Monthly Archives: November 2008

The old fly, call, sprint, bound, ring gag

A couple of times after I moved to Pittsburgh for college, I flew home to New York without telling my mom. Her apartment building had a pay phone in the lobby. On these occasions I would call her from the lobby, pretending still to be in Pittsburgh. In the middle of the conversation I’d say, “Hold on a second.” Then, leaving the phone off the hook (but having arranged with the doorman to hang it up for me after a few minutes), I’d sprint from the lobby down a long hallway to the rear staircase, bound up to the third floor, and ring her doorbell. I’d greet her with a “Surprise!” and a goofy smile, and she’d greet me with a delighted hug.

Thanksgiving was a good time to do this trick, because it was plausible to claim not wanting to travel on Thanksgiving, and because Thanksgiving is a great family-togetherness holiday, and because my mom’s birthday was always right around Thanksgiving. In fact today’s the day she would have been seventy-four.

After I surprised her this way two or three times she started asking me, “Are you really down in the lobby?” whenever I’d call from Pittsburgh to say “wish I could be there” on some holiday or other. She was always disappointed when I convinced her that I really was far away still. In later years, after college, I did this once or twice more, only with the advent of ubiquitous cell phones I didn’t have to arrange anything with the doorman, or sprint, or even say “Hold on a second.” I could call her from right outside her apartment door, and ring her doorbell right in the middle of a sentence. Convenient — but I liked the lower-tech, higher-effort version better.

Happy birthday, Mom. This is the story we would be remembering together if you were still around. I miss you.

November 14th, 1988

It was twenty years ago today
I stayed up until the break of day
Talking like it’s going out of style
With a girl who had a gorgeous smile
So may I introduce to you
The guy I’ve been for many years:
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band!

I’m Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band
I hope you will enjoy this post
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band
Scroll down eight dozen lines at most
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band

It’s wonderful to be wed
It’s certainly a thrill
We’re such a lovely family
I like to have you home with me
I love to have you home!

I don’t really wanna stop the blog
When I do, I get a big backlog
But the writer’s gonna write a song
And he wants you all to read along
So may I introduce to you
The guy who beat up Billy Sheer:
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band!

Billy Sheer!

What would you think if I said “Let’s stay home”
You’d say “Let’s go out and have some fun”
You always find all the cool things to do
And without you they’d all stay undone

Oh I improve with a little help from my wife
In the groove with a little help from my wife
Oh I couldn’t move without some help from my wife

What do I do when my love is away?
I just watch TV and eat some Fluff
How do I feel when she comes back to play?
She can get me to do better stuff

Oh I improve with a little help from my wife
In the groove with a little help from my wife
Couldn’t move without some help from my wife

Do you need anybody?
I don’t want this to sound crass:
Could it be anybody?
She gets me up off my ass

Do you believe in a love at first sight?
If by “first sight” you mean decades of time
What does she hear when she turns out the light?
She hears snoring and she knows it’s mine

Oh I improve with a little help from my wife
In the groove with a little help from my wife
Oh I couldn’t move without some help from my wife

Do you need anybody?
I just don’t want to sound crass:
Could it be anybody?
She gets me up off my ass

Oh I improve with a little help from my wife
In the groove with a little help from my wife
Oh I couldn’t move without some help from my wife
Yes I improve with a little help from my wife
With a little help from my wife!

One, two, three, four!

I’m Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band
I hope you have enjoyed this post
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band
I’m sorry but it’s done (almost)
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-

Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart Hus-band
I’d like to thank you once again
Mr. Glickstein kinda sappy Happy-Heart Hus-band
It’s getting very near the end
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-
Mr. Glickstein, Happy-Heart
Hus-
Band!

Bonding

[This post is participating in Lazy Eye Theatre’s James Bond Blog-a-thon.]

1973. Live and Let Die. I was seven years old. My folks gave me five bucks and let me go to the movies on my own, just me and my friend Matt. Afterward we rehashed and debated everything that was cool about the film: the speedboat jump, walking on crocodiles, and that amazing LED watch showing tiny red numerals when Bond pressed a button on its side. (Years later I would see the film again and be appalled at its racism. Everyone white is a good guy. Everyone black is a bad guy.)

1975. The Man With the Golden Gun. Matt saw it without me, and then described how the bad guy had this amazing gun that he assembled from innocent-looking items like a gold lighter and a gold fountain pen that he could take anywhere and no one would ever know! It was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. Also: second Bond movie in a row with a bad guy’s name ending in -anga.

1977. The Spy Who Loved Me. I had forgotten about going to see Live and Let Die, and when my summer day camp organized an outing to see the film, I resisted, claiming haughtily that I only enjoyed the original and best Bond, Sean Connery. (In fact I’m not sure whether, at that point, I’d ever seen a Connery Bond film; but I’d heard this opinion expressed elsewhere and decided to adopt it.) But I tagged along, had a terrific time, and afterward readily admitted my error. Years later I would adopt a strong preference for Sean Connery, and a dislike for Roger Moore, for real.

1979. Moonraker. I easily spotted this as a pathetic Star Wars rip-off, and the Close Encounters joke it contained made me roll my eyes, but I still liked it well enough to go out and buy the novelization. Also the first time I can remember quoting a Bond film. (“I believe he’s attempting re-entry.” [Haw!])

1981. For Your Eyes Only. What the hell was that?

1983. Octopussy. You guys aren’t even trying anymore, are you?

1985. A View to a Kill. To this day, I haven’t even bothered to see it. By this time I am evangelizing to everyone that the only really good Bond film was From Russia With Love.

1987. The Living Daylights. A welcome return to a Bond who’s dangerous and sexy, whose flirtations with an equally sexy Moneypenny don’t make me bury my face in my hands. But what’s this? The PC police have caught up with the Bond series and conspicuously scrubbed it of smoking and (as the AIDS epidemic builds up a head of steam) womanizing. Phooey! That’s not what I go to the movies for. Any time I want to see someone not womanize I can just watch myself.

1989. Licence to Kill. The promise of the previous film not fulfilled. Wayne Newton, seriously?

2002. I’d skipped all the Pierce Brosnan Bond films, but I tagged along with my co-workers to the premiere of Die Another Day. It was a revelation. Mental note: go back and watch his other movies.

2006. Casino Royale. The Bond I’d been waiting my whole life to see.

Update [14 Nov 2008]: Matt wrote to question my recall about Live and Let Die. I agree with him it’s unlikely we went alone to the movies at age seven, especially if it meant crossing Queens Blvd. Maybe we saw a re-release a couple of years later.

Eat your vegetables

[This post is participating in The Cooler’s Politics and Movies blog-a-thon.]

I don’t know how my mom ever got me to watch the film 1776 in the first place. Probably it was by turning it on to watch it herself and relying on the hypnotic spell of the TV to pull me in. Ever since she did, I have spent a large part of my life trying — and failing, mostly — to persuade others to see it too. You see, the movie is almost impossible to describe without making it sound like “eat your vegetables” or “floss your teeth” or “do your homework” — something boring but essential because it’s good for you (shudder), even though it’s actually as entertaining a two hours as you’re ever likely to spend. Its educational value is just a nice little plus.

Here, I’ll show you what I mean:

1776 is the true story of how the Second Continental Congress, which at first opposed the idea of separating from Great Britain, eventually came to adopt the Declaration of Independence. And it’s a musical!

See? You couldn’t possibly want less to watch it now, could you? The fact that it’s a musical only seems to confirm that it’s a subject so dreary that it needs some added flavor, like oatmeal. Let me try again:

In 1776, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin persuade a reluctant Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence, and a reluctant Congress to adopt it.

Ugh, that’s worse. Try this on for size:

Franklin.
Jefferson.
Adams.
They’re not just names in history books. They’re not just stodgy portraits, marble statues, or dry-as-dust lists of accomplishments. They were ordinary people like you and me. 1776 makes them accessible and shows how they achieved the impossible.

Oy. Clearly I’m trying too hard. Maybe if I concoct a modern high-impact movie trailer using scenes from the film and some dramatic narration…

            NARRATOR
      You know how it ends.

Close up on the new Declaration of
Independence as John Hancock adds his
distinctive signature.

            HOPKINS
      That's a pretty large signature,
      Johnny.

            HANCOCK
      So Fat George in London can read
      it without his glasses!

            NARRATOR
      But it almost didn't happen.

Congress in session.

            RUTLEDGE
      South Carolina will bury now and
      forever your dream of
      independence!

Congress in session.

            ADAMS
      They stopped our trade, seized our
      ships, blockaded our ports, burned
      our towns, and spilled our blood!

            NARRATOR
      In a world that doesn't know
      freedom...

Congress in session.

            DICKINSON
      I have no objections at all to
      being part of the greatest empire
      on earth!

Congress in session.

            RUTLEDGE
      Black slavery is our peculiar
      institution and a cherished way of
      life.

            NARRATOR
      ...a secret cabal...

Franklin indicates Jefferson, Adams, and
himself.

            FRANKLIN
          (singing)
      A farmer, a lawyer, and a sage!

            NARRATOR
      ...defies the mightiest army on
      earth...

Congress in session.

            THOMSON
          (reading a dispatch)
      "There can be no doubt that their
      destination is New York for to
      take and hold this city and the
      Hudson Valley beyond would serve
      to separate New England from the
      other colonies permitting both
      sections to be crushed in turn."

            NARRATOR
      ...and an even greater enemy:
      apathy...

Congress in session.

            HANCOCK
          (distractedly)
      General Washington will continue
      wording his dispatches as he sees
      fit, and I'm sure we all pray that
      he finds happier thoughts to
      convey in the near --
          (swats a fly)
      -- future.

Outside Congress.

            ADAMS
          (singing to the heavens)
      A second Flood, a simple famine,
      Plagues of locusts everywhere
      Or a cataclysmic earthquake
      I'd accept with some despair
      But no, you've sent us Congress!
      Good God, sir, was that fair?

            NARRATOR
      ...to attempt the impossible.

Franklin and Adams scheming outdoors.

            FRANKLIN
      No colony has ever broken from the
      parent stem in the history of the
      world!

            NARRATOR
      One man with a vision...

Congressional chamber, empty.

            ADAMS
          (singing)
      I see fireworks!
      I see the pageant and pomp and parade!
      I hear the bells ringing out!
      I hear the cannons roar!
      I see Americans, all Americans
      Free forevermore!

            NARRATOR
      ...one man with a quill...

Jefferson appears at his window and lets
a paper flutter down to Adams and
Franklin in the street below.

            ADAMS
      Franklin, look!  He's written
      something -- he's done it!
          (reads)
      "Dear Mr. Adams: I am taking my
      wife back to bed.  Kindly go away.
      Your obedient, T. Jefferson."

            FRANKLIN
          (admiringly)
      What, again?!

            NARRATOR
      ...and one man with the savvy to
      see it through...

Congress in session.

            FRANKLIN
      We've spawned a new race here --
      rougher, simpler, more violent,
      more enterprising, and less
      refined.  We're a new nationality,
      Mr. Dickinson.  We require a new
      nation.

            NARRATOR
      ...must overcome incredible
      odds...

Congress in session.

            ADAMS
      But it'll never be unanimous,
      dammit!

            DICKINSON
          (pleased)
      If you say so, Mr. Adams.

            NARRATOR
      ...their personal prejudices...

Franklin and Adams scheming outdoors.

            FRANKLIN
      Nobody listens to you.  You're
      obnoxious and disliked.

Hopkins and Franklin milling about in
the Congressional chamber.

            HOPKINS
      You are without a doubt a rogue, a
      rascal, a villain, a thief, a
      scoundrel, and a mean, dirty,
      stinking, sniveling, sneaking,
      pimping, pocket-picking, thrice
      double-damned, no good son of a
      bitch.

Outside Congress.

            JEFFERSON
          (singing)
      Oh, Mr. Adams, you are driving me
      to homicide!

            NARRATOR
      ...and their own weaknesses...

Adams and Jefferson in Jefferson's
apartment.

            ADAMS
      Do you mean to say it's not
      finished?!

            JEFFERSON
      No, sir.  I mean to say it's not
      begun.

Adams and his wife.

            ADAMS
      I've always been dissatisfied, I
      know that.  But lately I find that
      I reek of discontentment.  It
      fills my throat and floods my
      brain.

Franklin and Adams in Congress.

            FRANKLIN
      What will posterity think we
      were -- demigods?

            NARRATOR
      ...to prove to the world...

Congress in session.

            ADAMS
      Certainly we require the aid of a
      powerful nation like France or
      Spain.

Congress in session.

            DICKINSON
      Mr. Jefferson, are you seriously
      suggesting that we publish a paper
      declaring to all the world that an
      illegal rebellion is, in reality,
      a legal one?

            NARRATOR
      ...that all men...

Adams and Franklin in the Congressional
chamber.

            FRANKLIN
      Whether you like it or not, they
      and the people they represent will
      be a part of the new country you'd
      hope to create!  Either start
      learning how to live with them or
      pack up and go home!

            NARRATOR
      ...are created equal.

Congress in session.

            FRANKLIN
      There's no backing out now.  If we
      don't hang together, we shall most
      assuredly hang separately!

Laughter.

            HANCOCK
      Gentlemen, forgive me if I don't
      join in the merriment, but if
      we're arrested now, my name is
      still the only one on the damn
      thing!

Fit-ness

Survival of the “Fit”test

A lower price wasn’t the Fit’s only advantage over the Prius. While car shopping I rented a Prius for a one-day extended test drive, ending up with three specific complaints:

  1. Visibility through the rear window is poor;
  2. The console’s large, animated engine-performance display is dangerously distracting;
  3. The keyless engine-start button is (a) unsafe with small children around but (b) too cool to disable with the child-safety lock.

More than a year ago I replaced my 1998 Honda Civic hatchback with a new Honda Fit. Fuel efficiency was a key decision criterion for me, and naturally I considered the Toyota Prius; but the Prius gets its best gas mileage in city driving, and at the time of my purchase most of my driving was on the highway, where the Fit’s efficiency was close to that of the Prius, at a much lower price.

I’ve been tracking my Fit’s fuel consumption on a spreadsheet for several months now and the trend is clear: its efficiency is consistently in the 35 MPG range. Nothing to sneeze at, especially given the dismal fuel economy of almost all other cars on the market; but disappointingly it falls short of the mileage I was getting with my Civic at the end, which occasionally exceeded 40 MPG — with the previous decade’s engine technology!

You can see the mileage I’m getting, fill-up-by-fill-up, in my Google Docs spreadsheet.

Shell game

The United States of Bigotry — that’s us.

The nation was founded on bigotry: the Second Continental Congress refused to adopt Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence in 1776 until anti-slavery language was removed; and one war and eleven years later the Constitutional Convention declared a Negro to be three-fifths of a person for census-taking purposes — and for voting, zero-fifths. Our growing nation spent most of its first century internalizing these injustices. When after stealing entire lifetimes from one generation after another we finally got around to trying to fix the problem, it was too late: bigotry was in our DNA and couldn’t be purged without civil war and several more generations of discrimination and institutionalized racism.

Yesterday we elected to our highest office a man who, apart from being the best person for the job, is incidentally a member of that oppressed racial group, and it would appear we finally closed the door on that particular flavor of bigotry — though the job won’t be done until we nail a bunch of boards across that door, shove a chair under the doorknob, and stand permanently to one side with a raised baseball bat. However, in the very same instant we opened the door to a new kind of bigotry as three states outlawed gay marriage — and this after a presidential campaign in which one candidate scored political points by calling the other a Muslim. It’s as if bigotry can’t be ended, it can only be shifted from here to there like some sort of hateful shell game.

In California, where you might least expect a gay-marriage ban to succeed, where did its electoral support come from? In a stunning, epic, historic stroke of irony, exit polls show it came from the very demographic that was motivated by bigotry to turn out in greater numbers than ever before: black voters, who in their (justifiable) eagerness to overcome a legacy of discrimination passed the baton to a whole new class of victims.

Update (7 Nov 2008): My friend Bart points out that this exit polling result is being blown out of proportion to its reliability and may itself be the cause of further bigotry — perish the thought! See “War of the Words: Fear and Hate Behind Proposition 8” on Skepticblog.

Words of prey

I realize I’m a little late to the party but I had to write a few words about Birds of Prey, the short-lived TV series from 2002. I checked out the first few episodes over the weekend courtesy of Netflix after learning that my childhood playmate Dina Meyer starred in it as Batgirl. I hoped to discover it was kid-friendly and that I could show it to Jonah and Archer and then boast to them that I knew Batgirl.

Unfortunately, when Dina assured me it was kid-friendly, she must have meant young-adult friendly. Or maybe she just meant that it’s more kid-friendly than the Saw films, in which she also stars. At any rate it wasn’t age-appropriate for a four- and a six-year-old. But that’s not the only reason I wouldn’t show it to them. Nothing against my friend from the old neighborhood, who did a fine job with what she had to work with, but I have some serious problems with the show’s premise.

Birds of Prey takes place in the city of New Gotham, some years after a cataclysmic confrontation between Batman and The Joker. The Joker lost, but on his way out of town he murdered Catwoman — Batman’s true love — and attempted to kill Barbara Gordon, a.k.a. Batgirl, Batman’s protégé. Barbara survived, paralyzed below the waist. Batman vanished from New Gotham, apparently driven to despair by the Joker’s targeting of the the two women closest to him. Under the new alias Oracle, Barbara Gordon presides over a super-high-tech crime-fighting lab from which she supervises The Huntress, a heroine with Matrix-style superpowers of combat and wardrobe and who, by the way, is the secret love child of Batman and Catwoman. Together, with the help of a third babe with mental superpowers who joins their team, they battle a variety of supernatural foes stalking New Gotham, most of them under the direction of the scheming Dr. Harleen Quinzel, once The Joker’s groupie and now a respected, unsuspected mental-health professional and director of Arkham Asylum.

OK, where to begin?

Batman has a daughter he doesn’t know about? With Catwoman? Well, I might be able to buy the with-Catwoman part — maybe (mustn’t their love remain unconsummated because she chose the wrong side of the law?) — but considering the importance of Batman’s own parents to his mythos, it’s tone-deaf to make him a daddy too and then make him (a) unaware and (b) absent.

Speaking of which, Batman’s gone? What about the terrible graveside vow he made to his parents? He just broke it? What, does he think crime in New Gotham is over now that The Joker is defeated? I’m sorry, but Batman would never simply up and leave town, I don’t care how much he has suffered — especially with Barbara Gordon still alive and still fighting crime despite suffering even more directly than Batman from The Joker’s attack.

Supposedly Batman dealt The Joker some sort of total final defeat. What kind of “final defeat” leaves The Joker free to murder Catwoman, cripple Batgirl, and then skip town? And where did The Joker go after leaving New Gotham?

And why “New” Gotham? What happened to “Gotham City”? Feels like some sort of not-your-father’s-Oldsmobile nod to the kids watching the WB network. (And look what happened to Oldsmobile.)

Back to those parting shots from The Joker. His attacks are mere executions. There’s nothing Joker-like about them. We actually get to see the attack on Batgirl. He knocks on her apartment door and shoots her point-blank when she opens it. With a handgun, one that shoots bullets, not a telescoping boxing glove. He doesn’t blow up her apartment. He doesn’t drive a wrecking ball into the side of her building. Where’s the jack-in-the-box spraying poison gas? Where’s the robot clown with spinning razors for hands? Where’s the sadistic glee, the cackling laughter? If he was capable of this kind of attack before, why did he wait until he was “defeated”? And how did this master criminal get the drop on Batgirl and merely cripple her, not kill her?

And why in the world would crimefighter Barbara Gordon, daughter of the police commissioner, simply open her apartment door to The Joker?

Speaking of, where is Commissioner Gordon? He’s never mentioned.

About Dr. Quinzel: how did The Joker’s kooky moll become a professional psychiatrist, administrator, and evil mastermind? “Harley Quinn” is flighty and ditzy, the very opposite of the restrained, duplicitous, organized schemer she’s portrayed to be here. Judging from other incarnations of her character, she should be doing no more or less than constantly searching for The Joker and looking for ways to bring him back to New Gotham.


Tag line reads, “Batman’s
little girl is all grown up.”

I could let all of those other problems slide if it weren’t for the thing that bothers me about The Huntress: she has superpowers. Why would the daughter of Batman and Catwoman have superpowers? Why would anyone in Gotham (sorry: New Gotham) have superpowers? The Batman universe is appealing largely because there are no superpowers. Yes, I’m aware of Superman/Batman crossover stories, and that you can’t have staple Batman comic-book villains like Clayface without superpowers; but my Batman universe — the one on TV and in movies — has mostly stayed away from the supernatural. I like the idea that with nothing more than a bottomless pile of cash, a preternaturally capable manservant, and a will of iron, I could be Batman.

Finally: isn’t it a little sexist to call a show about three hot chicks Birds of Prey?

Oh well. Someday Jonah and Archer will get to make up their own minds about it. But consistent storytelling matters to me. I’d almost rather they see Saw first.

Couldn’t I be a little less right all the time?

Preface: It’s remarkable how quickly, after all we’ve been through, it’s becoming irrelevant to bash George Bush. Of course some of this is by his own design: he’s sitting out the election to prevent harming McCain’s chances (any more than McCain and Palin are harming them themselves), and everyone’s bashing energy has shifted to more prominent targets. Very likely, once the election is over, we’ll be hearing a lot more about Bush as he gives the world whatever final fuck-you he has in store; but for now, I’ve got this blog post that I’ve been tinkering with for weeks, and if I want it to have any relevance at all I better wrap it up and push it out the door now, ready or not. Here ’tis.


Global finance in total meltdown. Major cities half obliterated. Peak oil (and peak helium, platinum, indium, zinc, copper, phosphorous…). Deteriorating soil quality in the heartland, and plummeting water tables — in fact, water shortages everywhere. Polar ice caps disappearing. Fishing stocks depleted. Our protective global magnetic field weakening. Vast methane clouds pouring out of their ancient undersea vaults. The U.S. Constitution in tatters.

Not that long ago, when my friends and I would get together and discuss our biggest concerns, they were along the lines of, “With the world so peaceful and prosperous, how will we keep our kids (when we have some) from growing up into spoiled trust-fund brats?” We were looking for solutions a little more subtle than worldwide strife and deprivation to teach them some humility, but I guess worldwide strife and deprivation will have to do. It worked for “the greatest generation,” after all. (Careful what you wish for!)

Honestly, it’s almost worth it to see everything turning to shit all at once, just to be able to say that, when I warned four years ago that the world couldn’t afford another four years of George Bush — that no scenario of devastation was too far-fetched — I was exactly right. It wasn’t hyperbole when I said George Bush could destroy the world. He now has.

Ahh.

Of course the destruction of the world could have taken many different forms. Here’s one way I’ve thought it might happen. Don’t you just know that this is exactly how Bush would respond to this kind of crisis? Imagine with me now…


EXT. GOLF COURSE - DAY

            AIDE

    Mr. President, Space Command has
    detected an extrasolar object in a
    geoconverging orbit, exhibiting
    nonballistic maneuvering capability.
    Here's the report: "Alien starship
    will reach earth in three months."

            BUSH

    "Space Command"?  We have one of
    those?  You're shitting me.

            AIDE

    Yes sir, but the report --

            BUSH

    OK, you've covered your ass.  Now
    watch this drive.

INT. UNDISCLOSED LOCATION

            AUTO EXEC

    Dammit, Dick, these new CAFE rules
    are killing us.  Building more
    fuel-efficient cars adds almost a
    full percent more to the cost of
    manufacture!

            ASSISTANT

    But the public wants these cars and
    will pay a premium --

            AUTO EXEC

    The public?  Bah!  You're fired!

            ASSISTANT

    But the free market --

            AUTO EXEC

    Get out!  ...Sorry you had to see
    that, Dick.

            CHENEY

    I know how it is with these kids who
    "care."  Say, don't I remember
    reading something highly classified
    about an alien starship...?

            AUTO EXEC

    A what?!

            CHENEY

    Oh it's probably nothing... except
    it's just what the doctor ordered
    for your fuel-efficiency problems.

            AUTO EXEC

    Thanks Dick, you're the best.

            CHENEY

    Yes.  Yes I am.  Fuck you.

INT. OVAL OFFICE - NIGHT

            BUSH

    My fellow Americans, an alien
    spaceship is approaching earth.  It
    will arrive in two months.  Top
    scientists have analyzed it and
    determined it is likely that its
    intent is hostile.  I urge the
    Congress to release one point six
    trillion dollars to fund my
    planetary defense program.  In the
    meantime, this government is taking
    all possible steps to ensure the
    safety of all Americans.  I have
    suspended fuel-efficiency rules so
    that automobile manufacturers can,
    ah, include lead shielding in the
    passenger cabins of all new
    automobiles as protection against,
    er, a possible alien death ray.

INT. PRESS ROOM - DAY

            MILBANK

    Yes, Harvey?

            HARVEY

    What is the president's response to
    reports that MIT scientists have
    deciphered transmissions from the
    alien ship and determined its
    mission is peaceful?

            MILBANK

    The president sees through that
    transparent ruse.  I direct your
    attention to this report, released
    yesterday by the NSA, pointing out
    that Al Qaeda operatives received
    the same transmissions.

            HARVEY

    Of course they did, everyone on
    earth rec --

            MILBANK

    Next question -- Paul?

INT. U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES - DAY

            A REPUBLICAN

    Madame Speaker, I move to end debate
    and vote on the proposal to release
    the one-point-six-trillion dollars
    that our commander-in-chief requires
    to defeat the Al Qaeda terror
    spaceship.

            PELOSI

    Very well.  If there be any opposed
    to the proposal to fund the
    president's Al Qaeda space-defense
    program --

            KUCINICH

    Hang on, that spaceship has nothing
    to do with Al --

            PELOSI

    Shut up, Kucinich.

          (bangs gavel)

    Without objection, the measure
    passes.

INT. ALIEN STARSHIP

            LIEUTENANT

    Commander, sensors indicate a
    massive missile launch from the
    planet's surface.

            COMMANDER

    Target?

            LIEUTENANT

    Computing... sir, I don't
    understand.  The missiles are
    heading straight for us, but --

CUT TO:

INT. WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM

            ADVISOR
          (frantically)

    --those missiles don't have enough
    fuel!  It's what I've been trying to
    tell you!  They're intercontinental
    missiles, they can't even achieve
    low earth orbit, let alone--

CUT TO:

INT. ALIEN STARSHIP

            LIEUTENANT

    --our geostationary orbit is far out
    of range.

            COMMANDER
          (sighs)

    I had hoped for a cultural exchange,
    but I can see these people are both
    warlike and stupid.  Incinerate
    planet.

            LIEUTENANT

    Aye sir... planet incinerated.

Let’s hope that if aliens do come — or whatever the next disaster is — it’s not in the next seventy-seven days.