Random thoughts

I just concluded a phone conversation during which I told a friend, “you clearly haven’t been checking davidweigel dot blogspot dot com.” In that spirit, it’s time to add some more content to this site.

– NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” ended tonight, and the finalist who lost the most weight in nine months was Matt, a recovering alcoholic wrester from Iowa who shed more than 150 pounds (45% of his body weight). He beat out the exceedingly boring new father Seth and Suzy, a cute hairdresser who transformed into Jessica Simpson.

I don’t watch much TV, outside of “Nip/Tuck” and “Family Guy” and the news. And this was a weird show to take on, given it’s got the highest ratings to buzz ratios in reality TV – ratings are great, but no one talks about it. I figure the lack of buzz comes from the fact that, well, it’s a show about fat people losing weight to win money. Fit people don’t care; fat people who’ve let themselves go don’t care. And the weirdness of the concept is just so hard to get past. Tonight’s finale put people on a giant scale, live, where their weight was broadcast to the world – the winner’s weight was announced by a cannon blast of confetti.

Weirdness aside (or weirdless included), it was a damn fun show. Winner Matt was the kind of obviously broken, bitter guy who doesn’t make it on any other reality show. The average “Apprentice” or “America’s Next Top Model” contestant has a pretty good life to head back to if he flubs the audition, but Matt had nothing. Unlike this show’s nearest equivilent, “The Swan,” Matt didn’t get his life on track with a quick fix. He transformed himself through willpower, competition, and denial. It was actually more than a little heartening to watch. I felt bad for contestant Kathryn, though, who had been voted off the show in week two and lost no weight in the eight months since then, and had to share a stage with a bunch of newly thin or athletic peers.

– I’ve sometimes (it doesn’t come up often) commented that the blog Polipundit is like Daily Kos if Kos bloggers won elections. I should amend that to “Daily Kos if Kos bloggers were so partisan they couldn’t think straight.” Polipunditer Lori Byrd breathlessly posts a link to this story.

Last Wednesday, the Minority Leader appeared on KRNV-TV’s “Nevada Newsmakers” program and dropped a stunning revelation. He had been informed just that day that Osama bin Laden was killed in the giant Pakistan earthquake last month. “I heard that Osama bin Laden died in the earthquake, and if that’s the case, I certainly wouldn’t wish anyone harm, but if that’s the case, that’s good for the world.”

Am I missing something? A lot of people were speculating that bin Laden died in the Pakistan earthquake. If you hear Reid’s entire quote, it sounds like he was going off those speculations – he actually said “I heard today” that he may have died, which is a little less loaded than the “had been informed just that day” James Bond spin John Fund takes on it.

This is a story? Who hates a political party enough to think about this crap?

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Pajamas Media! PJ readers are welcome to stick around and argue w/ me in the comments.

Some books

For some reason, I have less to say about books (which contain many written words) than movies (which contain almost none).

Joe Trippi, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” (2004)

Half (or 40%) campaign memoir, half (or 60%) gee whiz speculation on how the internet will change everything. I’m sketchy on the proportions because Trippi’s speculation can get very windy and repetitive. But it’s a fast read, helped along by Trippi’s boundless energy (which is often devoted to retelling stories about how tired he gets on the trail).

Bernard Goldberg, “Arrogance” (2003)

I got this from the library as part of some research for an article, and even as an assigned reading this blew. Goldberg rants for roughly 250 pages about how everyone’s dumb except him – dumb and liberal! Entire chapters are spent mocking Barbra Streisand or small-circ newspaper columnists who say crazy things like “maybe the Iraq war won’t go fabulously.”

Graham, crackers

Golly, Tim Graham is so dumb he makes me sympathize with Robert Scheer.

Robert Scheer’s crude hackery is perhaps best remembered by his book “With Enough Shovels: Reagan, Bush, and Nuclear War,” complete with a cartoon cover showing missiles where the schlongs belong.

No, he isn’t, because (1) that was the cover of “Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death” and (2) if anything, he’s best remembered for doing the Playboy interview with then-Gov. Jimmy Carter where Carter admitted he had “lust in his heart.” Also, Graham’s idea of a crazy Scheer quote is this:

“The mood of the Republican congressional leadership is so ideologically obtuse as to doom even this modest first step down the path of responsibility. They would rather kill people than raise taxes.”

It sounds crazy, but how many times since 1997 (when Scheer wrote that) has the GOP congress raised taxes? And, how many times have they declared war?


Double feature

Two movies about whimsical characters who operate twisted fantasy worlds that mangle their guests. Spot the differences!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, 2005)

I’m as skeptical of post-Ed Wood Burton as the next guy, but this was an absolutely terrific movie, stamping all over that Gene Wilder “classic” like a Terminator robot on human skulls. The story is fairly universally-known now, but Burton makes the wise decision to lard it up with all the little anecdotes from Dahl’s original story (like the Indian prince who wants a palace built out of chocolate) and a faithfully funny backstory for Depp’s Willy Wonka. And my absolute favorite bit – Danny Elfman uses the actual Dahl lyrics for his Oompa Loompa songs. (Yes, the “oompa loompa doopity doo” stuff was invented for the Wilder movite.) Like only the adenoidal former frontman for Oingo Boingo could, he matches the lyrics with a “Bohemian Rhapsody” power ballad (“Mike Teavee”), Polyphonic Spree psych-pop (“Veruca Salt”), and disco (“Violet Beauregarde”). Only two complaints. First, the CGI is necessary to recreate some of the fantastic scenary, but sometimes it’s distractingly obvious, like during the gondola ride or the Violet Beauregarde scebe. Second, the kid who plays Charlie has no discernable personality or charm. He’s wide-eyed and nice, I guess, but he’s boring.

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (Don Edmunds, 1974)

Perhaps Bernie Goldberg is right, and our culture has really coroded these past few decades. How else to explain why this slasher/porno set in a Nazi death camp – please, go ahead and re-read that description – is now only kind of disturbing? Ilsa, played with ever-shifting accents by Dyanne Thorne (British, German, and San Fernando Valley), is a busty torture fetishist who, lucky for her, has been promoted to commandant at a skimpy concentration camp. She has a pretty good racket going, trying out twisted new weapons or diseases on the women while screwing the attractive male prisoners, and castrating them if they fail to bring her to orgasm. But the chips start falling when 1)the Germans start losing the war and 2)a new American prisoner uses his incredible sexual stamina to manipulate Ilsa out of her iron grip (puns intended!) on the camp. The most skin-crawling detail is probably the fact that the death camp set is the set from “Hogan’s Heroes,” which is damn fitting if you’ve ever seen Auto Focus.

Thank you, idiots

Near the end of a pretty silly column by Republican consultant Sabrina Leigh Schaeffer, we see this:

In challenging Democratic, anti-war charges, the president and the Republican party are attempting to reestablish the polarization effect by introducing the countervalent information flow back into the media. In this they should be successful since there are plenty of Republicans who respond to elite cues when they are provided.

My emphasis. Am I missing something or is she saying Republicans change their minds when their leaders tell them to?