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Back Where I Started From

It gives me great pleasure to announce that I’ll be the new editor for the geek blog Topless Robot.

Please find me over there for the foreseeable future.

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Let’s make this image viral, y’all

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The Iron Sheik’s adventures on my toy shelf

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Warp One, Engaged.

No more rants about being single from me, ever. She said yes.

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Fools? Rush In…

The turn the Rush Limbaugh debate has taken is extremely disappointing, as the debate has morphed into something that has absolutely nothing to do with Sandra Fluke’s original testimony. Liberals urge a boycott of his advertisers because he’s sexist, while conservatives rattle off a list of everyone liberal who has ever used a mean word against a right-winger. None of which is to the point.

Sandra Fluke made the argument that a private university health-insurance plan (PRIVATE, not taxpayer-funded) ought to cover birth control pills, and used as her example a friend who needed them to treat ovarian cysts. She stated that it costs about $1,000 a year ($3,000 for three years), which is an undue burden. She didn’t talk about her own sex life.

In some quarters on the right, this argument somehow became Fluke wanting $3,000 worth of free condoms. Others looked into prices for ortho-tricycline, and found that there are big-box stores that sell it for around $10. Reasonably, they’ve asked how that’s a burden.

Here’s how: not every pill works for every woman. I speak to this as one who has purchased many different varieties for my own girlfriend (who gave me permission to discuss her case, because this whole incident has turned here vehemently against the Republican party). In her case, the hormonal balance in basic birth control (which, BTW, in Burbank costs $35 without insurance, $10 with) had side-effects ranging from dramatic moodswings to bursting ovarian cysts, which I am told feel like getting kicked in the crotch, and risk endangering one’s future fertility. We’ve had to try a variety of different pills, including some that cost $85 a month even with insurance. Multiply that by 12 and you’re already over $1000 for the year.

Another argument being made is the hardcore Catholic belief that contraception equals abortion, due to the idea that life begins at conception, as opposed to when the egg embeds in the uterine wall, which is when it’s medically defined as a pregnancy. This has allowed some frame the debate as one over abortion; meanwhile, studies show that 98% of Catholic women in this country have used the pill. Freedom of religion? If you go down that route, next up will be Jehovah’s Witness employers refusing to pay for insurance that allows blood transfusions, Muslim employers refusing to pay for insurance plans that allow female doctors to treat males…you can argue that employers shouldn’t ever pay for health insurance at all, but even if you could magically separate it, we’d have the same argument over what people of faith who happen to run insurance companies can do, with the end result being less coverage. And then, guess what? Everybody goes to the emergency room, where your tax dollars go toward all that stuff you don’t approve of anyhow.

The biggest hypocrites in all this are Limbaugh’s advertisers. This is a man who made a name for himself using the word “feminazi,” which inherently equates those who want equal pay for equal work with history’s most notorious mass murderers. Suddenly they’re shocked that he called someone a slut? Really? Listen, I used to call George W. Bush “President Fucky McFucknuts.” When you talk politics, you get heated. Names are called.

I support a boycott against Limbaugh for different reasons – that he didn’t tell the truth (the idea that “we” would be paying her to have sex), and thought there would be no consequences. Free speech doesn’t give you the right to libel and misrepresent, and I’d like to see all current-events talk-show hosts held to a standard where they pay a penalty for that. Mandatory corrections upfront, like newspapers try to do, perhaps. Obvious parody, like, let’s say Rush’s distasteful  “Barack the Magic Negro” song or the entirety of the Phil Hendrie show would be exempt.

Who should set those rules and enforce them? Well, in theory, consumer boycotts ought to do just that. The Fairness Doctrine was meant to deliver that outcome, but it seems too heavy-handed. Hosts won’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts.

Perhaps the only viable solution is to counter the misinformation. This is me doing my part.

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The Top 13 Suggested Double-Features of the Best Films I Saw in 2011

How’s that for a qualified ultimatum?

With a tip of the hat to my former colleague Gregory Weinkauf, who pioneered this form of year-end list as best I can tell (though we both came up with 13 independently), here is my best movies of 2011 list. I saw less this year than usual, but what I liked suggested pairings as nice as Jack & Diet. (Yes, that IS nice. Fuck you.)

1. BAD TEACHER/YOUNG ADULT. You wouldn’t necessarily want to be these proudly drunk and antisocial lead characters, or run into them. But they’ll flip authority off in deserving ways that you don’t have the balls to do, like female Stone Cold Steve Austins. Plus they don’t turn totally nice at the end, which was what always rubbed me wrong about BAD SANTA.

2. SUPER/HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. One Troma alumnus, one who wishes he were. Both hard-R gore-comedies like the kind of stuff we used to discover in the back room of a VHS store. I’m a little tired of “realistic” heroes and grindhouse parodies, but these transcended their thin templates.

3. CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH/BLACK DEATH. I’m a sucker for attempts at recreating Italian neorealism (believe it or not). CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH does it in epic fashion, with a movie in which the event (the rape of Nanking) IS the protagonist, and a larger portrait of hopelessness plays out on an epic scale. BLACK DEATH does the Dark Age movie I’ve always wanted to see, and derives horror from the fact that both Christians and atheists are violent shitbags.

4. WINNIE THE POOH/A VERY HAROLD AND KUMAR CHRISTMAS 3D. Both absolutely perfect for what they are. A reinvention of a classic that neither offends fundamentalist ninnies nor saccharine-allergic cynics, paired with an amped-up dirty joke that nonetheless extols the simple joys of a robot that can make you waffles.

5. CHICO AND RITA/SHAME. Cuban cartoons fucking, plus Michael Fassbender’s penis. Both movies reduced to the tee-hee genital bits, but so much larger than that in creating unique, stylized senses of time and place.

6. TREE OF LIFE/RUBBER. A pondering of one’s place in the universe, two ways. One suggests what really matters; the other, that nothing does. The latter’s funnier, but lacks plesiosaurs.

7. THE ARTIST/HUGO. Elaborate modern simulacra of bygone ages with modern technologies. Funny to me that some don’t understand why a movie about the original master of special effects must use all the modern implements in that toolbox, or that the so-called silent movie constantly breaks the rules of same to great effect.

8. TROLLHUNTER/PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. I still love found-footage movies, and both of these made me smile, but for quite different reasons. The former is a funny satire that never mocks its monsters, while the latter made me jump so hard I had to laugh so as not to cry in fear.

9. HANNA/MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL. A dead-eyed, brainwashed, super-trained lunatic battles deadly secret agents trying to kill him/her, pulling off crazy stunts in the process. HANNA’s coldness is its greatest asset; Cruise’s real-life craziness adds a lot to the blank slate of Ethan Hunt, as does Imax and a Moore-era Bond sense of excess.

10. BRIDESMAIDS/MELANCHOLIA. That panic attack you’re having about an upcoming wedding? It’s not the end of the world. Or is it? Dum dum dum…

11. 50-50/SOURCE CODE. A comedy about cancer, and a heroic romance about a disembodied torso. Both ultimately feel-good movies, though they could have gone either way.

12. GREEN LANTERN/THOR. The superhero movies that could not feasibly have been made on any budget in any previous decade. Thor thankfully jettisoned the olde English speak and upgraded its hero, while GL stayed firmly Silver Age, seemingly to most audiences’ dislike but much to my joy. Both gave the superhero movie a pan-galactic scope that had been missing.

13. DRIVE/X-MEN FIRST CLASS. It’s amazing how much better a complete lack of backstory can jazz up what might have been an otherwise standard L.A. Noir (though I love the excessive violence too). It’s equally mind-blowing how am obligatory backstory we thought we already knew can turn out so well in the right hands.



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Where do we go from here?

We’ve come a long way, you readers and I, these nine years. And if any of you are still around, you know I haven’t been updating this blog much any more. There are many reasons for this. Facebook basically destroyed the blogosphere, allowing people to interact and share items the way only folks with blogs used to. It’s notable that the blogs I still read regularly are those of people either not on FB or barely there.

Also, I have a new full-time job with GeekChicDaily and its upcoming offshoot, GeekChicLA. Unlike past writing positions, this one is centered around an email newsletter that we need eyeballs on, so I will not be linking to any of my work here. You need to sign up (it’s free). When I was freelancing, I used this site to do a links round-up of my stuff; now it’s all one place that I need you to go and get it.

I’m in a long-term relationship, so no more rants about the LA dating scene (it also means less sharing, as I have someone else’s privacy to think of now). Mainly, though, the job takes everything out of me, creative-energy wise, leaving little behind for optional writing. I have entertained the idea of guest-bloggers, but why would any of you want to do that for free?

The regular community of commenters, small as it was, hasn’t been here for a while. It was a good group, from wacky Mario to cranky Max. I basically got rid of the message board a while back, so there isn’t even really a sandbox to play in in my absence.

I’m not taking the site down – I know all too well after the last three or four years how quickly fortunes can change. It’s possible I will need it as a daily or weekly outlet once again. You see my Twitter feed there on the right of the page, and I do suggest following that. I will update the Buzznet photo blog at times also.

Life moves along, and I really miss some of the things and people I seem to have moved along from. The old Press Club crowd are scattered far and few, ditto the USC cinema/1321 crowd. Village Voice Media are no longer a company I feel any ties to (I’d prefer just to remember New Times).

I can still be reached through this site’s contact form, and I can be followed and friended other places. Maybe we’ll build a community here again someday, but for now I’m going into power-saving mode.  Periodic announcements may surface, but steady updates are unlikely.

I hope and trust that the best is yet to come.

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Elizabeth Wherley, 1920-2011

It seemed like every other month, my aunt Betsy (“Bebby”) would complain of some new ailment, real or imagined, that she was certain was going to well and truly kill her this time. Yet she outlived her sisters by a longshot, and the end came quickly, much like my grandfather’s — sudden stroke, then coma, then death soon thereafter. Genetic odds are that if I die naturally, that’s what I’m getting.

Though Betsy could complain like an old woman, she remained very crucially a child at heart, always trying to sneak a handful of candy, or hit up the latest sales at the mall. I once remarked that if I had to choose my dream parents, she’d be my mother. The two vacations I spent solo with her, in 1987 and 1990, remain among my fondest memories, full of trips to the Florida theme parks, drop-offs at the AMC (AMC was the newest, coolest thing back then, to me anyway), and fun gifts — upon my requesting a T-shirt on clearance that said “Who is Darkman?” she hesitated only briefly, asking, “That’s not onea them racial things, is it?”

When we went grocery shopping together, she’d tear open the ice-cream bar packages and start eating while she shopped, assuring me that it was okay, they let you do that…only to come to the checkstand where she’d very sheepishly and quietly say, “Ah’m already eatin’ one…Ah hope that’s okay…” (She had the most classical Southern accent in the family)

I never knew her husband Kenneth, which means he must have died before I was born, or shortly thereafter, and which also means she outlived him by some 36 years. She also outlived cancer, quitting smoking, alcohol (quit a few times), car crashes, and  numerous ailments she seemed to somehow take joy in expressing her suffering with. In Kenneth’s absence, she and her sister Mary (“Sis”) became inseparable…”Sis and Bebby” being mostly a collective noun in my childhood mind, one frequently involving trips to Long John Silver’s and chocolate cakes. Bebby loved the chocolate as much as anyone, probably more. “D’you buy me some more candy?” she used to ask, every time.

Two family Christmases spent in Florida were also great times, one being at a big house on the beach, the year I got the Masters of the Universe Eternia playset, possibly the biggest action figure base ever. Also Castle Grayskull – she was the one who found that for me. Cousin Arthur was still in diapers, and Sis was getting delusional into alcoholic fogs…it wasn’t long before her sober mind resembled the same.

She long lamented that her daughter Mary (above) wasn’t married yet, so I know how much joy she got when that wedding finally happened. When last I saw her at my cousin Ming’s wedding, I knew it would likely be the last time…she first had to be reminded who I was, but the recognition was still there, even as the familiar joyous cackling and wheezy laugh barely rose above a whisper any more. I could tell it did her heart good to see that I had found someone, and she likely mentally attributed it in part to my short haircut.

I wish I could say I believed she’s with Ken and Sis and my grandmother now. But what I can say is she did good, and is no longer in pain, free to be remembered as she was at her best.

I didn’t keep in touch as often as I should have. But I will miss her very much.

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Coming to DVD June 22nd, 2011…

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important reader survey

Dear readers — for reasons I’m not going to get into just yet, I need to select the very best of some of my Geekweek columns. I would like to hear from you before I do.

I would like you to tell me which are your two favorite FAST FOOD REVIEWS from Geekweek.

I would also like to know what your two favorite Geekweek Movie Reviews (any article whose title begins “LYT REVIEW”) are.

And finally, your two favorite “ill LYTeracy” columns.

Your responses will be MOST helpful. Please leave them in comments.

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