Much Ado about Muffins

The Associated Press reported in January that a 2,000-ton pile of cow manure was on fire in Milford, Neb., and had been for three months.

If you are like me, you are wondering why the AP waited until the poo had been ablaze for three months before reporting it. Anytime something weighing 4,000,000 pounds catches on fire, I want to know about it immediately! It’s just another example of the liberal media failing to report the stories that really matter.

The article, which you can read here, says no one knows how the fire started, but the prevailing theory is that heat from the decomposing manure deep within the pile simply ignited of its own accord. I think you will agree that when enormous mounds of dung are spontaneously combusting, it is time for all of us to start making our peace with God.

So my question is this: Why was there a 2,000-ton pile of cow manure sitting around anyway? Was it someone’s job to dispose of the poop every day, and he kept slacking, and the whole project just sort of got away from him? I know I’ve done that with the kitchen garbage before, but never quite to that degree.

Anyway, speaking of flaming piles of crap, Rush Limbaugh was in the news recently. He and fellow right-wing commentator Michael Medved (who used to be an actual movie critic) intentionally ruined the ending of “Million Dollar Baby” for listeners because they feel it promotes a message that they find immoral. Now, since I’m not a jerkwad, I won’t tell you what their specific objection is, as that would ruin the movie for you, too. So I will use a codeword: “muffins.” You may read the rest of this column without having anything spoiled for you.

At the end of the film, a character engages in muffins, which many people consider to be immoral. Some characters in the movie consider it immoral, too, in fact. They actually struggle quite a bit with the idea of muffins before eventually proceeding.

Rush Limbaugh was upset by the film’s depiction of muffinry, saying the movie promotes muffin activities. In fact, the movie does nothing of the kind: It merely includes muffins as something that one of the characters does. The film recognizes the moral conflict inherent in muffinness. In fact, another character realizes he or she will be haunted by the muffins forever — not exactly a ringing endorsement of muffinology.

So why is Rush finding a political message where there is none? His problem (well, among his problems) is that he has to fill four hours of radio time every day with political banter, and sometimes there just isn’t enough political news to be found. His preferred method of killing time — placing the microphone near his rear end and breaking wind for several minutes — only gets him so far. So apparently, when he gets truly desperate, he simply finds a non-political story like “Million Dollar Baby” and politicizes it.

Which, in itself, doesn’t bother me. It’s your show, Rush. Talk about whatever you want. If “Million Dollar Baby” had its muffins in its first half-hour, and if it were generally known to be a movie that contained muffins, then I would absolutely support Rush’s right to rail against its allegedly pro-muffin agenda. He’d still be wrong about that, and he’d still have missed the whole point of the movie, but being wrong and missing the point are not crimes, thank goodness. Heaven knows our prisons are crowded enough already.

But in fact the muffins don’t come into play until late in the film, and the way they are eventually handled marks the film’s climax. Even mentioning that muffin batter gets mixed is bad enough, spoiler-wise, but to reveal that the muffins are then actually baked, too, is downright mean.

Rush’s purpose was to “warn” people about the movie, as the film’s muffin-related material was not in its advertisements, and most critics did a good job of keeping it a secret — not because they wanted to ambush viewers with a hidden political agenda, but because they knew revealing it beforehand would detract from viewers’ enjoyment of the film. So since people didn’t know up front that there were muffins involved — the film is only billed as a boxing movie, not a muffin movie — Rush saw fit to warn them.

Now, I get where he’s coming from. There are certain elements whose presence in a movie should be disclosed beforehand. For example, if a movie is about aliens, I need to know that before I start watching it. Movies whose aliens are a secret are too easy to write, and it makes me angry: There’s some weird stuff, no one can explain it, we’re paying attention to the clues, trying to determine what it all means, trying to figure out which character is responsible, and — oh, it turns out it was aliens who did it, and it was easy for them because aliens can do anything. Mystery solved.

I also feel audiences should be alerted ahead of time if a movie contains Rob Schneider. His starring vehicles are clearly marked, of course, according to government regulations. But what about his cameos? There is currently no system in place to protect viewers from those brief, upsetting appearances.

But far be it from me to ruin a movie for people just because I don’t like it, regardless of my reasons. Now, that doesn’t apply to movies where the ending is obvious from the beginning — most romantic comedies, for example (ending: they get back together), or anything starring Steven Seagal (ending: you demand a refund). Those movies aren’t counting on audiences being surprised. But a film like “Million Dollar Baby,” which halfway through takes a turn in a direction you wouldn’t have foreseen, counts on audiences seeing it unspoiled to get the full, undiminished impact.

It all goes back to what I was saying originally, about the 2,000-ton pile of manure. Sometimes you think you’re dealing with one thing when really, lurking far beneath the surface, there is something else waiting to come along and surprise you, something difficult and thought-provoking just waiting to be ignited. If someone douses it before it starts, well, where’s the fun in that? And I know that’s a bit of a stretch, but how often do I get a chance to talk about Rush Limbaugh and a giant poo fire in the same column?

There may be some readers who, accustomed to my wanton lies, didn't believe me when I said they'd be able to read the rest of the column without having anything about "Million Dollar Baby" spoiled. Please assure them that I kept my word.

I chose "muffins" because it's a funny word and I liked the idea of saying it over and over again. The fact that it also made for a good pun title was not discovered until the column was finished and I had to think of one.