MY MOTHER, THE CONSPIRACY THEORIST...
Pretty much the first thing my mother told me when she woke me up
this morning was that she doesn't believe that the gas released by the train crash in Graniteville, South Carolina
was really concentrated chlorine. She thinks it's likely that the American military was transporting something more sinister, since they're making the people evacuated shower and burn whatever clothes they were wearing.
Let's see what the Chicago Tribune
says in the article I linked to above:
"A freight train carrying chlorine gas struck a parked train Thursday, killing eight people and injuring at least 240 others, nearly all of them sickened by a toxic cloud that persisted over this small textile town at nightfall.
Authorities ordered all 5,400 people within a mile of the crash to evacuate in the afternoon because chlorine was still leaking and the gas was settling near the ground as temperatures dropped. They were unsure when the gas leak might be sealed.
State Sen. Tommy Moore said Thursday night that officials at Avondale Mill, the textile plant where the crash happened, told him eight people were found dead after the accident, including five inside the mill.
Eight people were in critical condition Thursday night after the 2:30 a.m. wreck of Norfolk Southern trains, in which 16 cars derailed.
Moore said he was told that all the deaths were caused by inhaling chlorine fumes, except for the engineer of the moving train, who died in the crash. Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said one person was found dead in a home and another was found in a vehicle. Autopsies were scheduled Friday."
I don't know if it's just that I'm too trusting of the American military, and while I'm sure that the American military has done research into new substances that don't officially exist yet (recognizing that the military has to keep some cards up its sleeve to protect America in the real world, so it's not a criticism), but, really, if they spilled something top secret and very deadly by accident, I think they'd evacuate a helluva wider area than just an area about one mile in diameter, assuming the Tribune
article is accurate.
Of course, I personally was kind of hoping for the Close Encounters of the Third Kind
scenario, where they evacuate a huge area because of a faked train wreck because they know that so-called "aliens" (whom I think are really time-travellers from the distant future) will land at a designated position at a designated time, but, if it was just a one square mile area evacuated, they'd have to be pretty teensy tiny spacecraft/timecraft to not be seen by civilians. And, while they might stage a remote-controlled trainwreck for that kind of cover-up, I don't have a sinister view of the American military and I don't think they'd intentionally spill anything that would kill civilians just for a cover-up.
Too bad for the people that died. I hate the smell of chlorinated water at pools as it is (though I hate the smell less than I hate dirty water, so I'm not saying get rid of it), so merely breathing in a more concentrated version of the same smell must be a horrible way to die. My condolences to anyone involved.
MY TAKE ON THE TV FUNHOUSE "LIBERAL SANTA" BIT...
This ia something I've been meaning to discuss for a couple of weeks, but, while I did see part of the Christmas Saturday Night Live
on December 18th
, I turned on the television during Weekend Update
and missed the TV Funhouse
bit by a few minutes. It seems that this Christmas special-spoof installment of TV Funhouse
did not fly too well with many conservatives and libertarians
. It's another Rudolph the Red-Nosed
reindeer spoof, entitled "Blue Christmas", with a very liberal Santa Claus deciding to skip the "Red States" entirely this year (well, technically last year) to punish them for re-electing Bush.
Santa: Screw the Red States! Voting for that dumbass president just because of that "moral values" crap! I don't want any part of them!
Rudolph: What do you mean "Red States"? They all look the same to me!
Santa: Not on my map! [Pulls out "map" of Red States and Blue States taken pretty much directly from websites of Democratic Underground's ilk.] Here's "America" and here's "Dumbfuckistan"!
[n.b.: I can't quite make out Santa's next line because of the Saturday Night Live audience cheering and hollering. Sorry! :(]
Donner: You got it boss! I don't want nothing to do with those idiots! Huh!
Santa: Yes, trailer parks don't have chimneys anyway! Ho ho ho!
Rudolph: I hate when he laughs at his own jokes...
Since they have two hours to kill, Santa decides to head for New York, to party with liberal celebrities Natalie Merchant, Moby, Al Franken, and Margaret Cho.
Al Franken: Anyway, Santa, it's great that you're here.
Natalie Merchant: [singing] It's really a statement of hope!
Santa: I hope those morons get the message. A lump of coal's too good for hicks who hate nice queers like Moby here.
Moby: Actually, Santa, I'm not gay.
Santa: Ho ho ho! With your techno music...
Moby: No, honestly.
Santa: Ho ho ho! Please! I see you when you're "sleeping". [Santa does the hand gesture for "quote/unquote".]
Some kids start to worry when the NORAD Santa Tracker shows that Santa's stuck in New York, and the Drudge Report runs an exclusive article about how Santa is a liberal, which Rush Limbaugh reads.
Rush Limbaugh: [somewhat lyrically] Lookee here, folks! It's Rush with a holiday treat! Seems old Saint Nick's a part of... the LIBERAL ELITE!
[starts all-out singing, while putting on Santa suit and getting in sleigh and tossing presents over southeast United States.]
So I'll be Santa!
I'll don his pelt!
I'll Megaditto Kringle o'er the Bible Belt!
God-fearing chil'ren won't go beggin',
I'll be mega-megalo [garbled... dunno]
For they know Santa is...
[Sleigh goes in tailspin, Rush wakes up after collapsing on the floor, surrounded by empty Oxycontin bottles]
Housekeeper: [Heavy Latin American accent] I told you to make those last!
Back in New York, Santa's still chilling with the liberal celebs.
Santa: Besides, what would little Red State girls want with a Tickle Me Elmo? Most of them play that with their fathers! HO HO...
[No one laughs]
Then Rudolph informs them that it's time to finish delivering presents to the blue states in the north midwest and on the west coast, so Santa invites the liberal celebrities to come along with him in the sleigh.
Girl: Santa you're early. Your cookies aren't ready yet!
Al Franken: [eating cookies] These are great!
Santa: I'm early because I skipped the Red States this year.
Girl: Come again?
Santa: The states that voted for Bush! Filled with ignorant people known as "yahoos".
Natalie Merchant: They believe in God!
Santa: And they won't let Moby marry a guy!
[Moby holds his head in frustration]
Al Franken: Basically, they're idiots.
[The little girl starts crying]
Al Franken: I know, it's sad.
Girl: You're calling people stupid for caring about God?
Natalie Merchant: But they're bigots.
Girl: All of them? I think you're a bigot! You're just as bad as the people you're mad at. The Santa I love doesn't divide anyone into "Red" and "Blue". My Santa knows labelling people is bad!
[Moby starts crying]
Santa: You're right, little girl. Labels are wrong!
[Santa labels the little girl "NICE".]
Al Franken: [points to computer] Now wait a minute, see? According to a July 2004 study published by the Brookings institute, and that's not a "liberal ragsheet", the volume of bigotry and social racism is actually three percent higher per person in Red States.
Al Franken: I'm just saying don't lie! [? "Statistics don't lie" would make more sense.] Okay, you're making an emotional appeal and I can't compete.
Santa leaves to deliver presents to the Red States, leaving the kids disappointed with their presents, Margaret Cho Live: The Revolution Tour
and The Best of the O'Franken Factor
I was going to give my own opinion on this but I was
waiting until I saw the piece for myself. Being a big animation fan, I was already aware that the occasional stop-motion animation pieces on TV Funhouse
are usually directed by Chel White of Bent Image Lab
. Chel White is a very talented animator who replicates the slightly-jerky look of the stop-motion animation Rankin-Bass specials from the 1960s and 1970s like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
flawlessly. Chel White also directed the Office Max "Rubber Band Man" "Santa's Helper" Christmas commercia
l, which I coincidentally talked about here a couple of weeks ago
. So, I suspected that I would be able to see the "Blue Santa" segment sooner or later on the Bent Image Lab
site, and, sure enough it's there. Because of the way their site is set up, I can't give a direct link to the clip, but just click on the "SNL" on the front page.
So, what do I think? Well, I have a great sense of humour1
, and I respect the talents of satirist Robert Smigel and animator Chel White, but, to be honest, I don't find it very funny...
...that so many people on the right, including many right-of-centre bloggers, missed the point of this rather clever piece of satire entirely!
If I had believed many of the outraged conservative and libertarian bloggers without seeing it for myself, I may have come to the conclusion that it was a one-sided liberal attack on Bush voters. But, while I'd guess that Robert Smigel's own personal politics are more liberal than the libertarian South Park
creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, since the guy is a frequent guest on Air America, Robert Smigel is not one-sided like Al Franken. Robert Smigel, as a satirist, takes shots at both sides fairly even-handedly, as is evidenced by his X-Presidents
bits that take as many shots against Clinton and Carter as they take at the Republican presidents. (Another thing I like about Smigel is that he is the voice and hand behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.)
I think the mistake the people who were offended made was that they took what Santa was saying at face value, as though he was the "Voice of Reason" for the sketch. News flash: he's not. He's meant to represent the polarized Democrat Underground fringe and the ultra-sour-grapes things they say and stereotypes they believe about the sort of people who voted for Bush. And the liberal celebrities were presented in a very unflattering way, very similar to the "Film Actors Guild" in Parker and Stone's Team America
. While I'm sure that much of the New York crowd was laughing along with the brash stereotyping of the "hicks", you are really meant to laugh at the ones telling the jokes, like when Cartman says something racist on South Park
. In fact, the real "Voice of Reason" in the sketch, the little girl, was essentially Stan Marsh in a dress; she even said "Come again?" in a very Stan Marsh-ish way.
And the real point of the sketch was that America, despite the divisiveness of the past year, is still one country, and liberals should stop acting like it's two separate countries just because they didn't like the result of the election this time around, and they should stop the dumb labelling of the folks in flyover country as well. The only real shot taken rightwards this time was at Rush Limbaugh, and, while I think that jokes about his unfortunate Oxycontin addiction had a sell-by date that expired soon after he was out of rehab over a year ago, as a public figure, he is fair game for satirists.
Fortunately, when I was researching links today to write this entry, I could see that there are some right-of-centre blogs out there that got the joke and didn't jump to the wrong conclusion
. And, after they had the joke explained to them, Michelle Malkin added to her original post
and Drudge took down his article completely.
1 Undeniable truth of life: when people complain about a joke by prefacing it with "I have a great sense of humor", they don't have a great sense of humour. Otherwise, they wouldn't be taking jokes so seriously.
R.I.P. JERRY ORBACH
(A week late, I know, but I didn't want to not do a tiny tribute.)
From MSNBC's Frazier Moore
Jerry Orbach had a gift for charming audiences his entire career _ first as a song-and-dance man who starred in musicals on and off Broadway, then for 12 years as a sharp-tongued cop on TV's "Law & Order."
Along the way, he made films as varied as the gritty crime drama "Prince of the City" and the smash romance "Dirty Dancing."
Orbach, who died of prostate cancer Tuesday in Manhattan, was beginning another chapter at age 69: He had taken his signature role as Detective Lennie Briscoe to NBC's upcoming spinoff "Law & Order: Trial By Jury."
With his hangdog puss and loose-limbed gait, Orbach was unmatched at playing the street-smart tough guy. A quintessential New Yorker, he personified his city's well-worn but implacable edge, embodying the Big Apple like few other actors.
Orbach had announced in early December that he had prostate cancer. His manager said at the time that he had been receiving treatment since spring, but declined to disclose any particulars about the seriousness of his condition.
Orbach is expected to appear in early "Trial By Jury" episodes when the show premieres in March.
"I'm immensely saddened by the passing of not only a friend and colleague, but a legendary figure of 20th-century show business," said Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the four "Law & Order" series. "He was one of the most honored performers of his generation. His loss is irreplaceable."
Orbach started his career as a hoofer who also could carry a tune. Beginning in the 1960s, he starred on Broadway in hit musicals including "Carnival," "Promises, Promises" (for which he won a Tony Award), "42nd Street" and "Chicago."
"He was an anchor who brought style, security and razzle-dazzle to our original `Chicago' company," said Chita Rivera, Orbach's co-star in that 1975 production. "He was a swell guy."
In 1960, he was in the original cast of the off-off-Broadway hit "The Fantasticks," playing the Narrator who sang the evocative "Try to Remember." That show went on to run for more than 40 years.
Lights on Broadway marquees were expected to be dimmed for one minute at curtain time Wednesday night in Orbach's memory.
Among his film appearances were parts in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors," "Dirty Dancing" (in which he played Jennifer Grey's protective dad) and the animated "Beauty and the Beast," in which he voiced the role of the candlestick Lumiere, singing "Be Our Guest."
It was his cop role in the 1981 drama "Prince of the City" that inspired his "Law & Order" character."
I wouldn't say that I am the world's biggest Law and Order
fan, but I like the show enough to not change the channel if I'm channel surfing and one of the many, many rerun episodes is on A&E, or a new episode is on NBC, and world-weary detective Lenny Briscoe is definitely the character I associate most with the franchise by far. But it was Jerry Orbach's frequent appearances on Late Night with Conan O'Brien
that really cemented my view of him as being a personable, charming guy who is much warmer than his Law and Order
character. Last week, Conan showed a clip from some point in the mid-1990s with Orbach pulling off a very complicated manoeuvre on the pool table, getting three billiards balls at different corners of the table in the pockets in one shot, but my favourite Late Night
memory of Orbach was when he and Conan were talking about the fan-made colouring book, Law and Order: an Adventure to Color by Brandon Bird
, and they showed the connect-the-dots that was obviously just Orbach's face.
I don't have any money to send to any kind of charity right now, be it for cancer research or tsunami relief, but Brandon Bird was selling t-shirts with a caricature of Jerry Orbach on them
with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society just a couple of weeks before Jerry died, and I don't see anything indicating that they aren't still available.