Stallion: The Early Years

I think I discovered that acting was a cool thing to do somewhere around the age of nine or ten. It was at summer school, and I auditioned for the production of “Really Rosie,” in which I played a monkey. I got to wear monkey ears and everything. The highlight was when I got to solo on one verse of the song “Chicken Soup with Rice,” and I even remember the words:

In August it will be so hot
That I’ll become a cooking pot
Cooking soup, of course, why not?
Cooking once, cooking twice
Cooking chicken soup with rice.

I must have done something right, because one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was cast as the lead in the next big kiddie production of Harry Nillson’s The Point, playing “Oblio the Weirdio,” the only person in the whole village who didn’t have a sharp point growing out of the top of his head. Because of my mutant status, I was banished from the town, and, at one point, I had to bid a tearful goodbye to my parents as I left them forever.

That’s where the story gets interesting.

The script called for me to shake my father’s hand, say “Goodbye, father,” and then say “Goodbye, mother,” and take her in a fond embrace. Except the girl who played my mother was just about my age, and she was short and dumpy looking. I can’t remember anything about her as a human being; I only remember she was fat.

And I refused to compromise my star status by hugging a fat person.

Actually, I think it was more complicated than that. I wasn’t all that comfortable hugging anyone – I’m still not a touchy/feely guy by nature – and hugging a girl would have been about five bases farther than I’d ever gone with any other girl before. There was another cutie who I had hoped would get cast as my mother and be my first-time real hug, but I think I would have balked at getting that intimate with her, too, out of sheer embarrassment. But hugging a chubby gal would have somehow given the impression that I liked her, and would probably have been the equivalent of getting married. It was a major commitment I was too young to make. So I opened negotiations on the subject by bursting into tears and stomping off in a huff and swearing that I wanted to quit, that I wanted to go home, that I didn’t want to have anything to do with this stupid old play anyway.

What a weenie.

The director finally called me at home when he thought of a suitable compromise. I was to take the girl by both of her hands, in a very grand and formal gesture, and I could forgo the hugging. I wasn’t crazy about this, but it kept her at arm’s length, and it wouldn’t make its way into the tabloids.

As I recall this unseemly event at the beginning of my career, I can’t help but feel sympathy for tha girl, but even more for the director. I wonder what he told that poor gal. I hope he didn’t say, “Stallion doesn’t want to hug a lardo.” And I hope the lardo in question has gone on to live a happy and healthy life, regardless of her dress size.

I hope my loved ones won’t feel funny about hugging me now that I’m equally tubby.

Baptisms for the Easily Offended

NOTICE FROM THE MANAGEMENT TO PEOPLE OF ALL RELIGIONS, CREEDS, COLORS, AND COLLEGE FRATERNITIES:

Once I’m dead, I invite all worshippers of all other religious faiths to use this post as blanket permission to posthumously baptize me into their faith. Have at it, boys. Do what you will. Hindus, reincarnate me as anything canine, feline, or bovine. Scientologists, give my regards to Xenu. If you’d like to make a voodoo doll and poke and prod me until you’ve had enough, feel free. Call me whatever you like; just don’t call me late for dinner. Actually, go ahead and call me late for dinner, since, you know, I’ll be dead and everything.

I bring this up because the Salt Lake Tribune is rife with letters to the editor from folks who are still furious with the LDS Church for our practice of proxy baptisms for those who have died. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Baptisms for the Dead, rest assured that it does not involve corpses, grave digging, or Keith Richards. Latter-day Saints believe that the family is eternal, and that baptism by the proper priesthood authority is essential for exaltation in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, living people stand in proxy in LDS Temples for deceased ancestors and are baptized on their behalf.

This cheeses off a lot of people, and, for the life of me, I don’t understand why.

It reached a head when, a few years back, a large Jewish organization convinced the Church to remove all names gathered from records of the Holocaust, insisting that posthumously baptizing Jews was a horrific affront to the Jewish people and the suffering they endured under the Third Reich. They asked that Mormons remove all Jewish names from their lists, but, of course, that would be all but impossible. The Church agreed, however, to forgo the use of Jewish records as they gather their names to perform this ceremony.

Here’s where I fail to see the problem. In the first place, Judaism, along with every other major and minor religion in the world, does not recognize the Mormon priesthood as binding, effective, or authoritative, so why do they care what those kooky Mormons do in their spare time? Protesting the ceremony grants it a legitimacy that surely the Jews themselves never intended. If Mormon baptisms are essentially meaningless, then why acknowledge them at all?

In the second place, Mormon doctrine maintains that acceptance of the baptism is entirely voluntary. If someone wants to remain a Jew in the life to come, then they will be free to do so. Perhaps the offer to join the LDS Church via proxy baptism might be slightly annoying to said Jew, perhaps the equivalent of astral junk mail. But that’s assuming that the what the Mormons are doing has any efficacy to begin with. And if you believe that’s the case, then why aren’t you joining the Church while you’re alive?

What Mormons are proposing is an act of charity. It is given out of love, and it is not done with any intent to diminish the mortal lives of those who are offered the gift. If the gift is unwanted, so be it. How does it diminish anyone to have such a gft offered to them? At the same time, I fail to see how one preserves the integrity of their own religion by attacking mine.

So have at it, Buddhists and Muslims and Zoroastrians. Baptize away. I’m confident that God has it all under control, and he’ll sort it all out.

Bush and McClellan – Who Sucks More?

I really hope there’s a special level of hell reserved for weasels like Scott McClellan.

McClellan, as you may or may not know, is the former press secretary of President Bush who has written a scathing tell-all book that pushes all the right MoveOn.org buttons. You know the drill – Bush lied, kids died. They’ve been chanting this mantra for over half a decade now, so it was only a matter of time before one of George’s own guys started saying it. As the historical consensus hardens around the proposition that Bush is a failure, McClellan the Rat jumps off a sinking ship and on to the one that he thinks is going to get him feted by the press, the intelligentsia, and the public at large.

But he’s not going to get what he wants. Sure, he’ll get plenty of attention. But he’s lost just about everyone’s respect. What, he thinks the Lefties will give him kudos for turning on Bush when there’s no political downside to it? Does he think anyone on the Right will ever speak to him again? What an idiot. The Left may welcome the ammunition, but even they can smell rank opportunism and disloyalty.

Yet like McClellan and the majority of Americans, I, too, am disgusted with President Bush. But my reasons differ wildly from the conventional wisdom. I’m disgusted because he’s given up, because he’s thrown his defenders and his own party to the wolves. McClellan can spout the opposition party line and all Bush can do at this point is wring his hands. No one is telling the truth about Iraq – that it was the right thing to do, that it’s saved thousands, if not millions of lives of people who would otherwise end up in Saddam’s mass graves, that everyone in the world believed he had WMDs and the intent to use them, which is why he bluffed up until the end, because he doubted the will of America.

Well, Bush stood up to him. And if Iraq is allowed to stabilize before Obama yanks the troops out of there, “Bush’s war” will ultimately be seen as the pivot point that transformed the Middle East into a place hospitable to Western democracy. That probably won’t happen, though, as too many people have a vested interest in dismantling Bush’s legacy.

And Bush – tired, muddled, flummoxed, and confused – is all too willing to let them do it.

He’s let his political enemies define his presidency all down the line since Hurricane Katrina, when FEMA arrived faster than it ever had in previous disasters but took the brunt of criticism for the rank incompetence of state and local officials. And what did Bush do? He piled on FEMA and gave Mayor Nagin and Co. a pass, thereby solidifying the narrative that Katrina was his biggest non-Iraq blunder.

When his Attorney General fired eight US Attorneys – which was well within his rights to do – Bush tried to defend him while he threw him under the bus. Gonzales was a good guy, the prez said, but you’re right, critics, this was a bad, mean, awful thing he did.

What crap.

Bush should have stepped up, said “Yeah, I fired them. Why? Because I felt like it. Same reason Clinton fired all of them. They serve at the pleasure of the president , and I wasn’t pleased. You got a problem with that?” Instead, he tried to make nice and bought into the critic’s argument that there was something untoward about the whole thing, and he damaged himself even further.

McClellan’s book plays directly to all the biases and misconceptions that Bush critics cultivate, even resurrecting silliness about the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was exposed by Clinton holdover and Iraq War opponent Richard Armitage. The damning facts about Plame and Wilson – she was not covert, he was not sent to Niger by Cheney, and Libby and Rove were not the one who revealed her identity – have been verifiably exposed time and again, yet Bush’s inability to articulate a coherent defense has allowed a blatant falsehood to become “truth,” a “truth” which McClellan has no problem cashing in on.

It’s nauseating, And it’s made worse by the fact that Bush is either too scared or too stupid to change the record.

And all the while, Bush has sold the Republican Party down the river on every other issue that matters. Federal spending and bloated government subsidies have gone through the roof. The Federal Government, via No Child Left Behind, has metastasized itself into every aspect of education. Bush is even giving crappy global warming speeches that will no doubt be cited by whoever gets elected next when they bankrupt the country with an asinine cap and trade bill. “Even the hated ex-President Bush recognizes the need for this,” Obama/Clinton/McCain will say.

And to Bush’s everlasting shame, they’ll be right. But that doesn’t mean Scott McClellan isn’t a weasel.

Memorial Day Weekend Report

So I spent most of the long weekend in Los Angeles, as it was my uncle’s 80th birthday party. I lived with this aunt and uncle for several years while I attended the University of Southern California, and I consider them my surrogate parents. They have the same address where I lived lo these many years ago, but they’ve torn down the house and built a new, palatial estate in its place about five years back, and it still takes some getting used to. My uncle was once fond of saying they lived in the “white trash” section of Bel Air – they bought one of several tract houses in the area back in the Sixties. I think they paid something like 70 grand for it. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the property is worth considerably more than that now.

I flew down on JetBlue with my oldest daughter, Cleta, who, like me, enjoyed the personal TV screens and the flight into Burbank Airport instead of LAX, which was constructed using hell’s original blueprints.

The party was nothing but fun, except for Cleta, who fell asleep during the slideshow while sitting at a table. She’s not all that fond of reminiscing with people she doesn’t know. As for me, I was in heaven. I saw a picture of myself from the summer of ’77, wherein I was sporting a Star Wars t-shirt, a flyaway bowl cut, and a massive, pre-orthodontic overbite. Good times.

I also got into a series of political discussions, which I handed off to my sister, who argued with my cousin’s boyfriend about whether or not it’s appropriate for the US to sit down and negotiate with Hamas. I sided with Sis, but the opposition insisted that we Americans need to be more flexible and understanding. I didn’t say this, but I wonder if these open-minded folks would be willing to wear burqas to make our enemies feel better.

I quickly decided I hated politics, but not before concluding that our country is doomed.

We then took a series of family pictures, which may be more excruciating than most political discussions. I’m pretty sure that hell is exactly like LAX, except that everyone is being forced to pose for a family picture every fifteen minutes.

I didn’t have time to visit my myriad of friends and family in LA who didn’t attend the party, although I did pass by Universal City and thought of posing in front of the Black Tower and sending the shots to one Andrew Fullen of Chicago, Illinois. Languatron, you’ll be pleased to know that my uncle is, in fact, a former studio executive – at Fox, though, not Universal – and a personal friend of Glen A. Larson, although apparently not close enough to have Mr. Larson show up to his shindig. However, since Mr. Fullen presumes that I am Mr. Larson, my uncle accepted me as a suitable surrogate.

I came home and Mrs. Cornell informed me that Stalliondo was now potty trained, which worked out well until last night, when he crapped into his diaperless pajamas.

Not so good times.

Thumbs Up for Indiana Jones

So we took the family to see Indiana Jones tonight. All of them. Even Stalliondo, who is just a week or two shy of his third birthday. He dug most of it, but got freaked out by anything involving dark spaces or skeletons. The twins were a little freaked, too, but I don’t think it was too harsh for them. It’s milder than the other Indiana Jones flicks, except for the ants. Yikes, but those ants were gross.

So how was it?

Well, I could pick it apart if you wanted me to. Chloe came out of it saying “A lot of it was pretty unbelievable.” To which I responded “And which one of the previous movies was remotely believable?” Maybe the first one, although the Ark melting people’s faces required a certain suspension of disbelief. Once you got into the next two, what with ripping out human hearts and voodoo dolls and caves with magic goblets and five-hundred year-old knights, it all got pretty silly.

This one may have the goofiest, most convoluted plot of them all, and they wasted a lot of time giving you far more exposition than you needed. Ray Winstone’s character is a waste, as is John Hurt’s. Cate Blanchett is solidly over the top, and Jim Broadbent could have used more screen time.

There. Satisfied? I loved it. It was an Indiana Jones movie.

To understand that, keep in mind that I don’t consider the Star Wars prequels to be Star Wars movies. I try to pretend they never happened. They’re not of a piece with the wonderful original trilogy, and they actually diminish the earlier films just by existing.

This was different. This thing was actually an Indiana Jones movie. The reason? Harrison Ford.

Ford has been pretty lousy for a pretty long time. Since Air Force One, probably. All of his subsequent movies have involved large amounts of mumbling and little or no derring do.

But he shows up for this movie. He’s Indiana Jones all over again, and though he’d greyer and older, he doesn’t seem to have missed a step. That’s astonishing. And it’s the main reason this movie works.

There’s really no point in going over the plot or reviewing this in some kind of academic sense. It was so much fun to be watching a new Indiana Jones movie, and to be able to share that movie with kids who weren’t even thought of when the last one came out. It’s a kick to see Marion again. Shia TheBeef was just fine, although I don’t like the implication that the torch is being passed to him for the next movie. Harrison Ford’s still got it – he could do another couple of these easily, so milk it while you can.

Everyone online is trying to place this thing in a ranking with the other movies. I don’t see the point of doing that – sometimes I love Temple of Doom, and other times I recognize it for the over-amped train wreck that it is. Occasionally, Last Crusade bugs me, but usually the Connery/Ford relationship wins me over. Raiders is the closest thing on earth to a perfect movie, so there’s no point in comparing any of the lesser sequels to it. But this thing fits into the Indy pantheon effortlessly. That’s really remarkable, considering the twenty-year split.

The Cornells give it six thumbs up. That’s everyone except Stalliondo, who screamed a lot and spent a lot of time at the popcorn stand.

Why I Suck

So it seems my sister, who lives on the West Coast, read this blog just moments before tuning into the big Idol finale, and despite my spoiler warning at the top, she couldn’t avoid seeing the lone “I can’t believe David Cook won” sentence sitting there all by itself.

She was less than pleased.

Within moments, I received a text message that said, succinctly, “You suck!” On Facebook, she threw a bowling ball, a fireball, and three wrenches at me, changed her status to “I think my brother sucks,” and then gave me a can of “whoop a-s.” She also posted the following on our private family blog, which I will reproduce with only minor edits:

STALLION POSTED THE AMERICAN IDOL RESULTS ON HIS MOIST BLOG BEFORE I WATCHED IT CALIFORNIA TIME. I WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW HOW MUCH HE SUCKS! THE SUCKAGE IS MASSIVE AND IT MUST BE EXCLAIMED FROM THE ROOFTOPS THAT STALLION SUCKS! YOU COULDN’T WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT DAY???!!!!!!????? YOU ARE MY BROTHER AND I LOVE YOU DEARLY, BUT THAT DOES NOT EXCUSE THE SUCKY SUCKY SUCKY THING YOU DID!

YOU SUCK!

(I responded with an insouciant “I’m not sure how you feel about this.”)

I also called her last night, and while she was considerably upset, I think the long-term damage to our sibling relationship is negligible. Although she has made it quite clear that I do, in fact, suck.

I apologize publicly to my sister, who did not deserve to have the Idol moment spoiled for her, and I accept my well-earned suckage.

Yes, I suck.

Still, she was not the only family member disappointed by the results.

My twin boys, Corbin and Cornelius, are only seven years old and aren’t all that interested in American Idol, but they got caught up in the hometown fervor in support of Archuleta. (Murray, Utah, David A.’s hometown, is right next door to where I live – maybe about two or three miles away.) They went to bed at just after 8:00, right after I’d found the results online and written last night’s blog entry. My two daughters were watching the show and didn’t want to know the outcome, but the boys begged to learn who had won before they went to bed.

“David Cook won,” I told Corbin.

“You mean David Archuleta,” Corbin corrected me.

I shook my head. “No, David Cook.”

“David Archuleta,” he insisted, trying to bend the world to conform to his will.

“Sorry, no. David Cook.”

There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth after that. In his bedtime prayers, Cornelius even asked his Heavenly Father to “bless David Archuleta to win American Idol.” I don’t want to damage the kid’s faith, but it’s a little misguided to ask God to change the results after the fact.

The girls took the news a little easier, but Chloe did ask, in her prayers, that “David Archuleta won’t be sad.” Sorry, but that’s not going to work, either. Of course he’s going to feel lousy. It sucks to lose. But this, too, shall pass. Archuleta has a bright, exciting career ahead of him. And Mrs. Cornell pointed out that Cook, at age 25, probably needed this a lot more than Archuleta did. She also think Cook is pretty sexy, even though I’ve pointed out that he’s probably going to be bald by the end of the decade.

As for me, with a night to think about it, I’m still okay with it. This isn’t the travesty of justice that knocked Melinda Doolittle out before the Season 6 finals. Cook is talented, gracious, and an appropriate winner. All is right with the world.

I still suck, though.

Wow. (American Idol Spoilers)

American Idol doesn’t end for another 45 minutes or so, but I just checked votefortheworst.com’s message board.

I can’t believe that David Cook won.

I’m not upset. Or even disappointed, although I was rooting for the Utah kid. I’m just stunned that the voters stuck it to Simon like that. Last night, watching the finals, I was aghast at how blatant the show was being rigged for Archuleta. Yes, the kid did great. But Cook was at least as good in all except the last song. Simon just had it in for him, and I didn’t quite understand why.

I had planned on writing something this morning about how I don’t think the judges should participate in the final round, because it gives one contestant an advantage with the voters. But that turns out not to be true. Cook went first – always a jinx – and he got slammed. Archuleta had every advantage and had a great night, and still Cook pulled it out.

Utah’s gonna be bummed tomorrow, I’ll tell you that. But Cook deserved it. He’s a better performer, and it’s not like Archuleta is going to disappear. I think he would have won if it weren;t for his mayor’s moustache.

I guess I ought to be watching the tedious results show – but why? Geesh, these things are long. And boring. And what’s with the Mike Myers movie plug? Gack. Watching these self-congratulatory yawnfests is the video equivalent of eating a gallon of cold caramel popcorn.