Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Totally

One of the great unblanaces in the movie world has apparently been remedied: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have starred together in a film called Surfer, Dude (via Need Coffee):

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Economic stimulus loafers

Another Metafilter post:
The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker. "Istanbul-based Baydan Ayakkabicilik ...has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said..."
And another set of great comments:

Other investment opportunities: Segway, Rold Gold pretzels. A person could start a whole mutual fund around this!
posted by penduluum at 7:15 AM on December 21

Quick, someone throw a Chevy at him!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:38 AM on December 21

The Invisible Hand is throwing shoes now, apparently.
posted by Bromius at 7:41 AM on December 21

Steve Jobs is holding a MacBook Air and thinking....
posted by eriko at 7:56 AM on December 21

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"This is a bus."

Courtesy of Need Coffee, I would like to leave you with this slice of hilarity before we all venture into this last busy weekend before Christams. Enjoy:

What's up, Youngblood?



More here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What if the headscarf was made out of the Stars and Bars?

How many things do the Cheese-eating surrender monkeys of France and the Chambliss-electing good 'ol boys of Georgia have in common? Well, as of today, exactly ONE!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Oh, to be in England..."

Many thanks to Red and White for alerting me to this analysis over at politics.co.uk:
Britons should be proud of their differences here. Any discrimination against believers would be as despicable as reacting against atheists, but the country has found a winning formula by being entirely uninterested. By making religion a non-issue we keep our options open as to which politicians represent us, and live up to the ideals of our enlightenment forefathers. They wanted religion out of politics for two reasons: so no-one was discriminated against, and so its absolutism was kept out of the complex and nuanced world of actual policy making.
Go read the whole thing here.

"I love it when a plan comes together."

Roger Ebert's Little Movie Glossary contains great observations from both Ebert and his readers about film conventions that have developed over the years. Here's one of my own:

In any film that involves a plan of action, you can be guaranteed of the following:

(A) If the plan is explained in detail for the audience, then something (or multiple things) will go wrong with it (Back to the Future, The Great Escape and The Dirty Dozen).

(B) If the plan is partially or entirely concealed from the audience, it will most likely go off without a hitch (Ocean's Eleven, The Sting and Where Eagles Dare).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Acrentropy's Guide to DVD Multi-Packs

As I've mentioned in previous posts, I've become a big fan of DVD Multi-Packs. These are cheap DVD sets that have at least three or more movies in one set (or any number of classic TV show episodes). The films and episodes are usually in public domain or are just obscure titles that cost very little to procure the rights to. In other words, they are Dollar Store DVD's on a grander scale.

To some, this may not sound like an appealing package. Many of these titles are forgotten for a reason, and the transfers often leave a lot to be desired. But that's part of the diamond-in-the-rough pleasure of seeking these sets out.

As these kinds of sets have gained in popularity, more and more companies have entered the market. Even the big studios have been putting out relatively inexpensive two, three and four packs of films great and not-so-great. But when it comes to bang for your buck, it's best to go for the cheapies. Here's a rundown of the companies to look for:

(Reviewer's Note: I'm not testifying to transfer quality on these titles. Most of these companies do not do painstaking restoration efforts for such obscure films, so I assume that identical titles in different sets are relatively similar in appearance.)



Name: Mill Creek Entertainment
Number: 10, 20, 50, 100 and 250 packs.

Mill Creek is the BMOC when it comes to multi-packs. Though they only started selling them four years ago, their catalog has grown substantially in number, quality and variety since then. The packaging and discs themselves are first rate, and I own quite a few of them myself (including the four pictured above). I have found that one disadvantage of owning so many is that quite a few of the titles are repeated in different sets. But given the budget price you pay, it's a very minor complaint.

One of the most impressive aspects of Mill Creek is their web presence. The company website is easy to navigate and provides information on every single title in each set, including which of the different sets include said title (in case you want to avoid double dipping). Their latest innovation is their own YouTube channel, where they are posting clips of each film so that you can have a preview of the titles (and the quality of the transfer) before you buy. If you're a newbie to multi-packs, I highly recommend going with Mill Creek your first time out.


Name: Pendulum Pictures
Number: 6, 50 and 100 packs.

Pendulum Pictures is a new offshoot of Mill Creek that deals exclusively in very recent, low budget horror. Now as much as I love Mill Creek, I have to advise extreme caution to anyone tempted to purchase one of these sets. There is a big difference between low budget camp of yesteryear and painfully horrid acting of the here and now. Most of these are from young, amateur filmmakers who have the budget for a digital camera, buckets of fake blood and that's about it. The diamond-in-the-rough theory applies to these films as well, but the slogging may be more pain than most people will be willing to endure (just ask Nathan Shumate).



Name: St. Clair Entertainment
Number: Anywhere between 8 and 13, mostly.

Even more so than Mill Creek, St. Clair has been one of the most pervasive companies putting out multi-packs in stores. They also have a uniform (if cartoony) appearance with a colored stripe on top and a numeral that announces the number of hours of entertainment per set. The titles they list are the same kind of public domain movies you see in other sets, but they do have a wide variety of themed packages to choose from (including a "Bible Time" set).

Recently, they have been experimenting with new packaging styles, but they don't seem to have decided on a specific one yet. In addition to the last two above, there is a third that is a very classy black & white look that I've recently seen on the shelves at BJ's. The titles are mostly the same, and one has to wonder if the different looks are there to fool customers into buying multiple sets with the same titles.



Name: BCI Eclipse (aka Brentwood aka Navarre)
Number: 4, 8 and 10.

BCI has been around for longer than Mill Creek and also has an impressive catalog of titles. My very first multi-pack was the "Galactica" Sci-Fi set (which I reviewed here) and it was what got me initially hooked. There's a lot of confusion as to what the company is called and who owns who (I have always called them Brentwood). And in terms of their website, it's the polar opposite of Mill Creek's in terms of accessibility. The interface makes it appear as a purely corporate, money making endeavor, which doesn't really jibe with the care that clearly has gone into making these sets over the years.

But recently, they have done a radical redesign with their products. "Eight" is now the magic number and the films aren't as obscure as they used to be. Now they're putting down money for film titles that are very familiar to anyone who browsed video stores in the eighties and nineties. Some crisp cover art and a clear listing of the enclosed titles (in the original font, no less) really have a professional sheen to them. Granted, many of the titles are on the level of Porkys, but there is no doubt an audience for these, and Brentwood is producing a quality package.


Name: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
Number: Completely random.

In terms of number, Echo Bridge is one of the few companies that dare venture into Mill Creek's territory of packs larger than 20 films. Unfortunately, their numbers (and packaging) are all over the place, which makes customer loyalty a bit of a problem. Their lack of focus may be due to the fact that multi-packs appear to be only a small portion of their product line, as their website does not seem to have a separate section that lists them. However, they do seem to have some "adult" genres that other companies do not offer.



Name: Allegro Video
Number: 2, 4 and 10.

Allegro, like St. Clair, also seems to be experimenting with packaging styles. This includes one series that has a classy black & white background with the featured actor front and center and a clear list of the titles included. When you look at so many of these different packages with their jumbled and crowded cover art, such a professional presentation is a pleasant relief.

However, it must be said that one of these packages performs some misdirection that other companies such as Mill Creek are also guilty of. Nearly all of the companies that do multi-packs have a John Wayne package because there are a number of JW titles in the public domain. However, most of them feature cover art of an older Rio Bravo-era Wayne. In reality, with the exception of Mclintock!, all of the PD films are early B&W pre-Stagecoach films. It's still the Duke, but it's not quite the Duke we know and love. So be forewarned.



Name: Vintage Home Entertainment
Number: 3 and 6.

Vintage keeps it simple with their catalog: Either it's three movies on one disc or six movies on two discs. Such consistency and low numbers may also appeal to those who want to start small in dealing with multi-packs. Also, as I mentioned with John Wayne, be also wary of cheap Alfred Hitchcock packs. All of them contain fuzzy transfers of his British films before he came over to the states. Again, it's still the Hitch, but there's no James Stewart or Cary Grant to be found here.



Name: Viedoasia
Number: 6, 10 and 20.

Videoasia reaps most of their reward courtesy of Quentin Tarantino. All one has to do to see their inspiration is look at QT's last two films: Kill Bill and Death Proof. The result is a relishing of the Martial Arts and Grindhouse genres. Like the new Brentwood 8-movie sets, these are some slick packages that go the extra mile to procure titles that have not been done to death in this market. They are easily found in Best Buy and could be giving Mill Creek a run for their money with their cool veneer.

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?"

Let's have a round of applause for Matthew Belinkie at overthinkingit.com for creating this piece of pure genius. It just flows so well. My hat is off to you, sir:



Incidentally, the music is from one of my favorite films, Henry V. You see a bit of it near the end, and it is possibly the greatest of the speeches featured here (it's certainly the oldest).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Bruges

Golden Globes Nominees. Clint and Woody. Sean and Heath. Blah, blah, blah.

The most surprising thing from the list was the inclusion of In Bruges. I had heard good stuff about this film before I popped in the DVD earlier this year, but I was really bowled over at how smart and touching it was. It may look like your standard Guy Ritchie-esque violent comedy (and there are definitely elements of that present), but it's so much more. Congrats.

Monday, December 08, 2008

More fun with IMDb trivia

From Back to the Future:

The device originally considered for use as the time travel machine was a refrigerator. Director Robert Zemeckis said in an interview that the idea was scrapped because he and Steven Spielberg did not want children to start climbing into refrigerators and getting trapped inside.
Hmm. I guess Stevie changed his mind about that. Too bad Zemeckis wasn't around to warn him against making crappy sequels.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

All I want for Chistmas is...

Boing Boing posts about all kinds of off-the-wall items, but it also has a number of recurrent themes on their posts: Steampunk, Creative Commons and Disney's Haunted Mansion, just to name a few. Another is bookcases, which as a bibliophile I can totally get behind. However, most of the ones they feature are too esoteric for my rather conventional tastes. Then they posted this little number earlier today:


I so want one of these.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be for sale (and it looks like it would be a pain in the butt to build by hand). Oh well, it looks like we're sticking with the Target pressboard we already have (sigh).

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Not heeding the 13th Apostle

In Dogma, Rufus (Chris Rock) states that Jesus' biggest complaint with mankind was the factioning of the religions. Not that I expect for church leaders to watch Dogma (let alone take advice from it), It's nonetheless sad to see their continued determination to piss Jesus off.

Theological conservatives upset by the liberal views of the Episcopal Church are forming a rival denomination.

The new Anglican Church in North America will include four Episcopal dioceses that recently split from the U.S. church, along with breakaway Anglican parishes from Canada.

The announcement Wednesday in Wheaton, Illinois, comes after decades of debate over what Episcopalians should believe about issues ranging from salvation to sexuality. Tensions erupted in 2003 when Episcopalians consecrated the first openly gay bishop.

The world Anglican Communion is a fellowship of churches with roots in the Church of England. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States. But the new North American church says it represents true Anglican beliefs.
Why don't they just call it the "Republican Church" and just get it over with?

Next up, jokes about Dunn & Bradstreet

I watched The Big Bus last night, which is kind of an Airplane-type goofy comedy that predates Airplane by four years. As with that later film, the jokes sometime go hard and fast, and when you have that density of jokes, you can afford to put in ones that only a few people (like, say, librarians) would get.

At some point during the film, the driver discovers a bomb underneath the bus. When he tells his girlfriend about it over the walkie talkie, she asks him if it has a red and white dial in the bottom right corner. When the driver says yes, the camera cuts to her in the front of the bus reading from an over sized blue book titled Jane's Book Of Bombs.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Somebody still has some anger issues.

While many liberals have decided to finally put Bush out of their minds now that the age of Obama is upon us, others are not as willing to let bygones be bygones.

The Onion's "In Brief" news section usually has headlines that tells the joke and then a paragraph-long story that expounds on it, such as "Financial Planner Advises Shorter Life Span". But in the past two weeks, it has featured two Bush stories that didn't really have a punchline. On the nineteenth, the story "Crocodile Bites Off Bush's Arm" was posted, and then nine days later the headline "Bush Passes Three-Pound Kidney Stone" was published.

There are no exaggerations in the story body that signals the joke (such as Bush heroically taking his severed arm and beating the crocodile to death). The two stories are told very straight as if these events actually happened. The commonality here, of course, is that Bush endures unbelievable pain in both instances. Could it be that someone at the Onion feels that karma is not moving fast enough and that we need to engage in fictional schadenfreude? It appears so.

Speaking for myself, I'm more in the camp of moving on instead of looking back. And as for the Onion, they should probably just stick to comedy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Giancarlo Esposito Quote of the Month: December 2008

We end the year with a TV movie, but one which has the pedigree of a stellar TV series backing it up.

Homicide: The Movie comes at the end of the crime series' seven series run. I only caught a handful of episodes myself, but I could tell the quality just from that glimpse. Giancarlo's character only came in for the last season, which then transferred to the movie. He joined the regular cast (including Quote of the Month alumn Yaphet Kotto) to send the show out on a grand note. From what I've read, they did. And Giancarlo's Officer Giardello gets one of the last lines:

Det. Frank Pembleton: "Death is every day. Death goes on... and on and on."

Officer Mike Giardello: "And that's because life... goes on and on."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Brandie Tarvin and the Blue Kingdoms

Allow me to introduce you to Ms. Brandie Tarvin.

Ms. Tarvin is an author who has contributed short stories to both volumes of the Blue Kingdoms Fantasy series. The first is "Just my Luck" in Pirates of the Blue Kingdoms and the second is "The Monster of Mogahnee Bay" in Shades & Specters. She is also an old friend of mine, and when she recently asked me to write reviews of these two stories, I was happy to oblige.

At first glance, the stories in Blue Kingdoms resemble many of the pirate stories we've all been exposed to over the years. However, once the reader sees words like "half-elf" in the narrative, they soon realize that this world promises to be a bit more interesting that your average seafaring yarn.

"Just my Luck" introduces us to Captain Sheldon, a man who stumbled into piracy after a run of bad luck. We quickly learn about his ship The Hidden Treasure and his colorful crew that could drive a lesser man to drink. Into all this comes a hapless sailor babbling in a foreign dialect and clutching a seemingly useless scroll. He appears harmless, but Captain Sheldon is about to discover just how much worse his luck can get.

Ms. Tarvin makes a great choice by dropping the story into the aftermath of a storm. It's a wonderful way to introduce the ship and the crew amidst their scurrying around and affecting repairs. The eclectic crew quickly signal that this story will have it's share of comedy, and though it took me a second reading to nail down all of the characters, each is given their own moments to shine in the course of the story.

The heart of this tale is that of a comedy/swashbuckler, and it could have even worked without the fantasy elements in play. The aforementioned characters are funny and memorable. The action set piece is exciting given the odds our protagonist is up against. Ms. Tarvin even displays a subtle touch in her descriptions of their opponents that clearly tell the reader who they are without coming right out and saying it.

The way the story ends screams for a followup (you can practically hear the Muppets announcer intone, "Tune in next week when you'll hear yeoman Tick say..."). Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay the story is that I was left wanting to read the further adventures of Captain Sheldon and his rag tag crew.

Alas, this was not to be in the second book. It's probably for the better, though, as this volume strikes a far spookier tone than the first. "The Monster of Mogahnee Bay" concerns an isolated harbor town whose residents become excited when a strange ship enters it's waters. Everyone is pleased for this development, except for Glenda the harbormaster. She has her suspicions about the boat, and it's going to be a struggle to save the town from what lies in the belly of that black ship.

My biggest obstacle with this story concerns the town's isolation. We are told it is the result of a mysterious haze that has surrounded the island for fifty years and cuts it off from the outside world. No more information is offered beyond this, and for me this became a distraction. Though it certainly provides an excellent motivation for the townspeople to row out to the ship in increasing numbers, it could have done much more. The story could have gained a further level of fear and terror by describing how these people could have lived for fifty years without news, supplies and simple human contact.

Aside from this missed opportunity, the story is very well done. Ms. Tarvin easily changes from the light atmosphere of her first story to the heavy and foreboding one in her second. Glenda is a great protagonist and the reader is right there with her in her struggle against both the town and the black ship. The subplot of her relationship with Robert Hammerwright is touching. And I especially liked some of Ms. Tarvin's descriptions, such as the red silk that Glenda uses to try and save the town. All in all, a very fine ghost story that creates the perfect mood.

As a side note, I couldn't help but notice how moments in the two stories seem to echo moments in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. At the beginning of the first film, we have a scene where a boat comes across a person in the water. After he is brought aboard, it's revealed that he possess a magical artifact that some very bad guys are looking to get back, much like the plot of "Luck". A little later on in the first film, we see a dark, foreboding ship enter a harbor, bringing death to many of those people who live in the town as it does in "Moghanee". Even the end of "Moghanee" sees a character make a sacrifice very similar to the end of the third POTC film.

But this is nitpicking, and it's more a case of my having seen the trilogy way too many times than a shortcoming of Ms. Tarvin' stories. The classic way to start a story is for unknown elements to cross paths, and here we have an example of the protagonist finding trouble in the first story, and trouble finding the protagonist in the second. There is nothing new under the sun.

It all comes down to if the stories is entertaining, and they are that. Ms. Tarvin handles the divergent themes of the comic and the supernatural with a deft hand, and I personally look forward to her further works.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Enduring Popularity (and lack therof)

I went to a very crowded Best Buy this morning to see what Black Friday DVD deals they had. In the Comedy section, I found $4.99 sale tags for The Blues Brothers and Borat side by side.

The former was sold out while the later still had about three dozen copies, which seemed cosmicly just to me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thankful

Back in the early nineties, when I was a history major at UNF, I took several classes taught by Professor John Betlyon. Of course, "Professor" was only one of his hats. He was also a campus minister, a chaplain with the Army National Guard, and an amateur archaeologist. But my exposure to him was through his classes, and he quickly became my favorite professor.

His classes weren't easy, but his knowledge and passion for the material came through every time. I remember to this day one class where he talked about digging for ancient roman coins. He grabbed some loose change out of his pocket and then dropped the coins one at a time on the tabletop in front of him. He then talked about the distinctive ting sound that only gold made and how when you heard it, you could understand how some people can catch "gold fever". His lectures were often as enrapturing as that ting.

Add to all this the fact that he was a fan of Monty Python's Life of Brian and how could you not like the guy.

I Googled him recently to see what he was up to. I already knew that he had long left UNF and moved up to Pennsylvania. Turns out he has his own church up there (Trinity United Methodist Church in Hummelstown) and also lectures occasionally at Penn State. I also found from two sources that he had done a stint recently in Afghanistan. First, he was name checked in General Richardo Sanchez's biography. And second, he was mentioned in a student article on Penn State's The Daily Collegian a year ago. Here is the article in it's entirety:
Working as a chaplain with the National Guard in Afghanistan in 2003, John Betlyon reached out to local mullahs, also known as Islamic clerics, who had negative views of Americans.

Betlyon, lecturer in Jewish and religious studies, said the meetings helped to build bridges between the two cultures, and he still describes the situation as "amazing."

"They had heard all kinds of lies about us and we had heard things about them," he said. "We sat down together and shared meals and prayed together. Small steps were taken to break down the walls of prejudice and ignorance that divided us."

A recent letter signed by 138 Muslim leaders from around the world and addressed to Christian leaders also aims to break down the barriers dividing the religions by underscoring two common principles they share: love of one God and love of one's neighbor.

"Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world," the letter states.

These two principles are also common in Judaism, which the letter briefly mentions.

According to Newsweek, a letter from Muslim leaders to Jewish leaders is currently in progress.

Mansoor Aleidi, president of the Muslim Student Association, said it is important for people to understand the common beliefs the three religions share.

"[There is] conflict between religions in many areas of the world, so it is up to their religious leader to spread peace and dialogue between the religions, and the only way to do this is by interfaith dialogue," he said.

Some Penn State professors agree this is a step forward to opening dialogue with Muslims. Rabbi David Ostrich, lecturer of Jewish studies, said the three religions have a long history of interfaith relations.

"A lot of work and a lot of good progress has been made over the years, so they can learn to agree on some things, even though they may disagree on others," he said.

A. Daniel Frankforter, professor of history at Penn State Erie, said the letter seeks to stress the common bonds of the world's three major religions.

"What they're trying to do is remind the world that Judaism, Christianity and Islam are branches of one tradition," he said.

All three religions trace their ancestry back to Abraham, a figure who appears in the Quran, the Old Testament and the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible. Jews and Christians consider themselves descendants of Abraham through his son, Isaac, whereas Muslims trace their origins through Abraham's other son, Ishmael, Betlyon said.

The three religions are considered monotheistic and worship the same God, although Betlyon said some Muslims would argue otherwise because of Christians' belief in the Holy Trinity.

Despite this common heritage, Jews and Arabs fight each other today, Frankforter said.

"It is a little ironic that the Jews and Arabs have such a rocky relationship today," Frankforter said. "It makes a lot of sense to try and heal the gulfs that have developed between these peoples by expressing their cultural heritage."

Christians and Muslims continue to suffer strained relationships since the Crusades were fought starting in the late 11th century and continuing for several hundred years, Frankforter said.

"Most Europeans and Americans have shoved them into the background as history over and done with, but much of the history of the Crusades is still alive in the Middle East," he said.

"In the Middle East, there is a long tradition of a hostile Europe, a hostile West, which is very much the background of the diplomatic and military problem we face in that region now."

Betlyon recalled how the children in Afghanistan would run throughout the village without any shoes on in the winter.

In order to help, he said that he would help deliver boxes of clothes to the local mosque that would help people stay warm.

It was there that he said he learned of a conversation between a mullah and an Islamic elder."The elder asked the mullah, 'why are you dealing with the Americans? They're evil,' " Betylon said.

"The mullah responded, 'no, they're not evil; they're children of God, just like us.' "
This is the kind of thinking that enamors me not only to John Betlyon, but also to Barack Obama. As evidence by the interview excerpts I posted recently, Obama has a far more open point of view on religion than any politician we have ever had. The religious conservatives that spout their own hatreds on the radio and on television are not the majority of Christians, but rather the most vocal (just as Osama Bin Laden does not speak for all Muslims).

For all of Bush's faults, I don't believe he's one of these hateful Christians, either. But what he did do was allow these people to have a voice. Even if he disagreed with their extreme views he realized that (a) they were the ones that got him elected and (b) they were the ones that would support him in his wars. He could not denounce them too strongly for fear of alienating them, and so eight brutal years of their rhetoric has fermented a culture seen around the world as toxic.

These religious conservatives have now seen their power ebb with Obama's election, and now they have a competitor with an eloquence and intelligence that puts their bile to shame. I don't mean to be corny, here, but we have a hero in Barack Obama. He is a man that sees value in studying and respecting other faiths other than his own. This will be the key to our country's salvation.

And that's what I am thankful for.


Correction: Upon reading the section of Sanchez's biography that mentions Betlyon, I found that it didn't refer to Afghanistan but rather the General's earlier years at Fort Benning where Betlyon was assigned at the time. My bad.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"With wah-wah pedals playing constantly."

What makes me happy? Knowing that there are tons of MST3k material I haven't even seen yet. Witness the hilarity of "Progress Island" (Parts One and Two):



Worth it

You know, putting up with eight years of Bush has become worth it just so we can finally have such a rational, intelligent and compassionate man in the White House. The following are excerpts from a 2004 interview Obama did with the Chicago Sun-Times:

I am a Christian.

So, I have a deep faith. So I draw from the Christian faith.

On the other hand, I was born in Hawaii where obviously there are a lot of Eastern influences.

I lived in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, between the ages of six and 10.

My father was from Kenya, and although he was probably most accurately labeled an agnostic, his father was Muslim.

And I'd say, probably, intellectually I've drawn as much from Judaism as any other faith.(A patron stops and says, "Congratulations," shakes his hand. "Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Thank you.")

So, I'm rooted in the Christian tradition. I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people. That there are values that transcend race or culture, that move us forward, and there's an obligation for all of us individually as well as collectively to take responsibility to make those values lived.

And so, part of my project in life was probably to spend the first 40 years of my life figuring out what I did believe - I'm 42 now - and it's not that I had it all completely worked out, but I'm spending a lot of time now trying to apply what I believe and trying to live up to those values.

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I retain from my childhood and my experiences growing up a suspicion of dogma. And I'm not somebody who is always comfortable with language that implies I've got a monopoly on the truth, or that my faith is automatically transferable to others.

I'm a big believer in tolerance. I think that religion at it's best comes with a big dose of doubt. I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding.

I think that, particularly as somebody who's now in the public realm and is a student of what brings people together and what drives them apart, there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty.

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Alongside my own deep personal faith, I am a follower, as well, of our civic religion. I am a big believer in the separation of church and state. I am a big believer in our constitutional structure. I mean, I'm a law professor at the University of Chicago teaching constitutional law. I am a great admirer of our founding charter, and its resolve to prevent theocracies from forming, and its resolve to prevent disruptive strains of fundamentalism from taking root ion this country.

As I said before, in my own public policy, I'm very suspicious of religious certainty expressing itself in politics.

Now, that's different form a belief that values have to inform our public policy. I think it's perfectly consistent to say that I want my government to be operating for all faiths and all peoples, including atheists and agnostics, while also insisting that there are values that inform my politics that are appropriate to talk about.

A standard line in my stump speech during this campaign is that my politics are informed by a belief that we're all connected. That if there's a child on the South Side of Chicago that can't read, that makes a difference in my life even if it's not my own child. If there's a senior citizen in downstate Illinois that's struggling to pay for their medicine and having to chose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer even if it's not my grandparent. And if there's an Arab American family that's being rounded up by John Ashcroft without the benefit of due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

I can give religious expression to that. I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, we are all children of God. Or I can express it in secular terms. But the basic premise remains the same. I think sometimes Democrats have made the mistake of shying away from a conversation about values for fear that they sacrifice the important value of tolerance. And I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive.

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This is something that I'm sure I'd have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell.

I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell.

I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity.

That's just not part of my religious makeup.

Part of the reason I think it's always difficult for public figures to talk about this is that the nature of politics is that you want to have everybody like you and project the best possible traits onto you. Oftentimes that's by being as vague as possible, or appealing to the lowest common denominators. The more specific and detailed you are on issues as personal and fundamental as your faith, the more potentially dangerous it is.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"You know, for kids!"


I'll admit that it's been several decades since I let my Mad Magazine subscription lapse, but isn't this title somewhat redundant? What's next? Wired Geeks? Newsmax Morons?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And then there were three.

It is my pleasure to announce that Mrs. Mosley is currently nine weeks pregnant and the baby is expected to deliver on June 26th next year (as opposed to this year. That would require a Delorean).

And in the grand tradition of bloggers such as Matthew Baldwin, expect me to blather on and on about fatherhood both before and after the blessed day. Hey, you get what you pay for.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I have nothing to add to that

My desire to post lately has been pretty weak, and i suspect that with holidays taking up so much of my mental energy this will only get worse.

So, as with past instances of sparsity, here is some LEGO eye candy (brought to you by legoloverman, who was recently showcased over at Metafilter):




Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the VHS archives

This weekend saw a flurry of activity, including my going through old VHS tapes and deciding which ones to blank and get rid of. One of them included a trove of old music videos. Thankfully, in the age of YouTube, these are easier to part with, and here's three of the nicer ones that I favorited from that list:





Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ridley, Clue was a one-off. Don't make me come down there.

There is one popular Internet phrase that I have never used up until now, and I feel the occasion completely justifies my inauguration of it on this blog:

TEH STUPID, IT BURNS!

The Hasbro-Universal collaboration "Monopoly" is jumping a large number of spaces up the board.

The feature project has brought on Pamela Pettler to write the screenplay; She penned Tim Burton's "Corpse Bride," Gil Kenan's "Monster House" and the upcoming animated adventure "9," produced by Burton and Timur Bekmambetov.

And Ridley Scott, who has been attached as a producer on "Monopoly" and has been mentioned as a possible director, is now officially attached to helm the project, with an eye toward giving it a futuristic sheen along the lines of his iconic "Blade Runner."

Howard Hawks vs. Roger Corman

I was browsing through IMDb movie trivia the other day and found this little nugget from the entry for the Sci-Fi classic The Thing from Another World:

"James Arness complained that his 'Thing' costume made him look like a giant carrot."
For those who haven't seen the film, here's a shot of James Arness in full makeup:



Er, count your blessing, Jimbo. Otherwise this could have been your fate:


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Whadaya want for nothin? A rubber biscuit?"

I got my flu shot yesterday and suddenly I am very achy and miserable. So here's a link from my folder of miscellaneous links for your reading pleasure: A List of Regional Pizza Styles. Yum!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

"Whatever scares you the most."

I just can't get enough of this:

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Trust in the Defective Yeti

He made the prediction and he allayed our fears. And to sum up our feeling towards the 2008 election, Matthew Baldwin has created an alternative voting sticker. Thanks, Matthew.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The "Also Rans"

For those of you who have had enough hearing about Obama and would like some unique reading material regarding the election, I recommend this item from Salon. A snippet:
13. Richard Duncan: 3,500 votes

Richard Duncan, an Ohio real estate agent and perennial candidate from Ohio (the only state where he was on the ballot), polled 17 votes for President in 2004. In 2008, perhaps helped by a profile in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he made a better showing. His policy positions are vague, but that's all part of his "fresh, clean approach" to politics (or, for the more cynical, to promoting his band).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Brave Heart

For the past two weeks, I've been replaying a scene from Braveheart in my head.

The camera cuts back and forth between the charging enemy cavalry and Wallace's troops holding their line. Wallace yells out his command "HOLD!" three times as the tension mounts. Finally, once the cavalry are close enough, he yells out "NOW!". The troops drop their melee weapons, pick up the spears hidden in the tall grass and brace them into the ground. The cavalry, suffice to say, is decimated.

For the past two weeks, I have been holding my enthusiasm for the election for fear that my hopes would be dashed. Anything can happen in an election, particularly in the final weeks. And though I'm not a superstitious man, the threat of a jinx had a tangible quality for me. Therefore, while others were revelling in polls and the promise of a new Democratic administration, I have been holding it back, tension be damned.

Ah, but now, at 11:00pm on November 4th, 2008, as the major networks make the call, comes the sigh of relief and release.

Congratulations, President-Elect Obama. You earned it.

Here we go!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Seeing THE MAN himself

Mrs. Mosley and I took a little trip this morning down to Veterans Memorial Arena:




Saturday, November 01, 2008

How much farther, Papa Smurf?

Not far now.


Giancarlo Esposito Quote of the Month: November 2008

Amos & Andrew is a historical curiosity. I remember seeing the trailers for it before it came out in 1993 and being interested in it. After all, it starred Samuel Jackson (one year away from Pulp Fiction) and Nicholas Cage (one year after his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas). How bad could it be?

Pretty bad, as it turns out. I only made it through the first ten or fifteen minutes before starting to fast forward to the Giancarlo bits. All the race humor has aged very poorly and I'm guessing both Sam and Nick are both glad most people have forgotten about this thing.

As for Giancarlo, well, at least he drew a paycheck. He's mainly there to provide the "black people can be stupid too" balance the movie needs against all the Caucasian buffoonery running around. He plays a pastor that goes in to protest how Jackson's character is being treated. By the end of the movie, instead of helping him, his crowd accidentally sets Jackson's house on fire.

His first and last lines are identical, just to show up how clueless he is:

Reverend Fenton Brunch: "I told him. I told the brother about these so-called liberals up here on this damn island."

Friday, October 31, 2008

And Edward G. Robinson will lead them.

This is totally stupefying (via Boing Boing). How did this group of people get through this whole ceremony without once stopping to think, "Hey, I've seen this before...":
"We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion's Market,' or God's control over the economic systems. While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Click and Clack both thank you.

After hearing no less than three of my friends' names mentioned as donors to the Public Radio pledge drive this week, I went ahead and plopped down some cash myself this morning.

And if anyone else is within reading-range of this blog and hasn't donated yourself, I hereby order you to do so. Go. Now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

All Shook Up

Neatorama posted an item titled "Things You Probably Don’t Need, #1" yesterday, and the object of derision was a creepy lifesize animatronic Elvis head.



Apparently the thing can be had for only 200 bucks at SkyMall, but in case you are actually interested, I would caution you to check out your local Tuesday Morning store first. The one near my house has had three of these things on the shelf for quite a long time. Every month or so, I go check their toy aisle for any new discount LEGO and the three Elvis's are there to greet me: One on the top shelf, one on a middle shelf and one on the floor. I keep thinking they're going to start rolling and bouncing around like those giant disembodied heads in Spirited Away.

Oooh, there's some nightmare fuel for ya!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

MST3K: The List (revised)

It's been over two years since I posted a list of the MST3K episodes available on DVD. Since then, Volume 12 was released, Volume 10 was re-released with the Godzilla vs. Megalon disc removed (over rights issues) and replaced with The Giant Gila Monster, and the 20th anniversary set is being released today. Below is the updated list of episodes (those on DVD are in red).

K04 Gamera vs. Barugon
K05 Gamera
K06 Gamera vs. Gaos
K07 Gamera vs. Zigra
K08 Gamera vs. Guiron
K09 Phase IV
K10 Cosmic Princess
K11 Humanoid Woman
K12 Fugitive Alien
K13 SST Death Flight
K14 Mighty Jack
K15 Superdome
K16 City on Fire
K17 Time of the Apes
K18 The Million Eyes of Su-Muru
K19 Hangar 18
K20 The Last Chase
K21 The Legend of Dinosaurs

101 The Crawling Eye
102 Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (with short: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episode 1)
103 Mad Monster (with short: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episode 2)
104 Women of the Prehistoric Planet
105 The Corpse Vanishes (with short: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episode 3)
106 The Crawling Hand
107 Robot Monster (with shorts: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episodes 4 & 5)
108 The Slime People (with short: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episode 6)
109 Project Moonbase (with shorts: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episodes 7 & 8)
110 Robot Holocaust (with short: Commando Cody & the Radar Men from the Moon - Episode 9)
111 Moon Zero Two
112 Untamed Youth
113 The Black Scorpion

201 Rocketship X-M
202 Sidehackers
203 Jungle Goddess (with short: The Phantom Creeps - Episode 1)
204 Catalina Caper
205 Rocket Attack USA (with short: The Phantom Creeps - Episode 2)
206 The Ring of Terror (with short: The Phantom Creeps - Episode 3)
207 Wild Rebels

208 Lost Continent
209 The Hellcats
210 King Dinosaur (with short: X Marks the Spot)
211 First Spaceship on Venus
212 Godzilla vs. Megalon
213 Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster

301 Cave Dwellers
302 Gamera
303 Pod People
304 Gamera vs. Barugon
305 Stranded in Space
306 Time of the Apes
307 Daddy-O (with short: Alphabet Antics)
308 Gamera vs. Gaos
309 The Amazing Colossal Man
310 Fugitive Alien
311 It Conquered the World (with short: Snow Thrills)
312 Gamera vs. Guiron
313 Earth vs. the Spider (with short: Speech: Using your Voice)
314 Mighty Jack
315 Teenage Caveman (with shorts: Aquatic Wizards & Catching Trouble)
316 Gamera vs. Zigra
317 Viking Women and the Sea Serpent (with short: The Home Economics Story)
318 Star Force - Fugitive Alien II
319 War of the Colossal Beast (with short: Mr. B Natural)
320 The Unearthly (with shorts: Posture Pals & Appreciating Your Parents)
321 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
322 Master Ninja I
323 The Castle of Fu-Manchu
324 Master Ninja II

401 Space Travelers
402 The Giant Gila Monster
403 City Limits
404 Teenagers from Outer Space
405 Being from Another Planet
406 Attack of the Giant Leeches (with short: Undersea Kingdom - Episode 1)
407 The Killer Shrews (with short: Junior Rodeo Daredevils)

408 Hercules Unchained
409 Indestructible Man (with short: Undersea Kingdom - Episode 2)
410 Hercules Against The Moon Men

411 The Magic Sword
412 Hercules and the Captive Women
413 Manhunt in Space (with short: General Hospital - Part 1)
414 Tormented
415 The Beatniks (with short: General Hospital - Part 2)
416 Firemaidens of Outer Space
417 Crash of the Moons (with short: General Hospital - Part 3)
418 Attack of the Eye Creatures
419 The Rebel Set (with short: Johnny at the Fair)
420 The Human Duplicators
421 Monster A-Go-Go (with short: Circus on Ice)
422 The Day the Earth Froze (with short: Here Comes the Circus)
423 Bride of the Monster (with short: Hired! - Part 1)
424 Manos, The Hands of Fate (with short: Hired! - Part 2)

501 Warrior of the Lost World
502 Hercules
503 Swamp Diamonds (with short: What to Do On A Date)
504 Secret Agent Super Dragon
505 Magic Voyage of Sinbad
506 Eegah!
507 I Accuse My Parents (with short: The Truck Farmer)
508 Operation Double 007
509 Girl in Lover's Lane
510 The Painted Hills (with short: Body Care & Grooming)
511 Gunslinger
512 Mitchell
513 The Brain That Wouldn't Die
514 Teen-age Strangler (with short: Is This Love?)

515 Wild, Wild World of Batwoman (with short: Cheating)
516 Alien from L.A.
517 Beginning of the End
518 The Atomic Brain (with short: What About Juvenile Delinquency?)

519 Outlaw
520 Radar Secret Service (with short: Last Clear Chance)
521 Santa Claus
522 Teenage Crimewave
523 Village of the Giants
524 12 To the Moon (with short: Design for Dreaming)

601 Girls Town
602 Invasion USA (with short: A Date With Your Family)
603 The Dead Talk Back (with short: The Selling Wizard)
604 Zombie Nightmare
605 Colossus and the Head Hunters
606 The Creeping Terror
607 Bloodlust
608 Code Name: Diamond Head (with short: A Day at the Fair)
609 The Skydivers (with short: Why Study Industrial Arts?)
610 The Violent Years (with short: Young Man's Fancy)
611 Last of the Wild Horses
612 The Starfighters
613 The Sinister Urge (with short: Keeping Clean & Neat)

614 San Francisco International
615 Kitten with a Whip
616 Racket Girls (with short: Are You Ready For Marriage?)
617 The Sword and the Dragon
618 High School Big Shot (with short: Out of This World)
619 Red Zone Cuba (with short: Speech: Platform, Posture & Appearance)
620 Danger!! Death Ray
621 The Beast of Yucca Flats (with shorts: Money Talks! & Progress Island)
622 Angel's Revenge
623 The Amazing Transparent Man (with short: The Days of Our Years)
624 Samson vs. The Vampire Women

701 Night of the Bloodbeast (with short: Once Upon a Honeymoon)
702 The Brute Man (with short: The Chicken of Tomorrow)
703 Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell
704 The Incredible Melting Man
705 Escape 2000
706 Laserblast

801 Revenge of the Creature
802 The Leech Woman
803 The Mole People
804 The Deadly Mantis
805 The Thing That Couldn't Die
806 The Undead
807 Terror from the Year 5000
808 The She Creature
809 I Was a Teenage Werewolf
810 Giant Spider Invasion
811 Parts: The Clonus Horror
812 The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living & Became Mixed-Up Zombies

813 Jack Frost
814 Riding With Death
815 Agent for H.A.R.M.
816 Prince of Space
817 Horror of Party Beach
818 Devil Doll
819 Invasion of the Neptune Men
820 Space Mutiny
821 Time Chasers

822 Overdrawn at the Memory Bank

901 The Projected Man
902 The Phantom Planet
903 Puma Man
904 Werewolf
905 The Deadly Bees
906 Space Children (with short: Century 21 Calling)
907 Hobgoblins
908 The Touch of Satan
909 Gorgo
910 The Final Sacrifice
911 Devil Fish
912 Screaming Skull (with short: Robot Rumpus)
913 Quest of the Delta Knights

1001 Soultaker
1002 The Girl in Gold Boots
1003 Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders

1004 Future War
1005 Blood Waters of Dr. Z
1006 Boggy Creek II
1007 Track of the Moon Beast
1008 Final Justice
1009 Hamlet
1010 It Lives by Night
1011 Horrors of Spider Island
1012 Squirm (with short: A Case of Spring Fever)
1013 Danger: Diabolik

Monday, October 27, 2008

Keeping us honest

In the search for someone to blame, one of the groups McCain supporters are pointing to is the ever-scorned Mainstream Media for declaring Obama virtually the winner long before election day. Since they blame the MSM for everything else, it should come as no surprise that they blame them for simply reporting the polls as they stand. They got nothing else.

Besides, it's a simple truth that the media, in terms of elections, don't like landslides. They like horse races that make it interesting and suspenseful until the wee hours of November 5th. As evidence, have a look at Slate this morning, which featured as one of it's three top stories this headline:



Click on it, and your presented with the latest map (with electoral vote count):



"Closing the gap", indeed. Obama needs 270 electoral votes to win and he has all but two of that number in the "Safe Dem" column. Hell, even McCain's home state of Arizona has gone from "Safe" to "Lean Republican". Say what you will of Reagan's landslide in 1984, at least Mondale retained his home state.

But I'm not getting cocky. Keep counting, folks.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

"There'll be pork in the treetops come morning!"

A quick note: One new poll has Obama slightly ahead in Georgia.

Georgia.

That is all.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"It Conquered the World" Redux Trailer

My latest YouTube project, which took long enough to complete:



For those of you unfamiliar with the original, go check out the IMDb page.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"They're not going to throw good money after bad."

This Yahoo! story provides a companion piece to the Slate analysis I mentioned in my previous post. Here's a sample:
Republicans attuned to conservative third-party efforts say that with less than two weeks to go until Election Day, the prospects for any 11th-hour, anti-Obama ad campaigns are highly unlikely.

Many in the party, including inside the McCain campaign, have held out hope that a deep-pocketed benefactor would emerge to bankroll ads in the campaign's final days — spots that might, for example, resurrect the most incendiary clips from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

But thanks largely to lack of passion for McCain within the conservative base, diminished hopes that he can win and a sharp decline in the stock market that has badly pinched donors' pockets, veteran Republican operatives say it appears almost certain that what could be the most damaging line of attack against the Democratic nominee will be left on the shelf.

"It's Oct. 21, and if you can't say it by Oct. 21, then chances are you're not going to say anything," said Chris LaCivita, the strategist behind the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004. LaCivita has been working for a new conservative third-party group this year, the American Issues Project.

That group, known in the political community as AIP, was eyed by some in the GOP as a potential major player in taking on Obama. It spent nearly $3 million in key states in August on a tough ad tying the Illinois senator to '60s-era domestic terrorist William Ayers and promised additional spots in the fall campaign.

That never happened.

"Donors just weren't willing to give the money," explains LaCivita. "They were hurt badly in the market crash and they were always concerned about how McCain would react."

The timing of the financial crisis couldn't have been worse for Republicans. When Lehman Brothers went under on Sept. 15, McCain was tied or in the margin of error in national polls. But when his poll numbers fell along with the stock market, wealthy conservatives saw little reason to invest their shrunken holdings on what was far from a sure thing.

"Republican donors, at the end of day, aren't stupid," said another Republican familiar with third-party activities this cycle. "They're not going to throw good money after bad."

And it wasn't just the economic bad news — McCain did little to help his own cause.

Two Republican sources involved in third-party groups said the Arizona senator's second debate performance in early October, a pivotal moment in the campaign when he and running mate Sarah Palin had begun to ratchet up their attacks, was deflating to some donors.

These sources said that after McCain didn't use the Nashville debate to aggressively go after Obama, one prominent conservative financier remarked: "I'm not going to bother investing anymore."

Money can't buy happiness.

That's true, though I also believe that it can make certain amounts of unhappiness go away.

I though of this while reading this article on Slate. I'm keeping myself from getting cocky about Obama's chances (though there is a submerged part of me that is perpetually giddy these days). But when I read the article above, there was a nice sigh of relief knowing that one of those major stresses of life ("Do we have enough money to pay for everything?") is pretty much a non-issue for the Obama campaign less than two weeks before the election.

And the most sublime part of all is that the money came from his supporters like myself and Mrs. Mosley. It reminded me of a quote from Markos Moulitsas, which neatly sums up the entire election:
"There's one other delicious irony at work -- don't you find it funny that McCain, the Republican, is embracing government funding for the election while Obama, the Democrat, would rather be self-reliant?"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One number goes down...




...and another number goes up.



Just keep on counting.

Salon gets letters

I second Alex Koppelman's reaction to this letter: Wow.
I am sick to death of the negativity and lack of substance offered by McCain's campaign. The Ayrs [sic] "connection" is ludicrous, and the attempt to paint the "good touch, bad touch" training program for kiddoes is disgusting. Books could, and will be written about Palin's shallowness, and the arrogance that attempted to foist her on us. If these are products of the "'Straight Talk' Express" then I'd hate to see full blown Bushism.

BTW, I am a white Southerner, the descendant of a Civil War-era Tory. My family was voting Republican by 1868, if not 1864 -- way before all these Johnny-come-latelies, whose ancestors were in the Klan. Regardless, I cannot stand any more hubris, incompetence, cronyism, profiteering, lies, malfeasance, mismanagement, or perversion of justice -- whether by Bush, his enablers in Congress, or their successors.

I have guns and plenty of them. I am not fearful of losing them.

I have several Bibles. I am free to read them or not; and to interpret them as I wish. I am not fearful of losing that, either.

And I am not looking over my shoulder for some gay who will ask for my hand in marriage. And even if one were to do so, all I need do is decline.

I believe in the literal truth of the Bible; and I believe in my heart that it teaches abortion is murder. But the GOP has been in power more than long enough to overturn that. I conclude that it is not going away.

The concern I have -- greater than "God, guns, and gays" -- is going to war for a pack of lies. Bush's hands are bloodier than any abortion doctor's and he has exchanged the nation's moral high ground for a miry pit. He has perverted justice, and permitted Alberto Gonzales and Monica Goodling to pervert Justice. And I don't think Bush has the capacity to even realize that he's done anything wrong.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Blaxploitation 101

It's an unanswerable mystery of life that this didn't make it into the AFI 100 Quotes List (NSFW):



Hat Tip to Metafilter for informing us of the dearly departed mothaf&ka.

Saturday, October 18, 2008