Blogger Intensifies Exercise, Explodes

June 30, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usClients of a downtown Toronto gym were shocked and repulsed when a local blogger's lungs and head exploded this morning.

"It was, like, so gross! I got brains in my powershake! Ew!" exclaimed one witness, who may never previously have encountered brains of any type.

"He was on the treadmill and suddenly blam! squoosh! splatter! It was like in Scanners when they made those people's heads explode everywhere! It was totally cool!" described another.

It is believed that the 35-year-old blogger's lungs and head detonated after he had increased the intensity of his workout routine. Encouraged by an informal personal trainer, a friend described as "sadistic" and "malevolent", to "ramp it up take this thing to the next level" in an effort to reduce his belly and regain the taut, svelte, muscles of his early- to mid-20s, he had recently increased the difficulty of his routine. The results were deadly.

Gym owners hastened to explain that exercise is in general a safe and healthy activity and that normal side effects include fatigue and aching muscles. Bursting body parts are unusual and should not deter the public from paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to join a gym and cause themselves great physical distress.

The bloggers was unable to comment because his head had exploded, leaving him without a mouth and brain power (and brains).

posted by GreyGuy on 30.6.06 | Permalink | 7 comments

Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart

June 26, 2006

America's Sweetheart was born in Toronto, Canada in 1892. Given the name Gladys Smith at birth, she would later change it to Mary Pickford. When she is remembered - if she is remembered - it is with this nickname, all of her pioneering achievements long since forgotten: the inventor of an acting style suitable to movies (and later television); the first actor to gain complete creative control over all her movies; the first actress to gain complete creative control over all her movies; the first actress to become a millionaire; the co-founder of an important film distribution company; the first Canadian superstar in the American entertainment industry; the very first Hollywood superstar ever.

Pickford came from humble beginnings. Her father disappeared soon after she was born and died three years after his disappearance. To support herself, Mary and her two younger siblings, Pickford's mother Charlotte Smith worked as a seamstress, usually working 18- to 20-hour days for little pay to keep the small family afloat.

At the age of seven, Pickford got a small role in a play at Toronto's Princess Theatre. More followed and she gained popularity as a child actor in the city. Soon she had joined a touring company and was on the road for months, usually alone. Before the age of 10, she was the breadwinner of the family. The independence of travelling at such an age and the responsibility of her work would have crushed most children, but she showed a strength and a business savvy that would serve her for her entire career and began to negotiate her own acting contracts.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAt the age of 15, her touring company landed in New York and she immediately set her sites on Broadway. After initial reluctance to hire her, producer David Belasco, one of the most important names on Broadway, hired her in a supporting role in the play The Warrens of Virginia. Belasco is also credited with convincing Gladys Smith to the more glamorous-sounding (to the ears of the time) name, Mary Pickford.

After the play's successful run in 1909, she was without work. She auditioned for DW Griffith's fledgling movie company Biograph and, although movies were considered the lowest of the arts so that she considered them beneath her, she joined the ensemble cast of Biograph.

In their earliest incarnation, movies were short, 15- to 20-minute affairs with simple plots and single wide camera shots showing the entire set and cast, much as if it were simply a rebroadcast of a play. The acting style was the style popular on stage at the time, a highly emotive ensemble of prescribed facial expressions with violent arm movements and stances meant to carry dramatic intensity right to the very last row of the highest balcony of any theatre.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPickford very quickly realised that cinema presented the potential for a much more intimate relationship with the audience than did a faraway stage and she developed a natural, realistic style that, after many altercations with Griffiths, she was permitted to use onscreen.

Looking at her early Biograph movies, the difference between her and the other actors is astonishing. While the others surpass what would pass as the most exaggerated slapstick by current standards, Pickford exudes warmth and intelligence with her natural facial expressions and straightforward and easy stance. To audiences of the early 1910s, accustomed to the high melodrama and hysterics that trumpeted across stages and screens at the time, it must have seemed almost as if she were sitting in the seat beside them, whispering in their ears. She became immensely popular.

It wasn't long before she took advantage of her popularity and had negotiated a salary double that of the other Biograph actors. But in 1914 she left Biograph to join Adolph Zukor's Famous Players Film Company (which later became Paramount Pictures) with a contract that would make her the most highly-paid actor in Hollywood, the new centre of the movie industry. It was with here that she would catapult to superstardom and earn the nickname, America's Sweetheart.

Zukor saw that movies had a much larger potential than the short, rather silly comedy pieces they had been up until them. He wanted to produce longer, more involved artistic pieces with Famous Players and he had already encountered considerable success in the 2 years of the company's existence before signing Pickford. With the release of Tess of the Storm Country starring Mary Pickford in 1914, he was proven correct. The movie was a critical and audience success that would shape the production of every movie after that time.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usPickford became Hollywood's very first international superstar. She was an audience favourite for her roles as working class melodramatic and comedic heroines. But it was her precocious little children roles that were her most popular. At only 1.5 metres (5 feet) and with her ebullient style (and the imperfect film and lighting of the early industry), she was able to pull off energetic, precocious little girl roles a decade and a half younger than she that resonated with audiences, who swept her into their arms. The grip seemed so tight at times - she was surprised that fans acted towards her as if they were on intimate terms - that she began to resent her public persona, spending most of her time with her mother and forming strong bonds with other emerging stars like Lillian Gish, Helen Hayes, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr, whom she would later marry.

Towards the end of the 1910s she had moved on from Famous Players and was not only the highest paid actor in Hollywood along with Charlie Chaplin, but had complete control over every aspect of her films, from script to casting to staffing to distribution. In 1920 she started United Artists with Chaplin, DW Griffiths, and Douglas Fairbanks Sr, a studio that could not only accommodate the enormous fame and salary demands that both Pickford and Chaplin had earned, but that would also attract producers and artists who wanted to stand out from the normal fair. Though many were sceptical that actors could run a business, the gamble worked and in the first few years of the 20s they had signed up-and-coming notables like producers Samuel Goldwyn and Howard Hughes and actors Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis was success was fuelled partly by Pickford's business sense, and partly by her gigantic star power. This in turn was magnified when she married another of Hollywood's biggest stars, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. The two were enormously popular as a power couple - they were mobbed everywhere they went on their European honeymoon, which became more of a string of photo ops - and are the originators of the Brangelinas and Bennifers of today, a dubious distinction for which no one should thank them.

By the mid-20s, her star's lustre was beginning to wear away. As she approached the age of forty, she knew that she would no longer be able to pull off her popular girl child roles and facing competition from a new crop of stars such as Louise Brooks, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and another fellow countryman who had completely subsumed her Canadian identity for American stardom, Norma Shearer.

No longer able to play the girl child, she cut her trademark golden ringlets to the popular 1920s bob and tried to do more artistic, dramatic roles. Her audience was unimpressed and her movies began to lose money, something she had never experienced before. As so many Hollywood actresses have found since, audiences like their actresses as onscreen virgins or onscreen whores, and there are very few good roles once no one wants you to be either.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWith the advent of talkies, her star would completely plummet. Her first talkie in 1929, Coquette was a commercial success, but most likely only for the novelty of hearing her speak for the first time. She won an Oscar for it, but some say the award was not for her performance in the move itself, but an acknowledgement of her incredible contribution to the movie industry.

She did three more talkies, all of which were dismal failures. Finally in 1933, her mother and closest confidante dead, her marriage to Fairbanks in shambles, branded movie poison, and with a drinking problem in development, she retired.

John Crawford is the only star of silent movies who was able to sustain a career - admittedly with ups and downs - that spanned the decades. Others like Gloria Swanson and Lillian Gish were resurrected on occasion as weird relics from a by-gone era. Pickford tried both approaches and was unsuccessful. She had truly been forgotten. As her alcoholism grew, she receded into depression and hid in seclusion, seeing only her third husband Buddy Rogers and friends Lillian Gish and Helen Hayes. When she was presented with a lifetime achievement Oscar in 1976, those few who remembered her found her almost completely unrecognisable. She passed away on May 29, 1979.

Mary Pickford's contribution to Hollywood's industry was enormous. Not only did she set the definition for superstar, but she was instrumental in shaping the types of movies made and they way there were seen, something we may (or may not) thank her for now. But although she was Hollywood's first leading lady, she was also Hollywood's first has been, first train wreck. Her story exemplifies the insidious nature of entertainment industry's fickle star machine, forgetting her except as an antique despite the enormous contribution she made to it. Bright and ambitious, America's sweetheart was left a forgotten artefact with a funny name. No one watches her movies anymore.

More Mary Pickford:
Mary Pickford Foundation
American Experience: Mary Pickford

posted by GreyGuy on 26.6.06 | Permalink | 5 comments

Very Pretty

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Speaking of silent movie stars ...

Star of the silent screen, Ramón Novarro.

posted by GreyGuy on 26.6.06 | Permalink | 1 comments

Blogger's Rating Slips, Kills Pets

June 21, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBloggers across the world were stunned and horrified at the news that a 47-year-old woman from Ottumwa, Iowa killed her gerbil and an entire bowl of goldfish simply because her ranking on a popular link exchange site had slipped.

"So yeah. I spent all this time on this post on finally finding a brand of ketchup I can use in cool recipes and just on hot dog's when I feel like just hotdog's, wrote the blogger only identified by police as Rootin Tootin Rita on her blog Radical Ramblings of Rootin Tootin Ritas Roarin Roundup on her blog this morning after killing the animals, "and I spend all this time finding a cute blinking little image that reminds of Hello Kitty and I finally figure out how to make my blog play music as soon as you click on it (I chose Rhythm of the Nite by Debarge because it like totally rox and everyone really loves it!) and some total @-hole comes and gives me a bad rating so instead of being 7.5 im 7.2??!!! No Thank You!"

"What's the matter @-hole, dont ya like ketchup! Hootie and the Blowfish must die."

Although she was referring to the gerbil (Hootie) and the goldfish, police were summoned to the scene when another vigilant blogger who actually knows Rootin Tootin Rita - a rarity among bloggers - read this morning's post and alerted them to a possible death threat against a soft pop band popular during mid-1990s known for their songs about golf.

"I though it was a little strange," said the second blogger who would only identify himself as the Sybarite Skinflint, "because I thought Hootie and the Blowfish were already dead."

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe reaction across the blogosphere, renowned for its measured, considered responses, has been swift. Noted rightwing blogger Michelle Malkin praised Ms Tootin Rita as a "true patriot" for her love of ketchup and for killing the animals since many pets enter the United States illegally through foreign pet store networks, she claims. "What kind of sicko doesn't want to kill foreign animals?" she asked.

Ms Malkin then published the blogger's home address and phone number for "anyone who wanted to let this true red-as-ketchup-blooded American know what we think of her".

On the left, Ariana Huffington wrote a scathing critique of the Bush Administration's inability to enhance the free speech of bloggers by stifling the practice of blog rating. "How many dead gerbils, how many uprooted daisies, how many lawn sets smashed to smithereens before Dubya rides his mountain bike up the steep mountain slope of responsible regulation of this scourge on the face of blissful and free blogging?" wrote Ms Huffington, on her popular blog The Huffinton Post this morning.

The most unexpected reaction was from PETA who, in light of the killings, have labelled blogging as harmful to animals and are rumoured to be working on a virus that will be spread through various link exchange sites and blog search engines, in their spare time when they're not throwing crap on Beyonce fans.

But whatever the reaction, the little gerbil wheel isn't spinning anymore. And no one is swimming through the gates of the little plastic castle on a lonely and desolate fishbowl. And only the ketchup bottle knows why.

posted by GreyGuy on 21.6.06 | Permalink | 9 comments

Invasion of the Wal-Mart Jews

June 20, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAs a local business supporting Jew, I'm not thrilled at the association and the weird phrasing in this article:

Residents of Benton County, in the northwest corner of Arkansas, are proud citizens of the Bible Belt. At last count, they filled 39 Baptist, 27 United Methodist and 20 Assembly of God churches. For decades, a local hospital has begun meetings with a reading from the New Testament and the library has featured an elaborate Christmas display.

Then the Wal-Mart Jews arrived.

It almost seems as if the last sentence was meant to read, "Then the Wal-Mart Jews arrived, sacrificing Christian babies and using their blood to make their evil matzoh", but then some editor thought better of it.

The article actually turns out to be about how Christians and Jews have mixed rather effortlessly in an area where no one previsously knew all that much about Jews. But still: Wal-Mart Jews?

posted by GreyGuy on 20.6.06 | Permalink | 3 comments

Whales Attack Japan: Thousands Dead or Missing

June 19, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHundreds have been injured and thousands more are missing and feared dead in cities all across Japan after an attack by enormous humaning landships driven by whales ploughed across the heavily populated northern Pacific Rim country this weekend.

"I was just doing my thing, walking along the street, singing a song to my wife when all of a sudden this gigantic thing that looks like a coral reef on wheels burst through the building beside us," a dazed Ryuji Takayama, 23, told reporters. "Then Reiko was skewered by this big harpoon and dragged her up into the thing. I don't remember what happened after that".

Mr Takayama's girlfriend Reiko Asakawa, 22, has been missing since the attack.

Stories of giant vehicles resembling coral reefs with wheels, apparently controlled by whales and harpooning people and pulling them inside have been reported all across Japan today. Analysts are worried that whales may be returning to their humaning activities, thought to have ended for good in the mid-80s.

Whales had formerly hunted humans for their body fat, used to produce various products such as pheromones for sexually enticing other whales and heating lamps for the icy ocean depths. These lamps have now been replaced by more efficient technologies. Human teeth were once used by female whales to decorate their bodies.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHuge humaning fleets used to roam the Earth's landmasses, hunting human prey. The practice began to receive wide condemnation among the whales in the 1960s as whale scientists and environmentalists began to assert that humans showed slight signs of intelligence. The claims that humans had complex social structures and were even perhaps capable of creative communication and abstract thought were clear signs of an underdeveloped yet dawning intelligence, they said. Harvesting humans for luxury items and trinkets, they concluded, posed great ethical dilemmas.

Although the claims of human intelligence are still widely disputed, the practice of humaning was banned in 1986 and aside from sporadic reports of illegal human poaching, it had completely subsided until this weekend's attack on Japan.

No one is exactly sure why the whales have resumed humaning. Some scientists and government officials believe that whales may wish to control human overpopulation. Others cite growing rates of obesity, especially in North America and Western Europe, setting populations at risk for resumption of demand for human fat, or blubber as it is also known.

Still others believe that the whales have been observing us for the last 20 years and have concluded that we are not, in fact, all that intelligent and that harvesting our bodies for luxury items or trinkets provokes no ethical quandary.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHowever the most likely reason for the attacks is one of retaliation against or warning to countries who support the practice of whaling, harvesting the bodies of whales for luxury items or trinkets. These countries are stepping up their efforts to overturn a ban on whaling that has been in effect since 1986 at a conference of the International Whaling Commission in St. Kitts this week. This theory seems born out by the deadly attack on Japan and by reports of massive out-of-season whale movements off the coasts of Norway, Iceland, and various Caribbean and African countries.


posted by GreyGuy on 19.6.06 | Permalink | 1 comments

World Cup Slimes Toronto

June 18, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThere are fools running through Toronto with flags on their cars, draped in flag capes, with flag makeup on their faces, and shouting at people across the street who are wearing different flags on their faces and shoulders. If this is what it's like here where nobody could care less about soccer, I'm very glad not to be in Germany.

I watch sports, but I restrict it to men's diving, purely for the nudity. This is much healthier than screaming at strangers because of where their grandparents were born.

Alexandre Despatie, take me away!

posted by GreyGuy on 18.6.06 | Permalink | 1 comments

Star Trek Fans Granted too much Technology

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For the first time in nearly two decades, television spinoffs from the original 1960's "Star Trek" series have ended, so fans are banding together to make their own episodes. Fan films have been around for years, particularly those related to the "Star Wars" movies. But now they can be downloaded from the Web, and modern computer graphics technology has lent them surprising special effects.

Having watched a few of the fan episodes, I can state that the special effects are worthy of the original series without a shadow of a doubt, as are the acting, art direction, script, camera work, make up, and so forth.

posted by GreyGuy on 18.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

In which Jane Austen takes me to the corner store to buy coffee

June 13, 2006

(My gratitude and apologies to Jane Austen and to her estate, especially for the bits lifted directly from Pride and Prejudice and Emma and mutilated)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIt is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man not possession of a good cup of coffee in the morn's earliest hour must be in want of a steady nerve. However although he may be desirous of firm hand and full clarity of thought that the labours and burdens may put upon his back should ease, he may find that his thoughts shatter into a million shards of procrastination and indolence should the warm brew not grace his lips ere the first rush hour horseless omnibus rumble past his sitting room.

"My dear Mr Noudnic," Mr Surly GreyGuy exclaimed as he stood in the pantry, clutching an empty mason jar – that had just the previous morning contained a few small granules of coffee – to his bosom in dismay. "It would appear that we are no longer in possession of a single groundling of coffee!"

Noudnic, as he was a cat, remained silent. Indeed, the only acknowledgement he gave to his companion's dilemma was an enormous, languorous stretch, spreading his tiny claws for all the world to see before curling into a warm ball followed by an impertinent stillness, aside from small movements of his ears, twitching to the rhythmic clicks of the stiletto heels of the transsexual ladies of the evening on the pavement outside as they made their weary way home from a full night's employ.

Image Hosted by"I cannot say, sir, why it is that I bear to let you remain in my company! You bring neither labour nor indeed account to the household!" Surly spat at the fainéant feline as he stormed through his small lodgings in search or proper attire for the purchase of coffee. Once assembled, and looking as if he had simply plunged himself into a closet and hastily donned whatever stray item he may have grasped – as chance is the bearer of all felicity, this happened to be the style of the time – he departed for the apothecary, dishevelled and irritable.

As was his habitual preference, Surly had arisen with the days earliest chiming and, although befuddled the cause of which was his potent attachment to coffee and its sudden the lack, strode with alacrity towards the apothecary. Hastily braced by the slight morning breeze and the sun's fresh rays of the new day, this was indeed the most felicitous, the most perfect and profound instant in which to live one's life. No groaning horseless streetcar or shrieking madperson shambling across the street could mar the rapturous transport he felt as he made his way through the drowsy neighbourhood as it awoke into dawn's embrace.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usHe rounded a corner and spied in the distance the Don Valley – Toronto's beautiful gateway, a verdant valley parkway snaking through the centre of the giant city, lulling travellers to the presumption that their long voyage was far from its wearied completion when – all of a sudden – they emerged into the full riotous cacophony of the very heart of the grand metropolis! He had resided in other city's – in calm, stately Winnipeg, settling into its golden years, and in impish, irrepressible Montreal, a beautiful confidant – but of all the times to be alive and all of all the localities to while away one's time, how fortunate that it should come to pass here where his gratitude for the moment was an undeniable joy, he mused as he entered to apothecary to do his purchase.

Later he would remark that the coffee was very much like other cups of coffee, where the consumer has no taste for finery and aroma; and Mr Noudnic lolled in his corner chair and sighed at the inadequacies of the human spirit. But in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of a tall man in his small Toronto lodgings, were fully answered in the happiness of of the union of the brew and the pleasant morning.

posted by GreyGuy on 13.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Blame game

June 11, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAccording to a friend who is forty-five, I am too young to complain about age at my tender thirty-five. I'm still young enough for my dreams to be realised, to have a bright and chipper view of the world, and to have my genitals working with their complete and proper function. I think he said something along those lines when he was thirty-five too.

Since I can't complain, I'll blame. Someone has maliciously glued love handles to my lower sides while I was sleeping. Another equally malevolent soul has grown me a beer belly and I don't even drink. He's doing this perhaps in tandem with the guy who's been shrinking all the waists on my pants and boxer briefs.

Someone else has been, one by one, scooping cells out of my brain for what purpose I cannot imagine, making me go to the store and spend all my money on fifteen things save the single thing I was there to buy. Another wicked imp must be turning off the fire under my pasta, because there's no way I would forget to do such a thing and then wonder why it's taking so long to cook.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usNot that I'm close to the point where flight attendants, sales people, and other assorted strangers call me "dear" as if I were a cartoon or an antique china doll and not a real person. I can still turn heads and I don't yet look completely ridiculous when I wear the same style of jeans as my nineteen-year-old cousin. I just wish I could still wear the same waist.

And when I find out who shrank not only the waists on my pants, but all the waist sizes in the entire world, why I'll tell that young whippersnapper to respect his elders because in my day the world was a much better place.

posted by GreyGuy on 11.6.06 | Permalink | 1 comments

Very pretty

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Man of Steel super pouter, Brandon Routh. I've alway s had a thing for sexy nerds with glasses. I'd take Clark Kent over Superman any day. Lois was nuts.

posted by GreyGuy on 11.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments


June 08, 2006

If a job you wanted goes to someone you know, like, respect, and admit will do the job well, you're not allowed to hate the fucking asshole who swiped your perfect job.

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(From Despair, Inc.)

posted by GreyGuy on 8.6.06 | Permalink | 1 comments

Henry Rollins: A Love Letter to Ann Coulter

(via Wonkette)

It's nice when someone you pretended to think was cool in high school so you can look cool actually stays cool.

posted by GreyGuy on 8.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Kermit the Frog and John Stewart

June 07, 2006

posted by GreyGuy on 7.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Please shut up

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAfter his triumphant empty gesture at Auschwitz, the Pope has issued yet another proclamation to the non-existent Emperor of the Holy Roman "can you believe we're not really an empire?" Empire that - astoundingly - the broke absolultely no new ground. The proclamation's topic was that ever-popular, never-tired obsession, the sanctity of traditional marriage as it is defiled by those lego blocks of the Horned One, contraception, abortion, in-vitro fertilization and same-sex marriage, all "threats to 'the natural institution of marriage'". Talk about flogging a dead heretic.

Meanwhile over in everyone's favourite self-delusional successor to the Holy Roman Empire, the always reliable Sen. Rick Santorum and Justice Antonin Scalia have conflagrated the fight to enshrine hatred and discrimination into the American Constitution to a whole new level.
State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThere are state laws against fornication? I thought the whole argument against same-sex marriage, aside from the always totally well-reasoned and never-ever-ever-based-on-ignorance moral statements, was that the whole reason for opposite-sex marriage is popping out caterwauling brats. And what's masturbation doing in there? Same-sex marriage equated with masturbation, bestiality, and reproduction; where's Freud when you need him?

*UPDATE* A reminder of why John Stewart is so great.

posted by GreyGuy on 7.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Good omens, bad omens, and kinda ok but mostly not so great omens

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd speaking of family values, Globe and Mail (the only way to get in without paying is through a search engine, for some reason) movie critic struggles to find 13 good things to say about Hollywood's latest foray into uncalled for nostalgia, "The Omen":
4. Stiles's enunciation is consistently excellent and her pauses emphatic, at times, distractingly so. "He's . . . different" she says of her mono-expressioned and mostly mute son, Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), after he has clawed her face on the way to church, caused monkeys to riot at the zoo and led the first nanny to hang herself.

Too bad. Jumpy gems like "The Ring", "28 Days Later", and "Shawn of the Dead" had fooled me into thinking horrors movies were getting good again. Not to worry. This gives me an excuse to cling to a cute boy on the couch watching DVD rentals of "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby".

posted by GreyGuy on 7.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Very Pretty

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Hot winged mutant and Claire's irritating, experimenting boyfriend on "Six Feet Under", American actor Ben Foster.

posted by GreyGuy on 7.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

What modern God-fearing world leaders can learn from Alexander the Great

June 05, 2006

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen Alexander of Macedon set out from Pella three hundred and thirty-four years before the Common Era he said his intention was to exact revenge from the Persians for their destruction of Athens a century and a half previously. Persia was the largest empire that had ever existed, as far as both they and the Greeks knew, and their borders reached the ends of the known world. Beyond them lay wastelands, and then the Great Sea that encircled the world.

He would never return to the city of his birth. By the time he died at the age of thirty-three, he had exacted his revenge and extinguished the Persian Empire. Not only that, but he had expanded the borders into the unknown territory of the Punjab and was making plans, as he lay dying, for the invasion of Arabia. He was the king of an ever-expanding world, and he wanted to be worshiped as a god.

In secular Western society any political leader who claims that they are doing the will of God is an anomaly. But in the ancient world it was a given. Only those on whom the gods smiled were worthy of great deeds and heavy responsibility. And Alexander was the son of a god. His mother, Olympias, proclaimed that he was the son of Zeus.

As he conquered realm after realm, it seemed as though he really were the gods' favourite. Within a year he had wrestled Asia Minor from the Persians. By the following year he had taken the eastern Mediterranean coast. Soon after he was greeted up and down the Nile as a liberator from the Persians, whom the Egyptians despised.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe gods spoke for him. The Oracle at Didyma, destroyed one hundred and fifty years previously, suddenly re-awoke when Alexander entered and prophesised that he would vanquish the Persians. Who else but the son of a god could undo the Gordion knot that, it was said, could only be undone by the next ruler of Asia? When he entered the Temple of Ammon, as the Egyptians called Zeus, the priests proclaimed that here was the son of the god.

By the time he had destroyed the Persian Empire and had conquered all the way to what is now Southern Afghanistan, he informed his stunned generals that he wanted to be worshiped as a God. He was already on shaky ground with them, having adopted Persian dress and customs. In Maracanda (now Samarqand) Clitus, friend to his father and trusted general throughout the campaign against the Persians, protested Alexander's decision to repress rebellions in Bactria and Sogdiana, a pursuit he considered a waste of time and beneath the dignity of the Macedonians. Alexander's heated response was to run the general through with a spear. Two plots against Alexander's life were foiled during the Bactrian and Sogdian campaign and the participants were brutally tortured to death. Persia was his, but those close to him began to fear him as a vicious and violent man

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBut Alexander survived the plots on his life and suppressed the rebellions. The last outposts of the Persian Empire had fallen to him and he was king of all he knew. Greek revenge against the Persians had been exacted. But this was now longer good enough. Across the Hindu Kush from Bactria lay the sultanates of India, and beyond them was China. He had heard of these lands, but he knew almost nothing about them.

And so Alexander turned his eye - and his worldview of leading a gargantuan multi-ethnic, multicultural empire - southward and, despite the pleadings of his weary soldiers, set up the seven thousand metres vertical of mountain range dividing what he knew from what he did not know. He was the son of a god and he deserved these lands. In any case, his tutor Aristotle had taught him that India was a small land and so he knew that he would soon reach not just the end of the world that he knew, but the end of the world altogether, bound by a vast ocean.

Once across the Hindu Kush in what is now Pakistan his army was immediately set upon and Alexander's campaign of massacres began in earnest. This was the man who had given Darius III, King of Persia a lavish funeral; the man who had, against all custom, refused to sell Darius' wife, mother, and sisters into slavery and who had ended the Sogdian campaign with a marriage (to Roxana, daughter of the Sogdian satrap) rather than with a bloodbath, who ran an empire where all ethnicities where considered more or less equal, and who now slaughtered the Indians at Aornos even after they had sued for surrender. He massacred the civilian inhabitants of Multan, just as he had done a year earlier in Bactria when every last Branchidae was executed and the city levelled although they were waving palm and olive fronds as a gesture of peace. He founded his twenty-fourth city of Alexandria and another city, named after his horse.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBut it was here that his army had had enough. They were tired and suffering from battle fatigue. They had endured great hardship. They hadn't been home in eight very long years and it was now becoming very clear that India was much larger than they had thought. A campaign to conquer it would last years and they were uncertain they could even survive a war with the next kingdom, or the next one after that, or after that. On the banks of the river Beas near modern Amritsar - almost five thousand kilometres - and Alexander's entire army set down its arms at refused to move any farther.

At first he pressed them to move onward, but finally he relented and turned his massive army south where they fought their way down the Indus valley, west along the Persian Gulf, and then across the treacherous Makran, a rugged desert region spanning modern Baluchistan in Pakistan and Iran. According to Plutarch, only one quarter of the army that had conquered all of the known world and a little bit more survived the march across the Makran before finally arriving in Babylon, where they finally stopped, after almost nine years of constant warfare.

When Alexander died at the age of thirty-three, he was a changed man from the eager twenty-four-year-old who had set out from Pella to see and triumph over the world. He was broken. His lover Hephaestion was dead. His son was dead. His adopted Persian dress and mannerisms disgusted his Macedonian and Greek compatriots. Depressed and disillusioned, he fell ill after a night of heavy drinking, a frequent pastime of his and was dead within a matter of weeks.

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Modern leaders could learn much from Alexander. Convinced he was doing what the gods had set for him, he gained no happiness from his triumph over what he thought was almost the whole world. Was it hubris or self-delusion that fueled his downfall? As his obstinacy turned to megalomania, was he haunted by the atrocities he ordered, that were done in his name? Trusted friends and allies had died at his hand, and those who had survived were afraid of him and repulsed by him. And in the end, all that he accomplished vanished. After his death, his empire was divided and broken, and convulsed with wars. One by one the remaining bits were conquered and absorbed by a never-ending stream of new empires, of new kings.

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For more on Alexander of Macedon: here and here

posted by GreyGuy on 5.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Toronto Terror Attack Averted

June 03, 2006

A counterterrorism sweep Friday resulted in the largest arrest ever made by the nation's anti-terrorism forces and raised, for the first time, the spectre of homegrown terrorists striking Canadians from within our borders. [...] Police have recovered three tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the raids. Commissioner McDonell noted that this amount was three times the amount used by Timothy McVeigh to destroy the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

My heartfelt thanks to the RCMP.

As for the Prime Minister, it's a good think he's spending so much time squabbling with the media and reopening the marriage debate. At least our morals will be in order the next time someone tries to attack us.

posted by GreyGuy on 3.6.06 | Permalink | 1 comments

Bush to city: drop dead

June 02, 2006

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(historical context here and here)
Inspired by the awesome "New York: A Documentary Film"

posted by GreyGuy on 2.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Bring back the Edsel!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOh those brave conservatives! Those bold, courageous keepers of the way! Those noble guards against the decline of Western Civilization into moral turpitude! Their continuing quest to demonstrate that the world was a much better place in the 1950s has taken on new and groundbreaking proportions. And as for the rest of us? Maybe we'll get our restricted country clubs and Edsels back! Do we dare dream the daring dream of true daringness?

First stop, Washington. The totally, always completely legitimate George Dubya Bush has said No! to the nay-sayers who seek to deflate his God-given presidential mandate has made a exhilarating surprise announcement: he supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Ring the church bells, Debbie-Joe, for redemption is nigh!

The fact that sideline issues such as an illegal an unnecessary war (maybe two! Y'hear that, Iran?) is bleeding the country dry and about to plunge an entire region into a pit of carnage deeper than the Dead Sea is not important right now. Gotta concentrate on the important things like who your neighbour falls in love with when your approval rating is lower than the sceptic tank.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMeanwhile up closer to where I live and love, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen "On my knees before Bush" Harper has made a bold move of his own. He has announced that he, manly soul that he is, will table a motion in September asking federal Members of Parliament if they think the same-sex marriage debate should be reopened.

Bravely done, Prime Minister. Even though the federal law has been in place for about a year (and even longer in some provinces), even though it's enshrined in the Canadian Bill of Rights, even though most Canadians don't care, even though even your own Cabinet Ministers wish the debate "would just go away", you stride forth and boldly state that one day soon you're thinking about asking, "Hey guys? Do you think that like one day we should like maybe talk about this whole like same-sex thing again even though it will like totally fail in like both the House of Commons and the Senate?" I just love a manly man! I could just kiss you (with tongue!), you big lug you.

I, for one, relish a return to the Golden Age of the 1950s, even though – as a gay Jew – I probably wouldn't be able to live where I want, work where I want, or live my life with anything even approaching dignity. I'd probably have to get a job as a sequin-encrusted piano bar entertainer, ballet dancer, or hairdresser. But on the up side, 1950s women's fashions are way cooler than today's crack whore look, which would be a plus if I became a hairdresser!

No matter how you look at it, the future looks as bright as a fluorescent star on the top of a Technicolor Christmas Tree and I'm stuffing sweet icing down my gullet.

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posted by GreyGuy on 2.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

The well-adjusted Munch

June 01, 2006

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"Ice Cream", by Edvard Munch (courtesy of the Albino Neutrino collection of Screams)

posted by GreyGuy on 1.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

Employ me, slave

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usSomething is amiss with our hiring system when potential employers (or vomit inducers, as I playfully like to call them) can look at a paragon of fresh, employable, slavery meat such as me and pass me over in favour of someone who already has a job. Disloyalty is an attribute, I suppose.

What's more, I am a proactive self-starting, effective communicator with first-rate interpersonal skills who goes ahead and steps up to the plate, giving it my 110%, and who works independently and whose total goal in life is to cheer for the team, devote his life for the man, and spout clichéd corporate phrases instead of actually getting any work done.

Moreover, I don't not have a bad attitude and my total and utter and complete and the total, consummate, far-reaching, full-blown, full-scale, totally not sarcastic respect for authority with neither reserve not restriction that is the absolute apex of the kind of quality I firmly believe would be an asset to any team or organisation such as yours. Oh yeah. And I totally see myself being very successful and taking a place of leadership within your organisation.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnd why exactly should you hire me, you ask. You should hire me because when I'm crowned Lord Emperor of the Galaxy you won't have time to wish you'd hired me because you'll be too busy toiling in the asbestos mines on Alpha Getty Prime and eating mashed spiders for the weekly meal. Hahahahahaha! Just kidding. I don't have that kind of authority (yet). But seriously, think about it. Do you really want to take that kind of a risk by not hiring me? Riches and glory? Or hacking up blood while picking hairy spider legs from between the three or four teeth you have left.

Think about it. I'm sure you'll make the right decision.

posted by GreyGuy on 1.6.06 | Permalink | 0 comments

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