Tuesday, March 29, 2011

See You Next Boozeday

See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's regular column. On Tuesdays, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure.   If you don't get the name, visit your nearest middle school playground and ask the first kid you see.  You can read previous editions here.  

Today I bring you a very special See You Next Tuesday.  It's particularly close to my heart because it involves the state where I live (Georgia), the subject matter that earns my livelihood (law), and the ambrosia that feeds my soul (alcohol).  In honor of this delicious triumvirate, I give you:

See You Next Boozeday: the Georgia Blue Laws Edition

On March 16th, the eve of alcohol's high holy day, St. Patty's, the Georgia state Senate passed Senate bill 10 by a vote of 32 to 22.  This bill would allow local Georgia communities to decide for themselves if they wanted to lift Georgia's current ban on Sunday retail alcohol sales. Though a far cry from mandating mimosas for everyone (the voter referendum I was advocating), the bill is a big step for Georgia, which has long tee-totaled on Sundays.  It's set to be a revenue-booster, and since many Georgia counties already allow restaurants to serve alcohol on Sundays, it could also be one of those rare, ameliorative pieces of legislation that actually reconciles disjointed laws and makes the whole system a little more coherent.

Georgia is one of only THREE states in the country to completely ban Sunday retail alcohol sales.  (And the other two aren't the bible-belters you'd expect; they're Connecticut and Indiana).  So why only now, two years into the recession, and 80 years since Prohibition, is Georgia considering this bill?  Largely because our previous governors, notably Sonny Perdue, have unequivocally promised that if such a bill passed the legislature, they would veto it. 
Just kidding. I'm not thirsty: this is my apartment.

But Georgia's new Governor Nathan Deal has indicated he will sign this measure into law.  Unfortunately, if we all remember our "I'm Just a Bill," this little bill has to be approved by the Georgia House before it can make it to the executive branch.  And this afternoon, just hours removed from the painful sobriety of another dry Sunday, the Georgia House stalled a floor vote on the bill.  And I, for one, am getting thirsty.

We're so close you guys! And yet, at any minute these William Henry Harrison-wannabes could destroy the prospect of Sunday retail sales.  So get all your belligerent drunk friends to start hounding their state representatives and let them know we want Sunday sales.  And while you're on the phone, also mention my next voter-referendum, changing the name from "Sunday" to "Sangria-day" or "Cabernet-day" or "Brunch."  And then, hopefully, I can See You Next Boozeday!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Century Club - My 100th Post

This is my 100th post on the blog.  It's already tripped me up – when I realized that this would be number 100, I tried to think of something extra special to write about.  I've ended up putting it off for over a week now, waiting on inspiration to strike.  And, today, in a simple way, it did.

I watched Army of Darkness, the movie that begat the title and icon of this blog, again today.  Watching, I started thinking about what motivated me to use that movie, such an utterly weird, silly, neglected little piece of cinema, to identify and introduce my writing.  And watching a very young Bruce Campbell battle an army of hilariously bad claymation skeletons with a bionic chainsaw fist and an arsenal of one-liners, I realized how totally appropriate it is for what I'm trying to do here.

Army of Darkness was an early project of Sam Raimi, the incredibly talented director who would go on to make billions with the Spiderman movies.  It's a sequel to his first film, The Evil Dead, a straight-up (if kitschy) horror movie.   Darkness has elements of its horror predecessor, but its ultimately a weird, wonderful little comedy.  It's driven by the fact that it doesn't take itself too seriously, or seriously at all, and to me it stands as an example of a super-talented guy (Raimi) really putting himself and all of his bizarre, imperfect ideas out there.  And, in all of its ridiculous, unpolished glory, Army of Darkness has managed to carve out a sincere fan base – a following of the cult brand, to be sure, but a following nonetheless.  It's because Raimi let himself do something flawed and strange and self-indulgent that we have this great little movie to watch and root for and name blogs after.

And that's what my hope has been for this blog.  I started it last year to give myself a forum for all of my weird little ideas, the little niche things that I loved and cared about and gushed over, a place where I could put all those overexcited personal pockets of energy.  I hoped that I would relax enough to write sincerely, even if no one read it, and even if the people who read it disagreed.  And, I think, above all, I hoped that someone, anyone, would see a shade of themselves in what I had to say -- one post, one line -- and feel totally awesome that somebody just totally got them.  Great writing can keep anyone from being lonely.  Especially me.

So, to everyone who's ever read this blog: regularly, intermittently, once, twice, who's ever commented or laughed or linked or shaken their head in profound disagreement or sighed in frustration over the abundance of comma splices, I thank you.  Thank you for a year of this, for emailing me with post ideas, for asking why I haven't posted a See You Next Tuesday today, for commenting, for one-hundred posts.  You've all made this the most fulfilling venture and challenge I've ever undertaken.  And I can't wait to keep doing it a hundred times over.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'll Tell You Who John Galt Is (A Defense of Ayn Rand From Someone Who Is Not a Close-Minded Idiot)

Ayn Rand has gotten a bad rap.  Liberals generally hate her, and, because they tend to dominate literary communities, she hasn’t exactly gotten a fair shake in the literary world.  For proof, just check out the dichotomy between the "critics' list" and the "readers' list" of the 100 Best Novels of All Time at Modern Library: Rand isn't mentioned at all by the critics, but four of her novels make the readers' top 10, including spots #1 and #2.  With buzz starting about Atlas Shrugged: Part I the movie set to premiere on April 15th (har har), I anticipate a renewed onslaught of Rand criticism in the media.  And with a friend of mine already denouncing her other magnum opus, The Fountainhead, this week on his blog, I thought it might be time for me to make a preemptive strike.

Rand's big four.
First, let’s get the writing style out of the way: it’s true that Rand is verbose, and that her prose is sometimes clumsy. She’s not who you read if you’re looking to revel in the poetry of word combinations or vocabulary. As a (wannabe) writer, I love nothing more than reading high quality writing, even if I disagree with it. That’s why I pour over my Vanity Fair each month (sometimes with a dictionary), and why I read Wallace Stevens before bed (always with a dictionary).

But the manipulation of language is not Rand’s province and it is not her purpose, so to roast Rand for being a just a “good” writer and not some reinventor of language is to severely underestimate her influence.   It's probably unfortunate that she’s not a literary savant, but there are lots of literary savants who write beautifully and never say anything worth saying.  No one can deny that Rand, for better or worse, has a point to make.  And I think that carves a place for her in the canon. 

Rand is also criticized for the (sometimes violent, irresponsible, insanity-inducing) romances in her books.  What does The Fountainhead rape scene say about women, and what does the extramarital affair between Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged say about Rand's morals?  I think it's beside the point.   What Rand did was combine her serious political treatise with the sassy, saucy elements of paperback novel.  Does that dilute her political purpose, or make it less legitimate?  I’m not sure.  But I do know it makes her books easier to read, jucier, more fun.  And with thousands of pages to get through, its not unwise to toss your readers a sex scene to keep them plowing through.

You think Sawyer was in it for the "Objectivism?"
If we can just scrape through the melodramatic subplots, the hyperbole, the heavy-handed speeches, we can get to the meat of what people love about Rand's books, and what lingers years after reading her.  Rand's books, particularly her two epic milestones, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, are, at their core, parables.  They’re morality tales played to the extreme to make a point.   Atlas Shrugged, through all of its long-winded landscapes and knotted romances, ultimately posits this question: what if one day all of the workers, all of the people who contribute raw effort to society – ideas, creativity, hard labor – got tired of all of the critics, the ingrates, the politicians, the people whose job it was to demean and destroy the work, people who disrespected the very notion of work, got so tired that they just left.  Left.  Said, "to hell with you," and started their own society, where everybody worked and there was no one to stand around and point out what was wrong and ask for handouts.  It's an interested philosophical query, right?  If people demand more handouts, how about no handouts?  What happens then?

Rand: warm and fuzzy.
Rand isn’t actually suggesting all the productive people of the world go live in the secret, Bond-villain-like underground lair like they did in Atlas Shrugged (and it’s a good thing, because as a soul-sucking lawyer-cum-writer, I definitely wouldn’t be invited). What she is suggesting is that the people who are the biggest critics are often the smallest actual producers of useful things (this is played out literally in The Fountainhead, where the hero of the story is an architect and the villian of the story is an architectural critic, and played out more metaphorically in Atlas Shrugged, where the heroes are railroad magnates and their laborers, and the villains are socialist boardroom brats).  Rand is suggesting that maybe all the inert, redundant people who say the hardworking handouts aren’t enough and aren’t enough and still aren't enough should think about what would happen if the people giving out the handouts didn’t want to play anymore, picked up their toys, and went home.

Importantly, the dichotomy Rand draws was never between the rich and the poor; this is a common misconception perpetuated by reliance on sound bites and stereotypes of Rand's work. Most of Rand's heroes are either poor, or started out that way; it's her villains who are the entitled upper class.  Instead, the line Rand draws is between the working and the idle, the principled and the unprincipled.  Her heroes are extremely ethical, but they adhere to their own, internal sense of ethics – they are unwavering in their tenacity and their stubbornness and their insistence on doing only that which they can stand by proudly.  And her point, I think, is that you can be deeply moral and deeply ethical and deeply responsible and do it for yourself and your own pride and self-worth and not for anybody else's gratitude.  Rand famously decries altruism, which is largely responsible for her misjudged reputation.  But she doesn’t hate altruism because she thinks you should be a jerkwad to other people; she just thinks you should be a good person for yourself -- because it's the right thing to do, because you can be proud of it -- not for someone else’s sake.

The truly terrible film version of The Fountainhead
Howard Roark, the hero of The Fountainhead, famously remarks, “I don't give or ask for help.” Somehow, all the Rand critics out there have stopped listening after the first part.   Critics lambast Rand for saying people shouldn’t help their fellow man, but they entirely miss the second part, which is much more important.   Roark isn’t going to ask you for help, either.  In fact, it's so fundamental to his nature to not accept handouts that he can’t even bring himself to give them.  Roark will insist on working for whatever he gets, and he will, likewise, insist that you work for whatever you get from him.  This isn’t denying you something you need, this isn’t being mean or selfish or cruel.  This is Roark giving every man as much respect as he has for himself, giving every man the opportunity to honestly work for what he’s given.

The more I read about Rand on the internet, the less I understand how everyone misses that part.  Much more than swearing “I’ll never give you anything,” Roark is swearing “I’ll never ask you for anything that I haven’t earned." How can Rand's critics focus only on the “won’t give” and not on the “haven’t earned” part?  Rand’s world promises you everything if you're just willing to try, to strive, to put in the effort; yet some people revile her because her world doesn't give them anything for free.  So, to the people who say Rand is selfish, she would say, you are lazy.  You could have all the world if you worked for it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

See You Next Tuesday (The Sheening)

See You Next Tuesday is the Boomstick's regular column. On Tuesdays, I bring you the week's most laughable scumbags, idiots, and jerks for your reading and reviling pleasure.   If you don't get the name, visit your nearest middle school playground and ask the first kid you see.  You can read previous editions here. 

I said last week that I was going to avoid posting about Charlie Sheen, but the temptation has just been too great.  However, the strength of my temptation is met with the breadth of material, so instead of editorializing, I've decided to provide you:

THE SHEENING: The Ultimate Internet Guide to the Best of Charlie Sheen

 First, get acquainted with the substance of Sheen's rants:
Then, try making some of your own: 
Play some games of the "Who Said It?" variety:
Find some Sheen to hang in your office:
    Videos and More: 

    And if you still want more, check out The Frisky's compendium of even more Sheen spoofs.  In conclusion, I'm not Thomas Jefferson.  He was a pussy.  See You Next Tuesday!

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Poll: Do You Actually Love Love Actually?

    A few weeks ago, I wrote a post called "Is Black Swan a Chick Flick?" where I examined the bizarre gender divide underlying Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan.  In my review, I asserted that though it's  a "chick flick," many guys liked Love Actually.  In response, I received the following email:
    Although usually I am an avid supporter of every word that you speak, I have to lodge a formal complaint related to the statement in one of your more recent blogs related to Black Swan that Love Actually is a "girl movie" that boys "like." I would vaguely consider pulling out one of my back molars with the not-actually-usable-pliers on my Swiss Army pocket knife rather than watch that film or anything like it.
    If you have an example of someone who is a boy/male/man who GENUINELY enjoys this movie I will withdraw this formal complaint. Until then I will be organizing rallies and other forms of picketing activities, and will work tirelessly to ensure that somehow federal taxpayer dollars fund it.
    I will also be continuing my usual activities of keeping a daily chart of how many people blow through the red light in front of Maggiano's outside of my office window, which is quite similar to my daily compulsive habit of tracking the "ums" said by [law school professor redacted]. I think I have a problem, either that or I am a savant.
    Thank you,
    Anxious in Atlanta

    So, was I wrong about Love Actually?  If you're a dude who likes Love Actually, or you know a dude who likes Love Actually, let me know. 

    create a free poll on pollsb.com

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Zombie Award

    So, I just got my first blogging award.  I feel a little late to the game because other blogger friends of mine, like Meghan, have been cleaning up with awards, and I've never gotten one.  Meghan's awards are all perky and pastel and sweet, so it's actually very fitting that my first award is a dead rabbit.


    Okay, to be technical, it's a reanimated dead rabbit.  It's official: my first public recognition after a year of blogging is the Fatal Attraction of blog awards.  (To be fair, I do write a good deal about zombies.)  Still, I'm grateful.  So check out iZombie, the site that gave it to me, and continue to let me know what you guys really think of me.

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    See You Next Tuesday (Gaddafi)

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

    I'm sure you thought that this week's See You Next Tuesday would be a cheap shot at Charlie Sheen, but we (me) here at The Boomstick have a little more class, originality, and world consciousness than that.  And I already did it a few weeks ago.  Instead, I want to spend this week laughing at one of the world's most hilariously terrifying leaders (while we still can).

    Following two weeks of protests in Egypt that ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, the people of Libya launched their own revolt.  But Libya's revolt is destined to be messier than Egypt's because the dictator they're trying to evict is totally insane, delusional, and dresses like a member of Ladysmith Black Mambazo on a Michael Jackson tour.
    Ladysmith Black Mambazo

    This is Muammar Gaddafi, the man who has ruled Libya for the last four decades.  When protesters took to the streets in Libya (which I desperately want to pronounce like "Dubya"), Gaddafi ordered his army to strike back; the army fired on civilians, and then targeted the funerals of the dead protesters, killing hundreds of Libyans.  Gaddafi kicked out foreign journalists and almost totally cut off internet access for the entire country.  Then, in what may be the most genius P.R. stunt since Wag the Dog, Gaddafi went public denying any revolt at all.


    Fortunately, there is a plus side to Gaddafi: he's a walking SNL caricature.  No exaggeration necessary!  For those of you who aren't friends with me on Facebook, I posted the other day that he reminded me of Chris Kattan.  Luckily, my friend Matt corrected me that he actually better resembles Fred Armisen.


     

    Then Matt asked, what if Chris Kattan showed up, too, and Gaddafi ran away with Mango?  Sorry, that weird feeling was your mind being blown.

    Mango!
    But then my friend Jerry corrected me that more than anything, Gaddafi actually looks a great deal like Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor.

    I mean, right?
    By now you should be used to that feeling.  It's your mind being blown.  And on that note, I will See You Next Tuesday!