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March 21, 2004 - March 27, 2004 Archives

March 21, 2004


If I hadn't read Kenneth Turan's think piece in the L.A. Times last week, I'd have called you a liar if you told me about it. In case you missed it, Turan managed to write an article decrying how Charlize Theron failed to thank Aileen Wuornos when accepting the Best Actress Oscar.

Let's go over that in slow motion, just to make sure you caught that. The movie critic of the Los Angeles Times believes it was a terrible thing that Charlize Theron- who won an Oscar for portraying real-life serial killer Aileen Wuornos- did not thank Wuornos, or... well, this is what he said:

    (N)ot mentioning Wuornos in some way, shape or form is insupportable. Without Aileen Wuornos and her savage life, there is no breakthrough part for Charlize Theron to play, no career-making film for Patty Jenkins to write and direct, no Oscar to bring home to South Africa.

    Without Aileen Wuornos there is nothing, which is exactly what her memory got out of the awards weekend. This absence was bothersome for several reasons, not the least of which is that it perpetuates after death the very attitudes toward Wuornos, the way she was marginalized and made invisible by a society that found it more convenient to forget that individuals like her existed.

Turan goes on to say that this is an example of how Hollywood is so self-centered, so self-absorbed, that it doesn't care about the public, about others. And the latter may be true, but can you really say that failing to thank a serial killer is an example of that?

I think it does say something about Hollywood that not one but three movies- "Monster" and Nick Broomfield's two documentary versions of the story- were made about this serial killer, and both essentially blamed her abusive upbringing and need for love (and a brutal rape and torture by the first victim that may or may not have happened) for her murder spree. But it's also another example of Hollywood's acceptance that nobody is to blame for his or her own actions. Way, way too many people are victims of abuse, of poverty, of sexual assault, of torture, of mental illness, but most of them DO NOT KILL ANYONE.

And nobody makes a movie about them, let alone three. And no actor will forget to thank them for the Oscar as a result.

In today's Times, there were three reader letters about the Turan piece. Two predictably joined him in criticizing how Wuornos was ignored for her inspiring work. One, however, noted that Turan compared Wuornos' situation with the omission of Ken Kesey's name in the Oscar celebration of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and said "to say that 'Aileen Wournos, executed for murder, was not around to have her heart broken by her Oscar and Spirit omissions' is ridiculous. You cannot compare talent with murder. This woman did not deserve a thanks, she deserved what she got."

But she did get ripped off by Hollywood. She could have been given a three-picture deal. Instead, they made the three movies without her. A new lawyer might have helped her, but she really needed a better agent.



UAB beats Kentucky and most everyone outside of Kentucky smiles.

Same for Stanford losing. And the Marlins beating the Yankees, and so on throughout history. Everyone loves the underdog.

I'm not sure why.

It's what America's feeling right now- most of the world, including a substantial number of Americans, want America to lose. They want al Qaeda or someone to beat the giant to its knees. Ask them why and it'll come down to a bunch of complaints that arise from the U.S. being the power, the one massive world presence, the big guy on the block, Goliath. They want to see the monster slain. It doesn't matter that Goliath is quite likely better for them than the David slinging the rock. David's little, Golaith's big, therefore root for David. But thinking this way can create the kind of thought process that justifies suicide bombing- Palestinians little, Jews... er, Israel big, so whatever Palestinians do is OK.

I've fallen into that trap. I've always hated the New York Yankees for being winners, smug, arrogant winners, big and getting bigger while everyone else has to play the patsy for them. Dallas Cowboys? Same thing. Rational basis for this? None. I can't even honestly claim geographical justification for it- I lived in the New York area before I lived in the Philadelphia area, so rejecting the Yankees wasn't a happenstance of where I was born, it was an active, conscious rejection. (My Dad hated, and still hates, the dreaded Bronx Bombers, too, so it could be genetic)

So maybe it's time to stop the knee-jerk hatred of anything and anyone that's become "too big." I'll try to keep that in mind. But no way in hell can I be a Yankees or Cowboys fan. Sometimes big IS evil.


March 22, 2004


It's late, and this was Busy Day #1 of what looks to be a busy week, plus it was Crisis Central here today. OK, they were other people's crises, but it was one after the other. Anyway, I could make some pithy, incisive commentary about the Hamas threat or the 9/11 hearings or broadcast indecency, but I saw this on Sky News' web site and it scrambled what was left of my mind:


    Police investigating the murder of a man whose genitals were cut off have ruled out the possibility that they were fed to his dog.

You can read the rest by clicking here. Me, that's enough for today.


March 23, 2004


With the removal of several posts from the front page of regularguys.com, the entry plugging this here site is back up top in a prominent position, so hello to everyone in Atlanta here seeking enlightenment.

Sorry, ain't got none. I know what you know. Sort of.


March 24, 2004


The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten, whose writing I like, has finally said what most media figures merely think. From his online chat this week:

    Actually, the reason most journalists are liberal -- conservatives HATE this position -- is that journalists tend to be better informed about public issues than most people.

I don't think Gene means to be condescending, but this statement is exactly that. It leaves no room for honest disagreement, and it assumes that the liberal agenda is the correct agenda, that the only reason anyone could possibly disagree is that they're just plain too ignorant of the facts.

There's also the matter of whether journalists are liberal before they become journalists, or whether journalism makes them that way. Gene votes for the latter: "journalists talk to a lot of real people, with real problems," as if conservatives or libertarians or Socialist Workers Party members aren't real people with real problems or don't talk to real people with real problems. Would talking to a small businessman who's been battered into submission by nonsensical regulation make someone a liberal? Or is that not a "real person with real problems"? I think most journalists are liberal because a) they come out of school that way, and b) when everyone else at work thinks one way, and everyone you talk to thinks the same way, and everything you read is from one side, that's how you think. And that works for both sides- I expect that a Washington Times or Fox News reporter would find the same to be true on the right wing. Hollywood works the same way, as does academia. When everyone's coming from the same side, there's little chance of even considering any other side. It's the Pauline Kael syndrome- nobody I know voted for Nixon, so how could McGovern have lost?

Journalists are not particularly better informed about public issues than other people. I know this because I'm watching the coverage of broadcast issues like indecency and satellite radio, and I see mistakes and unfounded assumptions and acceptance of wild-ass guesses as fact throughout the coverage. Howard Stern says Clear Channel banned the Dixie Chicks? Then it must be true, except for the fact that it isn't. That's how radio gets covered in the other news media. There's little critical thinking employed. You can scam journalists easier than you can scam a pensioner with a pyramid scheme. Ask Captain Janks.

But too many journalists think they're smarter than the general public, just like Gene Weingarten says. We're better informed, they think. You just don't understand things like WE do.

Fine. Maybe we don't. We're all just too stupid to understand the grand concepts you journalists know.

Hello, CNN? Yeah, I'm on the scene at that news story, put me on. Hello, Aaron? Baba booey. Baba booey baba booey baba booey.

I rest my case.


March 25, 2004


Here's a Knight-Ridder piece on the worldwide anger over the use of a hapless 16 year old as a suicide bomber by the Palestinians:

    The uncle of a Palestinian boy caught trying to cross an Israeli army checkpoint in a vest stuffed with explosives was hopping mad. If he finds out who sent his nephew on the aborted mission as a suicide bomber, said Khalil Abdo, he'd gladly kill the dispatcher himself.

    "I would serve a life sentence for it," Abdo told Israeli Army radio. "One must never do a thing like that."

    Abdo's anger was only part of the uproar across Israel and the Palestinian territories on Thursday at what many viewed as the exploitation of a troubled and vulnerable child.

And an uproar is appropriate, except for this:

People are upset because children are being used to blow up Israeli civilians.

Why aren't they upset when adults are used to blow up Israeli civilians?

Is that somehow okay? Where's the revulsion there?

Just asking.


March 26, 2004


Breaking news from somewhere in Western Pennsylvania:

    Authorities were seeing red after someone used spray paint to write "Seniors '04" on a gold-leafed dinosaur statue on loan to Fox Chapel Area High School.

Ah, yes, the "Class of 'XX" graffito. How quaint.

At my high school, the custom was to crudely paint the class year on the football bleachers, so that from out by Valley Road, you could see a squared-off, borderline illegible "76" or "79." This was important, because it signaled to drivers passing the school that... that... well, it wasn't important, but every class did it. Every class but mine, I believe- I'd like to think it was our superior intellect, but most of the kids in my class were morons and a-holes (hi, everyone!), so I think it was apathy.

But the custom of spraying your class year on things- water towers, statues, someone's beater '71 Plymouth Duster- endures, and for the kids who do it, it's the last breath of the good years, the last time they'll feel part of something bigger than themselves, unless they join the Navy or land in Rahway doing 30-to-life. The guys- it's usually guys- who do the painting are looking at the end of the last years that matter to them. High school's the peak, and everything else is, well, like that movie where Robin Williams and Kurt Russell replay their high school football rivalry game.

High school was not my favorite time. You know that already- I've written about the alumni directory thing- but I'm endlessly fascinated by the people whose lives hit the high point at the big game, or the prom, or just basking in the adulation of his or her classmates. Must be nice to be one of the popular kids, or the stoners, or the jocks. I wouldn't know, but then again I didn't spray paint my class year on anything.

And when you wonder what kind of loser paints his face the team colors and goes to a December football game without his shirt so he can get on TV, now you know. It's the guy in high school who spray-painted the dinosaur.


March 27, 2004


We saw "Mayor of the Sunset Strip" this afternoon. I don't know whether it's playing in any theaters outside of the L.A. area- it does have particularly local significance- but it was playing, naturally, on the Sunset Strip itself, which is where we went to catch it. The film is a documentary about KROQ weekend host Rodney Bingenheimer, whom too many newspaper writers have dubbed a rock 'n' roll Zelig, and it was a labor of love by his friends, one of whom, Chris Carter, worked with me and was working on the movie before, during, and after the time we worked together, so my enthusiastic recommendation for the result is, I suppose, tainted. But see it anyway, because it's fascinating, funny, and profoundly, deeply sad.

That last part comes from the lesson at the core of the movie, the reason to care at all about a guy who made a career out of being a scenester in Hollywood. When Carter asks Rodney if there were any things in his life he'd change if he could do it over, Rodney, with uncharacteristically little hesitation, says yes. It's not further explored, but it doesn't need to be explained. After a half-century of being a scene-maker, someone who knows everyone and is always backstage at every big show and can honestly claim to be instrumental in the success of countless rock stars, here's what he has to show for it:

1. A cramped apartment in what is not a "hot zip."
2. A radio show at midnight Sunday night-Monday morning, otherwise known as "transmitter maintenance."
3. Lots of assorted memorabilia.

What he doesn't have is a lot of money, and he doesn't have the love-of-his-life relationship he clearly craves. The movie refers often to his reputation of bedding countless nubile girls who slept with him because it was as close as they'd get to sleeping with the stars he'd befriended, but at the end he's unmarried, and his female "best friend" remains a friend, having procured herself a more proper boyfriend. He's alone, really, and all the celebrity stardust that rubbed off on him isn't doing him any good for what counts.

The movie's signature moment doesn't involve Rodney at all. It's when his father and stepmother, also celebrity-struck (chattering about seeing old-time stars at several pro-am golf tournaments), are asked why it's important to meet celebrities, and they're stuck dumb by the question. There's a long silence, then an embarrassed non-answer, then more silence.

But there are good reasons to be around celebrities, and most of them involve getting a taste of the celebrity treatment. The food is better, the drinks are on the house, and the girls will sleep with you. Nothing wrong with any of that, but as much as you'd think that's more than enough to sustain you, there has to be more at some point. Poor little Rodney helped countless bands make it, and didn't get paid for it. He befriended celebrities of all stripes, and is close to very few people. He experienced the glamour, then slogged back to his apartment in a rattletrap beater.

It's all very sad, but at the same time, in a weird way, triumphant, because no matter how disappointed he is at the way things turned out, no matter how wistfully he remembers how the girl he loved ran off and married David Bowie's manager instead, no matter how ratty his surroundings or how neglected his radio show has become, he was there backstage, in front of the stage, on stage when his heroes performed. He was there. He came to rock, and he rocked. No matter what else, if you're Rodney, that has to count for a lot.

Oh, and the movie features several mentions, and pictures, of Kato Kaelin. I don't know how you can beat that.


About March 2004

This page contains all entries posted to PMSimon.com in March 2004. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 14, 2004 - March 20, 2004 is the previous archive.

March 28, 2004 - April 3, 2004 is the next archive.

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