Begging The Question

Saturday, April 16, 2005

You get a few of these pig men running around, suddenly I'm looking a whole lot better.
I've been mulling over this for some time now. I'm not quite sure where I'm going with it, but I am fascinated by the idea of what it must feel like to be famous for something that traditionally would inspire scorn rather than adulation. Specifically, I wonder what it feels like to be a famous ugly actor. Steve Buscemi, Paul Giamatti, and Clint Howard are the three who immediately come to mind. There are certainly other actors who fit in this category, and I am sure there are more famous examples than those I've listed. But you get the idea. In an industry where physical beauty is one of the most celebrated qualities a person can possess, these guys have made careers out of being not just plain or average looking, but flat out unattractive.

Clearly, there is a need for average looking and unattractive people in the movies. It would have been difficult to believe Brad Pitt as the sad-sack English teacher in Sideways. George Clooney as the record collector in Ghost World? Those are extreme examples, but when the role calls for an unattractive person, the studios usually resort to casting someone who is "Hollywood ugly" in the mold of former model Rachel Leigh Cook who played the geeky "ugly" girl in She's All That or Judy Greer as the awkward and "ugly" Vylette in Jawbreaker. But these guys are not "Hollywood ugly" - they are Wal-Mart ugly. A spray-on tan won't turn Clint Howard into Clint Eastwood. Paul Giamatti can dye his hair, but he's never gonna be Paul Newman. And you can give Steve Buscemi the most extravagant makeover the world has ever seen, but he's never going to be Steve McQueen. Yet, these guys have made it in Hollywood. And because of their success, I have no doubt that there are people who are attracted to Steve, Paul, and Clint.

I wonder how this makes them feel. Buscemi has been in a lot of movies and he's made a lot of money. I don't mean to discount his acting abilities, but he gets a lot of mileage out of his unique appearance. I would think that it hurts to think that everything you have, your career, your fame is due to your looks. Your bad looks.

I suppose you might try to chalk up your success to your acting talent. Certainly some of their successes are due to talent. But there is no getting around the fact that the ugly factor is part of it, too. Maybe they don't care. Maybe these guys are too busy being happy and successful to dwell on the "why" of it all. Maybe I'm the superficial one.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Give unto Caesar.
In honor of Tax Day, I point you to Milbarge's excellent review of Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man's Tour of Duty Inside the IRS, by Richard Yancey. Something to read while you're standing in line at the post office tonight.

Aren't you too old to have imaginary friends?
Is it wrong to have someone you consider to be your "blog boyfriend?" By "blog boyfriend" I mean someone you use as an excuse to get rid of an annoying stalker-type real life person because you don't have a convenient "real" boyfriend available to use as an excuse. Could a person claim a blogger as a boyfriend, and then use him to turn down weirdos who proposition her or otherwise harass? Is this ethical?

Let's say someone asked you to go to a wedding and you don't want to go. You could say, "My boyfriend doesn't do weddings, sorry." Blame it all on him! The person extending the invitation doesn't need to know that the boyfriend in question is actually a blogger who has no interest in me-I mean interest in the hypothetical "you"- and furthermore doesn't even know he's a blogger boyfriend.

If someone was bothering you, you could threaten them with a beating from your big, strong "blogoyfriend" (or "blogirlfriend" as the case may be, although if you are a guy and you need an imaginary blogirlfriend to beat someone up, you might have other problems that cannot be addressed by the creation of an imaginary partner alone). If your family is harassing you because you're still single, a blogboy/girlfriend could come in handy to get them off your back. "Yes Mom, I do have boyfriend. He's smart and witty and kind to animals, as well as computer savvy. Here's his site!"

The beauty of a blogoyfriend is you can make him into whatever you want him to be. Give him a good job, but one that frequently takes him out of the country so as to explain away his frequent absences. If you choose a blogger as a boyfriend, you can use a lot of the real details from his life to make him more believable than if you just made up an imaginary partner out of whole cloth.

Once you let the blogger in on the fact that you've chosen him to be your imaginary boyfriend, he can be used to write emails to people who are bothering you, or letters to your mother to shut her up because she thinks you're a lesbian because you haven't dated a man for a while.

I would be posting my answers to the Friday Spies now, but my blogoyfriend ate them.

Friday Spies©
1. What names did you consider for your blog?

Milbarge decided on the name long before he even knew what a weblog was. I had no say in the name, but I had a hand in choosing the Milbarge & Fitz-Hume pseudonyms. For some reason he didn't go for Jake & the Fatman or Mary & Rhoda.

2. What is your favorite adult beverage and why?

Beer if I'm trying to remain sociable. Tequila if I'm trying to catch up. Whiskey if I'm alone.

3. If you could cancel 3 televisions shows, what would they be?

I don't want to deny anyone her right to watch bad television, but "Joey" needs to go. I would axe the American version of "What Not To Wear" because two people completely lacking in fashion sense, one of them with a damn skunk stripe in her hair, should not be telling other people what to wear. If Carson Daly is still hosting something on MTV I'd kill that show, too. And then have security escort Mr. Daly to the door.

4. You've been asked to host SNL. Which cast would you choose to work with, and who would you choose as the musical guest?

I would mix and match former cast members Steve Martin, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Dana Carvey, Mike Meyers, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, and Kevin Nealon. Dennis Miller and Gilda would do Weekend Update. For the musical guest I would choose Tom Petty.

5. What will Britney Spears name her baby and which three names will she consider and reject before settling on the "winner"?

I feel for this little child. Odds are she's coming out of the womb with a mullet and a mustache. Guess momma shoulda laid off the Red Bull during that first trimester. The baby-naming crisis that Britney is likely to confront without the support of her baby-daddy will be whether to choose something cool and hip, like Apple or CoCo, or something that more accurately reflects Brit's Loosiana roots, like Cherie. The choice won't be easy. Before finally selecting the perfect name, she will agonize over, but ultimately reject: Amber-Tiffani, Majik, and Magnolia Orlean. Eventually, she will choose a name that harkens back to the glamorous days of old Hollywood, yet one that still has a redneck ring to it: Fay Wray Federline.

Follow the links to read other's responses to this week's questions:
The Hot Librarian, Frolics & Detours, stag (Happy Blog Birthday!), Coob, McPan, Brian, Frequent Citations, kmsqrd, Scott, Centinel, Taco John, Soupie, Law & Alcoholism, LQ, and Energy Spatula (belated Happy Blog Birthday!). If time allows, I'll update the list throughout the day and make note of what I find to be especially amusing or interesting answers.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm late for a lunch date.
After several weeks of phone tag and four false starts last night, E. McPan tracked me down (finally!) and forced me to participate in a podcast interview. The interview is in two parts, each more exciting than the next.

To listen to part one, click on this link:

and to hear the conclusion of the interview, click on this link:

Let me clarify something. I misunderstood McPan's question regarding whether to "buy, sell or hold" BTQ. I understood her question to be "buy, sell or hold" on the idea that BTQ would bring in additional writers - additional to our recent acquisition from Mother Russia. I said "hold" because I think we're doing just fine with who we have, which was, in fact, a compliment to young Nataliya. However, Ms. McPan indicated off the air that her question was whether to "buy, sell or hold" BTQ now that we have added the lovely and talented Nataliya to the staff. McPan (and Nataliya) understood my answer to be an attack on Nataliya's writing talents. That was not my intent. Clearly she's an asset to the site and I predict that this blog will soar to new heights of popularity thanks to her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Are YOU gellin'?
You know that Dr. Scholl's massaging gel shoe insert commercial? I was just wondering how many words that commercial can rhyme with "gellin'" before they finally run out and put me out of my misery, because when I watch it I am definitely not gellin' like a felon holding a watermelon. They make me feel like yellin', and sometimes they make me feel like stabbing some gel shoe inserts with some rusty scissors. They make me want to revoke Dr. Scholl's medical license.

One of my favorite comedians has a bit where he rewrites the Dr. Scholl's gellin' commercial into alternate versions:

Version #1
Adult actor to child actor: "Are you gellin'?"
Child actor replies: "Yes, but if you keep sneaking into my room at night, I'm TELLIN'."

[I can't remember his other versions so I wrote some of my own, as follows.]

Version #2
Husband to wife: "Are you gellin'?"
Wife: "No, that's the dog's ass you're smellin'."

Version #3
Secretary to boss: "Are you gellin'?"
Boss: "Oh yeah. I'm staring at your melons and my pants are swellin'."

Version #4
Girl to date: "Honey, are you gellin'?"
Date: "No I'm not, devil woman - quit dwellin'!"

Don't even get me started on those Lamisil nail fungus commercials with that little digging creature or that "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now" commercial because we would be here all day. I don't understand what's going on inside the walls of advertising agencies lately.

What's your favorite commercial to hate?

BTQ Answer Man: Grasping at straws
As suggested by a long-time reader, here's another installment of one or our many irregular features.

1. I'll start off with an easy one. A reader wants to know "What is Henry Kissinger's favorite breakfast?" I thought this was common knowledge. The good doctor likes two eggs over easy, wheat toast (very dry), with a side of carpet bombing and a triple scotch on the rocks to drown out the screams of his victims.

2. Someone is looking for a new way to act like a nerd. They've come to the right place. In fact, this is the actual reason for Milbarge's sabbatical. Convinced that BTQ wasn't nerdy enough, he's decide to compose his magnum opus - a 100-page blog post about why he blogs, the pressures of blogging, and the possible long-term psychic damage he's suffered while agonizing over how to structure his blogroll. Look for him to post it sometime in August of 2006.

3. Where can one find Ragin' sexy cajuns? Where indeed. She used to be one. Now? Not so much. I think Dr. Kissinger just threw up his breakfast.

4. An aspiring chanteur is looking for Vermont rap freestyle competitions. I'm afraid I can't be of much help here. I'm guessing this is the white bread and granola version of 8 Mile, except that in Vermont its probably "8 kilometer" and instead of a road it's a bike path. I can guarantee that everyone in attendance needs a good ass kicking, though.

5. Finally, someone is seeking strategies for begging the Hot Librarian. I can't imagine why anyone would think we would have any advice in that regard. Your best bet is probably to feign confusion over the Dewey Decimal System and politely ask for her assistance.

Coalition for Darfur: Lacking the Political Will
The following post is a weekly update from the authors of the Coalition for Darfur blog.

In the last few days, international donors have pledged $4.5 billion in reconstruction aid to Sudan as part of the north/south peace process. And though much if this aid is nominally contingent on Khartoum's ability and willingness to end the violence in Darfur, it remains to be seen if the international community is truly willing to risk undermining the long sought peace agreement by demanding an end to the genocide.

For a year and a half, the UN and others have tread carefully, fearful that too much pressure on Khartoum would derail the north/south peace process. And Khartoum has relentlessly exploited that fear by, for instance, warning that the recent Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court "threatens Sudan's stability."

And while the world focuses on protecting the peace agreement, Darfur continues to deteriorate. Yesterday, the World Food Program warned that, due to lack of funding, nearly 200,000 refugees who have fled into Chad risk going hungry in the coming months. And just last week, the WFP warned that it will be forced to cut food rations for more than one million people living in the western region of Darfur, again for lack of funds.

Last Friday, UNICEF warned that an estimated four million people in Darfur will face significant food insecurity over the next 18 months because the agricultural economy has collapsed. One million children under five years-old are already suffering from, or will suffer from, severe malnutrition.

And one day after an United Nations human rights investigator for Sudan warned that Darfur was a "time bomb" that could explode at any time, Janjaweed militia attacked and completely destroyed the village of Khor Abeche (the attack on Khor Abeche is the focus of Eric Reeves' latest analysis).

[Unsurprisingly, it] seems clear that the referral to the ICC was not the remedy that many in the human rights community had hoped. At the same time, calls for an increased AU force has problems of its own, judging by Charles Snyder's recent comment that "Nobody that wants to be on the ground is not on the ground." Stopping the genocide in Darfur is going to require a dedicated and well-coordinated effort by the UN and the international community. As of yet, the political will to engage in such an effort does not exist.

We at the Coalition for Darfur ask you to join us in raising awareness of the genocide in an attempt to force policy makers to seriously address this issue to consider making a small donation to any of the organizations providing life saving assistance to the neglected people of Darfur.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Apropos of nothing
1. Bought tickets to see the Violent Femmes at Caesar's Tahoe. Did you know they were still a band? It was news to me.

2. Some new additions to the blogroll:
Barely Legal
Adventures of a True Texas Haas
Magic Cookie
Adrianne Truett
And Nothing But the Truth
Jack and Coke
Screaming Bean (correcting a long-time oversight on my part)

Any suggestions for other blogs I should take a look at?

3. Check out E. Spat's alternative to the MPRE. She hits on the truly important ethical issues confronting today's legal professionals.

4. I'm still suffering from a bout of writer's block. I hope it breaks soon, for your sake and mine. Any suggestions on that front?

I sing of warfare and a man at war.
Mr. P called me out on some book-snob game making its rounds on the internets. I fear my answers may tend too much toward the practical rather than the aesthetic. Nevertheless, I'll pick up the gauntlet.

1. You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be saved?

I haven't read Fahrenheit 451 so I'll choose to save it and find out what all the fuss is about. Kidding! I haven't read the book, but that answer's a bit of a cop-out, wouldn't you agree? I know the basic idea of the story, and from reading some other responses to this question I see that most of the great works have already been spared from the inferno. No need to pile on, so I think I will choose a book that chronicles the dangers of authoritarianism, something useful like Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I would choose 1984, but the truth of the Nazi regime is more powerful and more horrifying that anything in Orwell's fiction.

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

A fictional literary character? No. My crush is all too real. Coincidentally, I am pathetic.

3. The last book you purchased?

Roughing It by Mark Twain

4. What are you currently reading?

Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

5. Five books you would take to a deserted island?

The U.S. Army Survival Manual

Fish Grilled and Smoked

Celestial Navigation in a Nutshell

The Strip-Built Sea Kayak

Virgil's Aeneid - the complete work, in hardback.

Finally, I am supposed to forward this chain letter to 3 people or risk bad fortune being visited upon me. Thus, I'm passing this on to stag, Centinel and E Spatulee (who is excused from participation until after she completes her PR exam).

Monday, April 11, 2005

You're young and you've got your health. What do you want with a job?
If it's all the same to you, Honey, I think I'll skip this little get together, slip out with the boys and knock back a couple of cold ones.Yesterday was my first day off since the 23rd of January. I kinda liked it. I slept in (until 7:30 a.m.), ate breakfast at home, went for a run, played with my dog, drank beer, grilled fajitas, and watched some television (including Raising Arizona, which inspired the post title). The only thing I missed was access to a computer. Being out of email contact for a full day was weird. A little bit lonely, too, which is a strange thing to say about email.

I was also party to the second attempt at Fitz-Hume: the E.McPan! True Hollywood Story. We had a nice chat, but to my knowledge our conversation was not recorded. Just as well I suppose. McPan sounds like a lovely girl, and I'm sure she will perform her interviewer duties flawlessly when we do do this thing, but there is no way I can live up to the hype. I advise you now to lower your expectations. No, lower. A little lower. Just a bit lower. Trust me, wherever you set the bar, I'll limbo under it.

Milbarge remains in radio contact, but his transmissions are garbled and somewhat disjointed as of late. The man is clearly suffering from blogging withdrawals. He sent me 5 emails this morning, alone, suggesting possible posts or topics for posts. But, in the words of H.W. Bush, "Not gonna do it." Sorry, buddy but no one would buy it that I would post about those things.

I noticed that Slithery D is closing up shop. That's too bad. I enjoyed reading his posts. If you decide to start up again, send us an email Dylan.

As the update to my last post pointed out, several people commented that Friday's questions were stupid or lame or not up to the usual standard. We strive to produce a quality set of interrogatories each week, yet we sometimes come up short. That's life. We will work harder this week, but note that these questions were not designed to generate a mini-biography post. Instead, the original intent was to break some long-lived writer's block, for each of us (Milbarge and me) to provide the other with 5 varied points of departure to try and jump start our writing. BTQ had been drifting in the doldrums, with each of us lacking inspiration for new post topics. The Friday questions were our way of trying to find the wind. Clearly the questions had biographical components to them, but many of the questions were intentionally inane, stupid or nonsensical (and many of those are drawn from movie, television or pop culture references). These were provided so that the author could engage in whatever literary flight of fancy might be inspired by a question as silly as "Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?".

Obviously the questions can no longer be as specific as the questions Milbarge and I originally sent to one another but I'm going to try and keep the mix of questions as close to the original intent as I possibly can, given the change necessitated by sending these questions to several people. All of this is my way of saying that if you dislike one (or more) of the questions posed each week, just treat Friday Spies like a presidential press conference: ignore the question and write about whatever you damn well please. If you want to keep it related to the themes brought to light in the question, that's great. If you don't, that's great too. But, with apologies to everyone, the point is not whether you actually know the title of Rachel Green's favorite movie or whether you have ever sold anything bought or processed, or bought anything sold or processed, or repaired anything sold, bought, or processed, as a career. Use the questions to your advantage - that's the point.

Finally, and completely unrelated to the rest of this post, a quick reminder that we can and do delete comments for good reason, for bad reasons, and for no reason at all. What gets deleted is within our sole discretion. Spam and anything that crosses the line - admittedly a moving goalpost - gets the boot. Repetition of such behavior will get the author booted, too.

Oh, you like that, MULE. Mules are..GOOD!
I watched the movie "Maria Full of Grace" this weekend. It's an independent film by writer/director Joshua Marston, about a seventeen year old Colombian girl who, to escape her floral plantation job and the expectations imposed on her by her family, becomes a drug mule.

The movie is incredibly sad. It places you right in the shoes of desperate women, women so desperate they are willing to risk their health, their safety, their freedom, and in many cases their lives in the faint hope of making enough money to change the life that fate has handed them.

The movie goes into detail about the process of becoming a mule, how the women are recruited, how they train themselves to swallow large quantities of drugs, and how they are left on their own should illness, imprisonment, or death occur. It shows the desperation the women feel, trapped in low-paying jobs with no hope of change or advancement, and just how much the $5000 payment for one trip of smuggling drugs could buy them.

There is a scene on the airplane from Colombia to New York, where four women (the drug dealers have the mules travel in groups to increase the likelihood that if one of them is caught, the rest will still make it through) struggle to keep the small drug-filled, latex packets in their bodies with varying degrees of success. The claustrophobia inherent in airplane flight is magnified to an uncomfortable degree as you watch the girls' physical and mental anguish as they try to keep it all inside (sorry).

The soundtrack is lovely, and the cinematography is simple and fits the tone of the story. The film was apparently made on a low budget, but the simplicity allows the quiet and heart-wrenching performances of the actors to take center stage. The performance of Catalina Sandrino Moreno, who plays Maria, is convincing and sad, especially for an inexperienced actress.

I have no Pepsi cans to rate this movie because Fitz won't share them (I guess I haven't earned my Pepsi cans yet), so I will have to give this movie four out of five bikinis. Or four out of five fur hats. I apologize for the lack of a graphic to accompany my rating, but pictures of tiny bikinis and tiny fur hats are hard to find.

My quick and belated answers to the Friday Five:

  1. James Bond or Austin Powers? Always and forever James Bond, the epitome of cool. He has better teeth, and hopefully less hair than Austin.
  2. Most romantic thing I've done? This was my awful question, so you would think I would at least have a decent answer to this. I don't. I think doing laundry is pretty romantic, and I've done some love laundry in my time.
  3. Rachel's real favorite movie - I'm so late on this one, I won't bother answering, but let's just say I love the movie Weekend at Bernie's.
  4. Perfect rock and roll song? Does not exist, but anything with Jimi Hendrix comes close.
  5. What really happened to Milbarge? I can't help but feel this question was somehow directed towards me, as I know some of you probably blame me for his disappearance. It's true, I now have him working as my drug mule. His ability to swallow large quantities is unparalleled. Look for the movie "Milbarge Full of Grace" to hit theaters this summer.

Did you know that Blogger spell check tries to correct "Milbarge" to "mulberries?" Just thought I would share.

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    Milbarge Recommends

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    The views presented here are personal and in no way reflect the view of my employer. In addition, while legal issues are discussed here from time to time, what you read at BTQ is not legal advice. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer. If you need legal advice, then go see another lawyer.

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