Share This

Fierce Anticipation: Nov. 21 – Nov. 23


A blogumn by Ryan Dixon


Dry Storeroom #1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey
Was there ever a place more magical than a museum? In the middle of my birthday party evolutionary chart, where fast food restaurant playgrounds begat roller skating rinks, swimming pools, movie theaters and, eventually, bars, stands my 11th birthday party at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. I don’t know if I ever again felt such genuine glee, awe and wonderment as when, accompanied by my likewise amazed friends, I stepped off the echoing marble floors of the museum hall and descended into the basement to come face to face with a group of paleontologists busily uncovering the fossil remains of a Dryosaurus. With that in mind, it is no understatement to say that the release of Dry Storeroom #1 has given me a geekgasm. In the book, Richard Fortey provides us with a backstage tour of the Grand Dame of them all: The Natural History Museum of London. Fortey takes us behind-the-scenes and, in the best you-couldn’t-make-this-up tradition, introduces us to a host of exciting, ingenious and unbelievably eccentric characters who seem better suited to populate a Monty Python sketch then to exist in real life. This is geek reading of the highest order.

In Bookstores Now


The 10 Big Lies About America by Michael Medved
I sometimes feel bad for The Right. Al Franken runs for the Senate in Minnesota (result: To Be Continued…) and the only celebrities Norm Coleman can round up to star in an ad warning of the perils of electing a celebrity — Arnold, Ronald and Fred please collect $200 and pass Go — are John Ratzenberger, Victoria Jackson, Stephen Baldwin, Robert Davi and the corpse of Pat Boone. In terms of cultural critics The Left has Frank Rich while The Right has…Michael Medved? This former liberal, who campaigned for Bobby Kennedy and was in attendance the night he was assassinated, spent much of the 1980’s and 90’s co-hosting, with Jeffrey Lyons, PBS’s movie review show Sneak Previews. (Medved was also the first critic to name Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space the worst film of all time.)  However, Medved became increasingly disgusted with the slate of films Hollywood was exfoliating to the rest of the country and wrote Hollywood vs. America, a polemic against all that smutty jazz, signaling out such paragons of depravity as Total Recall and The Prince of Tides. Now the host of a very popular conservative radio show that proclaims him as “proof that there still is patriotism in Hollywood,” (Even though he lives in Seattle) Medved has written his magnum opus: The 10 Big Lies About America. With extreme subtlety the inside flap informs us that “Each of the ten lies—widely believed among elites and taught as truth in universities and public schools—is a grotesque, propagandistic distortion of the historical record.” While most books of this ilk can be dismissed out of hand, there is no denying that Medved has a robust intelligence and wit. And, unlike the majority of his cohorts, he is also willing to engage those who vehemently disagree with him. For example, his debate with Christopher Hitchens regarding God is Not Great is two hours of the most gripping radio you’ll ever hear.

In the likely case that, in between servings of turkey next Thursday, many of you will be confronted with Medved’s talking points by your parents or in-law’s, here’s a sampling, taken from the book, of the “myths” that are “debunked”* after the jump:

Myth: The United States is uniquely guilty for the crime of slavery and based its wealth on stolen African labor.

Fact: The colonies that became the United States accounted for, at most, 3 percent of the abominable international slave trade; the persistence of slavery in America slowed economic progress; and the U.S. deserves unique credit for ending slavery.

Myth: The alarming rise of big business hurts the United States and oppresses its people.

Fact: Corporations played an indispensable role in building America, and corporate growth has brought progress that benefits all with cheaper goods and better jobs.

Myth: The Founders intended a secular, not Christian, nation.

Fact: Even after ratifying the Constitution, fully half the state governments endorsed specific Christian denominations. And just a day after approving the First Amendment, forbidding the establishment of religion, Congress called for a national “day of public thanksgiving and prayer” to acknowledge “the many signal favors of Almighty God.”

*NOTE TO READERS: To prepare your counter-arguments, I’d recommend a trip to the library to peruse the works of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky. Don’t worry, they won’t be checked out.
In Bookstores Now


I Can’t Think Straight
Christians have the oeuvre of Kirk Cameron, African-Americans have the Tyler Perry factory and now all those British, Indian, Muslim, and Arab lesbians hunkering for a bubbly romantic comedy to call their very own have I Can’t Think Straight. I’m all for each religious / ethnic / sexual group getting to create their own entry in a mainstream movie genre, but I just have to ask: Do these films really have to be so outrageously and incompetently bad? (Here’s just a sampling of the reviews for I Can’t Think Straight.) It’s as if the producers of these films get so excited by the opportunity to make their own movie – “It’s 27 Dresses meets The Kite Runner!”– that they forget to include many of the major narrative precepts that have been developed  over the past 100 years of cinema. The only thing stopping films of this ilk from being laughed out of the theater is the fact that the inherent need is so great for each designated special interest group to see themselves portrayed as something other than gangsters, terrorists, drag queens or bible-thumping fools that they’ll put good taste aside for two hours and act like those citizens in South Park who didn’t want to believe that Spielberg and Lucas had raped Indiana Jones. Oh, well. Perhaps I am in no place to complain since my fellow S.W.A.M.’s (Straight White Anglo Males) did give the world Disaster Movie and the nearly two-decade box office rule of Pauly Shore. As a proponent of the belief that people should be able to marry whomever they want, I suppose we should all be allowed to enjoy our own specially-designed trash too.

Now in playing in selected theaters