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Archive for October, 2011

The Rum Diary

October 31st, 2011 by

It seems like we’ve been mourning Hunter Thompson for the past seven years now. We’ve had the obituary, the response to others’ shitty obituaries, the oral history, the documentaries. Some people got to see his ashes shot from a custom-made Gonzo cannon. We’ve even had weird conspiracy theories about him being murdered floated out on the internet by people who apparently have trouble understanding why someone like Thompson would blow his brains out when he’s in a wheelchair and just starting George W Bush’s second term as President. And now we’ve got the long-awaited movie adaptation of The Rum Diary.

The Rum Diary is pretty good for a superhero origins movie. The superhero later became known as Raoul Duke and Hunter Thompson, but back then he was Paul Kemp.

Kemp was Thompson before Thompson was Thompson – more of a late ’50s greaser who rode around with the Hell’s Angels than the eccentric character we all came to know and love in later years. But there are several moments in the film where you get the impression that you’re watching the beginning of certain aspects of his persona. His love of driving fast in sports cars with beautiful women, his love of psychedelic drugs, his hatred of Richard Nixon – all these things are inserted into the script in order to foreshadow the future of Thompson’s career. Even some lines are lifted directly from his later works for the more obsessive fans in the audience who might be looking for a little more than a literal translation of the novel itself.

Because – and I say this as one of those obsessive fans in the audience – the plot of The Rum Diary isn’t that great. I don’t even remember how it ended, exactly, though I’m pretty sure it was different from the film. What I do remember are the little anecdotes and the overall ambiance. The look and feel of Puerto Rico just before the Paleface, Inc. came in with their pin-striped suits and took over the place, that was really the strong point of Thompson’s writing at this stage.

And that definitely carried over into the translation to celluloid. Some of the characters are simplified to fit a Hunter Thompson model some of us might be more used to. The newspaper’s staff photographer Bob Sala is made into more of an Oscar Acosta / Dr. Gonzo / Ralph Steadman constant companion character than he was, and Moberg (more on him later) is more of an outcast in the film, while he was more or less part of a trio in the book.

Since this is set back about half a century ago, one of the predominant themes of corruption and crime within journalism seems quaint in the modern world. A PR guy played by the Two-Face / Thank You For Smoking guy asks Kemp to plant what amounts to miniature subliminal ads for his development projects within his stories. And although he agrees to it Kemp seems troubled by how he’s being used in the situation. So back then that would’ve been the standard reaction to an offer to be paid to unethically haul water in what amounts to a tiny newsletter for a guy who wants to build a hotel; today you get hacks like Judith Miller enthusiastically volunteering to make a case for war in Iraq in the pages of the New York Times. It’s sad how things change sometimes.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but the parts I remembered and the imagery it conjured in my mind looked pretty much exactly as I imagined. The one exception was how Moberg looked. But going back to the book it dawned on me that they had portrayed him pretty accurately and that I had read it wrong. In the movie Moberg looks like an actual transient bum who sleeps in the streets. Reading the book gave me the impression he was just the scruffiest of a scruffy bunch – the drunk who all the other drunks point to, saying, “At least I’m not like him.” But that was because I assumed Thompson was using  an unreliable narrator device in describing Moberg.

But I think a moderate version of Moberg could even be justified by a literal reading of the text. The newspaper’s editor Lotterman yelled at him a lot, but you get the feeling Lotterman was a uptight guy from the beginning. Besides, in the book it was Moberg who was originally with Chenault, not Sanderson. They had a small place on the beach way out in the sticks where he would hunt for chicken. All these factors put together led me to believe Moberg was a little more together than he appears in the film. But then you’ve got Thompson’s [Kemp's] original description of him, which pretty much overrides my own nerding out over this:

Moberg had been in San Juan only a few months, but Lotterman seemed to loathe him with a passion that it would take most men years to cultivate. Moberg was a degenerate. He was small, with thin blond hair and a face that was pale and flabby. I have never seen a man so bent on self-destruction — not only self, but destruction of everything he could get his hands on. He was lewd and corrupt in every way. He hated the taste of rum, yet he would finish a bottle in ten minutes, then vomit and fall down. He ate nothing but sweet rolls and spaghetti, which he would heave the moment he got drunk. He spent all his money on whores and when that got dull he would take on an occasional queer, just for the strangeness of it. He would do anything for money, and this was the man we had on the police beat. Often he disappeared for days at a time. Then someone would have to track him down through the dirtiest bars in La Perla, a slum so foul that on maps of San Juan it appears as a blank space. La Perla was Moberg’s headquarters; he felt at home there, he said, and in the rest of the city — except for a few horrible bars — he was a lost soul.

It goes on for a few more paragraphs, but you get the idea.

Anyway, enough about Moberg. He’s a minor character. What you should take away from this is if you’re thinking about seeing The Rum Diary, don’t expect a literal translation. That’s a pretty unreasonable expectation for any movie based on a book and especially so here, where the filmmakers are trying to make this more of a final goodbye to one of the 20th century’s great journalists than a simple story about a crappy newspaper in late ’50s Puerto Rico.

One last thing. As well as they capture the image and tone of Thompson’s book, I didn’t enjoy this nearly as much as the Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas movie. Then again, this one didn’t have an obsessive maniac in the director’s chair, and we all know Johnny Depp’s not nearly as age-appropriate for a 20something Hunter than he was 14 years ago as a 30something one. Still, it’s better than Where The Buffalo Roam, but not quite good enough to not wait for it to come out on DVD.



Paging Dr. Fraud

October 26th, 2011 by

Obama On The Couch author Dr. Justin Frank is clinically delusional

Dr. Frank gained pop psychology fame with his ’04 book Bush on the Couch, an underwhelming analysis of a dry drunk with daddy issues who found Jesus. Not to belittle the psychological professional, but it was readily apparent to all what was going on in Bush’s brain. I mean, there wasn’t a whole lot there. (more…)

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Dear Indianapolis Colts, Just Fucking Stop

October 25th, 2011 by

Seriously, this is getting sad.

In sports, there are routs, there are blowouts, there are beatdowns, there are even a few eviscerations. Then there was all-out curb-stomping that the New Orlenas Saints laid on the Indianapolis Colts this past Sunday. They won by a score of 62-7, while slaughtering the Colts so thoroughly it would’ve made Caligula blush. It was probably the most disturbing event in recent football history that didn’t include the words “Michael Vick,” “rape stand,” “Ben Roethlisberger,” or “hotel maid.” (more…)


Herman Cain Chief of Staff Sucks on Fag

October 25th, 2011 by

This is weird:

First, who the hell is this guy? Block was, until recently, the Wisconsin State Director of Americans for Prosperity. Now he’s Cain’s CoS. That makes sense.

Second, what is with Cain’s creepy smile at the end? That’s your best take? Really?

“I’m Herman Cain, and I approved this leering.”

And C, why does Block have that fag in his mouth? AFP’s been underwritten by the tobacco industry before, so that’s probably why.

“I’m in Freedom Country”

Guys like Block & Cain — people with tobacco industry connections — don’t just make a campaign video that features a guys smoking without considering those connections. It’s not a flippant decision. Cain himself has lobbied hard for tobacco, according to the NYT:

From 1996, when he left the pizza company, until 1999, Mr. Cain ran the National Restaurant Association, a once-sleepy trade group that he transformed into a lobbying powerhouse. He allied himself closely with cigarette makers fighting restaurant smoking bans, spoke out against lowering blood-alcohol limits as a way to prevent drunken driving, fought an increase in the minimum wage and opposed a patients’ bill of rights — all in keeping with the interests of the industry he represented….

Under Mr. Cain’s leadership, the restaurant association opposed higher taxes on cigarettes and the use of federal money to prosecute cigarette makers for fraud — positions that Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids said had little to do with the restaurant business.

And Mr. Cain argued vociferously that the decision about whether to go smoke-free was the province of individual restaurant owners, not the government. “The restaurant industry literally became the alter ego of the tobacco industry during that period of time,” Mr. Myers said in an interview.

The restaurant association relied heavily on R. J. Reynolds for financial support, records show. Mr. Meyne, the Reynolds senior director of public affairs, served on the restaurant group’s board, and Mr. Cain served on the board of Nabisco, which had earlier merged with Reynolds.

In a 1999 memorandum, Mr. Meyne wrote that in previous years his company had given the trade group “as much as nearly $100,000 in cash and much more in in-kind support,” adding, “They have done virtually everything we’ve ever asked, and even appointed us to their board.


Naturally, I have no proof that the smoking shot is Block’s half of a campaign donation/personal payoff quid pro quo with big tobacco, but call it women’s intuition: AFP, Cain, Block et al got paid, for that puff. If they didn’t, they missed an obvious opportunity to do so.

UPDATE: Jim Newell at Gawker thinks I’m guilty of “concern trolling” and that I’m to be counted among “a whole class of reporters and writers who apparently have never once seen someone smoking a cigarette.” I’ve actually seen people doing this…in the mirror. And when I ran for Congress, I smoked in my campaign ads, too. Oh, wait, I didn’t because I’m not a) a fucking idiot and b) a tobacco lobbyist.

Block says the ad was “Just Block be[ing] Block.”  And that he “personally would encourage people not to smoke. It’s just that [he's] a smoker.” I imagine Block takes a shit every day, too, so why not just film him on the toilet, wiping his hairy, libertarian asshole with some Koch-made Georgia Pacific double-ply? It would just be Block being Block.

But at least Gawker’s straightened me out on this — because if a professional tobacco lobbyist & AFP liar like Block says there’s nothing to the ad, then there’s probably nothing to the ad. He and Cain have been paid by the tobacco industry before, and they likely will again, but this one’s probably a freebie.

Thanks, Gawker! Your too-cool-for-practical-analysis-of-a-political-anomaly-perpetrated-by-a-guy-with-ties-to-the-tobacco-industry attitude is what good reporting is all about!



TV Weatherman Won't Deny Molesting Animals

October 24th, 2011 by

Fox News contributor Anthony Watts refuses to deny he sexually violated farm animals 

TV weatherman turned global warming denier, and Fox News contributor, Anthony Watts has refused to answer to charges that he routinely sexually violates farm animals.

In a recent blog post about the animal-sex controversy, Watts cites a critic who’d commented on the Center for American Progress blog Climate Progress:

“I recently experienced a horrifying extended email conversation with Anthony Watts…pleading that he was not, in fact, a lover of sexual congress with farm animals.”

Watts brushes aside the allegations as nonchalantly as he brings them up. “Mentioning the charges,” says psychologist Daniel Dinklage, “and not outright denying them is his way of saying, ‘Oh, Dear God, it’s true; I did have sex with farm animals on many occasions!’ He needs the world to know that on some level.”

Watts, seen here, looking at animal porn

No stranger to controversy, Watts has made a name for himself as a prolific anti-science blogger, commentator, and incompetent data collector. In 2009, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a paper strongly dismissing Watts’s false claims that surface temperatures have not risen. Watts has also inspired critics who see his ties to the Exxon/Koch-funded Heartland Institute as a clear indication that he’s paid to lie about climate change science.

“Having sex with animals,” says Dinklage, “is Watts’s cry for help.”

Watts was not contacted for this report.



5 Things I'm Not Cool Enough To Hate

October 24th, 2011 by

It’s a list. You like lists.

1) Twitter

Sadly, many philosophers forget Immanuel Kant’s brilliant work,  The Critique of Pure Twitter, published on Facebook.

Have you heard that Twitter messages are limited to 140 characters? IT IS TRUE. And this is an outrage to some people. (more…)


Pro-lifers are murdering hypocrites

October 24th, 2011 by

And not just because they kill abortion doctors

I like Herman Cain’s confusing position on abortion, and the recent Republican candidates’ focus on the issue, because it’s a good excuse to bash pro-life hypocrites. And, yes, if you’re pro-life, you’re a hypocrite. Sorry; that’s the truth. (more…)


4 Ways the Alt-Med Industry is Fucking With Animals

October 20th, 2011 by

Animal testing is a tough subject. For the most part I’m for it, although there are probably a lot of unnecessary ways it goes down which should probably be stopped. But when it comes to developing new drugs to treat diseases, there’s a certain amount of acceptable harm to non-human animals which in my opinion can be justified in the interests of a greater good to humanity.



This World Series Is Gonna Suuuuuuuuuuuuuck

October 18th, 2011 by

X-Factor is getting pre-empted for this shit?!

What’s the only thing less inspiring than an Obama-Romney election? Why, a Texas Rangers-St. Louis Cardinals World Series of course! Yes, that’s right; despite what watching ESPN may have led you to believe, there are baseball teams other than the Yankees and the Red Sox. There’s even something called the “National” league – where pitchers hit! What type of Bizarro world shit is that?! (more…)


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