirit magazine. Look for two stories with my byline: "So You Wanna Watch a Movie?" and "Doing College Right (17 Tips for Succeeding)." Sorry, these aren't available online, only on the airline!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Purge of Profs

If you've never heard of David Horowitz, now's the time to get to know him. He's on a crusade to purge colleges of "liberal" academicians. Here's the NPR story on his latest book. Listen, shake your head and weep quietly into your oatmeal.

And here's HuffPo writer Max Blumenthal noting the similarities between Horowitz's views and those of the leader of Iran.

This is the kind of stuff that makes me so depressed at the state America's in that I fantasize about living in a one-room haybale house in the wilds of West Texas, with no phone, TV, computer or other source of dispiriting news. To amuse myself, I would knit amusing hatwear and paint pictures of tumbleweeds.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to school!

Yes, summer is over (if you consider Labor Day the end of it). We're at a temperate 74 degrees here in Dallas today, so my mental faculties are functioning full-blast and I'm ready to rumble.

Most celebrity journalism is a big lick and a kiss. Read Vanity Fair, People or The NYT and you'll rarely encounter a really honest take on what a Big Star is like. Blame it on the PR goons, who make publications quake in fear that an in-depth expose will result in a big fat lawsuit (or lack of access to other Really Big Stars). Which makes this little ditty from the autobiography of actor Rupert Everett even more enjoyable. Imagine, Sharon Stone nutty. Who knew?

My second fave item of the day is this from the HuffPo. NOW we understand everything about Mr. Rove, don't we? Speaking of which, his kid was espied touring my Alma Mater up the road here last year. Anyone know if he's a matriculating first-year now? If you don't recognize him, look for older buff guys whispering into their collars. (I'm not recommending stalking the kid, or anything that would get us on the no-fly list. Just wondering, what with the Bush Library about to swallow up my entire end of town.)

Did you watch The View today? Was Babs seething at Rosie's lack of restraint? Was Joy teed that Rosie got the laughs? Was Elizabeth just worried that Rosie would jump over the table and sit on her?

I have one week to ramp up the notes and lectures for my course on Film Noir. I only had all summer to work on it. But you know how it goes.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Try to Kill Yourself? Not Here: Colleges

This story on MSNBC reports on the current policy of universities expelling students who are suicidal. Are they right or wrong to add insult to injured psyches?