end run brought to you by ok soda
  March 31, 2004
Boring Stiffs

jfkjr.jpgThe New York Post this week reveals the stunning excerpts from model turned D-lister Michael Bergin's forthcoming memoir The Other Man, in which he details his romantic dalliances with Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, aka Mrs. JFK Jr. Perhaps the most shocking detail of all, however, is just how boring this stuff is.

Typically extramarital affairs are racy material, cf. Unfaithful, or even Fatal Attraction. An extramarital affair with a Kennedy (through marriage or not) should be explosive. But instead of Marilyn Monroe sex romps or Chappaquidic debauchery, all we get are passages bordering on the obscenely banal:

But suddenly, none of that mattered; suddenly we were making love. Carolyn and I were locked in each other's arms, and it was everything I remembered it to be and more. It brought back all the craziness.

Or this erotic gem:

All we needed was the red futon.

And then...

We walked through the door, straight into my room, and began kissing and taking off each other's clothes…And we made love. It wasn't about sex with us. It was lovemaking as I had never experienced it before.

Sure, it might not be fair to expect de Sade from a “Baywatch' alum, but Bergin doesn't even hint at the issues that truly matter - did the cuffs match collar? Any odd sexual predilictions? And where is the much rumored white sheik? None of it's there; instead all we get are soft-focus embraces and tortured syntax. For a memoir as patently indiscreet as Bergin's, he's chosen discretion in all the wrong places.

Posted at 4:04 PM in a Shallow fashion.
And the hosannas, where are they?


From CNN.com, "Four U.S. civilians killed in Iraq: Residents hang bodies from bridge", Wednesday, March 31, 2004:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Suspected insurgents killed four American civilian contractors in a grenade attack Wednesday in central Iraq, U.S. officials said.

Cheering residents in Fallujah pulled charred bodies from burning vehicles and hung them from a Euphrates River bridge.

Crowds gathered around the vehicles and dragged at least one of the bodies through the streets, witnesses said.

Residents pulled another body from one of the cars and beat it with sticks.

From CNN.com, Crossfire transcript, November 4, 2003:

JACOBUS: You just seem to want to forget what he said in the very beginning when we went into this war, when we went into Iraq. He didn't say that this would be easy and pretty and have smooth edges.

CARVILLE: We found all those nuclear bombs over there, did we?

JACOBUS: So what he told us, James, was that this was going to be hard.


JACOBUS: This was going to be drawn out. This was going to be painful. They were very up front with us, and I think most of the American people understand that war is not going to be pretty. I think they're...

CARVILLE: Dick Cheney said we'd be greeted with roses. And Paul Wolfowitz said we'd pay for the reconstruction with oil revenues of $100-200 billion a year. They were dissembling the truth.

JACOBUS: The polls in Iraq show that the people of Iraq are behind us. They don't think this is going to be easy. It's only people on your side that want this...

CARVILLE: Wolfowitz said it would be a bed of roses.

From "Live From Iraq, an Un-Embedded Journalist", Robert Fisk, March 25, 2003:

Perle, Wolfowitz, and these other people—people who have never been to war, never served their country, never put on a uniform- nor, indeed, has Mr. Bush ever served his country- they persuaded themselves of this Hollywood scenario of GIs driving through the streets of Iraqi cities being showered with roses by a relieved populace who desperately want this offer of democracy that Mr. Bush has put on offer-as reality. And the truth of the matter is that Iraq has a very, very strong political tradition of strong anti-colonial struggle. It doesn't matter whether that's carried out under the guise of kings or under the guise of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath party, or under the guise of a total dictator. There are many people in this country who would love to get rid of Saddam Hussein, I'm sure, but they don't want to live under American occupation.
Posted at 2:14 PM in a Grave fashion.
Karl Rove for the Day, Vol. 3


(Click the image above to see the original undoctored photo, and/or click here. Or you can read more about these heinous backdrops by Dan Bartlett and Scott Sforsza here.)

Posted at 11:14 AM in a Grave, Satirical fashion.
  March 30, 2004
Tastes Great! Less Filling!

From "Mass. Gay Marriage Ban Passes Hurdle" by Jennifer Peter (Associated Press), March 30, 2004:

BOSTON (AP) -- Legislators approved a constitutional amendment Monday that would ban gay marriages while legalizing civil unions. If passed during the next two-year Legislative session, the measure would go before voters in November 2006.


The constitutional convention took place in front of thousands of citizens, who crowded the Statehouse each day to watch from the gallery and protest in the hallways.

After each intonation of "Jesus" by gay rights opponents inside the building Monday, gay rights advocates tacked on "loves us." The two opposing sides then shouted "Jesus Christ!" and "equal rights!" simultaneously, blending into a single, indistinguishable chant.

Oh, and for what it's worth, this tastes awful, and leaves me feeling rather empty inside.

Posted at 12:44 PM in a Grave fashion.
Sex and the Sunday Comics

Are Sundays just not the same without that Sex and the City fix? Well, for those modern gals who count SATC, Tasti D-Lite and Sunday Styles among their desert island picks, low culture has the remedy.

Ladies, treat yourself to a lo-cal binge on the comic strip Cathy. In many ways our Cathy is the original Carrie Bradshaw - perpetually whining, pathologically self-aware, and ultimately interested in only the four c's of diamond buying (that's cut, color, carat, and clarity if you didn't know). But Cathy is more than just ur-SATC - she's newly engaged.

irvinggalotti.jpgIndeed that Mr. Big of the comics page, Irving, has finally proposed. And Cathy said yes! Although she might not have the fantastic support group that Carrie did, her ever kvetching mother is sure to provide all the doubt and dialogue that the three viragos of SATC managed to shriek. And while you can't buy Cathy's clothing, wouldn't a collectible print of Cathy's journey to wedded bliss prove the perfect alternative?

With this record-length will they/won't they finally resolved, we can finally shift our concerns to other comics: will Heart of the City ever play doctor with sci-fi geek/sidekick Dean? Will Mallard Fillmore ever agree with those liberal professors? And can the Lockhorns ever get along?

Indeed the mewling, man-hungry women of SATC may have retired, but the comics page is here to save the day.

Posted at 1:30 AM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 29, 2004
We Will Never Forget

50_first_sunshines23.jpgHow many high-concept romantic comedies can one moviegoer take? Two, apparently - 50 First Dates and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - although we'll just have to wait until Friday for The Prince & Me. Clip and go with low culture's handy guide to all those heady laughers and never get confused again.

Island setting:
50FD - Oahu, Hawaii
ESSM - Rockville Centre, Long Island

Former comedian turned serious actor in lead:
50FD - Adam Sandler
ESSM - Jim Carrey

Female lead with body issues (chubby):
50FD - Drew Barrymore
ESSM - Kate Winslet

Unattractive, humorous male sidekick:
50FD - Rob Schneider
ESSM - David Cross

Former Hobbit in supporting role:
50FD - Sean Astin
ESSM - Elijah Wood

Long-term or short-term memory loss?
50FD - Short-term
ESSM - Long-term

Literary aspirations:
50FD - Lead character named for writer Henry Roth
ESSM - Title taken from Alexander Pope poem

Piece of crap?
50FD - Yes
ESSM - No, mostly

Posted at 5:45 PM in a Shallow fashion.
Ass Backward

Did anyone else assume this cover story would be about forced sodomy among little leaguers?

Posted at 5:41 PM in a Shallow fashion.
R.O.V.E.: Rolling Over Valued Entitlements

You know how it sounds so much more palatable to go scuba diving than to, say, strap on a "Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus?" In that same vein, legislators on the Hill caught on to this a few years ago, and began packaging their now-commonplace rollback of civil rights in grandiose acronyms.

This began most notably with Congress' October 26, 2001 passage of the USA PATRIOT Act, an acronym for "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." USA PATRIOT sounds far better than the proposed alternative, KAFKA, or the "Keeping Americans From being Killed by Airplanes" Act.

Following on the heels of their success with that bill, the Bush administration and likeminded legislators brought forth Operation TIPS, or "Terrorism Information and Prevention System," which would have enlisted the help of postal workers, meter readers, truck drivers, and other workers in the public sphere in an elaborate effort to look out for "suspicious" activity. Again, better than the alternative, SPY, or "Subtly Prying Youths," which would have brought America's toddlers on board in the campaign to root out terrorist educators. This iteration of the bill never made it out of the House judiciary committee, of course.

And now the acronym brigade is at it again, according to Wired News. In the wake of Johnny Depp's Oscar nomination, and their subsequent downloading of that relevant film, Americans are bracing for PIRATE fever:

[O]n Thursday, Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) introduced a bill that would allow the Justice Department to pursue civil cases against file sharers, again making it easier for law enforcement to punish people trading copyright music over peer-to-peer networks. They dubbed the bill "Protecting Intellectual Rights Against Theft and Expropriation Act of 2004," or the PIRATE Act.

The bills come at a time when the music and movie industries are exerting enormous pressure on all branches of government at the federal and state levels to crack down on P2P content piracy. The industries also are pushing to portray P2P networks as dens of terrorists, child pornographers and criminals -- a strategy that would make it more palatable for politicians to pass laws against products that are very popular with their constituents.

Meanwhile, civil libertarians across the nation are eagerly awaiting this fall's ELECTION, or "Eliminating Leaders Elected to Congress To Impugn Our Nation".

Posted at 5:15 PM in a Grave fashion.
Compare and Contrast (lots of Bombast)

From the White House's "Iraq Fact of the Day" propaganda (a.k.a. "press release") series, March 22, 2004 (by way of Ward Harkavy's Bush Beat at the Village Voice):

Free Press in Iraq

Free press is flourishing in Iraq and providing the Iraqi people with access to a variety of news sources. More than 646 journalists have credentials for the new international press center in Baghdad. Many of the journalists write for more than 200 Iraqi newspapers now in circulation across the country. This burgeoning free press is encouraging debate and democracy in Iraq.

Source: Coalition Provisional Authority, Baghdad

From the New York Times' Jeffrey Gettleman, March 29, 2004:

G.I.'s Padlock Baghdad Paper Accused of Lies

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 28 — American soldiers shut down a popular Baghdad newspaper on Sunday and tightened chains across the doors after the occupation authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence.


The letter ordering the paper closed, signed by L. Paul Bremer III, the top administrator in Iraq, cited what the American authorities called several examples of false reports in Al Hawza, including a February dispatch that said the cause of an explosion that killed more than 50 Iraqi police recruits was not a car bomb, as occupation officials had said, but an American missile.

Many newspapers and television stations have sprouted in Iraq since the fall of the Hussein government. But under a law passed by the occupying authorities in June, a news media organization must be licensed, and that license can be revoked if the organization publishes or broadcasts material that incites violence or civil disorder or "advocates alterations to Iraq's borders by violent means."

But the letter outlining the reasons for taking action against Al Hawza did not cite any material that directly advocated violence. Several Iraqi journalists said that meant there was no basis to shut Al Hawza down.

METAPHYSICAL NOTE TO SELF: I'm beginning to wonder if it's not a better idea to go the Dennis Miller route and start defending the Bush administration, because criticizing it has started to become far too easy. You know, try and have a go at something challenging for once.

Posted at 1:04 PM in a Grave fashion.
Bush et al., valiant defenders of liberty

From "Rice Defends Refusal To Testify" by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, in the March 29, 2004, edition of the Washington Post:

Rice gave no ground on the administration's decision that she will not appear in public before the panel or testify under oath because Bush officials believe doing so would compromise the constitutional powers of the executive branch. The renewed refusal came despite the panel's unanimous plea for her testimony.

Republican commissioner John F. Lehman, who has written extensively on separation-of-power issues, said that "the White House is making a huge mistake" by blocking Rice's testimony and decried it as "a legalistic approach."

"The White House is being run by a kind of strict construction of interpretation of the powers of the president," he said on ABC's "This Week." "There are plenty of precedents that the White House could use if they wanted to do this."


Rice said she has "absolutely nothing to hide" and "would really like" to testify but will not because of the constitutional principle.

Gee, guys, this whole "Constitution" document sure comes in handy when you need it most, huh? That is, when you're not too busy covering your ears to cries of "Hypocrisy!" and otherwise obliterating the fucking thing, like you've been doing for the past two-and-a-half years.

RELATED (and very much worth reading): Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo discusses the issue of Constitutional precedent here and here.

Posted at 12:58 AM in a Grave fashion.
Lars Von Trier: His own worst critic

(Click the pseudo-Dogville thumbnail image to enlarge)

Posted at 12:28 AM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 28, 2004
Ear-ly Itchy and Scratchy


From CNN, March 26, 2004:

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (Reuters) -- A four-eared German kitten has been given a new home after a German animal shelter was deluged with requests to adopt the animal born six months ago with the genetic defect.

From CNN, nine years earlier, October 25, 1995:

MASSACHUSETTS (CNN) -- Researchers in Massachusetts have created something that sounds more like science fiction than science fact. They've taken a prototype human ear made of polyester fabric and human cartilage cells, and implanted it on the back of a hairless mouse.
Posted at 8:58 PM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 26, 2004
Under-reported Factoid of the Week

Worth mulling over as the Bremer, I mean, Bush administration's self-imposed Iraqi sovereignty deadline of June 30th approaches:

From Dexter Filkins' profile of Iraqi exile (and purveyor of bad WMD-related intelligence) Ahmad Chalabi in the March 26, 2004 New York Times:

"In a nationwide poll conducted by ABC News and the BBC, 10 percent of Iraqis listed Mr. Chalabi as someone they 'don't trust at all,' a higher percentage than any other Iraqi leader. According to the poll, conducted from Feb. 9 to 28, 3 percent said they did not trust Saddam Hussein. In the poll, 2,737 randomly selected Iraqis age 15 and up were interviewed. The results have a two percentage point margin of error."

(emphasis mine, with thanks to Danny)

Posted at 10:56 AM in a Grave fashion.
Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Sight Unseen

ABOVE: a mirror image of the expressions you and your well-tailored friends will sport as you sit on your couch watching this film on HBO this fall

This may come as a surprise to some of low culture's readers who expect us to hide behind our patented cool and ironic stance, but we were huge fans of Scooby-Doo. Well, guess what, Jack: We were lucky enough to be invited to an early screening of the film, and ta da: we're even bigger fans of Scooby-Doo 2, which has to be director Kinka Usher's finest film since, well, Mystery Men.

Fans of the cartoon series' bizarre juxtaposition of guest stars will love the pre-credits teaser. In a hilarious yet timely scenario, Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma are testifying at a congressional hearing about the mass brain-washings on Monster Island (from the series' first film). Scooby's there, too, but he's forced to dress up like a bedraggled Vietnam vet (shades of Born on the Fourth of July?) in an army jacket and wheelchair. (It's funnier than it sounds--especially when Scooby barks "Yooooooou can't hannnnnnndle the truuuuuuuuuf!") After several probing, incisive questions from the unseen congressmen (that make Fred and Shaggy sweat and brings out Velma's brainy side and Daphne's flirty side), we see exactly who is asking these questions: The Harlem Globetrotters, the living members of the "Addam's Family," Joyce DeWitt from "Three's Company," boxer "Sugar" Shane Mosley, and the ubiquitous Steve Buscemi (in his black Reservoir Dogs suit).

Of course, with a film this fun, the soundtrack couldn't be more of a gas! Featuring the pop stylings of Hilary Duff, Willa Ford, and Warner Music's promising young siren Bonnie McKee (not to be confused with Sony's lesser songstress Nellie McKay), the movie's raucous tunes had the youngsters who accompanied us to the screening dancing in the aisles.

Other highlights include Sarah Michelle Gellar's star-making turn as Daphne (I'm telling you, if Harvard-educated director James Toback hasn't heard of this ingenue yet, he will have by now!). Imbuing a character of such heretofore-renowned vapidity with an emotional resonance not seen since Emily Watson's perfomance in Breaking the Waves, we're left to wonder how other, less-experienced actresses considered for this same role (read: Elisha Cuthbert) might have fouled up a particularly tense scene in the film's climactic lighthouse sequence, which combines the thrills of So, I Married an Ax Murderer with the laughs of Hitchcock's Vertigo.

But what really makes this scene a cinematic classic is its heart: when Daphne fights the ghost of the monster's computer virus, she's doing so to avenge the death of her beloved Fred, who was killed (there's even a suggestion he may have been raped!) by the ghost of the monster's computer virus's creator (Whoopi Goldberg, almost unrecognizable under pounds of latex and make-up). When Gellar's Daphne busts into a Matrix-type 'bullet time' roundhouse kick, the audience not only cheers, they weep. Including, again, those youngsters seated next to us. Of course, we'll miss Fred in any sequels, but there's a suggestion that the wizard (deftly played by The Sweet Hereafter's Ian Holm) might be able to reanimate him using the sacred stones.

We'll be waiting for Scooby-Doo 3: Space is the Place to see if the geniuses behind this awesome series can "doo" it again. Scooby-Doo it again, that is!

(Confidential to Sharon at Warner Brothers' PR: Thanks!)

Posted at 9:17 AM in a Satirical, Shallow fashion.
  March 24, 2004
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 17


Yes, it's redundant, but it's all a part of our new "Unintentionally Hilarious" sub-category: "George Tenet Facial Tics that Surface While Testifying."

Posted at 5:09 PM in a Grave, Unintentionally Hilarious fashion.
The Web of Babel

Like a website designed by Borges with OCD, Slate has taken its organizational impulse to a new level. Increasingly minute divisions in Slate's content are filtered into increasingly nebulous departments - presumably someone thinks this is useful. Just a cursory look at some of these headers strongly suggests that someone on the masthead has lost the plot. Decide for yourself:

The Boxes:
press box
ballot box
music box

Categories Suggesting Daily Content:
day to day

Content from Somewhere Else:
today's papers
in other magazines
summary judgment
cartoon index

Slate Knows Best:
history lesson
dear prudence
everyday economics

supreme court dispatches

And a Fraction of the Rest:
war stories
fighting words
brave new world
ad report card
tv club
slate fare
damned spot
left field

Posted at 3:10 PM in a Shallow fashion.
Colin Headroom Tes-Tes-Testifies

(Click above to see the New York Times' original photo of Sec. Powell testifying before the 9/11 commission on March 23, 2004)

"We wanted to moo-moo-move beyond the rollback policy of c-c-containment, criminal prosecu-cu-cu-cution and limited retaliation for specific terrorist attacks. We wanted to de-de-de-destroy Al Qaeda." - COLIN L. POWELL, Secretary of State, Network 23

Posted at 12:13 PM in a Grave, Satirical fashion.
  March 23, 2004
Separated at Birth?


Deceased Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Sauron pawn Saruman the White

Posted at 11:09 PM in a Shallow fashion.
Rosemary's Baby


Actually, his name's Seamus. But he's still creepy-looking.

Posted at 5:14 PM in a Shallow fashion.

boohbahlogo.gifWhile Boohbah, PBS's newest toddler TV/marketing juggernaut, should prove a valuable resource for indolent parents everywhere, Boohbah's online component definitely demands a more vigilant adult supervision. The website itself is harmless fare - offering children, stoned collegians, or the easily entertained endless hours of good Flash fun. But it's that url, specifically the “Boohb' of “Boohbah,' that could prove a thornier proposition.

low culture has researched the possible misspellings that any otherwise well-intentioned six-year-old might encounter while searching for his foreskinned cartoon buddies. Some of our results:

Boohbah.com -- A “charming website for kids that fosters creative thinking.'
Boobe.com -- “Free Adult Web Hosting!'
Boobs.com -- “Big tits, huge boobs, large hooters, juggs, knockers and all sizes of titties!'
Booby.com -- “Helpful links for writers'
Boob.com -- “Welcome to Pornville.net!'
Booba.com -- Features a link to the “Young Black Stallion Web Site'

Posted at 4:49 PM in a Shallow fashion.
Richard Clarke, Democratic Party operative

richard-clarke-partisan.jpgOK, the big guns are out, and the Bush Administration is in damage-control mode regarding former NSC advisor Richard Clarke's charges that Bush was doing a "terrible job" in the war on terrorism, and that the pursuit of Saddam Hussein had been a misguided scapegoat since September 12, 2001.

We'd refer to these charges as "explosive," but, come on now, realistically, these things tend to have a short lifespan, right? By next week, we'll almost certainly be talking about yet another "disgruntled former employee" to spring forth from the loins of the fruitfully dishonest Bush Administration.

From Dana Milbank and Mike Allen in the Washington Post, March 23, 2004:

Half a dozen top White House officials, departing from their policy of ignoring such criticism, took to the airwaves to denounce Clarke as a disgruntled former colleague and a Democratic partisan. Vice President Cheney, on Rush Limbaugh's radio show, said the counterterrorism coordinator "wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff." Cheney suggested Clarke did not do enough to prevent three attacks during the Clinton administration and said "he may have a grudge to bear there since he probably wanted a more prominent position."


In addition to Cheney's radio appearance, Rice was a guest on all five network morning shows, and by 11 a.m. the White House had booked more than 15 interviews on cable news channels, as well as numerous talk-radio appearances, over the next nine hours. White House press secretary Scott McClellan spent much of both of his briefings yesterday arguing that Clarke's book was politically motivated and timed. "This is Dick Clarke's 'American grandstand,'" McClellan said.

Wow, Scott McClellan sure is hilarious! What's next, Dick Clarke's American Top 40 Lies and Distortions of the Bush Administration? Dick Clarke's Guide to Aging Gracefully through 30 Years of Federal Employment?

Regardless, here are some of Richard Clarke's career highlights. Be sure to take note of his obvious and transparent role as a lifelong Democratic party operative during his employment in both the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations.

• Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence, or the second-highest ranking intelligence officer in Reagan's administration

• Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs. "In that capacity, he coordinated State Department support of Desert Storm and led efforts to create a post-war security architecture. Clarke was appointed to the National Security Council staff in 1992." This was during the elder Bush's administration.

• National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism, 1998, Clinton administration

• held the above position until being "demoted" to Special Adviser for Cyberspace Security within the National Security Council, current Bush administration

Or, as the BBC puts it quite succinctly, "Four successive US presidents have picked Richard Clarke to defend the country against terrorists."

That's one Democrat and three Republicans, mind you. That sick, partisan son of a bitch.

Posted at 12:23 PM in a Grave fashion.
  March 22, 2004
Karl Rove for the Day, Vol. 2

(Again, click on the photo to see Rove and Bartlett's original masterpiece.)

From Saturday's Globe and Mail (Candada):

The red-hot housing market — here and across the United States — has sparked fears of an emerging asset bubble, fuelled by the lowest interest rates since 1958, when Elvis Presley joined the U.S. Army and Nikita Khrushchev became leader of the Soviet Union.

Welcome to the topsy-turvy economy that Alan Greenspan and his U.S. Federal Reserve Board colleagues sat down to ponder on Tuesday. While low interest rates have people like Mr. Guimmule dreaming about home ownership and investors cheering their resurgent stock portfolios, large swaths of the economy remain stalled.

Employment growth is anemic in the wake of a 2001 recession that zapped 2.3 million jobs. Manufacturers have cut employment for 43 consecutive months.

Posted at 11:13 AM in a Grave, Satirical fashion.
Karl Rove for the Day, Vol. 1

(Yes, this has been altered. Click on photo to see the original.)

From Jonathan Alter's piece for Newsweek re: the soon-to-be-forgotten Medicare deception fiasco of last week:

But the most shocking deception took place in the run-up to the signing of the Medicare prescription-drug benefit on Christmas Eve...Recall how that bill squeaked through Congress only after some heads were cracked. A retiring Republican from Michigan, Rep. Nick Smith, even charges that supporters of the bill offered him a bribe in the form of financial support for the political campaign of his son. The bill was priced at the time at $400 billion over 10 years. After the deed was done (the specifics of which amounted to a huge giveaway to the pharmaceutical and health-care industries), it came out that the real cost will be at least $551.5 billion—a difference of $150-plus billion that will translate into trillions over time. Now we learn that the Bush administration knew the truth beforehand and squelched it. Rick Foster, the chief actuary for Medicare, says he was told he would be fired if he passed along the higher estimates to Congress. "I'll fire him so fast his head will spin," Thomas Scully, then head of Medicare, said last June, according to an aide who has now gone public.
Posted at 10:45 AM in a Grave, Satirical fashion.
Al Franken: (Great) Liberal Ass

SNL castmember Laraine Newman on Al Franken's butt:

"He had this very defined musculature. His butt was like a cut basketball. Which, you know, you don't normally see in comedy writers.''
Posted at 10:19 AM in a Shallow fashion.
How to get a head (or two) in Hollywood


The worst movie job ever: Cydney Cornell, hair stylist to Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Posted at 10:09 AM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 21, 2004
Smile for campaign contributions; look solemn for the historical record


Above, President Bush with an average American fan at a fundraiser last week. Below, Bush with his personal photographer, Eric Draper.

Posted at 10:48 PM in a Grave fashion.
The week of our discontent

...was not spent reading John Steinbeck, but rather, sorting out a whole slew of nasty technical troubles that arose with the lovely low culture database. Regardless, it's all better now, like a world without first-run episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm that do a ghastly job of tying in painfully long segments from The Producers and an overacting (or is it underacting) husband-and-wife duo in the form of Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft. But that's all behind us, now.

Oh, and confidential to MovableType: Fuck you, buddy.

Posted at 10:35 PM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 11, 2004
Naming names

davidmamet-spartan.jpgSpartan is the name of David Mamet's new movie. It's called Spartan, this movie. It's out Friday. This David Mamet movie, it's got stars like Val Kilmer, Derek Luke, and William H. Macy. He's no first-timer, William H. Macy.

The story, well, the plot, is about a kidnapping. This plot is intense. The story, too. The plot and the story, they're both very intense, they're very fucking intense.

And the title. Spartan. This title got us thinking. It's a play on words, this title. A description of the main character, right? But also Mamet's style, the style everyone calls Mametian. Which is easy to make fun of, right? But at least he's being honest about it. What if other directors did the same? These other guys, see, they'd put it all out there, honest to the world.

Brett Ratner: Base
Michael Bay: Epileptic
Mel Gibson: Intense
Peter Jackson: Long
Martin Scorsese: Rote
Michael Mann: Remote
Robert Altman: Old
Steven Spielberg: Employed
Nora Ephron: Palatable
Coen Brothers: Sinking
Spike Lee: Declining, but still shot-through with vitality and inventiveness despite annoying public persona and occasional lapses into self-parody
Peyton Reed: Candy
Steven Soderbergh: Fluctuating
David Fincher: Dark
David O. Russell: Difficult
Terrence Malick: Slow
David Gordon Green: Green
Alexander Payne: Nebraskan
Kevin Smith: Insipid
Wes Anderson: Precious
Paul Thomas Anderson: Florid
Lars von Trier: Rigid
Lynne Ramsay: Oblique
Vincent Gallo: Narcissistic
Rose Troche: Lesbian
Lisa Cholodenko: Experimental
Michel Gondry: Dreamy
Spike Jonze: Hip
Sofia Coppola: Coached
Roman Coppola: Bitter

Posted at 1:17 PM in a Shallow fashion.
Well, he's certainly not a liability for the Kerry campaign


Over the past few weeks, Republican Party leaders such as Marc Racicot and Ed Gillespie have worked to handily dismiss reports circulating in Washington that Vice President Dick Cheney's inclusion on the 2004 Republican ticket was beginning to be seen as a weak spot for the Bush campaign. Party chairmen had everybody's favorite Republican, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, come forth in support of his old friend: "My fervent wish is that it remains the way it is, and that I believe Vice President Cheney's in good health and I think he's been a great Vice President."

Regarding his relationship with the President, Cheney himself asserted, "He's asked me to serve again, and I said I'd be happy to do that, and I think that will be the ticket in 2004."

And in related news, today's Financial Times includes the following report ("Halliburton won contract after Pentagon warning"):

Halliburton, the oil services company formerly headed by US Vice-President Dick Cheney, was awarded a $1.2bn (£660m) contract in Iraq just three days after Pentagon auditors warned about "systemic" problems in its cost controls.

The warning was contained in a memo the Pentagon's defence contract audit agency sent on January 13 to the US Army Corps of Engineers, citing deficiencies in Halliburton's contracting proposals and questioning the company's ability to supply "fair and reasonable prices".

"We recommend that you contact us to ascertain the status of [Halliburton's] estimating system prior to entering into future negotiations," the memo said.

The company informed the Pentagon on January 15 that its Kellogg Brown & Root division had overcharged the US government by $6m on a separate contract to supply US troops. Despite the admission, the following day the Corps of Engineers gave KBR a $1.2bn contract to rebuild oilfields in southern Iraq.

Posted at 11:40 AM in a Grave fashion.
  March 10, 2004
Our last-ever post on matters concerning the Grey Album, we promise


This, despite the fact that the latest Rolling Stone rehashes the EMI-versus-artistic freedom issue yet again. That's roughly three consecutive issues of America's most revered rock, er, lad, er, rock magazine that have documented DJ Danger Mouse's travails of late (isn't there some expression about "beating a dead mouse" or somesuch cliche?).

Nope, this particular post is for those obsessive souls who took their LPs of the Beatles' White Album and played John Lennon's incoherent utterances backwards, until they were able to discern that Paul was, in fact, dead.

Get out your copy of Danger Mouse's Grey Album or, if you downloaded it, work with the MP3 files directly. Acquire a freeware audio editor. Take the eleventh track, "Interlude," and reverse it. Sit back and pray as you listen to the track which follows, whose lyrics we've helpfully transcribed for you:

"6...6...6...Murder, murder Jesus...6...6...6...

Leave ni**as on death's door.

Murder, murder Jesus...6...6...6."

Of course, we all know that "asterisk" sounds awfully garbled when spoken either forward or in reverse, so you may want to substitute those asterisks mentioned above for the letter G. Just a su**estion.

Posted at 2:00 PM in a Shallow, Soundproof fashion.
Hey, sorry about that whole unlawful imprisonment thing


Yesterday's big news in the War on Terror (or, more likely, small news, if, like us, you're still focusing the lion's share of your attention on Martha's impending lockdown) was the return of five British prisoners to the U.K. on Tuesday, after their having spent the past two years in American custody in Guantanamo Bay. Two years of imprisonment, mind you, without having been charged with a crime, save for some vague language about "enemy" this, "combatant" that.

Here's the stunning aspect of this case, however: while four of the men are still being questioned about their activities in Afghanistan, one of the prisoners in question, a mere few hours after landing on his home soil, was released from custody yesterday. This from the Guardian:

A fifth man, Jamal Udeen, also known as Jamal al Harith, from Manchester, was released without charge last night. His solicitor Robert Lizar said his client wanted the US authorities to "answer for the injustice which he has suffered".

Just who is this vile terrorist/enemy combatant that was in some way indirectly responsible for the events of September 11th, 2001? The Guardian continues:

The 36-year-old convert, who was born Ronald Fiddler, left Manchester to go backpacking in Pakistan in September 2001. Within three weeks, coalition forces had found him in jail in Kandahar, Afghanistan; he said the Taliban had jailed him, believing he was a spy.

Injustice, indeed. This huge credibility gap in the U.S. government's assertions on progress made in the War on Terror™ apparently doesn't warrant coverage in the Times, the Post, or any other American media outlet. Oh, wait, my bad: there's this Reuters story linked from the Times' website.

What does the Reuters piece assert?

If all five are freed without charge, as some lawyers are predicting, the government may face questions on why it had taken more than two years to get them out. With tabloid newspapers eagerly competing for rights to their stories, the "Guantanamo Five'' have a ready-made platform to vent anger.

Five down, and 600 to go.

Posted at 1:22 PM in a Grave fashion.
  March 9, 2004
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 16


Posted at 3:36 PM in a Grave, Unintentionally Hilarious fashion.
  March 8, 2004
Water-cooler thoughts on the return of the Sopranos


"I had forgotten some of the story, but it was good to get back into it again." —Employee #1

"Well, I have the DVDs, so I remembered the plots. I don't really watch the DVDs much, though." —Employee #2

"Yeah, I forgot to watch it." —Employee #3

"I think they purposely made it boring to scare off non-fans." —Employee #4

"You know, it was good, it was a first episode...laying the groundwork for a new season. But hey, did you see Curb Your Enthusiasm? Do you watch that? So fucking hilarious!" —Employee #2

Posted at 11:16 AM in a Shallow fashion.
CNN: Again with the wink and the nod


OK, so they've done this before, and they'll likely do it again...but you have to wonder. Is this web publishing software trying too hard?

(with thanks to Jeff)

Posted at 9:47 AM in a Grave fashion.
  March 5, 2004
217 years (and zero quills) later

Pictured, L to R: a scene from today's delayed signing of Iraq's post-invasion temporary constitution, and a scene from the September 1787 signing of the post-liberation United States' constitution.

Posted at 3:31 PM in a Grave fashion.
Identical Spins

dcsprouse.jpgAll too often, we witness debates about who's cooler, the Hilton sisters or the Olsen twins: it's a perennial (and perenially boring) topic of debate by pop pundits, which unfortunately usually breaks down to which set of sisters are hotter. (Frankly, we here at low culture feel that the Hiltons are hotter: no, not Paris and the one with the boring name. We mean Daisy and Violet Hilton, from Tod Browning's Freaks: talk about two hot, well-connected chicks!)

What's more interesting, however, is intra-sibling competition, the kind of squabbling and scrapping that those of us with brothers and sisters know very well. (What, you were an only child? No wonder you have so many issues and so few friends.)

Now, imagine if that competition began before you were even born—like, in the womb! Imagine fighting for space, air, and nutrients before you even knew you were competing: that's some intense rivalry, right? It's the sort of thing that might even continue into your 'tween years when your mom and dad set up your vanity Web site so all the world can decide which one of their kids is better. (What, your parents didn't set up a vanity web site for you? They probably also neglected to get you immunized, because, let's face it, they clearly hated your sorry ass.)

Take the Web site devoted to Dylan and Cole Sprouse, the Italian-born but now very all-American young actors who starred in Big Daddy, and play Ross Geller's son Ben on Friends. (Hey, these guys also have indie cred: they're in The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, Asia Argento's adaptation of JT Leroy's short story collection.)

Judging by the "versus-themed" graphics sampled above, which Dylan and Cole's parents have incorporated into DC Sprouse.com, brotherhood is even more competitive when the brothers are budding stars.

With that in mind, we're settling this debate once and for all. Like the Civil War, this is brother versus brother: who will win, Dylan, or Cole?

Continue reading...
Posted at 12:59 PM in a Shallow, Versus fashion.
Get well soon (our meanest-spirited post ever)

Awww, John...We hear that you've been hospitalized with a bout of the ol' gallstone pancreatitis, and for that, we're truly sorry. We are, however, thankful that you have healthcare, unlike millions of uninsured Americans. And, if worse comes to worse, we're sure you can find someone to help foot the bill, as you did when you were merely a senator from Missouri in the 1990s:

"Between 1994 and 1998 the pharmaceutical industry, insurance industry and various anti-consumer healthcare lobbies paid out nearly $1 million in contributions to Ashcroft's reelection campaign. Ashcroft returned the favor on multiple occasions: Four times in the last year he voted against prescription-drug benefits for Medicaid recipients; twice he helped kill the bipartisan Patients' Bill of Rights, which would have allowed consumers to sue managed-care companies for delayed or denied care. He also backed a phony business-sponsored Patients' Bill of Rights that would prohibit consumers from suing their managed-care providers."

Come on, John, get well soon! Everyday you're out of commission as our Attorney General is a day that America is that much more unsafe; the USA PATRIOT Act and its sequel both feel somehow less substantive; Gitmo feels less secure, and we fear that hundreds of prisoners may in fact receive an actual trial; Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi might as well be on parole, and--this is embarrassing--we're blushing as we gaze upon Justice's exposed bosom, heaving ever-so-nakedly in your absence.

Let the eagle soar, John! Let it soar!

Posted at 11:16 AM in a Grave fashion.
  March 4, 2004
Mustang Viggo

Beautiful Beasts: Viggo Mortensen and his costars

Hidalgo opens tomorrow in theaters everywhere. Based on the trailer, the film appears to be about the passionate bond between scruffy Viggo Mortensen and his strikingly beautiful horse.

Haven't we seen this movie already? Wasn't it called A Perfect Murder?

What's the deal with Viggo and ungulates? It's not just the Spence-educated variety, it's the real ones, too.

The director's edition DVD of The Lord of the Ring: The Two Towers restores several scenes that show the deep bond between Aragorn and his horse, Brego. This is no mere directorial indulgence, it's apparently vital to the Rings trilogy.

According to the copy on the back of the Aragorn and Brego collector's toy:

Aragorn found a kinship with Brego, the wild horse of Rohan's late Prince Theodred, who had been cut down by orcs at the Fords of Isen. Brego was traumatized by the loss of his lord, but Aragorn's gentle hand stayed the beast's fear, and in time he came to bear the king in exile as faithfully as he had once borne the Prince of Rohan.
Well, that clears that right up.

Ladies, if you love Viggo (that means you, Alex K.!), be sure to wash your hair with some Kiehl's Equine Shampoo before galloping off to see Hidalgo. At least one person in the relationship should have clean, shiny hair.

Related: Hidalgo also features C. Thomas Howell. It's been a long while, gentle friend, beloved soul man.

Posted at 7:32 PM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 3, 2004
CNN: Your news, ironied

(Click the thumbnail above to enlarge the image)

As this CNN.com screenshot from this morning's headlines indicate, sometimes web publishing software seems to reveal some sort of virtual Lewis Black residing within--vitriolic anger and sarcasm pushing forth to convey a broader message while working within the tedium of the mundane, i.e. code, technology, news, headlines, whatever...

Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'm not the one who's conflated the developments in Iraq with those of the War on Terror™. That was the Bush administration's initiative, you'll recall.

Posted at 3:22 PM in a Grave fashion.
  March 2, 2004
Lost Among the Debris: History


According to a caption in today's New York Times, the AP Photo above shows "Looters on Monday at the house of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, where family and school pictures lay among the debris." (Haitian Rebels Enter Capital; Aristide Bitter, by Tim Weiner and Lydia Polgreen)

What is not stated, is that the painting in the foreground depicts Toussaint L'Ouverture, the revolutionary who lead the slave revolt that brought freedom to Haiti, the first free Black republic in the world.

This would be like seeing a painting of Thomas Jefferson or George Washington amid a pile of post-revolution trash at the White House and calling it "personal effects and ephemera."

See also: The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (non-fiction account);
All Souls' Rising, by Madison Smartt Bell (fictionalized account).

Posted at 4:41 PM in a Grave fashion.
Unintentionally Hilarious Photo of the Moment, vol. 15


Posted at 1:30 PM in a Grave, Unintentionally Hilarious fashion.
Return of the King

The Real Messiah: Tony Soprano and His disciples, (photo by Annie Leibovitz)

The Sopranos returns to HBO this Sunday. The show's been on hiatus for fifteen months, but returns just in time to save the world.

Maybe you've heard about the little culture war going on in America right now: frightening religious evangelism at the muliplexes, a bigoted election year proposal for a new Constitutional amendment , Clear Channel pulling Howard Stern from radio stations under pressure from the FCC, seemingly endless debate about a pop singer's exposed breast. What we need right now is something to unify us, something we can all get behind. The Sopranos may just be the thing.

What we also need is a strong leader, someone who understands the moral ambiguities of this world but has the clear(ish) vision to (mostly) know the difference between right and wrong and who even occasionally does the right thing. Someone who has a leadership philosophy personally cobbled together from Sun Tzu and "that book Prince Matchabelli," rather than handed to him by Karl Rove and Hop on Pop.

Re-enter Tony Soprano, and not a minute too soon.

Tony may seem like an unlikely hero, but who else do we have? (Superman? Guy's a total fuckin' square.) In Tony, we get a hero these times deserve: He's powerful, but gentle, decisive, but racked by insecurities. Tony's complicated, off-center sense of morality is the perfect antidote to the simplistic manichean world views of our elected officials and the supercilious 'talking heads' who attempt to contextualize them for us on TV.

Tony knows this world is fucked, which is why he feels it's up to each of us to define our own destinies. As he told his shrink in the first episode of the series "It's good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that, I know. But lately I'm getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over."

If that's not a "God is dead" for our century, what is? (Ask Anthony, Jr. who said "God is dead" and he'll tell you "Nitsch".) Through his actions and the ways he deals with their consequences, Tony shows us that we all in our own ways upset the moral ecology: if there's a shit storm all around you, you better look in the mirror before you shake your fist at the sky.

With the return of The Sopranos, we'll all finally have something to talk about besides the election, terrorism, the economy, and conflicting interpretations of family values. (Well, those of us willing and able to pay for HBO, at least.) And Slate will bring back its panel of shrinks to analyze the show for us, instead of relying on pundits to read the entrails of the body politic. Soon, Tony and Carmela will return to magazine covers and supplant that other power-hungry dynastic clan. And what a great day that will be.

Besides, this culture war's gone on long enough, hasn't it? Let's bring on the entertainment. It's gotten to the point where no one can even remember why the war started in the first place. As Tony once said, "This whole war could have been averted. Cunnilingus and psychiatry brought us to this."

That's almost a little kinda true, right?

The Sopranos airs Sunday at 9PM EST on HBO.

Posted at 8:16 AM in a Shallow fashion.
  March 1, 2004
Exclusive: low culture blogs the Oscars®!


low culture asked Matt Haber's dog to blog the 76th Academy Awards ("The Oscars®," to those in the industry) in real time. Here's her report from the biggest night in show biz:

8:30: I wonder if there's anything left in my bowl. Sometimes I go back into the kitchen and there's still a couple of pieces of food in my bowl for me. Maybe I should check.

8:32: Nothing in the bowl. Do I want water? Okay, a little sip.

8:33: Uch, I'm so itchy.

8:33: Ahhhhhhh... Scratching feels so good.

8:35: I wonder if there's anything left in my bowl.

8:35: Damnit. Do I want water?

9:00: I'm not sleeping, just resting my eyes. I'm not even tired—

9:52: Itchy ear, itchy ear! Okay, that's better. Maybe I should rest my eyes some more...

Continue reading...
Posted at 10:35 AM in a Shallow fashion.
Make our "team" part of your "team"
jean-paul tremblayJean-Paul Tremblay written-ed, directed and co-produced a bunch of so-called "comedy" and "video" content, is notoriously competitive, and nonetheless settles for bottom-tier tokenism. Repped by John Herndon at Grape Dope Entertainment. Thrill jockey!
matt haberMatt Haber has written for The New York Times, Esquire, and The New York Observer. He is not allergic to pet dander and can do "ethnic" accents if the part calls for it. He is repped by Candy Addams at Entertainment 4-Every-1. Feeling special?
Guy Cimbalo is so cute! Yes, he is. Who's a cute little Guy? You are, you are! Guy's our very own star of stage and screen and is repped by Jeff Kwatinetz at The Firm. Rowr!
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