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Negative space
I’m pleased that Arnold Schwarzenegger has been elected governor, but I’m even happier when I recall the forces who aligned to defeat the recall, and to defeat him.

Bill Clinton. Al Gore. Nancy Pelosi. Jesse Jackson. Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Bob Graham, Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, and Al Sharpton. Code Pink. Pacifica Radio. The LA Times. Art Torres. Bob Mulholland. Kos. Lalo Alcaraz. The Daily Show.

And MoveOn.org.

You’re all losers. How does it feel?

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Learn something
Go to my good friend CJ Stunkard’s weblog. He’s been writing lengthy, detailed reviews of some of the movies in his collection and why they work. In case the link gets busted, I’m reprinting his definition of the Five Levels of Humor.

The Five Levels of Humor
The “levels” of humor as developed by my friends and I in Delaware rely heavily on gauging what is funny and why and how often. The levels are NOT based solely on what has gotten the best laughs but what has EARNED the best laughs.
– The first level is obvious crass humor. Whether blatantly sexual, physical, or vulgar, first level humor depends on the lowest common denominator fo0r a cheap chuckle. It is usually not earned laugh, just a lucky one gained ftom appealing to base human instinct. Examples of this level of humor in Austin Powers include the ridiculously long and drawn out “Evacuation” scene with Austin and a 48 second urination as well as the flip of Austin into his Jaguar, at which point he smashes his Notch (that is, his crotch) on his stickshift. It’s banal, stupid, tired crud that can get a chuckle from any child.
– The second level is the clever use of crass, sexual humor. This is vulgarity that really is funny for more than the fact that it’s crass. It’s timing and execution are well-done and intelligent. This refers to type of jokes that exist on “two levels”, the obvious crass level as well as the clever double-entendre level that makes you think, “Oh, well that’s clever, I don’t feel so guilty laughing anymore”. Examples of this humor within the film in question include the “Who does number two work for?” scene as well as the “How dare you pass wind before me…I’m sorry I didn’t know it was your turn.” dialogue. This is crass and obvious but made more funny by the use of intelligent tricks and circumstances.
– The third level is Parody, the taking of an idea or convention and tweaking it to its humorous polar end. We all know paraody well, for we are bombarded by it over and over. It’s funny, and we enjoy it on many levels, cause we say to ourselves, “Oh, yeah, [insert convention here] is funny when you think about this or show it like that.” Not all Parody works. In fact, many times, I find it terribly banal and unoriginal. However, some parody is just wonderful, esp. when one is able to take an idea that’s been used and carry it out in a way that makes it new and exciting, even though it’s familiar. Examples of this level in Austin Powers are Austin and Dr. Evil at Dinner, wherein Dr. evil reveals his plot; and the scene in which Dr. Evil and his henchmen laugh frivolously about their evil scheme, wherein we see what happens after the boisterous “mwah ha ha” is finished.
– The fourth level of humor is a playing off a serious concept and making it funny. This is a level that works well with violence. When people run into boards and fall down or crash on their bikes, we don’t want to be funny, but if it is done just right, it can be–even though it should be sad. The scene also works well with titles or other SERIOUS ideas and makes them humorous. A perfect example of this in Austin Powers is Dr. Evil’s line, “DR. EVIL. I didn’t spend six-years in evil medical school to be called ‘Mr’ thank you very much”. This is a funny and clever play on something serious–medical school.
– The fifth level of humor is the creme-de-la creme. This is the taking of normal, commonplace, everyday, unendowed objects and making them hilarious. THIS MY FRIENDS IS A TRUE TEST. The fifth level of humor, if your lucky, might appear three or four times in a modern comedy feature film. My primary example of this humor is The Simpsons. Watch an episdoe and see how many genuine laughs the show earns by taking nothing and making it funny. A line that comes to my mind is when Homer says. “Alright, alright, I’ll let him do it–but then i get a chipwich okay.” The “chipwich” is not funny in any way shape or form; on the contrary, it is a wonderful snack. for SERIOUS real. This gag however makes it a reward of good behavior, a treat to be earned by 40-something year-old father; and therefore, it becomes hilarious. If you ever see the episode when Apu loses his job at the Quik-E-Mart, you’ll hear this line and know the fifth level. Austin Powers has some great examples of this with the gags of Dr. Evil having some ridiculous mishaps with his chair. A chair should never be funny, a man sitting in a chair should not be funny unless he farts or its a parody where he makes fun of something else or he falls over, but this movie is able to make it funny when the chair just rolls. THAT, my friends, is earned humor.

– CJ Stunkard, 2003

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Everything is broken
Last week, I spilled coffee on my CD player, and replaced it with one that skips like a terrified stutterer when I run.

Tonight, I opened a soda bottle and spritzed sticky liquid all over my keyboard. This required a 1 a.m. run to the office, to steal the Dell QuietKey that I’d disposed of in 2001. Thank fuck it was less bitterly cold than the night before.

For next week, I’ve scheduled the destruction of my camera. I think I’ll use beer this time.

UPDATE: Two hours of work were lost in that mix-up. I’m extremely tired of doing the same work twice in order to finish it once.

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“School of Rock”
Let’s say there are basically three kinds of comedies that work. We have indie comedies, like “Rushmore,” the Christopher Guest pictures, or “Harold and Maude.” Their humor is usually buried deep, subtle – not so much jokey as comedies of observence. With a push, you could squeeze Woody Allen movies in there. Then we have gross-out comedies like “American Pie” and “Kingpin” – they’ve been written about too much already. Finally there are movies like “Back to the Future,” “The Bad News Bears,” and “Groundhog Day.” Big stars are united with big writers and directors. Jokes are broad – there’s usually a lesson to be learned.

“School of Rock” is a fantastic movie that lurches into two of these characters. It’s a big, dumb genre picture, very similar to “The Bad News Bears” in concept and execution. But the talent behind is it pure indie – Jack Black, Richard Linklater, Mike White, Sarah Silverman. It’s unlikely that everything would mesh in a movie like this. Nearly everything does. It’s probably the funniest major motion picture since the Farrelly Brothers’ “Kingpin.”

What really surprised me was how the filmmakers embraced their genre. It would seem nearly impossible not to be ironic about a concept like this – prep school kids overcoming their fears and starting a rock band. You fully expect someone to slip a joke in about these underdogs saving the day, just like the kids in 1000 other underdog movies. But they don’t. When the fat black girl who can outsing anyone gets stage fright, she tells Jack (ok, “Dewey Finn”) that she’s afraid people will laugh at her. Black doesn’t go all ironic – he mentions how Aretha Franklin is also fat, but when she sings “everybody wants to party with ARETHA!” And then he indicates himself – “I’m a little chubby, but when I’m up there, people LOVE me – because I’m SEXY and my playing melts faces.”

Black gives his best performance since “Hi Fidelity,” grinding laughs out of every single set piece – watch the way he sort of crab-walks during his first day of class, revealing later in the scene that he’s got “the runs.” The child cast is mostly terrific, especially cute Miranda Cosgrove (looking like Michelle Trachtenberg with better skin) as the overachieving class captain, who nearly cries when Black rips up the gold star tallies. I only had issues with Brian Falduto as Billy, a painfully obvious “gay” character who requests to be the band’s stylist and lisps like his life depends on it.

But there’s not much else to complain about. This is an adorable, rewarding picture, one that I’m sure will look even better when you can repeat-watch the DVD.

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Michael Moore vs. the recall
The director has a column in the LA Times today, and part of it reminds why I still like him personally and a lot of his films and TV shows. For example, when he was covering the 2000 Iowa caucus (which resulted in the semi-famous Alan Keyes crowd-surfing incident), he tried to elbow up to George Bush, and the governor joked – “You again? Get a real job!” On his show, Moore cut directly to a shot of him at a pay phone – “Hey, dad. Do you have an oil company you could let me run? OK. OK. What about a baseball team?”

Say what you will, but that’s funny. His column is, too.

Long before I was making movies or writing books or going after elected officials, I was an elected official. In fact, I held the record as the youngest officeholder in the country. Just months after the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed, I was elected, at the age of 18, to a seat on the Board of Education in the school district where I lived in Michigan. I was still a senior in high school, and the idea of becoming the boss of the high school principal was just too good to pass up.

The day after my election, the assistant principal changed my name from “Hey, you!” to “Mr. Moore,” and suddenly I realized I was in a place where maybe I could do some good.

The column is interesting because Moore, discussing a recall attempt on himself, doesn’t repeat the pablum that the CA recall is “undemocratic.” His point is weirder.

This election is no longer about California. This is about saving our country from the clutches of the fat cats. For California to install a Republican governor would be just the shot in the arm the Bush administration needs right now when the president is hemorrhaging in the polls.

This must not happen.

Um … okay. And this is why I don’t always like Michael Moore. Not EVERYTHING is about George Bush. His team, if you believe their leakers, wanted Davis stay in power to keep CA Democrats bitter and depressed, and energize Republicans – a scenario that would have helped GOP chances in 2004.

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An e-mail from MoveOn
I checked my e-mail this morning and found a forwarded message from “the MoveOn team” at MoveOn.org.

Dear MoveOn members,

This is a real emergency. The polls in California show Schwarzenegger pulling ahead, while the truth about his character is only now starting to get out. We have just a few days to make sure everyone in California knows who this man is. Today we ask you to do two things: (1) contribute to a TV ad that we will run across the state of California on Sunday and Monday and (2) send this message on to friends, so they know the details that are only just now getting into the press.

Please contribute to the ad at:

http://www.moveonpac.org/moveonpac/viewcandidates.phtml

We need to raise $500,000, by the end of day today.

This morning the Los Angeles Times published the stories of six women who say they were physically abused by Arnold Schwarzenegger as recently as three years ago. We’ve included excerpts from the article at the bottom
of this email. The stories are shocking, but they fit a pattern of previous reports.

We’re launching a television ad devoted to putting Arnold’s problem with women into the public eye. We feel that this is a critical step that absolutely must be taken, but we need $500,000 to make this happen.

(snip)

The stories published in the LA Times today are consistent withstatements Schwarzenegger has made and incidents he’s been involved in throughout his entire career.

If you think his personal views and behavior can be separated from his new career as a politician, think again: Schwarzenegger has not included a single woman on his economic council. In a state where there are tens of thousands of women in positions of power, there was not even one he respected enough add to his team.

Schwarzenegger has a serious problem with women, reflected in both his actions and his words. His own statements — even just months ago — paint a clear picture of a man who has absolutely no respect for women.

And so on, for another dozen paragraphs. MoveOn, you’ll remember, was the organization devoted to impeaching Bill Clinton because of his sexual abuse of female employees.

Ha, I’m just kidding.

Across the United States today, a diverse group of online Americans launched an Internet political campaign and petition drive called Censure and Move On. Angry and disgusted by the behavior of our representatives in the nation’s capital, we are using email and the world-wide web to crystalize public opinion.

Censure and Move On is a bipartisan group of concerned citizens organizing around a single issue: speedy resolution of the Lewinsky sex scandal. We are not affiliated with or funded by any other organization. The vast majority of the American public understand that a continuing obsession with this scandal will do great damage to our institutions, our economy, and our power and prestige in the world. We expect our representatives to understand this as well, and show real leadership. Now that the special prosecutor’s report is in, the issue is totally in the political domain. A resolution of Censure is clearly the only path to speedy closure.

What’s good for the good is apparantly unspeakably evil for the gander.

So would I have more respect for these activists if they remained consistent about what was and wasn’t relevant information for a public official? You bet. I don’t blog about Bill Clinton on this site because I didn’t care about any of his sexual habits (although I did care about his perjury). If MoveOn can’t apply vaguely similar standards to a moderate Democrat and a moderate Republican (though, to be fair, Arnold hasn’t been accused of cheating on his wife), they deserve to be treated with all the seriousness of … well, Gary Coleman, I guess.

And note how Republicans in 1998 were obsessed with “the scandal,” but the pious and forward-thinking MoveOn crowd is concerned with “make[ing] sure everyone in California knows who this man is.” Golly, what a bunch of scumbags.