Friday, December 24, 2010

Julian Assange: Bond Villian (a Guest Blog)

Bin and me: your heroes.
I invited one of my funniest and most creative friends (and a law school classmate), Bin Minter, to write a guest post on the blog.  And Merry Christmas to me, he sent me a great article just in time for Christmas Eve.  The post has nothing to with Christmas, but it does have to do with Bond Villains, underground lairs, sexy ladies, and topical politics.  You know, everything you really want on Christmas. Enjoy:

Julian Assange has caught the world’s attention. He makes the news every day, and, what’s more, he has made The Boomstick not once, but twice.  Now, as much as I respect Alison’s Boomstick, I am afraid I cannot shop S-mart when it comes to calling Julian Assange “Ju Ass.

No, it’s not because I’m some na├»ve nut-job who thinks my Uncle Sam is a lying bastard who faked the moon landing (but should still pay for my education, health insurance, retirement, and subscription to match.com). Nor  am I taking a legal highroad like Glenn Greenwald and saying that Assange has yet to really break any well-defined U.S. laws.  I just appreciate it when life imitates art, and damned if that’s what I don’t see in the man.  You see, Julian Assange is the epitome of a real life Bond villain.

Thanks to cable television, everyone on earth, from Siberia to Easter Island, has seen at least one James Bond movie by now (bonus points if you’ve read a book, or read all of the books, or read all of the books and seen all of the movies, or read all of the books and seen all of the movies countless times and just finished scouring the net for teasers about the Sam Mendes-directed Bond 23).  It’s not unlikely that scientists at McMurdo station in Antarctica are chilling out in the rec room right now and half-heartedly watching the The World is Not Enough on AMC.   The scientists and everyone else on Earth understand, consciously or not, that the secret to Bond’s staying power isn’t his womanizing or drinking or gadgets or his dry wit.  The staying power behind Bond are the villains.

Sinister, heartless bastards bent on worldwide domination are really, really friggin’ awesome.  Yes, we want Bond to kill them before they commit global genocide via a deadly and rare orchid toxin, but that’s partly because we know Bond villains always die awesome, epic deaths (they don’t trip and die naked in the shower; they go out like Beowulf).  Everything else about these guys is over the top, too. From the women they keep to the clothes they wear.  Sure, they are insane, but just like your crazy-hot ex-girlfriend who cheated on you with an entire fraternity, you have to admit, they sure are a lot of fun.

Assange looking villainous.
Anyone who resembles a Bond villain as much as Julian Assange deserves too much respect to be named “Ju Ass,” at least in my book.  But in case you are a female reader who has only seen one James Bond movie all the way through (because of your boyfriend), here are 007 ways in which Julian Assange is Bond villain-esque:
001. His name.  Face it, Julian Assange is a cool name, and Bond villains always have cool names. There aren’t any Bond villains named Anthony, or Lawrence, or Jeff. Instead, they have cool foreign names like Karl Stromberg, Auric Goldfinger, Hugo Drax, Max Zorin, Francisco Scaramanga, and Ernst Stavro Blofeld. One Bond villain had two badass names: Mr. Big and Kananga. Other kids would make fun of a name like Kananga when he was in grade school, but Mr. Big had those other kids eliminated. So call him “Ju Ass” if you want, but take out a life insurance policy first.

002. The hair.  Unless they go the Mr. Clean route (Telly Savalas as Blofeld) Bond villains often have distinctive whitish hair.  Check out these dos:
Red Grant
Elliot Carver
Emilio Largo

Karl Stromberg

Julian Assange (photo by GiantBomb.com)

003. The lair.  Wikileaks is literally housed in an underground stone bunker, aka, the site for the final scene of every Bond film. No, seriously:  (See more pictures of the actual lair here.)

Wiki-lair.

004. Nomadic lifestyle.  Bond villains don’t have homes. They are always on the move, always relocating, and they never go home for Christmas. Some of them even live on boats. Yes, they will often have a headquarters that more closely resembles Vatican City than it does your average Brookhaven McMansion (see #6), but Bond villains care about as much for their bases as a college freshman does for his dorm bathroom (as Franz Sanchez said after Bond destroyed his giant cocaine factory, “it’s only money”).  For his own part, Assange, who has lived in Australia, Tanzania, and Iceland (to name a few) gave a British judge a post office box as his address.  That guy goes through passports like you go through Kleenex in flu season.

005. The followers.  Bond villains don’t just have henchmen; they have uniformed armies.  And it takes a good stock purchase plan to get thousands of employees to man your undersea base when failure means getting dropped in the shark tank (The Spy Who Loved Me).  Being no slouch, Julian Assange has got an army of hackers working round the clock to undermine Bank of America, Amazon, and the U.S. Government.  And Assange doesn’t even pay these guys!!

006. Treats women like crap.  Julian Assange is sought for sex crimes in Sweden.  He allegedly had sex with one girl while she was sleeping?? and held another down and did his thing without a condom. While this may be par for the course at any fraternity house, it’s enough to get you jailed in Sweden.  In his defense, Assange said, “I am not promiscuous. I just really like women.” Well, Bond villains like women too . . . until they torture them, or they shoot them, or have them shot, or feed them to sharks, or poison them, or run them over, or drown them in hot liquid gold . . . but usually they just have them shot. Mark my words, those Swedish chicks are not long for this world.

Don't worry, Bin can fight all kinds of movie villians.
007. He’s blackmailing the world!! Assange’s lawyer has threatened that Assange’s evil organization, WikiLeaks, will release a “doomsday file” if the governments of the world don’t call off their dogs. This “doomsday ,” otherwise known as Assange’s insurance policy, is encrypted by an unbreakable 256 digit code and contains mega-secrets about everything from Bank of America to the Bay of Pigs. People, this is classic Bond villainy.  These guys create genius plots for global extortion involving nuclear weapons, space lasers, drugs, germ warfare, and the like.  Also, were it not for Bond, they would pull the trigger the second after that multi-billion dollar wire transfer went through.

    So, whether WikiLeaks gets shut down or not, expect Julian Assange to release the world’s teenage diary and wreck global politics.  That is, unless he goes out in an awesome, epic-like-Beowulf, blaze-of-glory death first.

    Tuesday, December 21, 2010

    See You Next Tuesday (Golden Globes)

    See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's regular weekly column. Each Tuesday, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure. See previous editions here. 

    This week's See You Next Tuesday is:

    The Golden Globes

    Awarded each year by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the Golden Globes "hardly seem to mind their codified status as Oscar night's big fat rehearsal dinner."  But this year, the Globe nominees diverge notably from predicted Oscar darlings, and include some surprises that are even more outlandish and objectionable than usual.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so (Vanity Fair does too). Go here for the full list.

    It's no "Chicago."
    The Globes have always been too glutinous and too inclusive to be taken too seriously.  HFPA gorges itself with nominees, making a Globe one step up from a paper plate attendance award.  And they've always been a little off-kilter, often throwing award bones to critical underdogs.  This formula works best when Globe nominees are box-office giants with broad popular appeal that probably won't hear any Oscar buzz (pat on the back for the Globes' inclusion of Emma Stone's Easy A performance this year).  But the Globes backfire when they include movies that no one liked – triple nominations for the lukewarm, critically-panned The Tourist – and movies that no one saw – the so-bad-it's-good-then-bad-again Burlesque (or as I like to call it, Showgirls 2).

    On top of those bizarre inclusions, there are some even more egregious exclusions from the list.  Amid predictable nominations for The Social Network, The King's Speech, and The Fighter, Leonardo was ignored for Inception, Justin Timberlake ignored for The Social Network, and Danny Boyle totally forgotten for his direction of James Franco's one man tour de force, 127 Hours.  (Franco himself scored a best actor nom.)

    True Grit
    But most outrageously and incomprehensibly, the Globes make no mention of the Coen Brothers' True Grit remake, a surefire Oscar contender. With A-list names like Damon, Brolin, and Bridges rounding out the Coen's perfect cast, and much-lauded cinematographer Roger Deakins at the helm, True Grit's total Globe omission it is tantamount to a HFPA slap in the face.



    What can we take away from all this?  First, that the HFPA has huge collective crush on Johnny Depp (nominated for both The Tourist and Alice in Wonderland, or as I like to call it Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2). 

    HFPA + Depp 4eva
    Second, the omission of True Grit may be more proof that the HFPA hate Westerns.  In 2007, the Coen's No Country for Old Men AND Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood inexplicably lost to ATONEMENT for the Best Drama Golden Globe. (No Country went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture.)  Entertainment Weekly posited, "[w]ith journalists representing countries as varied as Chile, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, the Netherlands, and South Africa, it could be argued that something as quintessentially American as the Western genre could be a hard sell for the HFPA." And how sublimely, awesomely American is it to blame middle-eastern foreigners for ruining everything?

    Certainly reasonable, tasteful people can disagree about who should be lauded during awards season.  But the Globes, by completely ignoring True Grit while praising laughable fare like The Tourist and Burlesque, definitely destroyed a chunk of their credibility.  If the Globes want to consciously avoid Oscar overlap, they could at least have the decency to be creative about it, and not just throw gold statues at Johnny Depp.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Where Are the Christmas Movies?

    Around midnight last night, the House of Representatives passed the Senate tax bill with an "unexpectedly large bipartisan majority of 277-148."  The bill includes a payroll tax break, a lower estate tax, and, most publicized, a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts to all income brackets.  As the bill waits for Obama's final approval, there's loud punditry on both sides.  And in the middle of the debates, the praise, the criticism, the griping, the back-slapping, the 2012 projections, the partisanship, the "too muches," and the "not enoughs," I'm going to talk about Christmas movies.

    Or the lack thereof.  That's right, 2010 may go down in history as the Scroogiest (feel free to steal my new adjective) year ever, because there are NO new Christmas movies coming out this season. (Note: there was a shortlived "Nutcracker 3D," but it was so poorly reviewed that it's not being given a wide release.) 

    Critic Andy Goldberg blames, at least partly, the Oscar race.  December has increasingly become the month for Oscar-contenders, which is an annoying and expensive phenomenon that I'm sure I'll rant about more in January.  Preview: you suffer through sub-par movies on Saturday nights all year long, just to have the first 10 movies you actually want to see come out in the 2 weeks between Christmas and New Year when you're stuck playing board games [or drinking] with your [if it's my] family and you're too poor from Christmas gifts [booze] to spend $10 dollars on every awesome film finally deigning to come to theaters. Ugh!
    But with no new Christmas classics in theaters, and only ONE Christmas movie scheduled for 2011 (that doesn't even really count because it's BRITISH and ANIMATED and neither one of those words sound like "John Hughes" to me), I'm bringing you a nostalgic Christmas countdown of the best Christmas movies ever made.  I wasn't going to rank mine, but then I found this list on Popeater and thought almost all of their rankings were dead on.  So I'm ranking mine, stolen partially from Popeater, with a few tweaks and additions.

    BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES EVER: 

    Cindy Loo Who?
    18. Jingle All the Way (at Bin Minter's request)


    17. Bad Santa (which I've never seen, but it made a bunch of Christmas lists, so I'm including it.) 


    16. The Polar Express


    15. Scrooged

    Wishing You A Michael Caine-y Christmas

    14. Elf


    13.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 T.V. version)


    12. The Santa Clause


    11. The Muppet Christmas Carol

    I think White Christmas is the one in technicolor.

    10. Home Alone 2


    9. Love Actually


    8. Nightmare Before Christmas


    7. Miracle on 34th Street


    6. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation


    5. Holiday Inn/White Christmas (I can never remember which of these Irving Berlin classics is which, so I'm combining them)


    Triple Dog Dare
    4. Die Hard  


    3. Home Alone 


    2. It's a Wonderful Life


    1. A Christmas Story



    WORST CHRISTMAS MOVIES EVER:  

    Movies whose dismal box office returns and critical slaying may also be responsible for the Christmas movie drought this year.


    WTF?
    7. Rent  (I'm a fan, but the movie was terrible, original cast notwithstanding.)


    6. Four Christmases


    5. Ernest Saves Christmas 


    4. Batman Returns


    LIES! LIES on your cover!
    3. Disney's A Christmas Carol in 3D (2009)


    2. Fred Clause


    1. Home Alone 3


    I think what we've learned here is that Vince Vaughn and Jim Carey have ruined Christmas for the rest of us. Thanks for Scroogifying Hollywood, jerks.


    AND BONUS: Courtesy of my friend Amer and Huffington Post Christmas movie poster spoofs, aka, the best Christmas movies that never were.  Is an internet Christmas miracle!

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    See You Next Tuesday (Double Dream Hands)

    See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's regular weekly column. Each Tuesday, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure. See previous editions here.

    For this, there are no words. 


    Okay, I lied. There are lots of words: "burst," "crank it," "double dream hands," "point your hand over there," "shoulder shoulder shoulder," and who could forget, "freestyle."  So many wonderful, wonderful words. 

    (Video find courtesy of Graham Currie.)

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Why the TSA Body-Scanners Don’t Bother Me

    There’s been ongoing hoopla about the new airport security body scanners.  These scanners “use low-level radiation to create what resembles a nude image of the screened passengers.”  Criticism has lowered to a dull roar since Thanksgiving, but as people begin  traveling for the Christmas holiday, I’m sure debate and disproportionate outrage over the scanners will again flood the airwaves.  So, in anticipation of renewed discussion, and though absolutely no one asked me, I’m going to tell you why the scanners don’t offend me at all.

    (First a caveat: this article is limited to privacy concerns about the scanners.  There may be other valid and legitimate concerns about the radiation levels, unnecessary expense, or ineffectiveness of the scanners that warrant further investigation and debate.  But, I’m exclusively speaking to scanner opposition of the “I don’t want them to see me naked” brand.)

    The way I see it, getting into a body scanner is akin to going to the doctor’s office.  Sure, it’s embarrassing to let a stranger (or at best, an acquaintance) see you naked, and it may even be a little degrading to let them poke and prod you (especially for the ladies).  But you’re willing to subject yourself to an uncomfortable and unclothed doctor exam because it’s the only way to make absolute sure you’re healthy and safe.  The body scanners aren’t that different – they’re currently the most effective, efficient technology available to make sure that you’re safe.  And if the downside is that a stranger sees you distortedly naked for a whole thirty seconds, so be it.

    I can anticipate a barrage of criticism distinguishing doctors, who are trained medical professionals, from airport personnel, who are a small step up from DMV workers.  And you’re right: airport workers don’t have extensive medical training to calm your delicate sensibilities when you slip out of your paper robe; they don’t have prestigious degrees mounted on the wall for you to fixate on while they do their dirty work.  (Maybe I shouldn’t use the word “mounted?”)  But airport employees do have one crucial thing in common with doctors: this is their JOB.  TSA workers aren’t some gawking perverts lined up to see shady gray images of your naked form; they’re people in the middle of long shifts who don’t really want to see your junk any more than you want to show it to them.  But, neither one of you wants to get blown up on a plane, either, so you begrudgingly step into the box and he begrudgingly checks the image of your fat rolls for bombs.

    Maybe years of salon waxing have dulled my modesty when it comes to professionals observing (and touching) your body.  But that’s exactly what it is: professionals whose job it is to see a little more of you.  We commonly submit to nakedness in other contexts: think about gym locker rooms, some fitting rooms, girls’ night sleepovers after a really exhausting pillow fight (just kidding – girls aren’t supposed to let guys know that happens). So what’s the big deal?

    Of course, the counter-argument is that naked locker rooms aren’t mandatory.  Well, neither are the scanners.  First, you can “opt out” of TSA scanners for a pat-down instead, though, this option is equally objectionable to most people.  But more broadly, you can avoid flying if you want to avoid the scanners. No one is coming to your house and strip-searching you, but if you want to take advantage of the privilege of flying, you are required to follow the rules. And if you want to blame somebody for your mild discomfort or temporary embarrassment, blame the underpants bomber, not the TSA.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Cash 4 Gold

    Courtesy of my friend Emily Loeb


    Tuesday, December 7, 2010

    See You Next Tuesday (John Edwards)

    See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's first regular weekly column. Each Tuesday, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure. See previous editions here.  

    Today's See You Next Tuesday is brought to you by the letters "S-E-X".  That's right, SEX!  Specifically, deviant sex.  Specifically, the kind of horrible, deviant sex that ruins lives. Who knew deviant sex could ruin lives? Oh, right. Everyone.

    1. First there's this elementary school principle who just got off the hook because all he did was paste pictures of children's faces on naked adult bodies, which is totally not child pornography because the naked bodies were not children! And it wasn't like the faces were of his students or anything.  Oh wait, yes they were.

    2. Second, good ole Julian Assange (whom you might remember as "Ju Ass" from last week's See You Next Tuesday), the infamous for the Wikileaks proprietor, was just arrested on rape charges. RAPE.  It turns out our national security isn't the only thing Ju Ass has been raping. 

    3. Finally, there's John Edwards, scumbag extraordinaire.  John Edwards is such a despicable loser that I've frequently contemplated giving him his own See You Next Tuesday.  But, until today, he hadn't made any recent news.  First some background:

    John Edward's wife of 32 years, Elizabeth, was diagnosed with cancer in 2007, amid her husband's presidential campaign.  Edwards responded by refusing to stop his campaign, having an affair with campaign "videographer" Rielle Hunter, and fathering a child out of wedlock. While repeatedly denying he was the child's father, and in fact demanding that another staffer claim paternity, Edwards made a sex tape with Rielle where she was "visibly pregnant." Barf.

    Hypocrite of the Year Award 2009
    Then he got in trouble for paying Rielle to be quiet with campaign funds and not reporting the expenditure. And for generally being a dirty, disgusting hypocrite.  But my very, very favorite moment of John Edward's utter douche-baggery is this: according to the New York Times,
    "Mr. Edwards once calmed an anxious Ms. Hunter by promising her that after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band." 
    Because everyone knows that a couple bars of "Ants Marching" makes your dead wife and your illegitimate child okay, right?  Who can be angry while Dave is playing?  I mean, his music just has such a rich, pure sound... God, I want to punch John Edwards in the face so hard.

    They just saw your sex tape.
    So, this morning, Elizabeth Edwards, who's lived the last years of her life in a nightmare of a scandal and a pending divorce, announced that she's discontinuing her cancer treatment.  Her cancer has spread to her liver, and apparently there's nothing more the doctors can do. Where is her estranged husband during her final weeks?  Probably getting his hair cut.

    Well, that's all for this week, folks. See You Next Tuesday! 

    Very sad update: Elizabeth Edwards passed away this afternoon. 

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Republicans Are Not Just on Fire, They're Smokin'

    Elizabeth Wurtzel, whose tirade against the Bar exam briefly became my mantra about 3 months ago, just wrote an interesting piece for The Atlantic (formerly the Atlantic Monthly). Wurtzel is an off-the-deep-end liberal, but a hell of a great writer, and I'm not partisan when it comes to wordsmithing. Her newest article makes the point that Sarah Palin, love her or hate her, is popular because she's hot.  That's it.  And Palin is illustrative of a larger trend in the political community: the Republicans bring more babes to the party.

    Wurtzel writes, 
    The Democrats are total morons for not finding their own hot mama before the Republicans did so first, or maybe I should have left off the qualifiers and called it straight: the Democrats are just plain morons, at least where women are concerned.  The right wing, for whatever weird reason, has been much more receptive to outrageous and attractive female commentators who are varying degrees of insane or inane, but in any case are given a platform on Fox News and at their conservative confabs.  Look at how great life has been for Megyn Kelly and Laura Ingraham and the assorted lesser lights.  But there are no Democratic blondes, no riot grrrls on the progressive side of politics, no fun and fabulous women in the liberal scene who could pave the way for a Palin. 
    Megyn Kelly looking hot.  She's a lawyer, too!
    There are lots of conclusions that can be drawn from Wurtzel's observation: that Republicans are more comfortable with standard notions of "attractiveness” and not caught up in redefining beauty and body image like Liberals; or that Republicans are more accepting of gender-role stereotypes and less prone to embracing “masculine” women.  Or the trend could begin on the other end: that conservative women are more likely than their liberal counterparts to cultivate a sexy, feminine appearance; they're more likely to embrace their inner beauty queen.

    Those are broad generalizations, and there’s probably a little bit of truth and a whole lot of notable exceptions to them.  But Wurtzel called attention to a visible and not wholly accidental disparity between the Left and the Right.  Neither Wurtzel nor I am saying that glamour and sex appeal are exclusive attributes of the Right – there are obviously smokin’ liberals (look at Hollywood).  But in the political arena, and especially in the relatively new frontier of cable news punditry, the feminine vs. feminist dichotomy is extreme.

    Let’s look at an example. Fox News’s morning host is Gretchen Carlson; MSNBC’s evening host is Rachael Maddow. Both women graduated from Stanford, 4 years apart (Carlson is older).   But Carlson is a former Miss America, and Maddow…well, "30 Rock" may have put it best when they mocked Jack Donaghy for having Maddow’s haircut.  Because he so does.


    There may be many contributing factors behind Fox’s foxes, but the phenomenon of hot conservatives is not fleeting, and is not unsuccessful.   Even if you disagree with Sarah Palin (which most people do, even Republicans, I promise – that woman hasn’t said anything remotely intelligible since her inaugural pit bull joke), you can’t deny that her influence has been widespread and powerful.   Palin became a household name overnight, and didn’t disappear from the scene even after losing the Presidential election and resigning from the position that put her on the map.  She spearheaded a movement that completely overhauled the U.S. Congress in the midterm elections.  She’s a dynamite fundraiser, constantly visible, and definitely unforgettable.  And Wurtzel is right: she couldn’t have done it if she were ugly.

    I’m sure plenty of people will say this is a travesty, an embarrassment – haven't we fought back against women rising to power because of their looks and not their intellect?  But if Palin has proven anything, it's that good looks have good staying power. Just look at her new reality T.V. show, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," which is obviously terrible, but premiered last week to 4.96 million viewers - the biggest ever for host network TLC.  You don't think 4 million people would watch "Hillary Clinton's Arkansas," now, do you?

     
    Note: if you like (or hate) this post, you should read In Defense of Men (and Smart Women), from the blog earlier this year.  Then you should tell me how pretty I am what you think.