a jim jividen blog

Here's the thing. I'm watching one of these shows on the Cooking Channel featuring food trucks. There's a Scottish expat making fish and chips; in a thick brogue he somewhat wearily explains his irritation with Americans who habitually order a side of tartar sauce: "tartar sauce is basically gherkins." That's this blog. I claim no particular insight, no revelation. If you enjoy the flavor, great, but this blog is basically gherkins.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

1st and Ten: The Weekly Tendown: February 28-March 6 2010

Dear Internet:


Hi. It's the Academy Awards issue of Tendown (issue #17) - last week - I talked about compulsory flag salute, poor restroom etiquette, my first baseball game, the second best wrestler in the world and the philosophical value of Cop Out, which, while significant, is not worth the $7.50 matinee price I paid for the film. Jeremy Bentham and Immanuel Kant can fistfight over a higher quality film - perhaps - one of the ten films nominated tonight for Best Picture.

That's the structure of the Tendown today - with the minor caveat that I haven't seen any of them - I'll be ranking the ten nominees for Best Picture (as opposed to making my Oscar picks, which I did earlier in the week. Shorthand, the price for Bigelow, who is an absolute lock as Best Director, is still affordable, and if that's the kind of thing you do - consider making an investment.) I won't be actually talking about the movies themselves; instead, I'll be talking about, you know, the same crap I always talk about - some mixture of my radically lefty politics and analysis of this week's episode of Bad Girls Club (it's made Real World irrelevant; well, Real World's only relevance in five years has been as a feeder system to the Challenges; but more broadly stated - every non competition reality show has to stand in line behind the absolute madness that is Bad Girls (Bravo excluded). My lady friend and I both audibly gasped when Kate punched Annie clean in the neck Tuesday night; it was the second most startling thing of the week). But I'll do it within the artifice of ranking the nominees for Best Picture. See? See how we do?

But before that...

1. The Most Startling Thing of the Week



The health care debate has entirely become one about process. Should the Democrats use the "nuclear option" (a term which the Republicans, until the past couple of months, had used to refer to eliminating the filibuster entirely - and are now taking Democratic sound bites using that meaning of the term and alleging that Democrats are hypocritcally claiming the right to use reconciliation when they claimed it was inappropriate in the past).

You: What does this have to do with the 45,000 Americans who die every year, like another 9/11 every three weeks, because they don't have goddamn health insurance?

Yeah, good point.

What the right has done, with the aid of their chief propagandist, Fox News...

...is make the debate not about dead Americans, not about the US having the 37th best health care system in the world, but instead about Democrats using some dirty trick to pass a bill with just a majority of support.

We are, as Gore Vidal has said, the "United States of Amnesia" - but probably, given the hyperbolic coverage, this "nuclear option" should be unprecedented - and if it has been used before - say, by the Republicans - almost certainly it was covered in a similar way?

Here's Media Matters discussing the media coverage of the 2003 use of reconciliation by the Republicans to pass Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy. You know, those incredibly beneficial tax cuts that had broad based support - well, not so much from the Americans without health insurance, but they're probably dead by now, so it hardly matters.

The NY Times wrote once about the bill being passed through the procedural mechanism of reconciliation.

The Washington Post, USA Today, Associated Press never referred to it at all.

There were no stories on cable news.

Media Matters went back 5 months all the way through the passage of the tax cuts and found, in every major outlet across the country, only the barest mention of reconciliation - and never as a controversial matter - never as some sort of dastardly procedural trick - never as the "nuclear option."

This wasn't 1912 - it was 2003 - this was a bitterly contested bill, one that had to be passed through a Dick Cheney tiebreaking vote, even after going through reconciliation - this was under an Administration that lost the popular vote - this was a tax break to radically shift income to the wealthiest Americans - it passed only after reconciliation - and never once did that notoriously liberal media ever say the process by which it passed was unfair.

But Lamar Alexander, this week, said reconciliation will destroy the Senate.

But - say the right - that was a budgetary bill - budgetary bills are where we use reconciliation - it's not appropriate for health care.  What we really mean is reconciliation for health care bills - that's what will destroy all of us in a mushroom cloud of...people... with ...insurance coverage.

Unless you know what the R in COBRA stands for.

Or - from NPR - the other 8 times reconciliation has been used for health care legislation.

If that's the nuclear option, we sure do have a history of pressing the button.

I found the reconciliation noise startling this week. Here's Judd Gregg in 2005 arguing in favor of using reconciliation to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.

                              Is there something wrong with majority rules? I don’t think so.
And here's Judd Gregg now:

You're talking about the exact opposite of bipartisan. You're talking about running over the minority, putting them in cement, and throwing them in the Chicago River. Basically, it takes the minority completely out of the process of having a right to have any discussion, say, or even the right to amend something so fundamental as a piece of legislation of this significance. ... So using reconciliation in this manner on this type of an issue would do fundamental harm, fundamental harm, to the institution of the Senate. I mean, why have a Senate if you're going to do reconciliation on something this significant? You might as well go to a unicameral body. Be like Canada. Have one body and have it be the House of Representatives because that will be the practical effect of using reconciliation here.

And that's what hypocrisy looks like. And that understanding is the best thing that happened this week.

After the jump - the nominees for Best Picture - and the Tendown!

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The Oscars are tonight - as the gayest straight guy you're ever going to meet, it is a day that means every bit as much to me as any non-Niners Super Bowl (meaning, any Super Bowl at this point, sigh) - I watch almost as much red carpet as I do pre-game; I've done predictions; I'm in pools; and like my (successful, damn right) dual call of the Saints plus the number and under the total, tonight I'll go to the (cough, cough) metaphorical pay window with Kathryn Bigelow. Let's rank the 10 nominees for Best Picture here on the Tendown

1. The Hurt Locker
Last week, I talked about Jim Bunning holding up an extension of unemployment benefits that had the support of the other 99 Senators. He did so, purportedly, because of fiscal responsibility - we shouldn't make the federal government any more bloated - spending money on items without paying for it. For this stand, Limbaugh, this week, said Bunning is a "hero to the people" (which raises the question about who Limbaugh thinks receives unemployment checks, marmasets?). The right loved this principled stand. After all - how can we pay for this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask about any spending - even when that question causes 1.2 million Americans to run out of their unemployment benefits.

Now it's time to ask the same question about these trillion dollar middle east wars.

George Bush took office with a 5 and a half trillion dollar surplus and left with a 3 trillion dollar debt.

Yet somehow - it's Obama who is framed as the spender in chief - and the fiscally minded Republicans who are just trying to protect future generations. The Republicans have a simple strategy - when they are out of power - grind everything to a halt (in 2009, Republicans filibustered more than both parties did in the 1950s and 1960s combined) claim that every measure proposed by the Democrats is an attempt at socialist/Nazi/terrorist takeover of the United States - and when in power - give every possible dollar to insurance companies, military contractors, and the wealthiest Americans.

I'll watch The Hurt Locker, but I don't care about it. The story I want to hear told about Iraq is how much it costs and how we're going to pay for it. How much infrastructure repair we don't get, how many new textbooks for public schools don't get bought, how much water and air doesn't get cleaned from cancer causing pollutants, how many jobs don't get created, how many kids don't get medical treatment, how many elderly people die in decrepit conditions because of money that continues to be spent on these wars, lining the pockets of defense contractors. Just like Jim Bunning, presumably, wants to know also, no matter how many basketball games he has to miss to find out. I encourage the newly budget conscious right wing to demand the military conform to this "how will we pay for it" principle that it all applauded this week on the backs of the unemployed.

Let me offer, to the right wing, one answer to the question "how will we pay for the unemployment benefits" - perhaps, by REPEALING THOSE TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY- BECAUSE TAXES ARE HOW WE PAY FOR THINGS. 

You guys (1) cut taxes and (2) increased spending - and now ask how we're going to pay for things? 

Stay classy, conservatives. 

2. Up In The Air

It's the movie about the unemployed, Up In the Air, which will probably be the movie on the list I'll wind up liking the most - I've liked Reitman's previous films - I like Clooney as much as everyone else does (I like to play a game I haven't really brought to this blog yet, Overrated/Underrated - the premise of which is everything is either one or the other - it's easy to say that something clearly overrated...like Cheech and Chong or Derek Jeter or lobster...is overrated - it's the close calls, where you just suffer having to pick overrated or underrated, where the game becomes worth it. Money? Underrated. Beatles? Overrated. Fear of death? Underrated! Clooney is really a challenge..he feels very fairly....Underrated. Done. Overrated/Underrated is a very underrated way to look at the world).

3. Avatar
I'll never see Avatar, I don't care about movies whose primary quality is spectacle - an element of that is my watching films in my house as opposed to the giant IMAX palace where the visual impact would be better appreciated - but one of the reasons for my choice of forum is that I don't particularly care about spectacle in the first place. Bright colors don't much do it for me - a line I've been using as long as I've been playing overrated/underrated is that the 4th of July is my least favorite holiday because it combines 4 things I dislike, bright colors, large crowds, loud noises and hysterical jingoism - and that (except for the jingoism part, I recognize that Avatar has a gently lefty message) motivates my disinclination to ever see Avatar. I don't, however, feel a need to call Moratorium on the giant splashy spectacular animated movie - I'm not in - but I don't think it's essentially harmful to our society that they continue.

See, Moratorium is another game I've been playing forever, like Overrated/Underrated - Moratorium is some element of our culture that doesn't need to be destroyed forever - but it just needs to go away for an indefinite period of time. Just needs to leave the territory for several years to freshen up. I mean, I could probably enjoy a Triple H promo again (or a Robin Williams stand up performance) but I need five years of not having him on my TV to get to that spot.

What I've been compiling recently are phrases I need not to hear for the next several years - that when I've heard them in the past couple of months I've shouted "Moratorium!" - whether I was alone or with my lady type friend.  I'll leave it to the reader to decide which shouting circumstance is the more bothersome.

like chickens with their heads cut off
i don't trust him as far as I can throw him
you can cut the tension with a knife
i just threw up in my mouth a little bit
kumbaya (as in, we're not gonna sit here and hold hands and be all kumbaya and shit)

Moratorium!

4. Up
The other cartoon nominated I also won't see, and I know I won't see it because my aforementioned lady type friend watched it this week and I abstained- it's the only film on this list that she has thusfar seen and I put it here for the following reason.

Give me a moment, just thinking about it gives me the tremors. 

I'm dating a woman who has never seen Karate Kid.

I know, right?

I made a Karate Kid reference this week - something like "show me paint the fence" - and she looked at me as if I am in need of protective headgear (I shouldn't have revealed my belief that I have Asperger's Syndrome last week; this, understandably, has reduced my value as lifelong man-partner).  I said, "you know, Mr. Miyagi - "always look eye, concentrate, focus power."

And that's when she revealed the horrible truth.  She's never seen Karate Kid. 

It was bad enough that Kirk Hiner never saw Footloose - but all we did was write a play together, there was no nudity involved.  How can I be with someone who doesn't understand what I mean when I say "fear, has no place, in this dojo."  I mean, if I were a different guy, I'd have that phrase tattooed on my wrists like how the intern at People's Revolution has those Britney Spears lyrics (I don't want to play old dude here - but at what age will that guy look at his wrists and think..."yeah...I should have stayed home that day.")

But then it struck me - there are movies I haven't seen.  Movies that everyone has seen but I haven't seen. 

And with that - new game.  What have you never seen?

I've never seen Gladiator.  I've never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.  I didn't see that one Lord of the Rings movie which won Best Picture.  And I'll never see Avatar.  I'm not really in any position to judge.

I withdraw my complaint. 

5. The Blind Side
This will be just a dopey red state movie, and I'll be irritated that the best parts of the book didn't wind up anywhere near the film.  But it's a sports movie and I like sports.

This week, I liked the HBO documentary, Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals and Naomichi Marufuji - I saw 3 4+ star Marufuji matches, the 2 against Devitt (January was 4 1/4 - the J Cup final from December was 4 3/4, and that's the first candidate for 2010 match of the year, and a 4 1/4 February match against Nakajima).  I wrote the latest installment of my mighty wrestling counterfactual - and I have ready to go for next week the Top 50 players in baseball - right now - the 2010 edition.
6. Inglourious Basterds

This was Tarantino's speech just before the Inglourious Basterds premiere:

"So, are you ready to see some Basterds?" [Mild applause] "I said, are you ready to ready to see some Basterds fuck up some Nazis?" [Louder applause] "Yeah, motherfucker!" [Throws microphone on the floor]


7. A Serious Man
The Ten Best Coen Brothers Movies Ever:

1. Raising Arizona
2. Fargo
3. No Country For Old Men
4. Blood Simple
5. Barton Fink
6. Miller's Crossing
7. Bad Santa (see what I did there?)
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
9. Burn After Reading
10. The Big Lebowski

8. Precious
Precious is not as funny as you'd expect. 

A good piece I read this week was about how Steve Martin, one of the hosts tonight, isn't funny anymore. This has long been my contention - my belief - that some mystical force connected to Bowfinger sucked the funny clean out of both he and Eddie Murphy has not gotten the level of cultural traction that all the Poltergeist related deaths had for a few years.  Also not funny - Leno and Palin, who, to be fair, deserve each other.  And Victoria Jackson, who is not, repeat, not, doing any sort of parody in this clip. 

9. An Education
The best piece I read this week was in  Science Daily, that there is a correlation between higher intelligence and liberalism and atheism in men.  Who doesn't want to read an article that says his subgroup is the smartest?  If they added professional wrestling fans named Jim to those other two groups, that might drive down the sample to just me and Cornette.  An article in Science Daily just about me and Jim Cornette! That will definitely make Tendown.

Atheists must be smart - they've found a way to con believers in the rapture into this "doggy left behind" service.  I'm probably a great choice for those of you who are preparing to be beamed up in the soon to come end of days - much like your dog, I'm not going to be taking the ride with you - but I am extra responsible and I very much like pets.  I don't want to poach clients from that website, but if you'd like to talk terms I'm inclined to listen.

10. District 9
I have nothing to say about District 9.  But speaking of dogs - I did find this picture this week:

That's a dog in a vending machine.  Not for sale - it's getting a 33 minute shampoo.  Japan is a curious land.  Not so good if your Toyota doesn't stop, as that's a good example of a country with tort reform - but excellent if you'd like your dog washed cheaply.  And perhaps smelling like coffee.

That's Tendown.  I'll see you next time...if there is a next time.

Your pal,

Jim