From the monthly archives: "December 2013"

G. P. Bear goes to Washington

The true story of a libertarian carnivore

Parts 1 & 2 of 6

 

By Bill and Joe Steigerwald

George Orwell used satire and talking pigs in “Animal Farm.” Now, with a foot of snow in Jerusalem signaling the start of the next ice age, veteran libertarian journalist Bill Steigerwald shamelessly steals Orwell’s idea and uses talking polar bears to poke fun at global warming alarmists and their fellow travelers in Washington and the media.

Twisting the title of director Frank Capra’s movie masterpiece to his own evil ends, Steigerwald and his son Joe have created “G.P. Bear Goes to Washington.”  The 6-part serialized “docu-fable” stars Grandpa, a magical, media-savvy and proudly skeptical libertarian polar bear who understands his species is in far greater danger from the interventions of the federal government, Barbara Boxer, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio and overzealous wildlife scientists than from anthropogenic climate change.

 Part 1

“Are we not polar bears?”

Of all the animals the Inuit traditionally hunted, Nanuk, the polar bear, was the most prized. Native hunters considered Nanuk to be wise, powerful, and “almost a man.” Some called the bear “the great lonely roamer.” Many tribes told legends of strange polar-bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes.

— Polar Bears International

 TASIILAQ, EAST GREENLAND

 

Grandpa Polar Bear was relaxing in his easy chair watching a special news report on TV called “Plight of the Polar Bears.” As a mother bear and her cub stood forlornly on a tiny shrinking iceberg somewhere near the Arctic Circle, the dashing reporter from CNN sounded like he was going to cry.

“…. because of global climate change, polar bears are suffering population losses and may soon become extinct. Rising temperatures are melting the sea ice earlier and earlier each summer, leaving the bears less time to hunt for their primary food ­ — ringed seals. If we don’t reduce our burning of fossil fuels soon, scientists say the only place our children will be able to see these magnificent creatures will be in a zoo or in a Walt Disney movie. For CNN, I’m Anderson Cooper.”

“Extinct!?” Grandpa roared, slapping the arms of his leather chair with his huge paws. “Melting sea ice!? Shrinking bear populations? Who writes this junk, Al Gore?”

“Don’t get upset, Dad,” said Mother, looking up from her latest copy of Reason magazine. “It’s CNN. What do you expect? Fairness? Balance?”

“What were they saying about polar bears dying, Grandpa?” asked Junior, looking worried as he came in from the kitchen with a bottle of Coke.

“Nothing, Junior. Nothing,” Grandpa grumbled. “Just a lot of make-believe.”

After dinner, Grandpa read Junior a bedtime story. As Grandpa was about to turn off the nightlight, Junior asked, “Grandpa, why do you yell at the TV? The people in it can’t hear you.”

“I know,” Grandpa said with a smile. “They live far away in New York and Washington. That’s why they don’t know anything about polar bears or the Arctic.”

Junior looked anxiously at Grandpa. “Mother said your heart will get attacked if you keep yelling at the news.”

“Don’t you worry,” Grandpa chuckled. “I just get mad when humans make us look like sissies who can’t handle a little change in the weather. We’re polar bears, for Pete’s sake. We’re not helpless victims. We don’t need the government, Keith Olbermann, Greenpeace, Leonardo DiCaprio or anyone else to protect us from Mother Nature.

“If humans just left us alone ­ and if their scientists stopped chasing us with helicopters and shooting us with dart guns ­ we’d be fine.”

“Why don’t you go to where the humans on TV live and yell at them?” wondered Junior. “Everyone always listens when you yell.”

“They wouldn’t believe a thing I’d tell them. But that’s a good idea, Junior,” Grandpa said, clicking off the nightlight. “A darn good idea. ”

*****

“Guess what I learned today?” Junior asked as he came running in from school.

“I can’t imagine,” Grandpa mumbled.

“Shush, Dad,” said Mother. “What did you learn, Junior?”

“I learned all about ‘global melting,’ ” Junior began breathlessly. “The whole world is getting hotter because humans drive too many cars. The sea ice is going to go away forever and — ”

“Whoa!” interrupted Grandpa. “Who taught you that stuff? Rachel Maddow?”

“No,” said Junior. “Principal Hansen. She came to homeroom today. Her big computer says Earth is getting hotter and hotter and Greenland is melting really, really fast. All the ice will be gone when I get as old as you.”

“That’s preposterous,” Grandpa said.

“Principal Hansen said the oceans will get taller and taller,” Junior said with a worried look on his face. “Principal Hansen said polar bears and lots of other animals will get ‘stinkt if humans keep burning stuff like coal. It’s really scary, Grandpa.”

“Principal Hansen’s crazier than Al Gore,” Grandpa said to Mother so Junior couldn’t hear. “Didn’t I tell you that boy should have been home-schooled?”

Later that same night, after midnight, Grandpa was at his desk. He was sending his usual round of disparaging e-mails to the politicians in Washington when Junior’s cry pierced the stillness.

“Grandpa!” Junior wailed. “Help me. I’m burning!”

Grandpa and Mother raced to Junior’s bedside. Junior was crying in his sleep. “Help me, Grandpa,” he pleaded mournfully. “I’m too young to melt.”

“Junior, wake up,” Grandpa said, shaking him. “You’re dreaming.”

Junior’s eyes popped open. “Grandpa! Mother! The ice was all gone! We were stuck on a tiny iceberg. The ocean was boiling!”

“It was just a silly nightmare, Junior,” soothed Mother. “The ice isn’t melting. See?” she said, patting the rock-hard wall of their cave.

Grandpa was fuming. He gritted his big teeth and looked Junior straight in his teary eyes.

“Boy,” he said firmly, “I’m going to tell you something I want you to remember for the rest of your life. We are polar bears. We are the largest land carnivores on Earth. We are the species ursus maritimus — ­ ‘bears of the sea.’ We can swim 200 miles. We can walk 100 miles a day.

“We learned how to live on this frozen wasteland thousands of years before humans discovered fire. There are 25,000 of us alive today ­ — twice as many as 50 years ago. We are not going to become extinct ­ no matter what Principal Hansen and her big computers say. Now go to sleep ­ and no more silly nightmares.”

“That was no nightmare,” Grandpa whispered angrily to Mother. “That boy’s being brainwashed by a bunch of kooks.”

“That’s all the schools teach,” said Mother. “It’s like a new religion. Every cub I know thinks the ice will be gone before they grow up. All the mothers are complaining.”

Grandpa was fuming. “Polar bears having nightmares,” he snarled. “That’s pathetic. It’s time somebody stood up to lunatics like Hansen and their doomsday stories.”

Part 2

“Act of Endangerment”

By Bill and Joe Steigerwald

Of all the animals the Inuit traditionally hunted, Nanuk, the polar bear, was the most prized. Native hunters considered Nanuk to be wise, powerful, and “almost a man.” Some called the bear “the great lonely roamer.” Many tribes told legends of strange polar-bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes.

— Polar Bears International

TASIILAQ, EAST GREENLAND

 

Grandpa, Mother and Junior were at Erik the Red’s Sports Den. The place was crowded for the big Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.

Every bear in the bar had their eyes glued to the TV monitors. Just as the Bears quarterback was dropping back to throw a long pass, the game suddenly disappeared.

“Hey!!!” bellowed Grandpa and a hundred other Bears fans.

“We interrupt this program for important breaking news,” said the announcer as two sunburned old humans appeared on screen.

“The threat posed by global warming to all life on Earth is very real,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada as he and Senator Barbara Boxer of California huddled at a microphone outside the snow-covered Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. “Therefore, Senator Boxer and I have decided to introduce special legislation that will place polar bears on the Endangered Species list by the Christmas recess.”

“Oh no,” Grandpa moaned, putting his head in his big paws. “I was afraid it would come to this.”

“These majestic creatures are innocent victims of the evil axis of Big Energy,” Senator Boxer added, her voice cracking with emotion. “Our irresponsible burning of oil, coal and gas is melting the Arctic paradise of the polar bear. Without our help they will starve and soon become extinct. When our bill becomes law, however, the polar bear will be protected forever from man-made global warming by the Endangered Species Act.”

Grandpa stood up. “Listen up, all of you,” he yelled. Everyone quickly gathered around the wise and widely respected old bear.

“This is a very serious threat,” Grandpa said grimly. “If we are put on that darn list, it will mean the end of our traditional way of life forever.”

“What do you mean?” someone asked.

“An army of nature scientists, government bureaucrats and pushy celebrities will invade our land. They’re all part of what I call ‘The Axis of Environmentalism,’ ” Grandpa explained.

“They will say they are coming to protect us from global warming and to do us good. But what they will really do is slowly take away our freedoms and take over our lives. They’ll force us to change how we live, what we eat and where we can travel. It’ll be just like we’re being kept in a federal zoo.”

“But we’ll we get free food and health care,” said a young male bear sipping on his sixth Labatt Blue.

“Don’t be foolish,” Grandpa said. “Whatever the government gives us won’t really be free. Once we’re on that list, they’ll have us all wearing radio collars and carrying government ID cards. We’ll have wildlife scientists videotaping our sex lives and telling us where and what we can hunt.”

“Will they take away our snowmobiles and satellite dishes?” someone asked.

“No, they won’t take our snowmobiles or TVs or anything else,” Grandpa snapped impatiently. “Humans don’t know we have those things because they can’t see them. If they did know, they’d take them away from us in a Newfoundland minute.”

“Who will tell those humans in Washington we don’t need their help?” someone asked. “And don’t want it, either,” added someone else.

The 100 polar bears had forgotten all about the football game. An uneasy silence fell over the bar. Then Grandpa spoke. “I’ll do it,” he said in a quiet but confident voice. “I’ll explain how tomorrow night at the town meeting.”

******

The town meeting was bubbling with excitement as 400 polar bears sat on the uncomfortable metal folding chairs set up on the floor of the Southeast Greenland High School gym.

“My plan is quite simple,” began Grandpa, standing at a podium in front of the assembled bears. Next to him was a large nautical map that showed Greenland, the Labrador Current and the East Coast of the United States. Mother and Junior sat to the side of the map on folding chairs.

“I intend to travel to Washington,” Grandpa said. “I’m going there to convince the politicians that global warming poses no threat to us and that we do not want to be placed on the Endangered Species list.”

Everyone began talking excitedly. Grandpa held up his hand to silence them.

“I will ride on an iceberg most of the way. And then .”

“You can’t possibly ride an iceberg to Washington,” interrupted the Mayor, who sat at a long table with the town’s five frowning council members. Each of the officials had been darted and captured by wildlife scientists at least once and each wore matching radio tracking collars and yellow metal tags with serial numbers in both ears.

“Icebergs make it as far south as New York City all the time,” Grandpa replied, stabbing the map with his pointer. “In 1926, an iceberg reached Bermuda. And as you can see, the Labrador Current hugs the coast all the way to North Carolina.”

“But surely, with global warming, your iceberg will melt long before you get there,” the Mayor said skeptically.

“It’ll get us close enough. Then we’ll swim. It shouldn’t be more than 200 miles.”

” ‘We’? ” the Mayor asked suspiciously. “Who is ‘we’?”

“My daughter and my grandson,” Grandpa said, nodding toward Mother and Junior. “I want the politicians pushing this foolish law to see exactly who will be harmed the most by it ­ our children and grandchildren who will lose their freedoms.”

“But you can’t just walk into the United States Senate,” said the Mayor. “You’ll be arrested. Or shot.”

“I’ve already solved that problem, Mayor,” said Grandpa, raising his voice over the murmuring crowd. “I’ve been communicating with a senator by e-mail. He’s invited me to appear on Dec. 18 as an expert witness during the hearings on the Endangered Species bill. I plan to leave in three days.”

Suddenly, Principal Jane Hansen stood up in the crowd and pointed at Grandpa.

“Sir, you are ignorant and backward. You are an embarrassment to all progressive polar bears. How can you deny what Al Gore and other great climate scientists have proven? We are in mortal danger from humans and the climate change they are causing. The global temperature data clearly shows that ….”

“Sit down, Hansen,” a bear hollered. “We don’t believe you or your phony computers. Garbage in, garbage out.”

“We cannot permit this, this, this stupid old yellow bear to speak for us in Washington,” said Principal Hansen, who was so hot under her radio collar she collapsed in her chair.

“Why should we pay for your risky and quixotic scheme?” the Mayor asked Grandpa.

“I’m not asking taxpayers to pay a cent,” Grandpa said. “All I ask is that you let the citizens decide. I believe they will entrust me to faithfully represent their best interests in Washington.”

The gym exploded with cheers and thunderous applause. When a vote was taken, nearly every bear raised a forepaw in support of Grandpa. The only nay votes came from those wearing radio collars and yellow metal ear tags. The losers grumbled and growled, but there was nothing they could do.

The bears had spoken. G.P Bear was on his way to Washington.

To be continued tomorrow in Part 3, unless all hell freezes over.

 

 

G. P. Bear goes to Washington

The true story of a libertarian carnivore

 

By Bill and Joe Steigerwald

George Orwell used satire and talking pigs in “Animal Farm.” Now, with a foot of snow in Jerusalem signaling the start of the next ice age, veteran libertarian journalist Bill Steigerwald shamelessly steals Orwell’s idea and uses talking polar bears to poke fun at global warming alarmists and their fellow travelers in Washington and the media.

Twisting the title of director Frank Capra’s movie masterpiece to his own evil ends, Steigerwald and his son Joe have created “G.P. Bear Goes to Washington.”  The 6-part serialized “docu-fable” stars Grandpa, a magical, media-savvy and proudly skeptical libertarian polar bear who understands his species is in far greater danger from the interventions of the federal government, Barbara Boxer, Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio and overzealous wildlife scientists than from anthropogenic climate change.

Part 1

“Are we not polar bears?”
By Bill and Joe Steigerwald

Of all the animals the Inuit traditionally hunted, Nanuk, the polar bear, was the most prized. Native hunters considered Nanuk to be wise, powerful, and “almost a man.” Some called the bear “the great lonely roamer.” Many tribes told legends of strange polar-bear men that lived in igloos. These bears walked upright, just like men, and were able to talk. Natives believed they shed their skins in the privacy of their homes.

— Polar Bears International

 TASIILAQ, EAST GREENLAND

 

Grandpa Polar Bear was relaxing in his easy chair watching a special news report on TV called “Plight of the Polar Bears.” As a mother bear and her cub stood forlornly on a tiny shrinking iceberg somewhere near the Arctic Circle, the dashing reporter from CNN sounded like he was going to cry.

“…. because of global climate change, polar bears are suffering population losses and may soon become extinct. Rising temperatures are melting the sea ice earlier and earlier each summer, leaving the bears less time to hunt for their primary food ­ — ringed seals. If we don’t reduce our burning of fossil fuels soon, scientists say the only place our children will be able to see these magnificent creatures will be in a zoo or in a Walt Disney movie. For CNN, I’m Anderson Cooper.”

“Extinct!?” Grandpa roared, slapping the arms of his leather chair with his huge paws. “Melting sea ice!? Shrinking bear populations? Who writes this junk, Al Gore?”

“Don’t get upset, Dad,” said Mother, looking up from her latest copy of Reason magazine. “It’s CNN. What do you expect? Fairness? Balance?”

“What were they saying about polar bears dying, Grandpa?” asked Junior, looking worried as he came in from the kitchen with a bottle of Coke.

“Nothing, Junior. Nothing,” Grandpa grumbled. “Just a lot of make-believe.”

After dinner, Grandpa read Junior a bedtime story. As Grandpa was about to turn off the nightlight, Junior asked, “Grandpa, why do you yell at the TV? The people in it can’t hear you.”

“I know,” Grandpa said with a smile. “They live far away in New York and Washington. That’s why they don’t know anything about polar bears or the Arctic.”

Junior looked anxiously at Grandpa. “Mother said your heart will get attacked if you keep yelling at the news.”

“Don’t you worry,” Grandpa chuckled. “I just get mad when humans make us look like sissies who can’t handle a little change in the weather. We’re polar bears, for Pete’s sake. We’re not helpless victims. We don’t need the government, Keith Olbermann, Greenpeace, Leonardo DiCaprio or anyone else to protect us from Mother Nature.

“If humans just left us alone ­ and if their scientists stopped chasing us with helicopters and shooting us with dart guns ­ we’d be fine.”

“Why don’t you go to where the humans on TV live and yell at them?” wondered Junior. “Everyone always listens when you yell.”

“They wouldn’t believe a thing I’d tell them. But that’s a good idea, Junior,” Grandpa said, clicking off the nightlight. “A darn good idea. ”

*****

“Guess what I learned today?” Junior asked as he came running in from school.

“I can’t imagine,” Grandpa mumbled.

“Shush, Dad,” said Mother. “What did you learn, Junior?”

“I learned all about ‘global melting,’ ” Junior began breathlessly. “The whole world is getting hotter because humans drive too many cars. The sea ice is going to go away forever and — ”

“Whoa!” interrupted Grandpa. “Who taught you that stuff? Rachel Maddow?”

“No,” said Junior. “Principal Hansen. She came to homeroom today. Her big computer says Earth is getting hotter and hotter and Greenland is melting really, really fast. All the ice will be gone when I get as old as you.”

“That’s preposterous,” Grandpa said.

“Principal Hansen said the oceans will get taller and taller,” Junior said with a worried look on his face. “Principal Hansen said polar bears and lots of other animals will get ‘stinkt if humans keep burning stuff like coal. It’s really scary, Grandpa.”

“Principal Hansen’s crazier than Al Gore,” Grandpa said to Mother so Junior couldn’t hear. “Didn’t I tell you that boy should have been home-schooled?”

Later that same night, after midnight, Grandpa was at his desk. He was sending his usual round of disparaging e-mails to the politicians in Washington when Junior’s cry pierced the stillness.

“Grandpa!” Junior wailed. “Help me. I’m burning!”

Grandpa and Mother raced to Junior’s bedside. Junior was crying in his sleep. “Help me, Grandpa,” he pleaded mournfully. “I’m too young to melt.”

“Junior, wake up,” Grandpa said, shaking him. “You’re dreaming.”

Junior’s eyes popped open. “Grandpa! Mother! The ice was all gone! We were stuck on a tiny iceberg. The ocean was boiling!”

“It was just a silly nightmare, Junior,” soothed Mother. “The ice isn’t melting. See?” she said, patting the rock-hard wall of their cave.

Grandpa was fuming. He gritted his big teeth and looked Junior straight in his teary eyes.

“Boy,” he said firmly, “I’m going to tell you something I want you to remember for the rest of your life. We are polar bears. We are the largest land carnivores on Earth. We are the species ursus maritimus — ­ ‘bears of the sea.’ We can swim 200 miles. We can walk 100 miles a day.

“We learned how to live on this frozen wasteland thousands of years before humans discovered fire. There are 25,000 of us alive today ­ — twice as many as 50 years ago. We are not going to become extinct ­ no matter what Principal Hansen and her big computers say. Now go to sleep ­ and no more silly nightmares.”

“That was no nightmare,” Grandpa whispered angrily to Mother. “That boy’s being brainwashed by a bunch of kooks.”

“That’s all the schools teach,” said Mother. “It’s like a new religion. Every cub I know thinks the ice will be gone before they grow up. All the mothers are complaining.”

Grandpa was fuming. “Polar bears having nightmares,” he snarled. “That’s pathetic. It’s time somebody stood up to lunatics like Hansen and their doomsday stories.”

To be continued tomorrow in Part 2, unless all hell freezes over.

Saoirse Ronan as Daisy, some Brit as her sexy, sexy cousin.

Saoirse Ronan as Daisy, some Brit as her sexy, sexy cousin.

Welcome to The Stag Blog’s series dealing with portrayals of the end times through movies, novels, docudramas, documentaries, instructional pamphlets and films, songs, and memories. The focus will mainly be on nuclear fears during the Cold War, but we may branch out into some asteroids, aliens, or plagues. Let’s keep it loose.

Guest posts are particularly welcome on this subject — give me your best nuke movies, your memories of hiding under desks, or your childhood (or adult) worries over alien invasion.

This week, the subject is the new movie How I Live Now, and the 2004 young adult novel upon which it is based. It is a story of war, moving to a new country, and why sometimes you just need to sex up those relatives who catch your eye.

Apocalypse cinema or television (or even books) lives for the money shot — be it grand destruction of a famous monument, or a more humble bit of well-written or captured horror. The movie How I Live Now has two types of sequences, the bleak and the bucolic. It does them both very well, but in the end, though it’s better than the Meg Rosoff YA novel upon which it is based, the movie falls apart for similar reasons. It’s as flimsy as its anorexic, neurotic heroine, and though it tries to find a hard-ass center, there just isn’t much to it.

In each medium, 15-year-old Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is a cold New Yorker. She is sent to  her cousins’ in England to get her out of the way of her father and stepmother. She killed her mother at birth, and therefore has issues. Meanwhile, war is looming, not that any teens give a shit. Upon arrival (in the book), she drops her American ‘tude approximately four minutes after meeting her wood sprite cousins. In the movie, this include annoying Issac who precociously drives at 14, scrappy Piper, sevinish and a bit of a Mary Sue, and Edmond, the dreamy, disturbingly attractive cousin. Yes, Daisy and Eddie hook up. Yes, it’s a little weird. But it wasn’t the dealbreaker for me that it was for, say, this io9 writer. It just isn’t enough to be the whole heart of the story, except, too bad, it is.

Daisy has a relatively endearing run-off sentence style in the book. But her narrow eye becomes less appealing — and much more contrived — after the fourth time she conveniently decides to ignore an adult’s explanation for what exactly the fuck is going on with this war business. Her obsessive focus, useful in surviving, if not contextualizing, is turned into an acknowledged character trait in the movie (basically OCD), but anything from her view still feels shallow and myopic.

The book just rakes on the cliches of the faeryland of England. There are more cousins there, and the cliches are divided up between them. Eddie has the mysteriously telepathic powers. He just gets Daisy, man. His twin, melded into him for the movie, is the obligatory strong, silent, and Dickon-esque type. And yes, I could choose to see this as so deliberate an homage to The Secret Garden that it is acceptable. But I can’t. If only because all that English shit was so appealing to me as a tween, I can’t. Edmond has a falcon, for fuck’s sake. I can’t stand it. He speaks to cows. The Secret Garden plus nukes sounds great. Why don’t I buy it?

The movie initially seems more promising — tightening things, and letting the loving, but not syrupy shots set the scene. And the English cottage is falling down, and there are dishes in the sink. Piper is a dirty-faced, solemn, kind, but human ginger, not a pixie making every soldier fall in love with her. The war situation is not treated quite as much as an excuse for playing Lost Boys as it is in the book. And the moment when we know something is wrong is treated with the gravity required . The paradise of a day at the swimming hole, during which Daisy begins to accept her God damned magical surroundings, is stopped by a rush of wind, darkening skies, and falling ash. We don’t even see the mushroom cloud. Little Piper, of course, calls it snow. It gives the necessary chill down the spine, and it gave me false hope that the movie was going to get away from the book more than it did. But again, if you want your doom and gloom money shots (and I do), the movie does come with that.

They survive. And still have a good time for a bit. Daisy burns her pass to go back to America because Eddie is now her whole world. But soon enough, scary soldiers (still British, though) come to separate the two boys and two girls. And that’s it for the plot, really. It’s all Daisy and Piper being shoved away into a creepy old English house, being sent to sort potatoes on a farm, and planning their escape back to their home. In some ways, the movie’s choice to ignore some of the details of the book make it better, or at least less maddening that Daisy has no questions about what the hell happened to her new country. The shots of wrecked countryside seen flickering through her window when she and Piper are taken are effective, showing enough for horror, but not enough for clarity or contrivance that she doesn’t see the whole picture.

But it’s still too little. There’s an enemy, at one point they “take [a] checkpoint.” A neighbor boy is shot, in the head, and is actually show still alive on the ground for a few seconds, groping in the mud. Same with the eerie details of a downed plane — the first object Daisy and Piper see is of an oxygen mask lying in the woods. Shudder. And the same with the moment when Daisy has to dig through a pile of bodies to make sure it’s not her cousins. It’s flawlessly-crafted, in the vein of the opening of the pilot for The Walking Dead, but much starker. Yet, it’s still just a nightmare moodpiece. (This is a problem for apocalyptic fiction — that dread is unsustainable — and why it so often delves into survivors sniping. And why the fiction that doesn’t do that is something special.)

Too many sad pop songs over beautiful landscape. Too many montages. How I Live Now doesn’t commit the unforgivable sin of putting conspicuous music over its worst bits, but the filler feels like all music sometimes. The frantic, whispered voices in Daisy’s head that were supposed to represent her OCD and anorexia worked better than I would think. I appreciate that she didn’t warm up and become hero mom figure to Piper like she did in the book, but some sign of caring about the red-headed moppet wouldn’t have been amiss. Ronan is good, the Brits are all decent. Nobody is stilted, but nobody is exceptional.

And though the lovely cinematography of the movie makes the book’s flimsy plot seem more substantial, it had the same endless problem. I want to know more about the war. And I want more than a teenager falling in love with a place and her cousin, then being taken away, and having to walk back for a week over broken landscape. Piper and Daisy seem exhausted, in book and movie, but I still want to say, dammit, have you not seen Rabbit-Proof Fence? You pansies think a week of walking in England is bad? Somehow, again in both mediums, the characters treat the situation too heavily and too lightly. And nobody ever asks what’s going on. I don’t care how hot your cousin is, I don’t care you much you miss him, you take the time to fucking ask an adult who nuked London.

165341)  Cigarette Smoking Man (The X-Files)

Strangely calm — maybe it was the Canadian accent — and occasionally vulnerable (seemingly) in later seasons, there was something compelling about this guy. We seem him as the top villain for Mulder, but then we see that he is just a part of the much bigger conspiracy. He’s the guy they go to for clean-up and it has cost him a normal human existence. His centric episodes are never dull. (Always wondered why he didn’t just take out Mulder, though.) He smokes not like a villain trying to intimidate someone, but like a man with all the time in the world, who isn’t even thinking about any of it.

2) Darth Vader (Star Wars)

Iconic, duh. Think of him in the first movie when he’s the terrifying cyborg, but is beneath Grand Moff Tarkin. And he has that strange commitment to this mysterious religion. We learn more about him. He blows up a whole planet. He can choke people with his hand. He is willing to get into a TIE Fighter and fight — albeit, not very well. And though people usually mock Mark Hamill’s acting when he discovers the terrifying truth about his parentage, well, think how you would feel. Look at Luke Skywalker’s reaction and realize, it’s serious, horrifying stuff to be the son of this man.

3) The Joker (The Dark Knight)

The late Heath Ledger really did deserve those accolades, regardless of their inevitability after his tragic death. Ledger plays the Joker in a transformative, uncomfortable, annoying (those fucking sounds he makes, aaaugh!) disturbing way. It’s such good acting that it’s fun to watch. He’s the best part of the movie, and is on my short list of highly praised things that are not remotely overrated. The greater meaning of the anarchic character isn’t important. Just fucking watch him act.

4) Cersei Lannister (Game of Thrones TV show)

Not the sadistic King Joffrey? Not the real power, Tywin Lannister? Nope. Give me Cersei, because we see her struggling to be a villain. She’s a woman, she’s maybe not as smart as she thinks she is, but she’s wily enough to fight hard for what she thinks is hers. She’s funny as hell. And she loves her scary-ass son, because he is just about all she has, but she knows he’s sick. She knows how women gain power, but she still yearns to be playing at the big kids table. You see her when her villainous swagger is on, and you see her being completely dismissed by her father and intellectually trailing behind her brother. She’s fascinating. And she has the world’s most flawless bitch face.

5) O’Brien (1984) and The Operative (Serenity)

Like all good top villains in a dystopia, O’Brien knows all the counter-arguments with which our hero has struggled. He knows them all and can beat them with authority, charm, conviction, and the terrifying certainty of his position. He inflicts the pain, and he is someone to whom Winston Smith can finally speak freely. He knows what he does and he does it because power exists to keep itself alive. No grand motives. Just keeping the system going.

The Operative sees even more clearly than O’Brien does that he does terrible things. But he thinks he is doing them to build something better. Yet, he also thinks there is no place in that world for people like him with so much innocent blood on their hands. He’s the mechanism for improvement at a terrible price, but he has no illusions about being warmly invited into into the new society. Strange character. Very human for a villain, but very frightening.

6) Angelus (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

God damn was he a better monster than a hero. Bland, self-hating (understandable, but still), earnest, when he had a soul, he was playfully sadistic without one. He tortured a woman into insanity, he toyed with a lovesick Giles (best character) after killing his ladyfriend. The contrast between that guy and the guy trying to do right makes even the dull fellow more interesting, just because we know what nastiness is inside of him.

What are some of your favorites, dear readers?

  • 6.Mencken drinking-I’ve had an impressively mediocre two weeks of travel, and really should have updated the blog more, but sickness, plus relatives, plus just bad travels didn’t really bring on the writing itch. Few highlights include: being stuck in a Kafaesque loop of being sent from House desk to Senate desk to House media gallery to Senate media gallery on Capitol Hill, plus having Capitol police having pick up one my socks; firing some satisfyingly huge guns in North Carolina and shopping at an endearingly sketchy military surplus store (cash only, for paranoia purposes); and of course screaming “SHUT UP ABOUT GLUTEN” at the Museum of Sex in New York City. But really, that was mostly it. Somehow the whole of my journeys was not what the parts promised to be.
  • In other news about people The Stag Blog likes, Radley Balko is moving to Washington Post, which is both great for him, great for libertarianism, and rough for those of us who will now feel obligated to read WaPost.
  • Kennedy and Matt Welch will be cohosting a new Fox Business show called The Independents, so for the ill-fitting suit jackets and the mismatched patterns alone (if you know me, you know this is high praise indeed), it will be worth a watch. Here is a snotty, lazy Gawker summation of things. I assume the comments are horrifying beyond words, so don’t bother with that.
  • In humbler news, brother Joe has been told to get a webcam, so that The Stag Blog’s new Google+ show can finally get started. It’s called Politics for People Who Hate Politics, and if you want to be a guest, annoying me about it is encouraged. More details will come. It should be fun.
  • Hey, my latest VICE piece is about how Homeland Security are being assholes to Canadians with past mental health problems.
  • What’s happening in the world? Hmmm.
  • Well, stop pretending the drug war is over, because this guy’s ruined life begs to differ.
  • NYPD mistakes Brooklyn man’s breath mints for ecstasy.
  • Is this is true, I can’t even began to process how horrifying it is. Read with caution: “I Am a False Rape Allegation Statistic”
  • Here is a decent Gawker response to the is that woman who wrote the not-very-good-sorry poverty essay actually poor or not kerfuffle.
  • 1920s prosthetic limbs
  • I want to live in J.D. Tuccille’s society. He makes anarchy sound fun, God save his crazy bootlegging family.
  • This Orange County reporter is covering/livetweeting the trial of the cops who killed Kelly Thomas.
  • Prohibition slang.
  • Currently reading this ancient Vanity Fair piece on the mysterious, sordid death of Hitler’s way too beloved half-niece.

Pam sums up the feeling of not having a reaction ready for the death of notable person:

Today’s video:

No, don’t ask questions.