Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Brad Pitt is no Jesse James

In true fashion of this blog, Melissa is clearly taking current issues that actually mean something to a large group of people. I, on the other hand, address matters that people could care less about. But they are irking me at the moment so that it is why I write posts that make little sense and when read, people usually think, "Um, what the hell?"

Yes. This is one such post. Reading the newest issues of magazine In Touch, on pages 54-55, in a photo spread titled "Do they look like the characters?", several photos of celebrities in their newest roles are placed next to the photographs of the real people they are portraying on screen. Kirsten Dunst will be playing Marie-Antoinette (Why?) and Sienna Miller will be Edie Sedgwick in the upcoming Factory Girl (believable). But the one that really ticked me off, the one that sent me into a rant that had my roommates both laughing and looking quite confused, was Brad Pitt as Jesse James.

Excuse me? What?

That's right. Brad Pitt, the 42-year-old actor aka Angelina Jolie's baby's daddy, will be playing Jesse James, infamous outlaw and bank/train robber, who was 34-years-old when he was murdered in 1882.

According to IMDB.com, the plot of Brad Pitt's newest piece of art, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is this: Robert Ford joins Jesse James's gang, only to become resentful of the legendary outlaw and hatch a plan to kill the fastest gun in the West. At least they got the assassin's name correct in this one. I remember watching a really old black and white movie once on AMC and the guy's name was Robert Forn who shot Jesse. With my experience concerning Jesse James movies is that the writers usually just take the famous name, put a guy in a classic wild west environment and have him rob something. Writers seem to have very little time when it comes to actually researching the man. (American Outlaws starring Colin Farrell)

I'm babbling though as I tend to do. The movie is based off of a book so perhaps I should read that before judging this movie further. But I will continue to judge the casting of the lead role. Brad Pitt? Seriously? To me, this guy is a step above cardboard. Don't get me wrong. Brad is known to take roles that most wouldn't i.e. Fight Club, Snatch and I did enjoy Seven, Spy Game, and Rusty from Ocean's Eleven got a good laugh out of me. But for some to think that he is the best actor behind Tom Cruise (don't even get me started) clearly needs to go to the neighborhood Blockbuster and rent some classic movies with classic actors. (Pacino, DeNiro, Gregory Peck, Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Laurence Olivier, Spencer Tracy to just name a few.)

I just don't think that Brad Pitt can capture the complexity which embodied that of Jesse James. The man was the classic example torn between hero and villain status. I remember reading a biography of the man in junior high and reading about entire towns that would hide out the James-Younger Gang after a robbery and scary, but yes. I thought that that was so cool. This man was an outlaw, coming home from the Civil War where from his home state of Missouri, he served in a guerilla outfit, and proceeded to rob banks and trains from Texas to as far north as Minnesota.

"Jesse James (partly) turned to crime as a means of exacting revenge on all things Yankee," says Time-Life Books' The Wild West.

He is the classic guy torn between being bad and good. In my mind, a similar character immediately comes to mind- that of Michael Corleone from the classic "The Godfather" movies. With Jesse, the world doesn't know whether to love or hate him. I personally love him and the completely romantic notion of the wild west this man embodies.

Of James, crime historian Jay Robert Nash writes, "Millions of words would be written about this handsome, dashing and utterly ruthless bank and train robber. To many of his peers, he would appear a folklore hero who took vengeance in their name upon an industrial society that was grinding the old agrarian lifestyle to ashes. To others, he and his band represented the last vestiges of the Old South and its lost cause of secession...He was at large for sixteen years. He committed dozens of daring robberies and killed at least a half-dozen or more men. He died at the age of thirty-four."

This man is a legend and now Brad Pitt, cardboard extraordinaire, is going to be playing him. I'm sorry if I offended anyone with a "Mrs. Pitt" tee-shirt or who has every one of his movies and swoons over his nude scene in Thelma and Louise. I'm sorry to the people who saw Troy and truly believed that Brad Pitt was perfectly cast as Greek warrior Achilles. I didn't by the way. Not for a minute. Truly awful casting. But that seems to be the problem. People see Brad Pitt on the casting bill and for some reason, that is reason enough to flock to see the movie. Studios hear that Brad is going to be in a movie and they immediately finance it, not caring if he is right for the role or not.

Americans love the image of crime. Gangsters, outlaws, escaped convicts. People eat these subjects up. And Jesse James is one of the most infamous and legendary. To put Brad Pitt in the role of such a man, complex and yet honorable, for he believed that what he did was necessary, is a stretch. But if when this movie comes out and it's not a complete inaccuracy of historical facts, I'll write another post and admit that I was wrong. But I will never, never, admit that Brad Pitt is a magnificent actor and that he deserved to play this man.

My roommate asked me who I thought should play Jesse James instead. Easy. No one. Because no one can be Jesse James except the man himself.

Minstrel Billy Gashade wrote this song immediately after Jesse James' death. An overnight hit, its lyrics ran in major newspapers nationwide and the tune became a standard in vaudevilles and saloons. In the 1930s, songwriter Woody Guthrie rewrote the lyrics to promote the 20th Century-Fox movie, Jesse James, starring Tyrone Power (as Jesse) and Henry Fonda (as Frank James, his brother). The song and movie re-popularized the legend of the outlaw for a new generation. These are Grashade's original lyrics:

The Ballad of Jesse James

Jesse James was a lad that killed many a man, He robbed the Glendale train; But that dirty little coward that shot Mister Howard Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

Poor Jesse had a wife to mourn for his life, Three children they were brave, But that dirty little coward that shot Mister Howard Has laid poor Jesse in his grave.

It was Robert Ford, that dirty little coward, I wonder how does he feel? For he ate of Jesse's bread and he slept in Jesse's bed, Then laid poor Jesse in his grave.

It was his brother Frank who robbed the Gallatin bank And carried the money from the town; It was in this little place that they had a little race, For they shot Captain Sheets to the ground.

It was on a Wednesday night, the moon was shining bright When they robbed the Glendale train; The people they did say, for many miles away, It was robbed by Frank and Jesse James.

He robbed from the rich and was a friend to the poor; He had a heart and a hand and a brain. With his brother Frank, he robbed the Northfield bank And stopped the Glendale train.

It was on a Saturday night, Jesse was at home, Talking to his family brave; Robert Ford came along like a thief in the night And laid poor Jesse in his grave.

The people held their breath when they heard of Jesse's death And wondered how he ever came to die. It was one of the gang called little Robert Ford who shot poor Jesse on the sly.

Jesse went to his rest with his hand on his breast, The devil will be upon his face. He was born one day in the county of Clay And came from a solitary race.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Where are the viewpoints?

The Marquette Tribune has been missing something recently, viewpoints. Viewpoints are the only reason why I pick up the paper in the first place. It gives me an idea as what some of my fellow classmates are thinking. In my opinion it is the best writing in whole paper. Some of the topics are so random and I get a good laugh out of it. Some viewpoints get me mad, but then again I easily get agitated. I am sick and tired of hearing what paid staff for the Tribune have to say. I mean, come on, who really cares if the columnist can’t figure out the new scoring system for figure skating in the Olympics? I know that said earlier that I like to read the randomness of the viewpoints, but the columnists are paid to write this stuff. On another note, I like how the Tribune uses the AP for most of their stories. These are the same stories that I have read word for word the day before.

Oh, I think I found a viewpoint!

Nope, it's just some random picture with some stupid saying.

(BTW, I also think ninjas are totally sweet!)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Match Made in Heaven

In an attempt to help bring down the U.S Venezuelan President Chavez has joined forces with the ever so popular Cindy Sheehan. Chavez hopes that with the support of Cindy Sheehan he will be able stop U.S. aggression.

“Enough already with the imperialist aggression!" cried Chavez. He has claimed that the U.S military has gone to far with intervention from Panama to Iraq. Cindy Sheehan’s son, Casey, was killed in Iraq while serving honorable. I wonder if she realizes that Chavez is against soldiers like her son? How can she be united with someone who opposes what her son did? Cindy Sheehan does deserve her right to free speech even if it is disgracing the memory of her son, her son who freely entered the military. I suppose she is just trying to cope.

Sheehan also announced that she might run for Diane Feinstien’s Senate seat in California. She feels that Feinstein is out of touch with California voters concerning the Iraq war. In response Feinstein's campaign manger, Kam Kuwata replied, "Senator Feinstein's position is, 'Let's work toward quickly turning over the defense of Iraq to Iraqis so that we can bring the troops home as soon as possible."As a native Californian, I would fly back to California and vote against her. I would even vote for Diane Feinstein, if it came down to it. It sounds really idiotic of her to consider running her campaign on a single issue. Sheehan, who lives in Berkley, I bet is betting on the votes of many San Francisco area. Sadly for her, I think many people are loyal to the former San Francisco mayor, Dianne Feinstein.

As for Chavez, I think this stunt proves how desperate he really is. He wants to feel like a big man and the only way he can do this is by trying to challenge President Bush and the United States. I doubt President Bush has giving Chavez’s comments a second thought. By the way does Venezuela have any nuclear weapons?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

You’ve got mail… and a STD!

Checking your email has just gotten a bit scarier. Forget the threat of a computer virus; you could get a real virus! A new website started by Los Angeles Country lets people anonymously tell sex partners they may be infected with a STD. Just pick from one of six stylish cards, write a message and send it. It’s just that easy! You never have to face the person you infected with a sexually transmitted disease. Life just got a little bit easier.

It is sad day when anonymous email cards are the way people inform their partners that they my have a STD. Call me romantic, but a phone call would be better way to inform someone that they my die. Even a card through the mail would be better. At least you know they spent 39 cents.

Besides being an impersonal way to inform someone of a STD, it also allows people to continue practicing unsafe sexual behavior. Sex is becoming impersonal and with a website like this it further perpetuates it. It makes it easier for people to feel less shame in transmitting these sexual diseases. They do not deserve this luxury. Responsibility should be taken fully, not just partially by sending an e-card. Infected people deserve more than just an e-card. They deserve the right to face the person who infected them.

"Cards touch your heart no matter what the topic is. " ~Katie

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mexico Vs. Venezuela

Key Players:


Vincente Fox, President

Fox, a former executive, came to power in Mexico as one its first conservative leaders in over a century. After a century of PRI rule, he was elected president under the PAN party (National Action Party). He has tried to work with President Bush on immigration and has openly criticized some US proposals.


Hugo Chavez, President

Chavez, a leftist, came into power in 1998. Chavez, a former soldier, has close ties with Cuba. Considers himself a good friend with Fedel Castro. He has claims he survived a failed coup the Bush Administration backed (White House denies the claim). Chavez himself led two coups against the former Venezuelan government, which landed him in prison for two years.


In the past month, tension between Mexico and Venezuela has reached an all time high. Both countries have pulled out ambassadors out of each others countries. It started when at a recent regional summit; Mexican President Vincente Fox tried pushing a U.S. proposal to introduce a Free Trade Area between all the Americas. The Free Trade Area would knock down barriers between each country and allow for investment in each others markets. The proposal was first introduced in 1994 by former President Clinton. A deadline was set for the end of 2005 for all the countries in the Americas to complete negotiations. The deadline is nowhere near to being met due resistance from Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina.

Fox criticized President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Nestor Kirchner of Argentina for their anti-United States stance at the recent regional summit. Chavez in return called Fox a “lapdog” of US Imperialism and accused Fox of disrespecting him. Chavez then went on to say to Fox, “Don't mess with me, Mister, or you'll get stung.” Mexico demanded an apology and that Chavez’s comments “strike at the dignity of the Mexican people.” Later Chavez blamed the US for the rift between Venezuela and Mexico claiming for their “divisionist policies”. Venezuela vice president told Mexico not to hold its breath for an apology.

If I were placing money on this I would bet on…

I believe that this is just an instance of ideas and leadership styles clashing. With the upcoming election in Mexico, it is likely that former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will win. As a result, Mexico will likely move more to the left like Venezuela. That would relieve tension between the two countries. If push came to shove, Mexico would have the advantage in the conflict. Mexico would quickly allie itself with the United States. Venezuela would probably have to call in Fidel and Cuba.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why I don’t take political advice from celebrities

I do believe that everyone should be able to express their opinions, no matter how idiotic they might be, because that is what America is about, freedom of expression. This past election, many celebrities voiced their opinions about who they supported. Most supported John Kerry (no surprise). That is fine, they are allowed to support a candidate, and if I were famous I would too. What bothered me was how they tried to shove it down my throat that they supported John Kerry. We had the best of Hollywood like Cher, Michael Moore, and Barbara Streisand.

Now that the election is over, celebrities have continued their attacks on President Bush. Everyone remembers the comments Kanye West made at the Hurricane Katrina telethon about Bush hating African-Americans. Comments like that make him look kind of foolish. His song “Crack Music” further makes him look uneducated. He raps that Ronald Reagan used drugs to keep African-American quiet. Ronald Reagan personally gave members of the Black Panthers heroin and crack, that is very believable. Fellow rapper 50 Cent has come out against the comments Kanye has made regarding Bush hating African Americans. Kanye West’s statements do not help anyone. At the telethon, I realize he donated his time to raise money for the victims. Other celebraties, like Shaq went down to New Orleans and actually helped people escape New Orleans. I’ll even give Sean Penn credit; he tried to help people get out of the city. What did Kanye West do? Spend probably an hour at the telethon and made a ton of money with CD sales because the comments were highly publicized. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, unless you’re the President of the United States.

Barbra Streisand agreed with Kanye’s statements, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. She has been active champion of liberal causes and one of her recent blog posts on her official website stated:

"If there was ever a time in history to impeach a President of the United States, it would be now. In my opinion, it is two years too late. We should have done this before the election to spare the country the misjudgment, the incompetence and the malfeasance of this administration."

Well if Barbra Streisand says so, we should impeach the president! I would like to think that even John Kerry doesn’t take her seriously. She is an entertainer who became famous for her music and movies, not her political views. If I were a politician, I would distance myself from her because if she actually agrees with you, then that is an indicator that you are too much to the left. Some would say she is out of touch with reality. She cancelled her subscription recently to the LA Times because liberal columnist Robert Sheer was fired and replaced by conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg. Obviously, Ms. Streisand does not believe in diversity of opinions. Oh, I am sure the LA Times will miss her $100 a year. I also wonder if she actually writes her statements on her website.

Free Bird! Need I say more?

I don’t know how anyone can argue that “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd is one of the greatest rock ballads of all time. It was written in 1973 and still, 32 years later, shouting it out as a request at concerts has become a music industry joke. Every now and then, a musician will actually play it. I am guilty of this as well. At a Sugar Ray/Goo Goo Dolls concert back in high school, I screamed for them to play it but with no success. It is the classic song of a guy singing to a girl of why he can’t give her a commitment. If only every guy could express himself like this, there would be a lot more understanding in relationships.

This began as a ballad without the guitar solos at the end, and the band recorded it that way for the first time in 1972. Guitarist Allen Collins had been working on the song on and off for the previous 2 years. At the time of recording, the song was only 7 1/2 minutes long, but throughout the next year, Collins continued to refine the song until it was recorded for the final cut of the album Pronounced Leh-nerd Skin-nerd in 1973.

Collins wrote the music long before Ronnie Van Zant came up with lyrics for it. Van Zant finally got inspired one night and had Collins and Gary Rossington play it over and over until he wrote the words. Skynyrd has played this only as an instrumental since the 1977 plane crash that killed lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Later, his brother, Johnny, took his place. For a while, he wouldn't sing it - the band played it as an instrumental and the crowd would sing the words. Now you think Lynyrd Skynyrd, you think “Free Bird”.

Most people are surprised to discover that I am a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. They are, in fact, my favorite band. If you know me, then you know I listen to anything and everything, except country music. Forgive me for not getting into songs with lyrics like “She broke my heart, so I broke her jaw”. You can thank Varsity Blues for those words. I enjoy classic country with Buck Owens and Johnny Cash. Those songs actually tell more stories than just every song now about drinking and fighting and riding cowboys. But still, people are surprised when they find out that I am a Skynyrd fanatic. They after all sound very much country. But this is how I respond. They are Southern Rock, not country and don’t you forget it. Songs like “Simple Man”, another classic ballad, and “What’s Your Name?” are blared from my speakers and my roommates must endure. And it’s not like I’m torturing them. Ronnie Van Zant’s voice has a slight twang but it is a twang of velvet.

And I’ve come to an important decision, one my roommates have already agreed to. At my funeral, please play “Free Bird”. It speaks of the inability to stay in one place for very long and trying to find something more. And hopefully, just hopefully, people will sing along and hold up their lighters and talk about my funeral for years to come, because 32 years later after it was first written, I’m still talking about “Free Bird” and how there is nothing like it. Much like me.

Crips leader to be put to death

Stanly “Tookie” Williams sits on death row waiting for a miracle to save his life tomorrow. Waiting for a miracle that the four people he was convicted of murdering never received. After his appeal with CA State Supreme Court was rejected, Williams’ last hope is Governor Schwarzenegger. The California Governor could grant Williams clemency, which would commute his death sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Since being sentenced to death in 1981, Williams has changed his life. He has spoken out against gang violence and has written children’s books giving the profits to anti-gang groups.

What strikes me as odd is there are so many people who are actively trying to save this man? Professor McAdams of the Warrior blog points outs that many have Sympathy for the Killers, Not the Victims. This man was one of the founders of the Crips, one of the most well known and notorious gangs in the United States. While, Tookie (I wonder how he got that nickname) now might be anti-gangs, the Crips are still heavily involved in urban warfare, drug sales and recently violent take-over robberies and warehouse burglaries. How many lives have been shattered because of this man?

Many families have been devastated by Williams’ action such as the families of the four murdered victims. Who speaks for the dead? Surely it’s not the protesters who are advocating for Williams’ clemency. The four murdered victims were not killed by accident or in the heat of passion, they were brutally killed. One victim was shot twice in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun while face down on the floor. Williams is scheduled to be put to death tomorrow by lethal injection, a lot nicer of a way to go than having your head blown off. Please, excuse me if I don’t rush to this man’s aid.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency for Williams.

An Unholy Alliance

Everyone seems to know of the unholy, and slightly disturbing, alliance between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. It is impossible to walk past a magazine rack without seeing the sickeningly affectionate couple on the front cover of at least one publication with that nickname in bold letters that causes bile in my throat: TomKat.

It seems unnatural for these two people to be together and completely unexpected. And yet, despite the unsettling relationship, people can't stop buying magazines with these two on the cover. Like all historic days, I remember the day the relationship was announced. I was sitting at my desk when Melissa stormed in, screaming in a deafening roar that TomKat was an abomination against God. And now with the expectation of their baby, sickeningly nicknamed Tomkitten, press coverage of the couple has reached ridiculous levels.

CNN debated whether the relationship was a hoax. The pregnancy was a top news story on major television networks, as if it was the second coming of Christ. Websites claim that Kat has been brainwashed by Tom's religion, scientology, or that there was a contract between the two that would ensure marriage for at least five years. Others are convinced that this entire monstrosity is a desperate attempt to gain publicity. If publicity is what the couple wanted, they certainly succeeded to an insane degree.

Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch, screaming that he is in love keeps replaying as a short clip. His now infamous interview with Matt Lauer in which the actor claimed that he knew the history of psychiatry is now mentioned whenever Cruise's craziness is discussed. In case anyone missed the book in stores, the title is "Dr. Tom Cruise's History of Psychiatry."

Still, people can't get enough. Everything about TomKat moved so quickly: making out for the cameras, becoming engaged, TomKat with child. I hope the fadeaway comes and goes as quickly as most Hollywood marriages or I won't ever be able to watch "Dawson's Creek" or "Vanilla Sky" again without throwing up.