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Blog Archive/January 2008

January 31, 2008

From Lemurs to Limos

It seems SoMA contributing editor Billy Frolick is now a bona fide superstar--in Ukraine, at least. In late October, as the WGA strike was heating up, Billy accepted an offer to write the former Soviet nation's first computer-animated film. The WGA cleared the assignment, and as he boarded a plane for Kiev, Billy was grateful he wouldn't have to support his family with food stamps during the strike. The last thing he expected was for Ukraine to welcome him with the kind of fanfare usually reserved for Angelina Jolie when she visits  the sub-Sahara.

Until now, Frolick's biggest claim to fame was co-writing the animated hit "Madagascar," in which Ben Stiller plays a lion stranded on an island with a bunch of crazy lemurs. Nonetheless, Billy was greeted on the tarmac in Kiev "with a dozen roses and a row of shivering reporters who had been waiting two hours to shove microphones in his face," said yesterday's Los Angeles Times.  

The surreal royal treatment that followed was worthy of, well, a Billy Frolick script.  While his friends back home were "worrying about foreclosure and bankruptcy," he was "put up in the Boris Godunov Suite at the Opera, a five-star hotel," the Times said. "He was escorted to every great restaurant and nightclub in the city by a chauffeured Mercedes town car, from which he was frequently captured embarking and disembarking by paparazzi (yes, Frolick was an excellent American ambassador and kept his underwear on)."

"Over the week he was in Kiev, Frolick starred in half a dozen crowded news conferences, saw 'Carmen' performed at the Kiev Opera House and dined with Richard Steffens, the U.S. Embassy's cultural attache," the Times continued. "He participated in a charity event for McDonald's (which has a tie-in to the movie) with the country's top athletes, politicians and celebrities. His picture was all over the local magazines."

This morning I called Frolick to congratulate him on his newfound fame. "Admit it, Billy," I said. "This project is being financed by the mob."

"Believe it or not," he said, "the money is totally clean." He wouldn't elaborate about the film's financing on the record, though he did note, "Let's just say I was relieved they didn't show Eastern Promises on the flight to Kiev."

Next, I asked about the photo that accompanied the LA Times piece. In it, Billy is standing with the two Ukranian producers outside what looks like a hut with ears of corn dangling from the roof. "What was that place--Borat's house?"

"Actually, it was a restaurant they took me to," he said. "It had an open fire inside, and between that and all the smoked meats and 1,000-proof vodka they served, my face went flush five minutes after sitting down and I had to take off my jacket and tie."

"Funny you mention Borat," he said. "My last day, the producers said they wanted to stay up with me all night so I'd be sure to sleep the whole flight home, which was really sweet of them. But we'd already been to every restaurant and night club in town, so instead we stayed in my hotel room and rented 'Borat.' Watching that movie with those guys was just surreal on top of surreal." 

Gee, Billy, you've come a long way from the island of loony lemurs.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 30, 2008

Campaign 2008: What's to Laugh At?

As the 2008 race to the White House continues with all the candidates saying everything every candidate has ever said before, I figured it would be a good time to remember the role that humor once played in political campaigning. I say once because there's certainly not a whole lot of it--the intentional variety, anyway--on the current playing field, unless you consider John McCain's comeback to Chuck Norris's comment that he's too old to be President--"I guess I'll have to send my 95-year-old mother out to wash Chuck's mouth out with soap"--the essence of scathing wit.

No, there's precious little wit in American politics today. Instead, the candidates are preoccupied with deadly serious platitudes. Oh for the days of those hilarious John Kennedy bon mots, or the cleverness of Abe Lincoln, who, when an adversary once accused him of being two-faced, replied, "Sir, if I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this one?"

Continue reading Mary Beth Crain's Will Rogers, Where Are?

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 29, 2008

And Jesus said, "It's Fun to Stay at the..."

Hey, it is called the Young Men's Christian Association.

Thanks, Chuck, for sending the image, which readers can find at numerous sites.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 28, 2008

Is PETA Playing Chicken Little Over a Benedictine Monastery's Egg Farm?

Selling fresh, hand-gathered eggs has been the bread and butter of South Carolina's Mepkin Abbey for years, and folks throughout the greater Charleston region have gone out of their way to buy them. But it seems People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals "take offense at the way the Brothers Praying for All Creation run their egg operation."

SoMA contributing editor Stephanie Hunt asks why PETA is pressuring the monks to phase out their small egg farm, thus forcing local consumers like her to buy "regular grocery store eggs, shipped in from some impersonal, industrial chicken operation."

Read her essay, Eggs Benedict.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 27, 2008

SoMA Stand Up

Or, stuff I thought up in the shower...

* Here's something for all you anti-drug squares to consider. Remember Mark David Chapman? In the '70s, he dropped a LOT of acid and smoked a TON of weed... Well, he's 52 and still kicking.

In fact, Chapman claims he is an evangelical Christian now--no kidding! His goal is to travel from church to church, sharing his testimony and leading people to Jesus Christ... Only hitch is, first he's got to get out jail for, you know, accepting Holden Caulfield as his Lord and Savior and killing a Beatle.

* I figured out why Heath Ledger's masseuse called Mary-Kate Olsen three times before dialing 9-1-1: Hannah Montana's line was busy.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email
Tags:    stand up comedy

January 23, 2008

New Jedi Church Uses the Force; Followers of Lord Vader Not Welcome.

Two UK brothers are founding a Jedi church in Wales that will feature sermons on "the Force," light saber training, guided visualizations, and meditation techniques.

Lifelong "Star Wars" fans, Barney and Daniel Jones--a.k.a. Master Jonba Hehol and Master Morda Hehol--told the BBC they formed a solid grasp of the Jedi "faith" by watching the films "multiple dozens of times."

"We had a knowledge of the Force from that and the teachings of Yoda," Barney said. "We've read the teachings on the internet. Our father is a karate black belt, we used to train with him, which is where we got the martial arts."

Don't expect their vestments to include collars or chasubles. "My brother and I will wear the Jedi robes, the dark brown robes," he said. "The congregation would be in black. Really to bring a sense of unity to the meetings."

Though the church now has only six members--all male, natch--the twentysomething brothers have more than a prayer their flock will multiply: in the 2001 census, almost 400,000 people in the UK declared the Jedi faith as their religion.

Barney and Daniel will require members to remain on the light side of the Force. Spiritual disciples of Darth Vader, the BBC reported, "would be advised they are following the wrong path and could face expulsion."

"Obviously, if someone starts to try and use the good force for greed and power, they are going to bring negative interference into the meetings," Barney explained.

"We cannot have the Force disrupted by negative interference."

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 23, 2008

Yes, Mr. Sulu, There Is a Church for Trekkies. Maybe.

Eager to explore strange new churches? To boldly worship where no non-Trekkies have worshipped before? Then put on your best Sunday Vulcan ears and beam over to "The Spock"--"the world's only Church of 'Star Trek'."

Thanks to Carl Zimmer for the tip. (Is this place real? See my comments, below.)

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email
Tags:    Star Trek Spock religion

January 18, 2008

Circus Maximus: Presidential Campaign 2008

It's often been said that there's not much difference between politics and theater, and indeed, the current race for the presidency has all the earmarks of bad theater. Ham acting, the worst cliches, and absurd plots that require so much suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience that we might as well be on one big acid trip. It seems like the candidates are, anyway, trumpeting wild claims and promises that nobody in their right mind could take seriously.

There's John McCain, thundering, "And I vow that I will get Osama Bin Laden if I have to go to the gates of hell to do it!" (That's Osama, not Obama, right?) There's John Edwards, the big loser, still vowing that he'll be victorious in November. There's Barack, making speeches so lofty they seem to come from Mount Olympus, and the Clinton Machine, hitting him with blows so low the mud looks like high ground.

Continue reading Oh Beautiful for Specious Highs...

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 17, 2008

The Contemplative Life

Most of us think of prayer as asking God for something: Let the surgery go okay, keep the kids safe, let Matsui get on for Posada. We're praying for peace of mind; it's a means to an end. But what if we prayed until we couldn't think of anything else to ask for--and then prayed some more? Contemplatives attempt to reverse the direction of prayer's flow, to listen instead of ask. If you approach prayer this way (and pray enough)... it leaves the dimension of words altogether, and the distractions--even the unceasing stimuli of New York City--drop away.

Read Paul O'Donnell's A Hermit of the Heart.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 17, 2008

The Tom Cruise Scientology Video

Tom Cruise's 2004 fundamentalist, er, Scientology testimonial video is so full of  memorable statements, I'm having trouble selecting 10 favorites. So here, in no particular order, are a few gems:

"Orgs are there to help but we as the public, we have a responsibility, it's not just orgs, it's not just David Miscavige, not just me--it's you, it's everyone out there that's rereading KSW and looking at what needs to be done and saying, 'OK, am I gonna do it or am I not gonna do it?!' "

"I just go through that tech and it's just literally--it's not how to run from an SP, it's PTSSP--it's how to confront, shatter suppression, you apply it and it's like boom!

"We are the authorities on getting people off drugs, we are the authorities on the mind, the authority on improving conditions. Criminom--we can rehabilitate criminals, we are the way to happiness, we bring peace and unite cultures."

"Being a Scientologist, when you drive past an accident, it's not like you're anyone else, you know you have to do something about it, because you know you're the only person who can really help."

Damn, those useless EMTs.

To see the most complete version of Cruise's Scientology video I've been able to find on the Web, click here.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 15, 2008

New Year's Resolutions--Or Just Good Intentions?

As I write this, 2008 is already 15 days old and I have yet to tackle even one of my New Year's resolutions.

This is always what happens. On New Year's Day I feel inspired--either that or desperate--to begin "anew." It's my chance, once again, to start everything I've been meaning to start, and finish everything I've been meaning to finish. This year things will really be different. I am finally going to start that workout program at the gym at which I've been paying a monthly membership since last New Year's Day, and into which I have yet to stick my head. I am finally going to lose that 50 pounds--although with the menu I have planned for my holiday open house in five days, which will probably assure the consumption of at least 10,000 calories per person, we're not exactly off to a good start...

Read Mary Beth Crain's New Year's Irresolutions?

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 13, 2008

Healthcare Gone to the Dogs?

Is a doggie wheelchair really the best use of $350? Forget about dog fur--how about Darfur? Greenpeace? A Laptop for Every Child? AIDS research? For that matter, how about the dog-lady's 88 year-old mother? Has anyone asked if she needs a wheelchair?

The sad truth is that if she did, no one would bother sending out an email to raise money for one. Of course not! As a people, Americans are governed by pride, image, and a ceaseless obsession with how things look. Ergo, going begging for one anonymous human being's physical rehabilitation would undoubtedly seem tacky or trashy. But somehow, hustling up bucks for a woofer's wheelchair takes on a noble, poetic stature.

Read Billy Frolick's No Dog's Behind Left Behind.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 9, 2008

What Happens in Canaan, Stays in Canaan

As President Bush pressed for more intensive Middle East peace talks and dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region to propose boundaries for a possible settlement, 27 additional nationalities asserted land claims in what is traditionally known as Palestine.

 "We refuse the imperialist names of Palestine and/or Israel," said Ramsey Clark, the former Attorney General, recently hired to represent the various claimants, including people calling themselves Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. "The proper name is Canaan."

Read Joe Bob Briggs' latest at The Door, Canaanites Demand Place in Mideast Peace Talks.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 4, 2008

Want to Improve the World? Bake Some Humble Pie

At a time when more and more people seem to be motivated by entitlement and narcissism--and even seem to admire those qualities in others--we need an antidote to the social problems that come with isolation and arrogance. We need humility, but how can we cultivate it? A growing body of research on humility might be able to help us be more humble--but it also suggests that there are limits to what science can tell us about humility.

Read Everett L. Worthington, Jr.'s The Paradox of Humility.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 4, 2008

New Feature Coming Soon to SoMA

I'm thrilled to report that SoMA will soon have a new feature--a Contributors page, where you can retrieve articles by author. Which means we'll be working on the database administrator later this evening. This should not affect public access to the site, though it might, just might, cause us to lose comments that are posted while we're working. But if that happens we will restore them within 24 hours.

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email

January 2, 2008

Let's Play "Between Your Legs"

A Jesuit friend told me about this game circulating at Facebook. The rules are simple: Just think of a movie title, and add "Between Your Legs" to it. Here's a list I came up with; feel free to add your own titles in the comments section:

An Inconvenient Truth Between Your Legs

The Awful Truth Between Your Legs

Traffic Between Your Legs

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World Between Your Legs

The Greatest Story Ever Told Between Your Legs

The Passion of the Christ Between Your Legs

The Lost Weekend Between Your Legs

Dr. Strangelove Between Your Legs

The Black Stallion Between Your Legs

Ordinary People Between Your Legs

The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming Between Your Legs

Some Like It Hot Between Your Legs

The Sound of Music Between Your Legs

The Man Who Knew Too Much Between Your Legs

The Man Who Wasn't There Between Your Legs

The Secret Garden Between Your Legs

Five Easy Pieces Between Your Legs

Mississippi Burning Between Your Legs

My Big Fat Greek Wedding Between Your Legs

101 Dalmatians Between Your Legs

Posted By John D. Spalding | Email
Tags:    Facebook lists movies

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