Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gays, babies and Rick Santorum

Speaking of babies, my sister had a baby girl named Grace (right) on October 13th of this year. Before she was born, my sister Morgan had asked me to be her godfather. As godfather, I would act as Grace's parent if both Morgan and her husband Brian were to die unexpectedly in the coming years. I was honored that my sister would bestow such a huge responsibility onto me and of course I accepted. Babies are awesome and as they get older, you can train them to do things for you like put ice in your drink or aerate the lawn.

Most every day that Grace has been alive, I've thought about what I'd be like as a father. As a gay man the idea of fatherhood is somewhat complicated. Whereas straight men are able to make a baby with a six pack of High Life and the drive-thru girl from Arby's, gays require plastic cups and test tubes and/or $50,000 and a good lawyer. And you probably need another gay guy who's also into changing diapers and paying college tuitions; raising a child on your own is possible if you have the money, but far from ideal. In any case, I would definitely put up with all that crap one day to get a kid of my own. And I'd like to think that I would make a decent father.

Sadly, one of my state senators, Rick Santorum, doesn't have so much faith in me. Santorum is a Republican from my home state of Pennsylvania and one of the most conservative and outpsoken members of the Senate. In April 2003, during an interview with the Associated Press, he compared homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery. And I bet he doesn't recycle either.

The other night, I caught an interview he did this summer on C-Span2's BookTV to promote his book It Takes a Family. He had a lot to say about the breakdown of "family values," his inability to be swayed by special interest groups, and how his book was so well written that no one has ever criticized the writing itself, just the ideas he's writing about. He also said that all the criticism that the book has received has come from people who didn't like him to begin with and don't want to hear his ideas. He said that the critics were people who probably haven't even read the book. That's kind of like saying "I'm such a good cook, that no one ever criticizes the crust of the pie full of shit that I made. It's people who don't even like the taste of shit to begin with that are criticizing what I've made, and that hardly seems like a fair group of critics."

Eventually though, things turned gay. The interviewer asked Santorum what his feelings were on homosexual marriage. Santorum's response was that marriage was not about the love between two people like many "selfish, me-first" citizens think, but rather the first step in creating a "family." His implication is that since gays can't physically make kids, we obviously don't want them and probably shouldn't have them. Since we shouldn't have kids, we also shouldn't be getting married either.

I could sit and argue with Santorum. I could tell him about my desire to have children. I could ask him how I could be gay and part of a family as a son but not as a father. I could ask him if he thinks infertile couples, the elderly, or disabled persons who are also physically unable to have kids should have their marriage licenses torn up. But having that kind of conversation with Santorum implies that I think he uses reason in coming up with his ideals. I don't. Like Dan Savage, I think that there are just are some fundamentalists who cannot be reasoned with. And like Dan Savage, I think we should use the English language to cut them out of the conversation. In May of 2003, Savage used his syndicated sex column, Savage Love, to franchise the word "Santorum" as meaning "The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." You can check out spreadingsantorum.com to track the word's progression into the English lexicon. It's really catching on.

What I propose is that we do something kind of similar with the word "family." Rick Santorum's definition of family stupid and illogical and it disregards adoptive parents, foster parents, step parents, grand parents, aunts and uncles, family friends and god parents and their importance in the lives of children. The emphasis Senator Santorum places on straight marriage and straight sex as the only arenas for creating a family is ridiculous. The word "family" should represent any group of people who love each other. Any other definition is innacurate and illogical. I think if we can move away from the idea that "family" has to include a mom and a dad who have sex and make babies, more of the population will be included in the conversation on what "family values" really are, and we can move away from the shit pie Rick Santorum is trying to sell us. Shit pie is gross. It's time to move on.

Dave

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

LFK Week 2- Pregnancy Fetish

From Wikipedia:

Pregnancy fetishism, also known as maiesiophilia, is a sexual fetish for women who are or appear pregnant. Amongst those who have the fetish there are many subtle distinctions and sub-fetishes, so not all are the same. In some cases it coincides with lactophilia, and can be connected to inflation fetishism. It is not, however, at all connected to pedophilia (despite the apparently-common assumption).
If the belly is bigger, it will cause more arousal, similiarly like the size of a woman's breasts. This is why the mention of multiples often catches the attention of pregnancy fetishists. Although many have an "upper limit" to their fantasies, a point at which the size of a belly becomes too much (the most commonly used phrase to describe the limit is "when it becomes a belly with a girl attached", as opposed to a girl with a belly attached.) However, there are others who enjoy the concept of a belly outgrowing its owner.


On occasion the fetish is not contained to humans, as some childbirth fetishists are similarly aroused by images of animals giving birth. It is said that a potential cause of maiesiophilia is the lack of a mother figure in the fetishist's life, thus making him/her lustful for someone who will be a mother. However, this theory is subjective and mostly considered a misconception by the Maiesiophiliac community, the majority of whom have mothers.
The arousal caused by Maeiusiophilia could possibly be attributed to the following reasons:

-While the woman is pregnant, men can ejaculate inside them without the problem of the woman conceiving since she has already conceived.
-Pregnant women can get more aroused than normal, so men/women have more sex than usual.

-A pregnant woman can be viewed as the height of femininity and eroticism (enlarged breasts and widening hips).
-The big belly. This is the most common cause of arousal.

However, many self-confessed Maeiusiophiliacs would say that they do not believe this, and that in most cases their preference is inexplicable, essentially instinctual.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Punny Humor of Egyptian Hustlers

My friend Jayne just got back from a semester in Egypt. The following selections are taken from a couple of her e-mails. They are intended to shed light on the growing crisis that is developing in the Middle East: the war on humor. She sent some pics to go along with the story. The first is of Talaat Harb Square- where most of her treacherous tale takes place. The other pics are of Egyptian signs- one that is funny but not trying to be, and one with graffiti that is intended to be funny but is misspelled and awfully unfunny.

12/10/05
the only story worth telling this week involves egyptian hustlers (of hotels/trips to the pyramids/hash) with connections to minnesota (which my friend austin calls "the forgotten state"). i know a bunch of the hustlers that hang around talaat harb square because my friend lives really near by and we ate dinner a lot during ramadan at this papyrus shop that they all operate out of...so they always talk to me when i walk though talaat harb square, and they're almost all super shady.

anyway it's less of a story than an occurance/observation. the first time i met one of them he was like "i lived in minnesota for a while. we call it "minneSNOWta" ". which totally caught me offguard coming from an egyptian hustler- and i love puns so i laughed a lot. then a few days later this other hustler started following me and telling me his life story and how he has this friend from minnesota and they call it minneSNOWta because it's so cold.

so i reeled on him and told him i knew his friend. because how many egyptian-minnesotan hustlers can there be? and he tried to deny it. then last night i ran into them both together and one was like this is my friend he's from , at which point i interupptted him to tell him that his friend is from minnesota which they call minneSNOWta. and they totally freaked out. and then my friends that i was meeting showed up and the hustlers told the pun again. in front of me. this story doesn't really have a punchline except that i feel that a good pun deserves a lot more respect than those two were delivering. i'm sure you agree.

12/16/05
i ran into the same two hustlers again today when i was walking with my friend sarah and the minnesotan. one told her that he was from minnesota which he likes to call minneSNOWta. he has no shame. and the other one (i still don't know either of their names) told me that i was naturally very sweet after i explained to him that the reason i grimace every time i run into him is because i know it will be at least 15 minutes before i can extract myself from his slimy tentacles of inane banter, stupid compliments, and awkward requests ("do you have a picture of yourself when you were a baby?"). when i last emailed you i still thought they were amusing. now i think they need to go back to minnesota and leave me alone. [i just ran into the really annoying one today in zamalek, which is the super wealthy really really western island in the middle of the nile. i was in a coffee shop and he was with this really good looking guy in a nice suit with no tie who kind of reminded me of an egyptian david beckham. i thought the one place i would be safe from him would be zamalek because it's so unsketchy usually. madness]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Links for Kinks Week 1- Spanking

From Wikipedia:
Erotic spanking is the practice of spanking another for the sexual gratification of either or both parties. Erotic spanking is generally regarded as a form of BDSM activity (sadomasochism in particular), although many spanking devotees do not regard it as such. Many people with a sexual interest in spanking draw on historical corporal punishment techniques used in homes, schools, courts or prisons. However they are generally careful to distinguish their consensual sexual activities from their views of child-rearing, education and public policy.

Spanking can be carried out with the bare hands or with implements such as
gloves, a ruler, hairbrush, paddle, switch, belt (clothing), or whip (see Category:Spanking implements). It is sometimes combined with sexual roleplaying and/or ageplay. It is often delivered on the bare buttocks, and sometimes the spankee is fully nude, for additional humiliation and arousal.

Positions for spanking include: over the knees (OTK) or across the lap, lying face down on a bed, stooped over the back of a chair, hands on knees, diaper position (supine--genital exposure to enhance humiliation), kneeling on a bed or ottoman, stooped over with hands on the floor, bent under the arm of the spanker, wooden horse, birching block, all fours

Those interested in giving or receiving erotic spankings are sometimes known as spankophiles or spankos. Examples include the poet
Algernon Swinburne and the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

For straight men who like to be spanked, their spanking fetish is sometimes accompanied by a leg/feet and nylon fetish as well – but not always. Some men who enjoy spanking (whether giving or receiving) like women to wear some combination of a skirt, high heels, garter belt, nylons, and fancy panties; and may involve the spanker role-playing the part of a strict father, boss, aunt, wife or governess. When men spank women they also often like them to dress up as schoolgirls – a popular fantasy scenario – or play the part of a nurse, maid, niece, daughter, or secretary.


see soft-core spanking (no nudity)
see
a girl with gauged ears get spanked!
well done
porn site

For a good spanking movie I recommend Stephen Shainberg's
Secretary. Only buy this movie if you like brainy dark comedies with erotic plots (or if you have a spanking fetish). I wouldn't recommend buying this movie for the sole reason that you like James Spader and/or Maggie Gyllenhaal.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Links for Kinks

As most of you know, a couple of months ago I started a new series where I highlight a new sexual fetish each week in my AIM profile. Now that I’ve moved this series over to my blog, I'll be able to supplement each week's entry with some pictures and go into a little more detail about each fetish. LFK is part of my long-term effort to move mainstream America away from its current state of fear and narrow-mindedness and closer to a safer way of thinking that values tolerance, respect, and above all- understanding.

For a better understanding of what LFK is all about, I would strongly recommend reading sex therapist Dr. Susan Block’s essay on fear and sex. Reading and understanding this article is just about as important as keeping up with Links for Kinks.

Remember, LFK is made possible by the support of viewers like you (yes, I’m getting all PBS on your ass). So please send all fetishes (your own, ones you think are particularly funny, ones you’ve just "stumbled across," etc.) to AIM: jesusdiesfriday or email: jwald2vt@umw.edu.

That being said, the new and improved series of Links for Kinks will premiere Wednesday. So stay tuned.

Jada Pinkett Smith is coming to Norfolk

Is she bringing Will to scout out the hot new condos going up in downtown?
Is she coming to promote a DVD re-release of Woo that I don't know about?
Is she going to lecture about how she's from a few hours away (Baltimore) and was best friends with Tupac in high school?
Does she want to open a new Planet Hollywood here?

Nope.

She's coming to the NORVA.

To SING.

IN A METAL BAND.

I couldn't make this kind of stuff up if I tried.

Her band, Wicked Wisdom, is on tour with Sevendust and amazingly they only have 330 myspace friends right now. I'm guessing that number will grow after people realize who their lead singer is.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gwen Stefani the Racist

Gwen Stefani is racist. Although I doubt that it is intentional, she is promoting Asian stereotypes. For the past year or so she has paraded around with an entourage of four heavily made-up Japanese girls dressed in a style similar to Stefani’s mix-and-match clothing. The girls follow her to press events, dance in her videos and pose with her in pictures. They are having their fifteen minutes of fame thanks to Stefani. Supposedly they are only allowed to speak Japanese, although I have never heard them speak at all.

Everyone says, nonchalantly, “Those are Harajuku girls,” as if we know what that means or could define a culture by seeing these live baby dolls on MTV. Harajuku is a shopping district in Tokyo known for its alternative styles -- punk, gothic, bright colors, traditional Japanese styles and layering of them all. The emphasis is on individuality, yet Stefani uses her “Harajuku” girls as props and often dresses them all the same.

Stefani is a huge name right now and she is using that power to reinforce stereotypes of Asian women. These “Harajuku” girls are sexy and stylish, but also loyal and obedient to Stefani. Stefani’s white fans can admire these qualities in the four women because that fits our idea of how Asian women are supposed to act: sexy, exotic, polite and non-threatening. And because Stefani is always standing out in front with her platinum blonde hair, a classic sign of whiteness, American women don’t feel threatened by those Japanese sex pots. The white American is still on top.

But perhaps Americans feel their position on top is threatened. In a time when China is gaining more commercial power and North Korea is gaining more military power non-Asians may have good reason to feel threatened by Asians. That could be why people enjoy seeing Stefani’s pets. They appear sexy and bossy as they vamp in the videos, but really they are falling into the category of submissive Asian women. They even wear geisha-esque make-up. It is easier to enjoy another culture when they are wearing brightly colored clothes, smiling and not threatening our own sexiness, our economy or our pride. But they should be threatening our clear conscience.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Michelle Branch gets honest

After tons of negative messages were posted on Michelle Branch's forum concerning the much anticipated album release of her new band, The Wreckers, MB took matters into her own hand. She shut down the forum. But before she did, she posted a lengthy explanation that gives a pretty unique insight into the music industry. Check out the full letter, straight from the horse's mouth, below:

Alright, I don't even know why I am still awake seeing as I have to be up in a few hours to feed Owen.

What I am most frustrated at, I suppose is...I pay money to keep this website up so all of you "fans" can talk about our music. Why would I want to spend the money so the majority of you can sit around and b1tch about us?

I understand that you are frustrated with the fact that there isn't any music for you to listen to. Don't you think Jessica and I are frustrated too?? We finished this record over a year ago and were sent on a lame ass tour we didn't want to be on. It was a horrible idea to headline a show playing music that nobody had ever heard. Maverick wanted to make a quick buck, and unfortunately, we were obligated by contract to do so. I was 5 months pregnant when we started that tour and believe me...it was the last place I wanted to be. Then I got pushed into doing a Santana song I didn't want to do (I didn't write it either, Shanks wanted me to sing it so bad, that was a bargaining tool), Maverick wouldn't let me do it unless Jess was on it so they would get "free" promotion for a record they didn't even understand or believe in for the most part. The record wasn't released because Maverick didn't want me promoting an album pregnant. They thought it would look bad to my young fans...bull.

As far as "biting the hand that feeds you"...

I would give nothing more than to play music in a shitty bar and fold clothes at The Gap for a living. My "being famous" has done nothing but ruin my relationship with my parents, mostly my Father and it has made me hate doing what I used to love more than life itself...playing music. I have been pushed around and now most of you see me as someone who I never really was, and most of you can't accept the plain fact that people change and grow up and I'm not the little girl you think I am. I have a family of my own now, a baby...the last thing I could imagine doing is making music. I'm fine financially (although I don't make millions contrary to popular belief.) and being a famous musician has brought nothing to my life besides strife. (Okay, I met my wonderful husband and bandmate because of it.) I have maybe written two songs in the past year. That's ridiculous. This isn't fun for me anymore. I'm sick of sucking dicks to get my music heard, putting on a fake smile, and saying things that are acceptable.

On the contrary, The Wreckers album makes me very proud and excited again. It's almost like my first day at a new school. It’s a fresh start. I'm finally excited to tour (although I need to find a nanny!) and I am looking forward to seeing what fans think.

You know, I CAN take the criticism. I just don't understand why I should pay for an arena for you to do it. If you are a "fan" why do you speak about Jessica and I in that way?

I never wanted to be put on a pedestal... I just wanted to make music. And believe me, many times I have thought I was going to quit. It's too much energy to pretend it's fun. You can call me a baby if you'd like, but life is too short to spend it being miserable.

This board is going to be shut down tonight. I think we all need a break. When the Wreckers album finally comes out, we'll see the ones who decided to stick around. As for the rest of you, I meant it when I said "f-off"

M

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

DC for Katie's BD

Last night I surprised katie with a little trip to Univ. of Maryland to see Dane Cook perform. he did some material from retaliation, some stuff from his SNL monologue, but a lot of new stuff as well. cole stadium was packed, the show nearly sold out, and needless to say, he killed. anyway, as soon as the show ended, we tried to sneak backstage to see him, but we were told to leave since we didn't have passes and we were told that the police would have to escort us out if we didn't leave immediately. i stalled for as long as possible (3, maybe 4 minutes) and then, like an angel sent from heaven, dane's tour manager found us and fought security off for us. he told katie, me, and 2 other people who wanted to meet dane to follow him. he led us backstage and told us to wait in a private hallway. behind the door at the end of the hallway we could hear dane talking to some friends. after a few minutes, robert kelly (tough crowd, tourgasm), who opened the show, came out and told us, "sorry guys, no more." knowing that he was trying to dick us around, we didn't really give the reaction he wanted, so he just let out a, "i'm just fucking with you guys!" to which we uncomfortably laughed at. finally, after another minute or two, it was time for us to go in the room. it was very surreal walking in with katie and 2 other people into a tiny room with only dane cook and a few members of his posse. we chit chatted for a little bit- katie asked about SNL, i asked about his 20 minute conversation with steve martin, katie told him that this was her birthday surprise, and he asked, "i'm your birthday present?" very humbly and wished her a happy 21st. we got him to sign harmful if swallowed and an EW article about him and we got a picture with him- and even though katie had been practicing the SuFi (the hand signal that identifies DC fans) the whole night in anticipation of a possible meeting, she cracked under pressure. well, close enough. when the other fan asked for a pic, he got in his pose and then put up rabbit ears behind dane. as soon as he did, dane jumped out of the pose and said something to the effect of, "ohhhhh no, i don't fuck with rabbit ears! don't do that shit on me!" it was a milli-second of awkwardness, but we all recovered. and we learned a valuable fact about dane cook. the guy doesn't like rabbit ears. then katie told him that i've been a fan since way before ANYBODY at my school was on the dane train, and i told him that when i wanted to book him at MWC (freshman year), nobody had heard of him and nobody was interested when i tried to sell him (that's when we could've actually afforded him). now everybody loves him, but we can't afford him. he told me that it has less to do with cost and more to do with actual venue size, but the sad truth of the matter is- even if we booked him for the $100,000 or $150,000 that he costs right now, we still couldn't sellout Dodd. anyway, the whole experience was extremely exciting and katie and I were both so pleased that he was so humble and gracious and down to earth. as we were leaving, he actually thanked us for sticking with him so long and told us, "it'll only get better from here." in an unrelated note, as we were driving home on I-95 we saw a shooting star.

special thanks to kate feldmann for getting us student tickets (50% cheaper) and letting us borrow some student IDs to get in. katie was asian and i was black. oh, what a night.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chinese government kills 20 protesters

As many as 20 Chinese protesters were killed last week after taking to the streets to protest the amount of money offered by the government as compensation for their land, which is being taken to construct a wind power plant.

The scariest part of this is that the death toll could be dramatically higher, but because of China's Communist Party media stronghold, any and all information about these events has been suppressed. The government has even offered (a nice way of putting it) compensation for the victim's families, ONLY if they turn over their loved ones' corpses, a deliberate attempt by the Chinese govt. to reduce the body count and cover up the story.

There are some more terrorizing details other than the ones listed above, so for more information, check out Truthout's report on the story:

http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/121005F.shtml

And just as an aside, the picture to the right is from my trip to China this August. It's taken in Beijing's famous Tiananmen Square, where the Chinese government killed hundreds (probably thousands) of students in 1989 after heated social protests garnered world-wide media attention. This is what most Westerners think of when we think of Tiananmen Square, yet not surprisingly, ALL Chinese pamphlets, brochures, and books written about Tiananmen Square contained no mention of the 1989 revolts. In fact, not even our tour guide mentioned '89 to us. It was as if it never happened. And you wouldn't believe how long the line of Chinese villagers (made up of mostly Communists) was to mourn General Mao's embalmed body.

Longer than the line of Westerners (made up of mostly Christians) waiting to mourn Pope John Paul II's tomb at the Vatican in July. I'll let you draw your own inferences on this one.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

An Open Letter to Keanu Reeves

Dear Mr. Reeves,
First Ashton and Demi, then that guy from LOST and Barbara Hershey, now you and Diane Keaton?

Let's get real here, Keanu.

Ever since I saw Father of the Bride, I've had my eyes on one person. And one person alone.

Kimberly Williams.

And then Pete Sampras came along and crushed that dream for me.
So I re-watched it and fell in love with Diane Keaton.

Well... then Pete and Kimberly broke up and I re-watched it and fell back in love with Kimberly. But then she went off and married this douche-looking country guy named Brad Paisley.

So I fell back in love with Diane Keaton.
Which leads me to my letter to you.

Have you drugged Diane Keaton? Did you put her on speed? Or did you two just really have a sweet november? Because as I recall, you guys got together after filming your nice little movie together, then you left her for some 28 year old Texan. Then that went down the shitter. Right??? Right???
YOU LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU KEANU!!!
So now it's time to call in the replacements. Now you want back in with your sweet little 59 year old girlfriend. Well I don't buy it mister. Sounds like crimes of the heart to me. You might say I'm just playing the devil's advocate here, but it doesn't sound like you are very committed to making this relationship work. Maybe I'm making much ado about nothing, but I just feel like yet again my feelings are going unnoticed by both of you!!! UGHHHH!!!!!!

Look, I'll reason with you. Doesn't she have relatives or something? Can't you just go for the other sister? I mean, it may seem like a gift from god right now, but from what I hear, Diane wants to settle down and get serious. You know what that means? Parenthood. And we both know that's not gonna be a walk in the clouds.

Let me just end this by quoting one of the men who helped make Diane Keaton who she is today, the wonderfully quirky Woody Allen:

"In real life, Keaton believes in God. But she also believes that the radio works because there are tiny people inside it."

She's vulnerable. That's what I'm trying to get at here. And I don't want you going in and ripping up her heart like you did during the first break-up. So go back to your young little hotties and leave the mature women to me. We'll both be better off in the long run.

-Sincerely,
Patrick

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Two Legends Died Today


Richard Pryor and Eugene McCarthy died today.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Syriana: Movie Review

Something that excited me about starting my own blog is the chance to post series. Links for Kinks will be coming up soon and now I'm starting a new series for movie reviews, where I'll be reviewing new and old, good and bad- so check back often.

First let me say that because of all the hype surrounding Narnia this weekend and the ensuing crowds/stress that theater employees had to deal with, Katie and I managed to slip into Syriana for free because no one was there to take our tickets. Too bad I already paid for the tickets anyway. Well, looks like we'll just have to try to use them in the future for a free screening of another movie.

That is the only positive thing I can say about Narnia. Even though I didn't see it, I know people who did and I know the gist of what they will be seeing. Now don't get me wrong here, I love taking in an easy to digest movie every now and then just as much as the next guy, but I oppose doing so when there are better choices in theaters. Every time we fork over 8 bucks (5 bucks for those senior citizens amongst us), we make a conscious decision as to what we are viewing (just like when we eat). We can consume unhealthy crap that has little or no redeeming social commentary, or we can choose something that might inspire us to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately for us, the latter movies generally do not gross well at the box office, so they are few and far between. In addition, many of these movies aren't educating a whole new audience. They are mostly preaching to the choir. To prove my point, try to name 10 conservative friends that saw any Michael Moore movie or 10 Walmart shoppers who saw Robert Greenwald's documentary. You probably can't do it.

Which gets me to Syriana.

Proponents of our "liberal media" have shed light on its trend to criticize government missteps. Dissenting opinion is becoming more and more acceptable, maybe not quite patriotic, but acceptable nonetheless. And thanks to Washington heavyweights like Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Scooter Libby, Duke Cunningham, and the bulk of the Bush administration for that matter, people who go see Syriana will probably already know that our government is corrupt. But what you don't see on The Daily Show, CNN, MSNBC, and other user-friendly commentary shows is what you do see in Syriana. Director Stephen Gaghan's goal with Syriana is to start that creative thought process. To inspire you to learn more about global history- past and present. And most importantly- to mobilize a massive movement- that (hopefully) will result in weakening the US dependency on oil.

Most people know Stephen Gaghan from his work on Traffic, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. And while many comparisons can be drawn between the two movies, including the interplay of multiple storylines and the fact that both address larger geopolitical issues, the differences are what stood out most in my head. Gone are the color-coded storylines, gone are the easier to follow plot lines, gone is the individualized character detail. It was important for Gaghan to be able to paint minimalist characterizations of the leads in Syriana, because he wasn't following a break-down of one particular American or Middle Eastern family, he was following the break-down of something much larger- the infrastructure of ethics and morals that he believes modern-day society should be governed with. It is this clash between morality and reality that George Clooney's character is struggling with.

Loosely based on See No Evil, a true story by former CIA operative Robert Baer, Syriana begins with a chilling opening sequence in which a crowd of non-descript middle eastern men push and shove each other, desperately attempting to board a lone bus that appears to be in the middle of nowhere, perhaps symbolizing the ensuing power struggle in a region that Americans view as being isolated, but no doubt alluding to how the Western world views the Middle East. Backed by a quiet score, the opening credits reveal only the names of the production company, distributor, and title, and not the star-studded cast- a deliberate effort by Gaghan to differentiate Syriana from your average Hollywood fare.

Then out of nowhere, a shady night club in Tehran blaring an old Redman song offers the audience a much needed juxtaposition, setting the stage for how Gaghan will depict present day Iran, which he attempts to do as historically accurate as possible. Even a reference to one of my favorite childhood shows, My Two Dads, adds detail to a culture that finds itself often demonizing the West, yet actively consuming (and being force-fed in some instances) Americana. Speaking of which, Gaghan's symbolic, and sometimes not-so-subtle, allusions to Westernization/modernization are some of my favorite parts of the movie- a chat between Bob Barnes (George Clooney) and his CIA superior (Tom McCarthy) about the inefficiencies of bureaucracies and the need for privatization in an IKEA parking lot, the Woodman family sitting down to eat a vegan breakfast (not necessarily portrayed in the best light- but acknowledged nonetheless) in the lush decor of their house in Geneva, suburban cookie-cutter homes so new that they don't have grass and complete with minivans in the driveways, a movie theater (looks like Regal Cinemas) so standardized that it could've been the one I watched Syriana in.

But it wasn't Gaghan's handling of Westernization that impressed me the most. Instead, I appreciated how he dealt with the ambiguous oil-producing Persian Gulf country that hosts much of the film's action. In this post 9/11 country where Americans harbor so much fear of anything foreign (especially Arabic), filmmakers often find themselves walking a fine-line between accurately portraying other cultures and actively stereotyping them. Gaghan alludes to this in a wonderful scene in which Julie (Amanda Peet) comments to her husband (Matt Damon) that "Arabs are very family oriented as a people." She then pauses and asks, "Is that rascist?"


Still, some of the most powerful scenes derive not from what Gaghan does, but rather what he doesn't do.
(The following isn't a spoiler- it is described in the synopsis). When one of the Woodman sons tragically drowns, the cinematography and camera work (that foreshadow what will happen) lend so much to this scene that it is easily supposed to be one of the most dramatic of the movie. Amanda Peet's stellar performance in this scene is the best I've ever seen from her. And yet as I watched this scene and looked around at the audience, I didn't hear a single sniffle. I didn't see one hand reaching up to wipe tears away. It is one of the most bleak, melancholic
parts of the film, yet it didn't evoke a single tear from this audience. Sounds illogical. But if a single audience member was emotionally distraught by this scene, they would be missing the point of the movie. Gaghan wants audiences to empathize with the greater despondency of the film- the loss of humanity, the loss of righteousness, the loss of civility, not the trivial loss of one family's child.

I was very impressed with how Gaghan worked religion into Syriana. It almost seems like he was reading the same book as me (Sam Harris' The End of Faith- religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) while he wrote this movie. In one of the most powerful scenes of the movie in which a Muslim cleric lectures his congregation about the evils of the West, Gaghan shows that RELIGION, not politics, is at the heart of all conflict. Gaghan boldly tackles Islamic and Christian belief head-on, without patronizing or disrespecting either. In fact, from what I know about Islam, he does an accurate job of portraying the courageousness and righteousness that Islamic belief values. The fundamentalist Muslims in the movie aren't portrayed as scary or demented, they are portrayed accurately as a smart group of incorrupted people who strive to hold conviction and ambition- to spread their true faith, in a world overcome with the evil desire to separate church and state. And while the film's main focus is on the geopolitical role America plays in the blood-for-oil war, I'm so glad to see Gaghan at least acknowledging the huge impact that religious belief, not just fundamental but moderate as well, has on conflict.

The performances in Syriana are some of the best I've seen this year. Clooney is on top of his game. Damon delivers no surprises with an equally stunning performance. The very necessary stoic performance of Jeffrey Wright (Broken Flowers, Shaft) was top notch as usual. I for one am just happy to see him finally doing a role that doesn't demand a stereotypical Latino accent. I thought Amanda Peet had the breakout role of the movie, displaying some major acting chops that have been hidden behind scene stealers like Will Ferrell and Ashton Kutcher in her previous movies.
In my humble opinion, the cinematography and score alone are worth the 8 bucks. Both are underplayed (which I think was an excellent decision) so as not to take away from the gravity of the film's subject matter.
The score is so quiet, so powerful (and sometimes absent altogether) that if you listen closely you can hear the film projector spinning. Yet in these same silent parts, the film is still so loud that you can hear your head spinning.

A-


the great wall makes me sweaty.

Paulson on Spin.com!

If you've checked my AIM, myspace, or facebook profiles in the past year- you know that I've become more and more obsessed with Paulson.
It all started when my old band played with them in January 2005. Later in the year, I got to know the guys better and discovered that they're not only smart musicians, but the friendliest band to ever play a place like KC's God-Forsaken Music Alley.

So now I've become their most loyal propagandist- spreading the Good Word of paulson whenever and wherever I can. In February I'm bringing them to Mary Washington, with the help of Giant Productions.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when I headed over to SPIN Magazine's website today and saw Paulson on the front page as the featured band of the day!!! This is obviously just one of many first steps in a long process of national recognition. So head over to Spin and check out the feature.
If you want to check out All at Once for yourself, you can listen to it for free at Paulson's official page: www.paulsonisaband.com, or contact me to find out how you can get your very own free copy, courtesy of me.

And you know what long-time-Paulson-fan Katie says:
"You like this Paulson shirt, you say? Wanna buy it yourself, you say? Well tough soy nuggets, I made it myself."
And to put words in her mouth, she also says: "If you don't at least check out Paulson's myspace page, then i probably won't ever like you."

go see Syriana, please

Tomorrow night, you should go see Syriana.

Based on what I already know about this movie, I'm declaring it the most daring and 2nd most entertaining "mainstream" movie of 2005 (most entertaining goes to war of the worlds).
pretty strong words, considering that as of tonight i've only read about the movie and seen the trailer.

Oh yeah, and the critics love it.

--"Light years from the standard Hollywood movie."
Richard Corliss, TIME MAGAZINE
--"This is a cynical but undoubtedly accurate portrayal of the
inner workings of international politics, where white-shoe
lawyers and oil executives can be nearly as ruthless as the
CIA hit men and missile-toting rebels."
Richard Roeper, EBERT & ROEPER (2 thumbs up)
--"No dry civics lesson, this fighting-mad film isn't just hot, it's
incendiary. And no one gets off the hook. You see it with the
exhilarating feeling that a movie can
make a difference. ****"
Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE
--"Syriana is a caustic and cynical political thriller with a plot that occasionally confuses but a message that leaves no room for misinterpretation."
Jeff Strickler, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
--"Mr. Gaghan doesn't insult our intelligence, but he demands our attention. If you're up to
those demands, you'll be rewarded."
Philip Wuntch, DALLAS MORNING NEWS


to see what the rest are saying:
http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/syriana/

to see the trailer and get more info and theater times, go to the official movie site:
http://syrianamovie.warnerbros.com/

and to find out how you can reduce your dependence on oil, check out
http://www.participate.net/oilchange/tips

 
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