Friday, February 29, 2008

Buckle up, it's going to be a long ride.

A friend sent me an article today that said a record number of the U.S. population is incarcerated - one out of every hundred, roughly. One would think that it's hardened criminals and repeat offenders, but as it turns out, it's mostly drug offenders and people who are not a threat to society.
A report released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, a self-described non-partisan group, found that 2.3 million Americans — or roughly 1 in 100 adults — are living behind bars, and that the consistent increase in the country's prison population over the past 20 years has been driven by policy choices, not by spikes in crime or the nation's population.
On average, states spend 6.8 percent of their general fund dollars on corrections.
Of course, when I say society, I'm talking about the country at large. The country at large has this idea that drugs are bad and that people who use them are a menace and should be ... incarcerated. Hence the issue.
Drugs aren't necessarily bad, especially if you're in the business of dispensing them legally. Legal drugs are a billion dollar business in this country. You can't watch your TV for 15 minutes without seeing an ad for erectile dysfunction, cholesterol lowering or mood altering drugs. The ads generally are not as long as the disclaimer that tells you the potential side effects which include (but are not limited to) dry mouth, vomiting, dizziness or death. Death is the extreme side effect, so let's focus on the dizziness and dry mouth for now.
The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending.
Meanwhile, the people at Anheuser-Busch and the like are peddling the last legally dispensed over-the-counter drug, which we call alcoholic beverages. What you'll see at your local liquor emporium are some brands of vodka or other liquor that are 100 proof - or 50% alcohol. That's 50% of the beverage that is distilled spirits. Half the volume of the bottle. Are we clear? Good. Then we'll continue.
In America (the land of the free) we are able to dispense mood-altering drugs and beverages that are half alcohol, but we still have so-called "controlled substances" that in some cases are not as big an impediment on our behavior as alcohol and prescription drugs.
The drug I'm talking about is marijuana. This might make me the worst person in the community, but I will say (here on the Internet) that if marijuana were made legal I would never take another drink of alcohol. Why? Because pot doesn't make me wake up with dry mouth and a headache and I don't regret using so much and collapsing in a heap at the end.
I wish I could remember where I read it, but I recall seeing an article that said if the Food and Drug Administration had to approve sugar as a food additive today, it would not because of all the issues surrounding its use. It strikes me as odd that the same government who would allow cigarettes to be sold and sugar to be added to food would allow drug companies to sell products that could potentially cause the users to lose control of their central nervous system. I think that we're loosening the standards in some cases.
The companies that market drugs that can cause a 4-hour boner are the same ones telling us that impotence is bad and needs to be cured. The 4-hour boner is a necessary risk we take when we use a drug to get a boner in the first place. I'm guessing that the potential 4-hour boner is the reason most people use the drug to begin with.
Baldness is a problem, or so we hear. Propecia can't be handled by pregnant women because it may cause birth defects. Cymbalta is prescribed to treat depression, because God forbid we're sad. Side effects may include appetite changes, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, insomnia, nausea, sexual difficulties, sleepiness, sweating, tremor, urinary difficulties, vomiting, weakness. If I have diarrhea and sweating, chances are I'm going to be depressed, so what good is the drug doing me?
The point is that our government (in our best interests) allows drugs like Propecia and 4-hour boner medications to be sold in spite of the side effects, which in some cases are worse than the disease they are treating.
Four states - Vermont, Michigan, Oregon and Connecticut - now spend more on corrections than they do on higher education.
What I wonder is why, after all these years is marijuana still a "controlled substance"? Driving under the influence of alcohol is a problem because people drink and drive. If they drink at home and collapse in a heap on their bed, it's the bed's problem. Those of us on the road are oblivious. If marijuana is controlled, why aren't other drugs (like alcohol) controlled? There are two possible answers.
1 - The government realizes its huge mistake with alcohol and, having failed once at regulating it, have washed their hands of the issue and turned their back on it, preferring to regulate it with laws that punish people for using the very product that they so willingly provide.
2 - The government is unwilling to add another level of administration to an already mounting problem of people using legal drugs (including alcohol) and thereby creating another level of law enforcement, which is where the over-crowded prisons come in. You knew I was going to tie it in, right?
Jails are over-crowded and state budgets are strained. We are incarcerating too many non-violent criminals who are not seen as being threats to society. It costs $23,876 to keep a prisoner in jail for a year. For a guy who took a chainsaw to his family, that's a bargain. For a guy who got caught with a half ounce of weed in his pocket it's a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The steadily growing inmate population "is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime," the report said. Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are pressuring many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft on crime.
If a half ounce of weed was legal, (or weed at all) we could avoid locking up people who otherwise just wanted to get a buzz to keep themselves from turning a shotgun to their head. It's another way to get though the day, just like that ice-cold Budweiser that we see advertised on TV or that depression drug that is supposed to make us dance in a field of daisies while we shit our pants and sweat like a New York waiter.
So, one of those "new, cost-saving measures" might be loosening the drug laws to allow people who just want a nice buzz to go out and get one without winding up in jail where there just aren't enough beds.
It ain't that far fetched.
"We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime. They want to be a law-and-order state. But they also want to save money, and they want to be effective."
Here's a way to be a law-and-order state and save money: Make pot legal, tax the shit out of it and keep people out of jail who only want to take their minds off the drudgery of everyday life. It's the same thing Propecia does, except I don't have to worry about shitting my pants afterward. What we need is somebody from Pfizer to start up a farm, get the RJ Reynolds people involved, and make a product that is better than any crap you could buy on the street (which isn't that difficult). They do it in Amsterdam. Aren't we smarter than people in Holland? Maybe not.
In the end, the people are happy and stoned, so the government can fuck them in the ass and they won't care (which is what they want). The government is happy because they're making more money than they could imagine and the drug and cigarette companies are happy because they're in on it. We can run TV ads that promote "responsible smoking" like we do with responsible drinking, and all the while we're winking and placing that tongue in our cheek with the realization that we're enabling the very behavior that we're prosecuting. Strange? It happens every day already, so why not make everybody happy?
It's a win-win.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More viewer mail.

Here's a "Viewer Mail" question for ya. "What movie are you looking forward to this year?"
- James
I'm glad you asked. I always look forward to Dustin Hoffman's work. His next film is in post-production. It's called "Last Chance Harvey", and it's about an older man in London for his daughter's wedding, and finds his romantic spirits lifted by a new woman in his life. He co-stars with Emma Thompson, and also features James Brolin (Josh's dad), so you know that at least the acting will be great.
Otherwise, he's doing a voice an IMAX feature called "Kung Fu Panda" that comes out in June, and another cartoon voice in "The Tale of Despereaux" that comes out in December. So, if you want to see him on the screen this year, it looks like Harvey is your Last Chance.
Steve Carell is doing "Get Smart" on June 20 with Anne Hathaway as 99 and Bill Murray as 13 and his old pal from "Little Miss Sunshine" Alan Arkin as The Chief. It could be good or it could really suck. I think the TV show stands on its own, and generally, films of popular TV shows are tough to do. Think "Bewitched" and "Beverly Hillbillies" for losers and "The Fugitive" and the "Star Trek" films for winners.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" starring Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Cate Blanchett and John Hurt and ... directed by Steven Spielberg ... is out in May, so that should be interesting too. There's much less of a chance that it will suck.
I love Frances McDormand, but I saw the trailer for her new film "Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day", which opens March 7, and I think I'll have to wait for her next film.
Kevin Spacey has a new film opening on March 28 called "21", the true story of the very brightest young minds in the country - and how they took Vegas for millions playing Blackjack.
George Clooney directs and stars in "Leatherheads", a film that I have seen the trailer for 3 times, and every time I see it, I ask myself how we're supposed to believe that Clooney is a football player. It co-stars The Office's John Krasinski (Jim Halpert) who is brought to the team as a ringer to try to save the franchise. We'll find out on April 4.
The early part of the year is generally dismal for new films. I see that a local theater is showing the Oscar nominated Short Subject films (both animated and live-action) so maybe somebody is paying attention? I'm hoping to get out to see them this weekend, since most of the films in theaters now are ... dismal.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Viewer mail ... kind of.

Once again bereft of ideas, I turn to a tried and true staple of modern television and even a blog or two - answering the reader comments, which I will call Viewer Mail. Yes, that's what I'm calling it.
Kimmyk writes:
i want to see michael clayton. did you see it? never heard of there will be blood til the other night when my daughter told me that movie won some award.
Won some award? Oh, dear Kimmyk, I think I said in Friday's Oscar post that the Best Actor award should be named the Daniel Day-Lewis Award. Just like in hockey, where the trophies are named after people. Who is Oscar? I don't know, but I do know that Daniel Day-Lewis gives the performance of a lifetime and "There Will be Blood" comes out on DVD April 8. I've already pre-ordered it from Amazon.
And yes, I saw "Michael Clayton". I think if it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, I would have liked it more. I thought "Charlie Wilson's War" was a better film and I also believe that Philip Seymour Hoffman should have won the Best Supporting Actor award - which should be re-named the Philip Seymour Hoffman Award.
rattlin' along sends this query (no offense):
Who was Bob's first TV wife and who was her husband? And what characters did he play on Bob's shows?
I thought this was a trick question, since I mentioned Suzanne Pleshette in the post. Her husband was Tom Poston, who played "The Peeper" on the TV show. The joke was that Bill Daily's character (airline navigator Howard Borden) would always mis-name him as "The Creeper" or "The Leaper" or some other variation. Bob would deadpan, pause and correct him.
Tom would later re-appear on Newhart as the handyman at the Stratford Inn. He was in Bob too, but I can't remember much about that show other than Bob was a cartoonist and it was mildly funny. Tom Poston died last year. He was 85.
Here's a question for you: Who is Lorenzo Music?
kate michele checked in:
OMG Anthony I'm so ready for spring too. I cant take these winters anymore ... it must be a sign i'm getting old. :D
No K8tie, a sign of getting old is that you can recall odd characters from television sitcoms that were on 20 years ago.
Anthony said:
What really sucks is that Versus shares Hi-def channel 207 with the Golf Channel, so they give us Thursday and Friday, then show Versus on the weekend, where we have to slum over on regular-def channel 57.
You're right, as usual. I pay an extra $5 for the hi-def channels, and they don't even have the decency to split the channels so that we can see all 3 rounds of the tournament in hi-def. You're really sharp. You should start blogging. People love reading rants about stupid crap like that.
James said:
I would give the [Best Actress] Oscar to Ellen Page for sure. She made that movie and we watched a star being born. Then again, The Academy doesn't like comedies let alone sarcastic ones.
If you really want to watch a star being born, James; rent "Hard Candy" and watch Ellen in an even darker role. I just finished watching it, and it's dark and disturbing. I could write an essay about it, but it's a couple of years old. You just need to watch it and allow it to either make you angry, ask yourself questions or decide which character you're ultimately rooting for. It's good character work for your brain. By the way, the Best Actress Award will now be called the Meryl Streep Award. Saw that coming, didn't you?
Sparky Duck said:
Tomorrow is officially going to be a fucking mess.
Well, my friend, that's true of just about every day.
Kimmyk again:
oooohhh but the ice --- it's beautiful on the trees. so that being said - i challenge you to get out there this weekend and take some fabulous photos my friend.
Indeed. While on the spin bike tonight, I came up with the very idea for a blog of photos that I will post. Some I can cull from the archives, and others I will cull from the camera. Soon.
firestarter5 said:
My favourites are the people who live in the city and own something like a Hummer.
We have one at work. She lives (literally) three miles from the office, yet drives there in an H3. The Goddamned thing is bigger than my condo, with aircraft tires and bullet-proof glass. What is she afraid of? Besides common sense and earthly decency, I mean.
1hundred words said:
I don't think you are nutty.
Oh my dear, you have so much to learn.
The Best Director award will now be called the Alfred Hitchcock Award.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

February 27

"Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information."
- Michael Scott, The Office.
What do I do when I have nothing of substance to write? I could leave you at peace and just do nothing, but that wouldn't be any fun. What I do is hit up Wikipedia and let you in on some little-known facts.
First, February 27 is Chelsea Clinton's 28th birthday. Today is also Mary Frann's 65th birthday. Mary played Bob Newhart's beautiful wife on Newhart - the one in Vermont. She died in 1998 in her sleep, from an undiagnosed case of lipomatosis, which is a scarring of the heart muscle. I had no idea she was dead. She was America's Junior Miss in 1961. I always figured Bob out-kicked his coverage with his TV wives. Suzanne Pleshette, Mary Frann and Carlene Watkins. Bonus points if you can tell me in which show Carlene Watkins played his wife.
On this day in 1940, Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discovered carbon-14, which is the substance used in carbon dating. One wonders (at least I do) how they could have discovered something that tells you how old things are. Think about it. Or don't.
And now ... did you know?
  • ...that speed limits on Guam Highway 1 may differ depending on which side of the road you are on?
  • The Golden Gate Bridge is a frequent site for suicide. After a fall of approximately four seconds jumpers hit the water at 75 miles per hour (121 km/h), which is nearly always fatal. An official suicide count was kept, sorted according to which of the bridge's 128 lamp posts the jumper was nearest to when he or she jumped. The count exceeded 1,200 when the count ended in 2005, and new suicides were averaging one every two weeks.

  • The weapon used by Anton Chigurh in the film "No Country for Old Men" is a captive bolt pistol. It is most widely used in the slaughter of cattle to stun the animals before they are butchered.

  • At one point before Juno visits Mark (in the film "Juno"), he is sitting at his computer reading Diablo Cody's (the movie's screenwriter) real-life blog, known as "The Pussy Ranch."
  • In "There Will be Blood", the infamous "I drink your milkshake!" is, in part, a real quote. Paul Thomas Anderson found the metaphor in congressional transcripts from the 1920's Teapot Dome scandal, in which New Mexico Republican Senator Albert Fall was convicted of accepting bribes for oil drilling rights to various lands. According to Anderson, "I think it was Albert Fall, who was asked to describe drainage before Congress. And his way of describing it was, 'If you have a milkshake and I have a milkshake, and my straw reaches across the room ...' I'm sure I embellished it and changed it around and made it more Plainview. But Fall used the word milkshake, and I thought it was so great. It was mad to see that word among all this official testimony and terminology - a fucking milkshake. I get so happy every time I hear that word."
  • Michael Clayton's birth date is stated to be in September of 1959. Later in the film he states that he is 45 years old, placing the events of the film somewhere between 2004 and 2005.
  • In "Atonement", Briony's appearance next to the stained glass window featuring Saint Matilda, may also be a reference to the saint's status as patron of falsely accused people. I didn't see the movie, so that one is for those who did.
Tomorrow ... more interesting stuff.

Monday, February 25, 2008

It's over for another year.

"He has no genitalia and he's holding a sword."
- Dustin Hoffman, 52nd Academy Awards, 1980
Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast went off without a hitch, and other than Tilda Swinton's Supporting Actress award for her work in "Michael Clayton", there weren't a lot of surprises. Tilda seemed a little surprised herself, and millions of casual movie-goers now know who Tilda Swinton is.
Speaking of millions of casual movie-goers, the same thought crosses my mind every year while I'm watching the Oscars. Why do they show us those Short Subject and Foreign Film awards at the beginning of the show? I haven't seen an animated short subject in a movie theater since I was five years old, and in most parts of the country, foreign film is the stuff that gets stuck to your teeth after drinking milk.
But we persevere through the awards like Art Direction, Make-up and Animated Short Subject so that we can get to the Tilda Swinton Awards - acting, directing and American-made movies. It's a long way to go, and I usually don't make it, and last night was no exception.
Generally, I get weary of listening to millionaire actors and producers pat themselves on the back and remind us what cushy jobs they have. It's tiring to me and it seems to go on forever - or at least until midnight. I gave up at 11:05, before I saw the Coen Brothers win their second award and the presentation of the Daniel Day-Lewis Award, which (like the Lombardi Trophy) the Best Actor Oscar should probably be re-named soon.
The Academy Awards is one of those events where the prelude is more interesting than the actual event. The fun is in predicting who will win. Once it starts, I grow weary of self-adulation and I start to think that it's just a bunch of people loving themselves. That's a little creepy. Figure that the population of a city decided to hold a big party, put it on TV and tell everyone watching what great work they did last year. It's a little like hosting your own birthday party. Once that feeling starts to sink in, I start thinking that a good night's sleep is my best option, which I encouraged in my post on Saturday.
In the back of my mind I knew how I was going to feel, but after a year, I forgot.
Now I have this to remind me. An electronic string around my finger.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday stuff.

My friends at the bike shop are in the midst of a full-scale remodeling project. The place is a mess, but the Guatemalans (I hope they're legals) are working at a feverish pace and it looks like it could be done in less than a month - just in time for the snow to melt.
Meanwhile, I'm working as hard as ever to get ready for the cycling season. In the past, I've done spinning to get prepped for riding, but I've found that spinning is not necessarily the best training for cycling. Strange, but true.
I'm doing abs, glutes and circuit training to try to strengthen the parts that are along for the ride, so to speak. Only one day of spin, and that's followed by ab work, so it's not a total loss!
I'm not very good at all this jumping and running stuff. I've spent most of my life avoiding running and working fast, but these classes are quick and every exercise we do is done for 25 reps. 25 repititions of anything is tough. Try holding an 8-pound weight between your feet and raising and lowering them 25 times in a minute. It's a sweaty mess.
I'm ready for the end of winter. Up until a few days ago it looked like it was coming, but we got pelted with a nice little snow and ice storm and now we're back in the freezer. The sad part is, I've got a brand new bike sitting downstairs in my storage area waiting for the thaw.
Baseball and cycling. C'mon spring - winter sucks.