Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Rum Diary at the Moolah Theatre & Lounge

I've been looking forward to this movie for some time, and hearing great things about the venue for even longer (some Yelp reviews here), so this afternoon I put on my $6.97 trilby, my shit-kickin' boots and my Hunter S. Thompson tee-shirt from Literary Rags, and moseyed on down to dispatch two vultures with one  rock.

The Moolah is everything it's cracked up to be. It's a former Shriner temple, so naturally the architecture is magnificent: Ornate window grates, marbly floors, domed/chandeliered ceiling in the theatre proper, etc. It's worth the price of admission just to see the interior.

The concession stand is fairly reasonable as such prices go (which is to say only mildly outrageous), and features locally manufactured treats like Ted Drewes Custard, Billy Goat Chips and candies from Forest Confections.

Ted Drewes digression: I am not originally from St. Louis. Not too long after I moved here, Tamara and I were at an event at Washington University and there were "Free Ted Drewes!" posters all over the place. I just assumed he was the local version of Mumia or something. I finally asked Tamara if she knew if there was a rally or anything. She asked me what the hell I was talking about, so I started pumping my fist in the air. "You know -- free Ted Drewes! Free Ted Drewes!" She had a pretty good laugh over that.

But anyway, I still haven't hit the really good parts on the Moolah yet:

There's a full bar,  with movie tie-in drink specials. I had the "Sanderson" -- blended Canadian whiskey and soda. Not the bourbon I'd have expected at a Thompson film, but hey, it worked (and by the way, the staff at concession and bar were all very congenial).

I took my "Sanderson" in to the theatre area, where I had my choice of, get this, spacious leather chairs and couches with side tables. Very comfortable. In another day and age, there would have been ashtrays as well, I bet. The theatre features a very large screen. This particular movie wasn't really the kind of thing to test the sound system with, but it seemed more than adequate.

From now on, if the film I want to see is at the Moolah, that's where I'm going to go see it. And before or after, I may make a side trip to the basement, where I hear they have a very nice bowling alley.

As for the movie, it was a disjointed mess ... but in a good way, I thought.  That is, if you're a fan of Hunter S. Thompson, or of Johnny Depp as Thompson's alter-ego (and I'm both), you'll love it; if you're not, you'll probably feel like you wasted your money.

The linear story as such is pretty thin, but the atmosphere and characterization are just right. Not just Depp as Kemp, either -- I think Michael Rispoli as Sala (Kemp's erstwhile roomie and partner) and Giovanni Ribisi as the freaked-out Moberg (the San Juan Star's "crime and religious affairs" correspondent) outshone him, and that that was the way it was supposed to be. If you think about it, Thompson and his literary stand-ins are actually sort of passive characters, absorbing the weirdness around them and allowing it to shape their psyches. Aaron Eckhart as the bad guy, Amber Heard as the love interest and Richard Jenkins as the Star's editor-in-chief fill things out nicely.

Anyway, here's the trailer (with at least two shots that I just noticed are not the same as in the actual film ... hmm ...). You'll probably know right away whether this is your kind of film or not.

OK, Clean Slate Time

I think I may have been born a baseball fan, but I haven't been to a baseball game since the Cardinals made me pay for their new stadium, which opened in 2006 (the first game I ever went to was at the old stadium in the 1970s -- nosebleed seats to watch the Cards lose to the Atlanta Braves).

It was a really bad thing. The Cards' owners had an aggregate net worth of something like $15 billion, but wanted the taxpayers of St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and Missouri to pick up the stadium tab.

St. Louis County voters petitioned to put a measure on the ballot forbidding the County Council to allocate tax money for the stadium -- so the Council hurried things up and authorized the issuance of bonds before the election took place to stop them. Then another petition to put a measure on the ballot forbidding the use of taxpayer money to pay off the bonds, but it got thrown out in court.

Disgusting. Just haven't been interested in baseball since then. Until this week, I probably couldn't have even named anyone associated with the Cardinals except for Tony LaRussa, Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols.

But you know, all that mess was the corporate welfarist team owners and the politicians, not the players. And after five years and those last two World Series games (Tamara had game six on the tube and I was walking by and let myself get sucked into it in the 9th), I think I'm ready to bury the hatchet. Next year, I think I'll go see a game in that stadium I paid for.

That sixth game was a humdinger, wasn't it?

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Talayna, RIP

Mike "Talayna" Faille, my favorite pizza restaurateur, has died.

Tamara and I discovered Talayna's back in 2003 or so, when Michael Badnarik (the Libertarian Party's 2004 presidential nominee) came to St. Louis and we needed a place to do an event. We chose the Chesterfield Talayna's and were quite pleased with both the service and the quality of the food. Since then, we've mostly patronized "Talayna's at the Park" in the Central West End (here's my review at Yelp).

As I mention in the review, the staff at Talayna's are just top-notch people. They're always genuinely friendly, they remember you from visit to visit, and it's not just an act. That definitely included Mike, who, when he was around, would always come by the table, ask how the food was, and talk for a few minutes.

As the obit mentions, the Talayna (which I didn't know was a nickname he picked up from Jewish friends, Yiddish for "the Italian") was a big Sinatra fan. Much of the time, the background music at the restaurant was Rat Pack stuff, which was really cool.

We'll miss you, Mike.

Just Goes to Show You

I'm not a big Cardinals fan, and generally favor the American League, but I have to admit that game six of this year's World Series clearly demonstrates that everything from Missouri is better than anything from Texas.

Outraged denials in 3, 2, 1 ...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

That was (part of) my response to this quote from Herman Cain (h/t The Other McCain):
One of the reasons we have this moral crisis today is because too many people are trying to take God out of our culture, little by little. … The way we’re going to protect the unborn in this nation is to work on the right problem, get God back in our culture.

And the statement, and the rest of my comments on it, deserve some extension and revision. Or maybe it's that I just deserve some FMJRA action. Anyhoo ...

Which God are we talking about? Ayatollah Khomeini's/the Taliban's/al Qaeda's whole program is "getting God back in Iran's/Afghanistan's/Earth's culture." How's that working out from any particular non-Islamist individual's perspective?

Ah, replies Eric Ashley: But "999 out of a 1000 people understood that Cain meant Jesus Christ, and not Allah."

I'm not sure that's true, but even if so it just opens up a whole new line of questions along the "which Jesus Christ?" axis.

Are we talking about the Jewish/early Christian Jesus Christ, a putative Messiah (i.e. non-divine claimant to priest-king status as an heir of the Davidic line)?

Or are we talking about one of the deified pagan Jesus Christs of the fragmented Pauline heresy (Catholics, Protestants, etc.)?

Or the retro, non-divine Jesus of unitarians like Thomas Jefferson (modern evangelical Christians like to tout the Christianity of the founders as dispositive with respect to modern policy issues, but modern evangelical Christianity didn't really start to coalesce until a century and change after the revolution with the Holiness movement, the Azusa Street revival and so on, birthing Pentecostalism and the charismatics -- that kind of thing would have got you a straitjacket and a shot of thorazine from e.g. unitarian Jefferson, jack-Presbyterian George Washington, or any number of assorted dour Calvinists, if they'd had straitjackets and thorazine back then)?

Or maybe it's the "big brother in the transformation to godhead queue" Jesus of the Mormons we're name-checking?

It should, but probably doesn't, go without saying that all these various and sundry Jesuses have various and sundry opinions on various and sundry issues (including abortion). And it strikes me as more than mere coincidence that the policy commandments of these Jesuses always seem to very closely track the political opinions of their followers.

This seems like a very good reason for that whole "separation of church and state" thing. You may recall the Late Unpleasantness in Europe a few hundred years ago over that kind of stuff, and maybe even get an inkling that said Unpleasantness might have played a role in the founders' thinking on religion as it relates to politics.

So, when a politician's answer to a policy question revolves around "getting God back in our culture," I can't help but be suspicious that he's trying to pull a fast one and that maybe what he's really saying is "I don't have an answer that isn't bullshit, so I think I'll just play as best I can to your favored superstition and hope you don't notice."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Libertarian Party Presidential Poll

If you're interested in LP politics, Daniel Lewis of the Libertarian Party of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County tells me there's a poll on their web site. Knock yourselves out.

BUT! I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected, so don't waste your vote on me, even in a non-binding online poll.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Departure From Form

For some time, I've thought of the poetry project I'm working on (conceived several years ago, started actual work on it last week) as a corona of Spenserian sonnets.

That's a conceit I've had to dispense with ... I've been unable to shoehorn what I'm trying to get in there, in there. Close, but no cigar.

My Spenserian sonnets keep turning into near-Spenserian (that is, Spenserian in rhyming scheme and three quatrain + one couplet form but otherwise Plain Jane) quatorzains.

It's a meter / syllable count problem. Even if I admit of novel syllable-counting schemes, a line that comes off in the meter I'm trying to get often varies between nine and 12 syllables rather than the 10 of a formal sonnet.

I admit defeat. Quatorzains it shall be.

By the end of the year, I plan to have an e-book available (cheap, maybe free) including the poems and an essay on why a reader whose tastes generally run the narrow range between TS Eliot and the Beats is, as a writer, obsessed with such a particular discipline and form.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Some C4SS updates ...

C4SS director Brad Spangler is going 24/7 with Occupy KC:

Our volunteer editor/proofer, Rocco Stanzione, has decided to move on to other things. We'll definitely miss him.

I've agreed to expand my role at the Center to encompass the work he was doing, but I demanded a $140 per month pay cut as part of the deal. Yes, you read that right -- I've normally contributed $100 per month of my C4SS pay back to the Center. Instead of continuing to do that, I'm just asking them to pay me $140 less per month ($500 instead of $640).

My other demand was that we get some focus going on raising the money to get pay caught up and kept up for all of the Center's paid personnel. Nobody's getting rich there anyway, and pay has tended to lag several months behind. So, I suppose I should focus myself ...

Please support our work!

Among the things that money buys is an average of one market anarchist op-ed actually published by a newspaper, magazine or popular web site per weekday. We're coming up on 400 such media pickups now. So far as I can tell, we are the world's foremost anarchist media center, and we're accomplishing that on total (requested, not necessarily received) funding that comes to a single individual middle-class income. Like I said, nobody's getting rich.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Candidates Are Just Too Long-Winded ...

For example:

I don't think the war in Iraq was a mistake ...

Everything after the first three words there is redundant.

On the "To Do" List

I've wanted to try absinthe for a long time, but it was just recently that I realized it had been re-legalized and started trying to find it in my area. Score -- found it just down the street!

Of course, it's expensive ... but cheaper where I found it than I've seen online. The "gift set," which includes a fifth of the stuff, glasses and an absinthe spoon (you prepare the drink by placing a sugar cube on the spoon and drizzling water over it into the liquor) costs less than the price I'm finding for a fifth by itself elsewhere.

The next time there's sixty bucks of "me money" lying around (birthday, Christmas, what have you), I'm so there.

And now, roll film:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I don't shop at Amazon any more, but I came across this while reading about a book (does it really matter which book?) at a site that has one of those "comparison shopping" areas.

Is it typical for the Kindle edition to cost more than twice as much as the hardcover?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Got My First Klout Perk ...

... and it seems just right to mention it. The idea is that if you have a high enough Klout score, businesses send you stuff and hope you say good things about it. So, for FTC disclosure purposes or whatever hooey, hey, I got a little tube of Axe "Hold and Touch Spiking Glue" and will now review it.

A couple of months ago, I really couldn't have -- I've been doing the shaved head thing most of the time for a long time, nothing to spike. But recently I switched to a flat-top, which I hope to eventually cultivate into a respectable Porter Wagoner pompadour. So, right now my hair is just the right length for spiking if I want to look like an old guy trying to look like a young punk.

Anyway, it works. My hair is now pointing in all kinds of weird directions, and doesn't seem to be falling out, turning chartreuse, or plotting world domination independently from the brain underneath it. So, if you're looking for spiking glue, I can heartily recommend Axe in good conscience.

If you ever want to send me something to review, just hit the contact form. If a line forms, bourbon and women move to the front of it.

What I Saw at Occupy St. Louis

Disclaimer #1: I only spent a couple of hours there this evening. It didn't look like any tense police situations requiring solidarity and arrest were fixin' to transpire, so when I got bored and tired, I left.

Disclaimer #2: Ad Hominem means "to the person," and I don't feel like going there. I'm sure everyone involved in Occupy St. Louis honestly believes in whatever brought them out. I'm not questioning their commitment or sincerity. All of the people I met there were pretty cool.

Those things said, what I was hoping to see was the revolution ... and it wasn't there. Or at least it wasn't the center of gravity, anyway.

I did run into a few serious anarchists, and observed what looked like some libertarians and/or Ron Paul types.

But the bulk of the crowd were fairly obviously conventional Democrat voters, ranging in demeanor from earnest, well-intended "support the President on jobs and health-care" people out to express themselves to hopped-up "I want to re-create the feeling Mom and Dad described when they talked about Chicago in '68 ... and I will, minus all that icky tear gas and stuff, just as soon as I find a place to park the Prius and figure out how to punch a Beatles playlist into my iPod" types. Not evil people mind you, just naive and lacking that "walk in front of the tank at Tiananmen" fortitude.

My Scientific Wild-Ass Guess as to crowd size is 200-300, but I could be a little low. Not bad for a Friday night several days into the action, but a full order of magnitude lower than the 2009 Tea Party rallies in the same space.

Size difference notwithstanding, there's one point of similarity: It looks like the Democrats are moving just as fast to co-opt the "Occupy" movement as the GOP did to stuff its talking points into the Tea Party's mouth.

Best of luck to those hoping to parlay Occupy into real change. If St. Louis is any indication, though, I'm guessing that the thing has already peaked and will sputter along for a few more weeks at most before fading away.

Update: Read my extended take at the Center for a Stateless Society.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Risk: A Variant Rule Proposal

No, I haven't play-tested this -- these days if I play Risk it is online at Pogo, which means I don't get to create weirdass rules and try them out. But if you try it, I'd love to hear how it works out in terms of game balance, game play, etc. Here it is:

Insurgency/Antiwar Movement

At a troop cost of 5:1 (that is, the player uses up five of his beginning-of-turn or set turn-in troop allocation in order to place one army), the player may create an "insurgency" or "antiwar movement" in any territory controlled by any opponent.

The insurgency/antiwar movement is created by placing the troop unit(s) in the opponent's territory, next to the opponent's own troops.

A player who has an insurgency/antiwar movement in one of his territories cannot attack from, or move troops from, that territory until the turn after he removes the insurgency/antiwar movement (by attacking it per ordinary Risk combat rules).

The afflicted territory is also not counted toward the total territories controlled by the player for beginning-of-turn troop allocation (e.g. if you control 12 territories, but one of them has an insurgency/antiwar movement, you only have 11 territories for troop allocation purposes, and receive only three, rather than four, armies), or for continent control purposes (e.g. if you control all of South America, but Venezuela has an insurgency/antiwar movement, you don't get the two bonus armies for controlling the continent), nor does it receive the two bonus armies when a set of cards including that territory is turned in.

The insurgency/antiwar movement never attacks on its own. However, if the territory containing the insurgency/antiwar movement is attacked from another territory by the player who placed that insurgency/antiwar movement, the insurgency/antiwar movement units count among the attacking units -- and are the first units to be removed if the attacker loses units.

Feel free to tweak costs or effects to suit (the effects on troop allocation may be too much -- perhaps ignore the continent/card effects?), or to limit the number of insurgencies/antiwar movements, etc. (e.g. any one player can only have one insurgency/antiwar movement going at a time).

The basic idea of the rule variant is to allow a player to -- expensively -- immobilize an opponent temporarily.

This should be especially helpful at "choke points" when a player is outnumbered and on his last legs. He has five armies coming, but at that choke point he only has three armies and the opponent has a gazillion ready to attack. Five armies would be a speed bump. Even one insurgent/antiwar movement unit in that gazillion-army territory, on the other hand, would buy the weaker player an entire turn (perhaps to win another attack elsewhere, draw a card, and put a set of cards together to equalize things).

Anyway, if you try it, tell me about it! And, advance admission -- while I haven't seen a rule variant proposal like this anywhere, I'm betting it's already been done.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sarah Palin was right

Sort of, anyway: White House officials have now admitted that they're running a secret death panel.

I'm skeptical that Occupy Wall Street is the revolution revving up, but hopefully so, because this may be our last chance. It's us or them, the gloves are off, and the hour is getting late.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Is Your Pizza Delivery Driver Also a Part-Time DEA Agent?

If not, should he be?

Apparently one Papa John's delivery driver in Colorado thinks he is, or should be, a narcotics enforcement officer [h/t Libertarian (sic) Republican].

In fairness, this statement ...

Papa John's of Colorado wants to stand behind the decision that this delivery driver made. He was acting as a concerned citizen and for what he believes was the best interests of our community.

... seems to be from a franchisee and not from the umbrella company. I've queried Papa John's proper, and I'm sure others have as well.

The appropriate response from Papa John's of Colorado to this incident would have been to immediately fire the driver (or at the very least remove him from any position that gives him access to customers' homes) and issue a sincere apology (and perhaps a hefty gift certificate) to the customer.

The appropriate response from the umbrella company is to disavow the actions of the driver and the statement from the franchisee, and to add some language to the franchise agreement about respect for customers' privacy.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

About Those "News Alerts"

Subject line of an email just now from the Washington Post:

News Alert: Chris Christie will not seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2012

That's not news. He's only been saying it over and over and over again for what, two years?

It's only news if he changes his mind.

That is all.

How the United States Can Save Itself

Not that I particular want it to, mind you. I'm an anarchist, and "US Out of North America!" works just fine for me.

But it's still just barely possible that the United States -- by which I mean the federal government, the overgrown street gang which grandiosely claims possession of a monopoly on the use of force over a particular range of turf composed of much of the land mass of North America, plus some islands in the Pacific, etc. -- could save its own institutional hide, and I like playing hypothetical games.

So, here's the simple plan:

1) Publicly parade the last two (at least) presidents and vice-presidents of the gang, along with various and sundry co-conspirators, before the gang's disciplinary boards ("courts") in orange coveralls, leg irons, etc.;

2) Charge said presidents, vice-presidents, etc., with their crimes against humanity and allow juries of their peers to convict them thereof;

3) Sentence the minor co-conspirators to lengthy terms in prison, and the ringleaders to, at a minimum, life in prison. While I don't favor the death penalty in general, from the standpoint of saving the gang and the gang's monopoly claim, it would probably be smarter to send at least the top few ringleaders to Terre Haute, strap them to gurneys, stick needles in their arms, and inject them with lethal doses of whatever it is the gang uses for that sort of thing.

4) Install some new gang leaders who are willing to spend the next few years traveling the world and apologizing to other gang leaders for their predecessors having been such thoroughgoing dickheads.

That's pretty much it. All of this, or something pretty much exactly like it, is going to happen sooner or later. The only question is whether the gang handles it internally, and possibly survives, or lets the other gangs work up the testicular fortitude to handle it for them, and doesn't.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Located: That Secret Memo

The exact text remains unknown, but my anonymous source at the White House provided me some hidden camera video of the president laying out the basis for that secret DoJ opinion on why the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki was legal:

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Those Hippy Dippy Doo Open Borders Libertarians are at it Again!

Someone oughtta sic the current uber-conservative (except for Rick Perry) GOP field on them. Oh, wait ...

h/t Mary Theroux