Friday, April 18, 2014

An Easter Weekend Day In The Life Of A Dog

Before getting started today, I'm co-hosting Hilary's weekly blog hop this week, so let's get to that. You can find Hilary at her blog Feeling Beachie. Her answers are over there in her latest blog. If you follow Hilary, you know that each Friday she posts a series of fill in the blank statements that she fills in at her blog, and invites you to play along in your own blog, or in comments. Here are this week's four statements:

1. I ________ require a lot _______
2. Sometimes I _____ if______
3. It is very unusual but I ______
4. Is it illegal to _______?

My answers:

1. I occasionally require a lot of patience.
2. Sometimes I get annoyed if I have to put up with irritating relatives. 
3. It is very unusual but I like the taste of Brussel sprouts.
4. Is it illegal to fall about laughing when your idiot ex-brother-in-law eventually kicks the bucket?

Now then, Easter is upon us, and for those of you who might be just finding me through Hilary's blog, I tend to do a lot of blogs from the point of view of a dog and a cat. So this Easter weekend, I'm doing the same, starting, as always, with the dog's point of view. I'll be back with my next blog from the point of view of the highest form of life on the planet (the cat, of course).

7:10 AM. Waking up. Had a long sleep last night. Dreamed of rabbits for some reason.

7:15 AM. Looking out front windows. Hmm, it's still snowing? Aren't we a month into spring?

7:17 AM. Examining calendar. Yes, we are about a month into spring, and lo and behold, you wouldn't know it to look outside.

7:25 AM. The human is coming downstairs. Hello, human! Have you seen the snow? Here I thought we were actually going to see spring, but not if you look out the window...

How about some breakfast?

7:30 AM. Wolfing down my breakfast as fast as I can. Unfortunately I seem to be ten seconds off my personal fastest record.

7:42 AM. The human lets me out the door for my morning run. Oh boy!

7:55 AM. Running through the back fields. Despite the snow, there are still a few signs of spring around. I see a robin on the fence. The bird sounds quite annoyed. Well, it's not my fault winter decided to take an encore bow.

8:10 AM.  Stopping by to say hello to Spike the Magnificent, Tormentor Of Squirrels. We sniff each other as usual in greeting.

8:12 AM. Spike and I compare intelligence notes on the movements of the enemy, known to the humans as squirrels. The enemy has eluded us both in recent confrontations, it turns out, but one of these days, we'll have the upper hand on those irritating little bastards....

8:14 AM. Spike and I discuss the odd status of the weather. He confirms that he has also seen robins, and they have expressed deep displeasure with the status of the snow. 

8:16 AM. We discuss the Easter weekend and the oddities of human customs. Neither of us quite understand the paradox of religious belief versus bunnies delivering chocolate.

8:25 AM. Spike and I part ways, agreeing to keep an eye out for any trace of the enemy.

8:45 AM. Heading home. Coming across a big pool of cold meltwater. Oh, I can't resist....

8:46 AM. Splash! Jump! Hop! Woof! Is there anything more fun than splashing around in the water?

8:50 AM. Thoroughly wet. Totally happy.

9:05 AM. Back home. The human opens the door for me as I walk up. Hello, human, I think I'll go lie by the fireplace for awhile to dry.... hey, wait a minute, what's with the holding me in place... oh, no! Not the Towel of Torment!!!

9:10 AM. The human has finished subjecting me to the perils of the Towel Of Torment. I retire to the living room to lie by the fireplace. Nothing like a good fire to warm me up...

1:40 PM. Waking up. Wow, did I sleep. Oh, no. I slept right through lunch. Missed a chance to mooch.

1:42 PM. No sign of the human. I guess she went out while I was dreaming of chasing squirrels.

2:10 PM. Looking outside. Oh, no... there he is! That annoying little bastard! The squirrel! 

2:11 PM. Barking my head off as the squirrel stares at me from the yard. He appears to be laughing. 

Oh, do I hate you. Hate, hate, hate, infinity hate you. One of these days, you're going to get what's coming....

2:30 PM. The human returns home. Where were you when I needed to get out and charge that squirrel?

5:15 PM. The human is helping herself to some of those chocolate Easter eggs. Human, isn't that supposed to wait for a couple of days? I know, you've got poor impulse control when it comes to chocolate.

6:45 PM. Have successfully mooched some garlic bread from the human while she's having dinner.

10:30 PM. The human is watching that movie that always comes on this time of year. Charlton Heston looks like he could really use a shave. At the very least, a trim. A cat could hide in that beard. 

You know, I think the filmmaker had it all wrong with this thing. The real stars of this film should be the dogs we saw halfway through barking at that Joshua guy.

11:30 PM. The human turns off the television after watching the nighttime news. Lots of stuff on political scandals and natural disasters and something called the Ebola virus. Nothing on the most nefarious foe the world has ever faced: squirrels.

Good night, human. I promise, I won't go anywhere near the Easter chocolate.

Besides, you put it in the fridge, and I haven't figured out how to get in there...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Moses Versus The Sneering Edward G. Robinson

"Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time." ~ Sethi

"You let Moses kill my son. No god can bring him back. What have you done to Moses? How did he die? Did he cry for mercy when you tortured him? Bring me to his body! I want to see it, Rameses! I want to see it!" ~ Nefretiri

"Here is your king's scepter, and here is your kingdom, with the scorpion, the cobra, and the lizard for subjects. Free them, if you will. Leave the Hebrews to me." ~~ Rameses

"Does your god live on this mountain?" ~~Moses
"Sinai is His high place, His temple."~ Sephora
"If this god is God, he would live on every mountain, in every valley. He would not be the god of Israel or Ishmael alone, but of all men." ~ Moses 

"Now see here, Moses, you dirty rat, you and I are going to take a road trip down to Thebes, see? And only one of us is coming back, and it ain't gonna be you, see?" ~ Edward G. Robinson, going off script

"Damn it, Edward, what was I thinking, hiring a guy who's spent his career playing gangsters?" Cecil B. DeMille

The Ten Commandments, aka Cecil B. DeMille's crowning achievement. The director made a career out of gigantic epics on film, using casts of thousands of people. He made a silent version of the familiar Biblical Exodus in the 1920s, and revisited the genre once again for the 1956 epic classic starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. Aside from the proverbial cast of thousands, he also enlisted a primary cast of actors from a wide range of backgrounds, with the odd miscasting. His crew paid attention to a multitude of details in this film that evokes ancient Egypt in a grand spectacle. It was nominated for multiple Oscars, rightfully winning for special effects, along with other awards at the time, and has retained its classic status, aired yearly at the Easter and Passover season. At least it seems to make sense to air it this time of year, unlike, oh, the yearly airings of The Sound Of Music at Christmas. Memo to the networks: caterwauling nuns have nothing to do with Christmas!

DeMille introduces and narrates his story, drawing us back in time to the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt and the salvation of one, an infant who ends up in the house of Pharoah, saved from the Nile by a daughter of Pharoah, Bithiah (Nina Foch, playing both the young and older versions of the character). Years later, her son is Prince Moses (Heston), a celebrated hero of the Egyptian people, treated like a son by his uncle, Sethi (Cedric Hardwicke), lusted after by Nefretiri (Anne Baxter), and resented by his cousin Rameses (Brynner). He has no idea of his true origins, simply going through life winning military victories, securing peace with those who opposed himself, and covering himself with glory, all in the service of his king. 

Meanwhile the Hebrew people are busy being worked to the grindstone by their overseers, such as Baka (Vincent Price, menacing his way through the film like he usually did), or Dathan (Edward G. Robinson), a weasel of weasels. And that's insulting weasels. Those under their heel include the young Joshua (John Derek), a fearless and restless stonecutter, who yearns for the day he can put down his chisel, pick up a sword, and kick some Egyptian butt.

Rameses being Rameses, he tries to thwart the seeming inevitable rise of Moses to the throne. Moses finds himself supremely lost in the company of the self absorbed Nefretiri when he has the time. Sethi worries about rumours of a deliverer who will lead the slaves out of Egypt. And the audience looks at their watches right about now wondering how long it'll take to get to the Red Sea. If you haven't by chance ever seen this one (which, I'll admit, is odd), I should tell you it's a really, really, really, really, really long film. You could bake Peking Duck in the time this film takes.

Moses learns the truth about himself, as of course he must (otherwise, what would be the point to the story?). Rameses drives him off into exile, Moses wanders through the desert, and eventually fate will take a hand and lead the two rivals back into a confrontation. All the while Edward G. Robinson lurks around, acting as if he's looking for a tommy gun (the man did play a lot of mobsters, you know).

DeMille was the gold standard of epic movie making. Take a look at just some of his resume: Cleopatra, Samson and Delilah, The Greatest Show On Earth, Union Pacific, Unconquered, and The Plainsman. He was skilled at managing huge casts and crews, though he had a reputation for perfectionism and something of a difficult nature. This was his last film, as it took a toll on his health (he suffered a heart attack during filming and was back within a week on set). He filmed on location in Egypt and the Sinai, and the sets constructed by his crews for the film were massive. The logistics alone in managing everything boggles the mind. His crew outdid themselves in the building of the sets, the lavish attention to detail of costuming, makeup, and props. As a filmmaker, DeMille had an innate understanding of how to film thousands in one scene, and in the next to use intimate lighting for a moment between two characters. And though the film is long, it doesn't drag (except when we have a really, really, really annoying child actor, but more on that in a bit). DeMille takes the story that comes to us from a committee of screenwriters, and runs with it in a way that does justice to the story, as if he knew this was his last go around behind the camera. The visual effects won the Oscar, and they do justice with the techniques available to them at the time, particularly in the Red Sea sequence, or the arrival of the last plague of Egypt, coming in the form of a mist in the night. One highlight among the crew: the music composed by Elmer Bernstein, who was early in his career at the time, and delivered one of his best, a majestic, soaring score filled with ethnic instruments and grand themes.

The cast is up and down as we go along. Let's start with some of the supporting characters. Vincent Price is somewhat miscast, but he's not around for long. Unfortunately he spent much of his career in horror films, so we the audience still associate him as such. At least his character's a sleazeball. His counterpart in all this, Edward G. Robinson, is an even bigger miscast. I like him a lot as an actor, but I've always found him a huge distraction as this character. I was so used to Robinson playing gangsters, and here he's playing a real creep, but I simply can't watch the film without expecting him to break out into the parlance of a New Jersey gun toting goon any moment. It's all the more distracting because the character sticks around through the whole film, constantly lurking about, sneering at everyone, throwing his weight around, scheming and plotting, and being a general prat willing to sell out his best friend if it'll get him an advantage. Come to think of it, Dathan would make a pretty good politician.

John Carradine and Olive Deering turn up as Moses' siblings Aaron and Miriam. They play the roles as stoic and earnest, meant to support their brother. We even get ourselves more than one love story through this film in the form of Joshua and Lilia (played by Debra Paget). John Derek plays Joshua as fierce at times, and perhaps too reckless, too willing to charge in without thinking. Yet as time goes on in the film (the Peking Duck ought to stewing in its own juices about now), his recklessness is tempered, and we see elements of the leader in his performance. Paget's cast in something of a quandary; her Lilia is a beauty, which tends to attract the attention of lecherous overlords (Price and Robinson, who- when they aren't busy carving up the brain of a mental patient or dropping a debtor off the side of a boat, outfitted with cement shoes- are both lusting after her). She plays the character as seemingly resigned to her fate, sacrificing herself for the man she actually loves, the stonecutter with the abs. One minor character, but whom I must mention. Eugene Mazzolla (who, you ask?) plays the son of Rameses and Nefretiri. I stand by my firm belief that this is the worst casting of a child actor of all time. He's horribly wooden and awkward and brings the movie to a crashing halt every single time he opens his mouth to speak. My thought when the kid finally bites the dust?

Cedric Hardwicke plays Sethi in a dignified way. Sethi is charming with Nefretiri, who is meant to be the Queen of Egypt upon his death. He favours Moses early on, seems to roll his eyes at the ambitions of his own son Rameses, which makes it all the more painful for him when the truth comes out. Nina Foch is one of the bigger surprises of the film, utterly sympathetic as Sethi's sister Bithiah, adoptive mother of Moses. She spends years hiding secrets, and yet we see her as the person who shapes so much of the man he is to become. Also sympathetic is Martha Scott playing the biological mother of Moses, making difficult decisions early in his life that speak to the character's love for him, and conveying an inner strength in the role. 

The leading actors are what grounds the film, and each of them perform well in their roles. Yvonne DeCarlo plays Sephora, the woman who claims the heart of Moses (not literally, this is not a Saw movie) during his exile in the desert. She plays the character as steadfast and strong, with a faith that sustains her and an inner decency. Sephora is a character who puts the needs of others before herself, and a better match for Moses than the one we first see earlier in the film. Anne Baxter plays Nefretiri as the vamp you might expect her to be. She lusts for Moses, claims to love him even long after he's moved on with his life and gotten himself a decidedly gray beard. I'm not sure she does love him. I've always felt, watching this film, that Nefretiri is only in love with herself... and that's what makes the performance work. She's selfish, spoiled, and completely self absorbed, and Baxter conveys those qualities in an over the top kind of way.

Yul Brynner is magnificent and fierce as Rameses. There is an arrogance to the character, a disdain that exudes his every moment on screen. He feels no loyalty to the sort of brother he was raised with. His loyalties, ultimately, are to himself. He plays the role as a man of jealousy, ambition, and determination, driven to be immortalized in history, and yet consumed by that same ambition. Heston plays Moses as you might expect. As a young man we see a prince who still has a sense of fairness about him- he's willing to spare the life of a slave and to treat them decently. You wouldn't see that kind of consideration out of Rameses. As time goes on and he finds his destiny, and starts taking on the look of what you'd expect out of an Old Testament prophet, he brings weight to the role, and gravity that matches Brynner's performance.

The Ten Commandments remains a tradition in the decades since it was first released. It's one of the biggest box office successes of all time, adjusted for inflation, and it's a grand, sweeping spectacle retelling of the Biblical epic. It confronts the audience with the price of ambition, the meaning of freedom, and the struggle for a better life. It deserves its status as a classic. Even if Edward G. "Mugsy" Robinson doesn't get a chance to tote a tommy gun this time out.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Can We Be Freed Without That Musical Number?

Some links before I get started. We had a Snippet Sunday post at the joint blog. Krisztina had suggestions for carrot cake at her blog. Cheryl has some shots at her page from an arts and crafts fair. This being A-Z Month among some bloggers, Shelly and Eve are both taking part. Gina took a look at the town of Toledo, Oregon at American Small Towns. Christine posted at her blog about going to an interactive history park. And have a look at what happens in the video link here about a moose that was freed after being stuck in snow.

It's Easter week, and Passover too, so I thought I would do two movie reviews in advance, both dealing with the theme of the Exodus. Today I'll be dealing with a more recent version of the story, and in my next post I'll be examining the classic version.

"I will not be dictated to, I will not be threatened. I am the morning and evening star, I am Pharoah!" ~ Rameses

"I seek to build an empire, and your only thought is to amuse yourselves by tearing it down! Have I taught you nothing?" ~ Seti

"Tell me this, Moses, why is it every time you start something, I'm the one who ends up in trouble?" ~ Rameses

"Pharoah has the power. He can take away your food, your home, your freedom. He can take away your sons and daughters. With one word, Pharoah can take away your very lives. But there is one thing he cannot take away from you. Your faith." ~ Moses

Back in 1998, Dreamworks Studios gave Disney a run for their money in the animation department with a different take on the familiar Exodus story in The Prince Of Egypt, telling the story of Moses rising up to lead his people from bondage. The film was done in the traditional style, enhanced by computer effects, and directed by a team: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells. True to most animated films, it was done as a musical, with songs by Stephen Schwartz, and a music score by the prolific Hans Zimmer. It featured an all star cast of A-list talent (with professional singers backstopping some of them).

The film follows the life of Moses, born at a time when Hebrew children are being killed at the orders of the Pharoah Seti (Patrick Stewart). The infant's life is spared as his mother gives his fate to God, and the baby is found in the Nile by the Pharoah's wife, Queen Tuya (Helen Mirren) and taken into their household. Years later, the baby has grown up to become Prince Moses (Val Kilmer), brother to the heir Rameses (Ralph Fiennes). The two brothers have a friendly rivalry, get into trouble on frequent occasions, and are cared for by their parents. Moses is something more of an instigator; not having to inherit the throne means he can be more carefree and find mischief, particularly at the expense of two of the Pharoah's court advisors (Steve Martin and Martin Short).

All is not well, however. A chance encounter leads Moses to learn the truth that he is the son of slaves, and circumstance drives him away from Egypt when a man dies at his hands. He finds a new life in the wilds, marrying into a nomadic family and finding happiness with Tzipporah (Michelle Pfeiffer). As time goes on, Moses finds himself confronting the god of his people, who has a purpose for him.

This is a very different take on the story than The Ten Commandments. As an animated film, it operates under different rules, and indeed, for a different audience. I don't think Cecil B. DeMille would have gone for a musical, and personally for the most part, the musical side of things I could have lived without. Most of the songs contained through the film could have been left aside (sorry, Mr. Schwartz), though a couple of them work very well, such as When You Believe, which accompanies the Exodus sequence. That said, however, the songs aren't gratingly annoying in the way that I found almost all of the songs in The Lion King (fans of Elton John may have me burned in effigy at their pleasure). Zimmer's score, on the other hand, is powerful and just right as it's needed, whether it accompanies a chariot race or follows the climactic sequence in the Red Sea.

The animation style fits the subject well. The characters look Egyptian or Hebrew (as opposed to other previous versions of the story where very white actors take on the parts). The characters have a bit of an angular, impressionist style in their appearance- Aaron, for example, as voiced by Jeff Goldblum, has a very animation style look, whereas Seti's appearance reminds us very much of the actor voicing him, Patrick Stewart. More importantly, the animators really convey the personalities of the characters, both in expressions and in attention to detail and body language. The animation extends to matters of place and clothing, conveying the sense of ancient Egypt, the lowly homes of slaves, and the wilds of the desert well. The advantage of more modern techniques, enhanced by computer, gives the viewer sequences that pay off better than the limitations of DeMille's time, but those techniques rightfully are only meant to aid the animation process, not supplant it. The burning bush, the parting of the Red Sea, and the final plague each have a very dramatic quality that uses current techniques to their full capabilities, and give the film a breathtaking kind of quality.

The screenplay is by Nicholas Meyer and Philip LaZebnik. Meyer, it turns out, had a hand in directing and writing two of the Star Trek films. Their screenplay works on multiple levels, a good thing in animation. While there's enough there to entertain children- though the theme is perhaps more mature than other animation- there's a lot in this story that adults will get that would just pass by children. The writers give the story just a hint of humour here and there to lighten up the mood- Moses falling into the well, for instance, or a mishap that results in major damage to a very large tribute to Seti. Largely, though, they deal with themes of freedom, family, ambition, faith, and fate as the story goes along. They weave in different takes on some of the character dynamics as well- Moses and Tzipporah start out in more of an antagonistic way, for instance, and Aaron is disbelieving and initially hostile to the presence of his brother when Moses returns from the desert. Perhaps the best of these different takes, and the real foundation of the film, is the relationship between Moses and Rameses. In earlier versions, the two are firm rivals, at odds with each other even before the truth is revealed. In this version the two brothers genuinely like each other and get along well. It makes it all the more painful when they find themselves on opposing sides- Rameses at one point asks in a mournful way why things between them can't be as it was.

The voice work by the actors brings the characters to life. Ofra Haza plays the biological mother of Moses early in the film, voicing and singing the character as she gives up her son to the uncertainty of the river. Patrick Stewart and Helen Mirren as the parents who take him in and make him a prince are well cast. Stewart's voice brings authority to the role of Seti, a man trying to rule his kingdom and thinking of what's to come for his people after he is gone. He does terrible things, and dismisses those terrible things by saying, "they were only slaves", but at the same time, the man is considerate and thoughtful. Mirren voices his wife as the only mother Moses has known, fiercely loving of both of her sons. Danny Glover turns up briefly as Jethro, voicing the role of Moses' father in law somewhat more for laughs than you might expect. Steve Martin and Martin Short, who have worked together before, voice the two courtiers as conniving weasels and disapproving irritants. They're both comic relief, which is to be expected given that's the strong trait of both actors. Jeff Goldblum gives Aaron an interesting turn, not as the stoic figure we might expect, but one who's deeply distrustful of his brother and seemingly resigned to his place in life. He needs to move past that, and in time does. Their sister Miriam is voiced as an adult by Sandra Bullock, after a brief appearance voiced by another actress, Eden Riegel, as a child, and sung by Sally Dworsky. Her take on the character is that of a strong, opinionated person with a basic faith that her people will be led out of bondage. The dynamics Moses has with these two birth siblings is as different as those with his adoptive family, but still critical in what drives him forward.

Michelle Pfeiffer voices Tzipporah, and sings the role as well (anyone who's ever seen her in The Fabulous Baker Boys knows she can sing). The character has a modern sensibility to her. She can take care of herself, is resourceful and aggressive when she needs to be. She doesn't back down, can be stubborn, and is sure of herself. Pfeiffer conveys all of these qualities in her vocal performance. Sure, she and Moses seem to fall in love thanks to a montage in a song (curses to the person who first came up with the idea of musicals, by the way), but the relationship feels grounded. Ralph Fiennes has played the villain on more than one occasion, and yet his Rameses is sympathetic. There is a proud arrogance in him, a dark streak at times, and at the same time, there's the side of him that deeply misses his brother. It gives him depth, and makes him a character we can relate to. Kilmer's take on Moses is also interesting. Freed from the unenviable fate of ruling Egypt as a young man, he's carefree and full of mischief, a refreshing take on the character. As the story moves along, Kilmer's voice takes the character from shock over the truth about himself, to personal doubt, to strength of will, never losing track of the humanity of the man.

The Prince Of Egypt is an interesting counterbalance to The Ten Commandments. It mostly takes itself seriously, given the seriousness of the subject matter. It grounds itself in a story of brothers torn apart, of the meaning of freedom, and uses animation to depict an epic, familiar story in a new way. Despite the presence of most of the songs (have I mentioned I don't like musicals?), the movie works very well indeed.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

40 000 Sobbing Dittoheads

Some links to see to before we get ourselves underway. The Checkerboard Aussies have eight pups among their number. The Real Maple Syrup Mob post about sisters saying the weirdest things. Audrey the Majestic Feline figures into this blog. And yesterday was a Square Dog Friday, so go say hello to Hamish and Watson. Now then, a few days ago I posted this bit of nonsense. If you haven't read it yet, go check it out, because this might get confusing.

Thousands Of Limbaugh Fans Left Bloodied And Crying After Picking Fight With Cranky Mountie

Calgary (CP) The trail of wreckage extends from Alberta's Rocky Mountains across the border into the United States. It is not the act of a tornado, but the result of an overblown radio political pundit spectacularly underestimating how dangerous one man can be. Last week, Rush Limbaugh, consistent winner of the Biggest Waste Of Oxygen On Radio Award for the last ten years running, urged his listeners to march into Canada to pick a fight with legendary RCMP Inspector Lars Ulrich. The notion did not go well.

Hordes of Limbaugh's fans, sometimes called dittoheads, poured across the border, bound for the detachment in the Alberta foothills where the Inspector is stationed. One by one, or in groups, they found the Inspector on duty. Some challenged him to a fight. Others simply struck first without saying a word. Each in turn got their butts kicked by the man who has repeatedly saved the world, and who is widely considered by many to be the most dangerous man alive, particularly when it comes to entertainment reporters.

"For the first few brawls, the Inspector thought this was little more than an odd prank," RCMP Constable Megan Borden told reporters from Calgary. "They barged into his detachment, started a fight, and he ended it in the way he usually does. The individuals in question were taken to the hospital in a variety of conditions, depending on how much they had annoyed the Inspector, and then charged with assault and weapons charges for bringing guns across the border. After a great number of these instances, the Inspector questioned one of his beaten assailants, and learned that Mr. Limbaugh had urged his followers to cross the border and pick fights with him. It seems Mr. Limbaugh believes the Inspector to be a communist. It is the opinion of the RCMP that Mr. Limbaugh is a complete bloody idiot."

Armed with the knowledge that there was a reason he was getting into many more fights than usual, the Inspector set out for the nearest border crossing. Reporters have learned that he was brawling with groups of angry dittoheads along the way, all of them out to get him, all of them failing spectacularly to slow him down. Other Mounties arrested the fallen dittoheads in the Inspector's wake, taking some to hospitals for medical care. The dittoheads protested the notion of being in what they called a "communist-fascist" health care system even while receiving excellent medical care from highly qualified doctors and nurses who were more polite than they had to be. Borden, in relating to reporters this particular detail, rolled her eyes, commenting, "no one has ever accused the average Rush Limbaugh fan of being able to figure out what time of day it is, let alone process complicated differences in extreme political views."

It was at this point, merely six hours after Ulrich left his detachment and kept getting into fights with dittoheads on the road, that some of the dittoheads started fleeing back for the border. They saw the ferocity of an angry Mountie, engaging over twenty of their number at a time, breaking bones, kicking butt, and taking names. As stupid as they could be, these dittoheads recognized trouble when they saw it. The trickle of retreating dittoheads became a flood as some told their fellow dittoheads of the terror behind them. "It was like looking at the face of death," Randall Kelly, 48, a devoted dittohead from Kansas told reporters after reaching the other side of the border. "I ain't never seen nothing that scary. I figured if I stayed, I'd end up broken and bloody and in one of those godless Canadian hospitals where Saint Rush tells us they'll kill you on the hospital table even if you just came in with a hangnail. Uh uh, no sir, not for me. So I turned tail and I skedaddled."

Ulrich didn't stop at the border in his pursuit of the hordes of dittoheads. He crossed right through. A spokesperson for the State Department spoke to reporters in Washington. "We sent out orders to our people at the border to just let him through," Nicole Beckett explained. "First of all, the Inspector's saved the world on more than one occasion. Second, the people he was chasing started the whole thing, and frankly, the President believes they had it coming."

The terror of the dittoheads went viral. Limbaugh, who had been perched in a radio station in Great Falls, Montana, directing the movements of his legions of dittoheads north, got word that things had gone drastically wrong. He was broadcasting a panicked rallying cry for reinforcements, mixed in with his usual condemnations of the President, Hilary Clinton, Sesame Street, liberals, and anyone who doesn't follow his orders. Witnesses to what happened next told reporters they thought Limbaugh assumed he could rally his followers to take a stand and drive back the force of nature that was the cranky Mountie.

Instead the cranky Mountie plowed through the lines of dittoheads, sending them fleeing in horror. Learning the location of Limbaugh, Ulrich barged into the radio station, and found the pundit in the booth. For a moment, Limbaugh's listeners heard complete silence over the airwaves. Then it was followed by the meekest tone they had ever heard coming from their hero. "Um, you wouldn't hurt a Metallica fan, would you?" Limbaugh asked.

That was the last straw for the Inspector, who gave Limbaugh the beatdown that he had coming thirty years ago. The pundit was taken out of the radio station on a stretcher for medical care, babbling about seeing the moose. Doctors say they believe he'll be eating meals from a straw for the next six months. Having had found and demolished the leader of the dittoheads, Ulrich returned home. No reporter dared to cross his path. Border officials simply let him back through into the Great White North, and he returned home, cranky but satisfied that the incursion was finished.

In the wake of the incident, numbers are still being tallied. On either side of the border, beaten and bloodied dittoheads have been in the hospital, numbering over twenty nine thousand. Most of them on the Canadian side of the border are facing serious criminal charges. Officials further estimate that eleven thousand more managed to flee without incident, though deeply traumatized and shaken by fear, often seen to be weeping uncontrollably. "I don't know what I was thinking," Mr Kelly admitted to reporters, shaking back and forth. "It don't matter how long I'll live.... that scene of carnage, that angry Mountie... it's going to haunt my nightmares the rest of my life."

The President had the last word as he spoke to reporters in the White House. "Look, anyone of reasonable intelligence knows you don't bother Lars Ulrich. You treat him with respect, because the guy's saved the world and he's a pretty dangerous guy when he wants to be. Beating up nearly thirty thousand people over four days is pretty much proof of that. The fact of the matter is that Rush Limbaugh is not a person of reasonable intelligence." The President paused, then smiled. "And since he'll be spending the next six months or so in traction, that means he's off the air. I'd say that's a win-win for us."