Do we want to eat at a fish restaurant where the seafood might eat us? From Gloucester, MA.

Who knew that dogs could read? Photo by Dominique Thiebaut.

We found this sign entirely ambiguous and couldn't figure out what message was being conveyed. From North Hartland, VT.

Our vote for the most unnecessary warning of all time, given that what's on either side of the bridge is....

This! From North Hartland, VT



Senator Max Baucus--with Democrats like him, who needs Republicans?

Brave, brave Max Baucus—just reelected to the Senate in 2008 and already running like it’s 2014. He’s patting himself on the back for the Senate Finance Committee’s rejection of a public option for health care reform. Baucus was quoted as saying, “My goal is to get a bill out this committee that becomes law….” Wow! There’s visionary leadership for you. Apparently it doesn’t matter if the bill is any good, as long as something passes. Let’s be brutally frank about this: If the final bill doesn’t contain a public option, who the f*%k cares? And while we’re at it, let’s ask another question: Who the f*%k needs cowards like Baucus or Kurt Conrad (North Dakota) in the Democratic fold if they’re going to act like rightwing Republicans?

Health care reform without a public option is a chimera; it’s no reform at all posing as action. Many of us—and this includes yours truly writing from Massachusetts—already have all the so-called “reforms” in place that the Baucus bill would require: portable insurance, no disqualifications for pre-existing conditions, and requirements that every resident buy insurance. We also have something Baucus and the Backroom Boys don’t want to talk about: some of the highest premiums in the nation. That’s because the entire system is based on protecting the bottom lines of private insurers, not on containing costs. As Senator Jay Rockefeller (West Virginia), one of the Democrats who “gets it,” commented about the current plan, “People come second and the profits come first.”

The whole debacle is a reminder of why Democrats are such perpetual electoral losers—they don’t lead, they equivocate. Harry Truman once remarked that if you give the public a choice between a faux Republican and a real one, they’ll choose the real one time after time. This is precisely the path on which Democrats currently find themselves. Who could blame voters for being put off by Democrats whose view of problem-solving is George Bush with a human face?

Health care reform will be a test of President Obama’s mettle. He needs to apply party discipline and make it quite clear that he won’t entertain any health care reform bill that lacks a public option. Privately he needs to let party leaders know that the president will not campaign for, fund raise, or publicly support those who don’t climb aboard. How he handles his own party will be the measure of whether he can be—as many voters hoped—the heir to Lincoln or the next coming of Jimmy Carter—a decent man out of his depth.



Taking Woodstock, 2009
“Directed” by Ang Lee
(No Stars)

It’s been forty years since Woodstock and over time it’s been used for a metaphor for just about everything. But Woodstock as Jewish guilt!? After sitting through 120 minutes of this cinematic bad trip we can only conclude that director Ang Lee must have gotten hold of some leftover brown acid. This is easily the worst film of 2009 and a strong contender for the most inept movie of the century.

Demetri Martin plays the role of Elliot Teichberg (now Tiber), upon whose book James Schamus's gratuitous screenplay of Taking Woodstock is based. Teichberg was indeed the head of the Bethel Chamber of Commerce in 1969, and he played a role in helping relocate the Woodstock Music Festival to Max Yasgur’s farm when the town of Walkill pulled the plug. It’s highly doubtful that he was as important as he pretends to be in the narrative that unfolds—or should we say unravels—on the screen. Teichberg’s historical significance is just one of many things in the script that’s up for grabs, though the overall product is so horrible that we can’t imagine anyone caring enough to dispute them.

To say that Woodstock isn’t the film’s main focus would presuppose it had one. Insofar as we could tell, the central drama is Elliot’s coming of age as a gay, Jewish artist. To do so he must break the histrionic grip of his guilt-inducing, domineering mother (Imelda Staunton), who tyrannizes him and rides roughshod over her milquetoast husband (Henry Goodman). We infer that had it not been for Woodstock, Elliot might still be in the closet and managing a moldering ramshackle motel in upstate New York. Although we wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone, it would have spared the world from this film.

Perhaps we’re being too harsh on Teichberg. After all, it is a director’s job to fashion a coherent film. Ang Lee demonstrates less craft than an armless carpenter and makes mistakes that would be unforgiveable even from a first-year film student. Consider the soundtrack. One of the first songs is from The Doors and one of the last is from Traffic; neither band played at Woodstock. Lee’s idea of cleverness is to copy the split screen technique of Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary—advanced stuff back then; pretty tame now—and to graft stereotypes onto stolen ideas. Among the latter, Liev Schreiber’s drag queen Vilma is a lame echo of John Lithgow’s Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp; the surrealistic parade of hippies filing into the concert is clumsily ripped from Fellini’s Satyricon; and the ridiculous Earthlight Players are a naked (and idiotic) version of The Mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

It’s seldom a good omen when a film is billed—as is this one—as having been “inspired by a true story.” That phrase generally means that facts take a back seat. In Taking Woodstock, Lee butchers history even worse than he shames celluloid. Imagine every simplistic stereotype of the 1960s your mind can conjure and Lee will have trumped you. There were, for example, no mass bra burnings at Woodstock. (Bra burning as a social phenomenon was more mythical than real, an isolated event painted as widespread by antifeminists seeking to discredit the women’s movement.) On a more substantive level, Lee imbues the character of Billy (Emile Hirsch) with a stoned, Charles Manson-like danger that grossly distorts and dishonors Vietnam vets. Lee didn’t even bother to separate trends from the Sixties from those that would not emerge until the 1970s (such as Billy’s post-traumatic stress disorder, a diagnosis that isn’t named until 1978.)

We could go on, but why bother? This film is so bad that it might someday reemerge as a camp classic, but for now you should avoid it as you would a man vomiting in the street. Don’t pay to see it, don’t put it on your Netflix queue, don’t borrow it from the library, don’t TiVo when it’s aired, and don’t believe anyone who says it’s not so bad. Yes—it is. We felt horrifically guilty having wasted two hours watching Taking Woodstock and we’re not even Jewish!