Friday, December 15, 2006

Chuck Spinney Interview
Fascinating interview with the former Pentagon bureaucrat about the problems we have and the problems we face with our military-industrial-congressional complex. It's scary, but if we have the will, we can deal with it.
Yahoo News: Over 250 sick after eating at Indiana Olive Garden
"Some customers who ate at the Olive Garden restaurant in northeast Indianapolis between December 9 and December 13 have reported nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and in some cases fever, said John Althardt, a spokesman for the Marion County Health Department. Three of those people have been hospitalized."

I would imagine they should look in the salads first. And I would not be surprised if they find out the lettuce came from Salinas, and not far from the industrialized dairy farm that was the source of the spinach contamination. I suppose it will take a few more outbreaks before it becomes enough of a pain in the profit margin for these large dairy farms to change some things.

Monday, December 11, 2006

2006 In Review: Movies:

**** broken flowers
**** cache
**** cars
**** downfall
**** duma
**** flushed away
**** howl's moving castle
**** kiss kiss bang bang
**** me and you and everyone we know
**** the new world
**** the squid and the whale
*** bubble
*** corpse bride
*** harry potter and the goblet of fire
*** match point
*** the departed
*** the matador
*** the prestige
** a history of violence
** good night and good luck
** must love dogs
** nanny mcphee
* capote
* chicken little
* fantastic four
* king kong
* superman returns
* the fountain
2006 In Review: Music:

**** beatles - love
**** belle & sebastian - the life pursuit
**** elvis costello - river in reverse
**** lindsey buckingham - under the skin
**** loud family - what if it works?
**** mates of state - bring it back
**** minders - bright guilty world
**** robyn hitchcock - ole tarantula
**** shonen knife - genki shock
**** the long winters - putting the days to bed
**** the sounds - dying to say this to you
**** the strokes - first impressions of earth
**** tom petty - highway companion
**** yo la tengo - i am not afraid of you and i will beat your ass
*** carpark north - all things to all people
*** cheap trick - rockford
*** decemberists - the crane wife
*** destroyer - rubies
*** don dixon - the entire combustible world in one small room
*** golden smog - another fine day
*** kelley stoltz - below the branches
*** malajube - trompe l'oeil
*** pernice brothers - live a little
*** potion - band of outsiders
*** regina spektor - begin to hope
*** snow patrol - eyes open
*** steve wynn and the miracle 3 - ...tick...tick...tick
*** the killers - sam's town
*** we are scientists - with love and squalor
** camera obscura - let's get out of this country
** def leppard - yeah!
** figurines - skeleton
** gil ray - i am atomic man!
** high violets - to where you are
** jenny lewis - rabbit fur coat
** kt tunstall - eye to the telescope
** magneta lane - dancing with daggers
** matthew sweet & susanna hoffs - under the covers volume 1
** neko case - fox confessor brings the flood
** raconteurs - broken boy soldiers
** ray davies - other people's lives
** skye edwards - mind how you go
** slumber party - musik
** the flaming lips - at war with the mystics
** tim finn - imaginary kingdom
* bob dylan - modern times
* enya - amarantine
* isobel campbell & mark lanegan - ballad of the broken seas

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Beatles - Love (2006)****
Here they are again, some 36 years after breaking up, with a top contender for album of the year. It's a mash-up, yes, but Sir George Martin and son Giles had the master tracks to mash and the results for the most part are stunning. even on the songs that sound the least affected, you can hear with extra clarity some of the background melodies, harmonies, instruments. The bass and beat are more pronounced making songs like Lady Madonna really pop. Blending various versions of a song like Strawberry Fields really makes it sound like a new Lennon composition. I think people who are intimately familiar with the original versions will be more pleased with this effort than others. Of course, the songs are pure gold and it would be very difficult to ruin them. It's quite a feat to take them, re-work them and make them glisten and gleam all over again in new ways.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Yahoo News: Israelis piqued by nuclear "confirmation":
"During his Senate confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Gates mentioned why Iran might be seeking the means to build an atomic bomb: 'They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf,' he said. The remark led Israeli news bulletins. State-run radio suggested Gates may have breached a U.S. 'don't ask, don't tell' policy that dates back to the late 1960s. 'It's quite unprecedented,' a retired Israeli diplomat told Reuters on Thursday when asked about Gates's testimony. 'I can only assume he has yet to get to grips with the understandings that exist between us and the Americans.'"

THE source of conflict between The West and Arab states is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We need to solve this NOW. In order to do that, we must start talking honestly in public, in US mainstream media about Israel and all its "understandings". Gates has an ignoble past to be sure, but it appears that, unless he made a mistake, he seems to be different this time around. I hope this is the case and that he will talk some sense and some reality to the American people. Israel is just going to have to deal with this. The world has suffered way too much for way too long for this to continue. If we expect countries like Iraq, Iran, North Korea et al to abide by the rule of law, then Israel must also.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The End ****
"...But there was something very, very sinister about Count Olaf's words. Listening to him talk felt like standing on the edge of a deep well, or walking on a high cliff in the dead of night, or listening to a strange rustling sound outside your bedroom window, knowing that at any moment something dangerous and enormous could happen. It made the Baudelaires think of that terrible question mark on the radar screen of the Queequeg--a secret so gigantic and important that it could not fit in their hearts and minds, something that had been hidden their entire lives and might destroy their entire lives once it was revealed. It was not a secret the Baudelaire orphans wanted to hear, from Count Olaf or from anyone else, and although it felt like a secret that could not be avoided, the children wanted to avoid it anyway, and without another word to the man in the cage the three siblings stood up and walked around the cube of books until they were at the far end, where Olaf and his bird cage could not be seen. Then, in silence, the three siblings sat back down, leaned against the strange raft, and stared out at the flat horizon of the sea, trying not to think about what Olaf had said..."

It is passages like this that elevate A Series of Unfortunate Events to a higher level of literature. This ability to convey the sense of dread and awe when we think about "that terrible question mark" and yet leave the reader an escape, a brief glimmer of hope. Sure, all the loose ends and tangents scattered throughout the 13 novels are not resolved here. But are they ever in real life?
The New Yorker : Critics : Television : The Office
"Referring to such differences, Kevin Reilly, the president of NBC Entertainment, has remarked that 'Americans need a little bit more hope than the British.'"
I think it might be more accurate to say NBC Entertainment needs more hope. Americans are perfectly capable of handling hopelessness and futility. Yet the demands of an open-ended, 22-week season run of a sitcom require hope or at least, as the article cites, consolation. One of my favorite characters on the show is the borderline insane Creed character. The writers have resolutely refused to soften him up and that is just wonderful. I hope they maintain that tone with him.

Given the fact that shows like Survivor, American Idol, 24 et al are successful and essentially one season shows and it's the format that is consistent, I wonder if you could take a sitcom like The Office and just get a completely new cast, a new office, each season. You get a fresh 22 episode story arc. Maybe you keep one character such as the young intern who took Jim's position. This was sort of done on ER who has gone through many personnel changes over the years. I don't think it has been done much on a sitcom though.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bolton to exit as UN ambassador
"President George W. Bush appointed Bolton largely because of a commitment to reform the world body. But Bolton's outspokenness and prickly manner often angered the diplomatic community and some of his fellow U.N. ambassadors at times found him difficult to work with."

Now that's funny I don't care who you are! "Appointed Bolton largely because of a commitment to reform..." Bolton always saw the UN as nothing but an extension of US foreign policy. In fact he has said many times that it is no longer relevant and a waste of time. He wasn't about reforming it, but destroying it. And that "prickly manner" is a euphemistic way of describing an extremely aggressive approach to human interaction. Read the whole article though. It sounds like it was written by a Bush administration official nearly verbatim. And it wasn't just Democratic senators opposed to Bolton. Many Republicans also despised his approach.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Superman Returns(2006)*
For an action picture there is not much action. And it is way too long. Look, this is a film based on a comic book superhero. I'm tired of directors who should know better taking this material and trying to make some sort of meaningful epic out of it.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Fountain (2006)*
A major disappointment. I had hoped at least for some extraordinary visual scenes and there are a few but the majority of the film consists of extreme, and I do mean EXTREME, close-ups of Hugh Jackman or Rachel Weisz. You know when that happens the picture is in trouble. In addition, the film just seems badly lit. Darren Aronofsky said he made the film on a shoestring budget and it shows. Not an enjoyable film experience.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flushed Away (2006)****
Laugh out loud funny as well as one of the most imaginative and inventive films (not just animated films) of the year. I don't know if it is easier or cheaper (probably the former) to reproduce the claymation techniques used in the Wallace & Gromit films using CGI, but it is certainly an effective and brilliant idea and here it is executed flawlessly. And the voice work is first class, particularly Ian McKellan who is marvelous as the pompous, royal-loving Toad. I read somewhere that production costs approached $150M. That just floors me for an animated picture. I would like to get a breakdown on those costs some day. What in the world do they spend it on?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Press Conference by the President (11/08/2006):
"Q Thank you, Mr. President. Last week you told us that Secretary Rumsfeld will be staying on. Why is the timing right now for this, and how much does it have to do with the election results?

THE PRESIDENT: Right. No, you and Hunt and Keil came in the Oval Office, and Hunt asked me the question one week before the campaign, and basically it was, are you going to do something about Rumsfeld and the Vice President? And my answer was, they're going to stay on. And the reason why is I didn't want to inject a major decision about this war in the final days of a campaign. And so the only way to answer that question and to get you on to another question was to give you that answer."

Interesting. He didn't want to "inject a major decision about this war" during an election campaign. Then he goes on to say well it was because he hadn't yet met with Gates about becoming the nominee, then he says well Gates was going to be the nominee regardless of the election results so it didn't matter. Well if it didn't matter, why not just do it before the election? In other words, why did you lie to us again, Mr. President? What else are you lying about? Why do you find it so difficult to level with the American people, your employers? Bill Clinton was, and rightly so, hounded mercilessly by the press for his lying. Yet Bush gets a free pass. Interesting.
Bush Says Rumsfeld Is Stepping Down
I just hope he doesn't try and leave the country. It would be a shame to have to have him extradited back here for his trial.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Democrats Take Control of House; Decisive Races in Senate Are Tight - New York Times
It's still a bit early but it looks like the Democrats have come very close to control of the Senate with an incredibly tight race in Virginia likely to be contested. And the question that Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Reid and the rest of the Democrats need to answer is the same one faced by Bill McKay after he won: what do we do now?

And my answer to them all is you need to do what you should have been doing for the past 5 years and STAND UP! Somewhere, somehow you all need to find your principles and start saying "NO". If they can't do that, and immediately, then it was all for naught.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Lindsey Buckingham - Under The Skin****Here's another disc that is rather difficult to listen to in one sitting. Yet each song is an impressive blend of hooks, aural gymnastics, incredible guitar work and intense lyrics that the entire album must be considered a unique work of art.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The New Yorker: Q&A: Civic Emotions
"The gate we walk through when we become parents is, in my experience, the most one-sided gate we walk through in life. One morning, you are a ship out on the ocean, heading for Byzantium; the next, you and your spouse have become a harbor for another boat getting ready for its own voyage out. And, though you sneak away for weeks on book tours, you are never anything but a harbor again. (An abandoned harbor, eventually, searching the horizon for the long-gone ships.)

This is a good thing, of course, but becoming a parent made me, I think, more impatient with writing anything that seemed to me homework—work made to order, and not about the things that truly obsess one but about the things about which one is expected to have a professional opinion. I recall standing at the entrance of a Bruce Nauman exhibition, shortly after my son was born—and Nauman is an artist I keenly admire and have analyzed at exhausting length—where one of his “Clown Torture” videos was shouting at people, and thinking, I am interested in this, but I do not care about this as obsessively as I do about watching my child grow into consciousness. Life is too short, and parenting too exhausting, to allow you much time for mere professional opinionating.

And then, for all the joys that parenting provides, it also makes you keenly aware of the temporariness of all experience. To a child, family life looks as fixed and solid as a civilization, with rituals and routines and prohibitions—boxes of ornaments that have always been in the basement and silverware that has always been resting in the drawer. In fact, to the parents, it’s a frantic improvisation, as fragile and contingent as a truce in wartime. We see the bills and they see—and should only see—the ongoing surface of reassuring sameness.

More than the continuity of time, what parenting provides, I think, is a sense of the fragility of existence. Darwin grasped this after the tragic death of his daughter, who was only ten, and there is, as I’ve tried to show recently in the magazine, illuminating his work a half-stoical, half-heartbroken sense of the irreconcilable demands of deep time, where rocks are made and animals evolve, and quick time, human time, where our children are born and can depart. You can’t reconcile one time with the other; you just have to live in the knowledge of both. This fracture of vision is part of what being a parent is about."

Adam Gopnik nails the experience of parenthood.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"30 Rock" (2006)****
This is the best new show on television. Densely funny, smartly produced, with a standout cast. Sharply written with none of the "watch what I do with this line" snobbery of say Studio 60. I hope the no laugh-track policy starts to catch on. And I love the fact that it is NOT "filmed before a live audience". This show and The Office have renewed my faith in the sitcom. Now if they can only pull in the ratings...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Aimee Mann - One More Drifter in the Snow***
An interesting holiday album from Ms. Mann. The lead-off track, Jimmy Webb's "Whatever Happened to Christmas?" sets the tone, one of melancholy primarily. There's a fresh take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as well as other standards, along with Michael Penn's "Christmastime" and a new Mann tune "Calling On Mary" which is well done. The only real clunker is her take on "White Christmas" which, and as an Aimee Mann fan from way back I hate to say it, sounds plain awful. One unusual note: there is an almost overwhelming emphasis on the bass line in the production on this record. You would be advised to lower the bass or pump up the treble when playing this disc. Not sure why this was done as it is way overboard. Perhaps because the bass player, Paul Bryan, also produced?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Prestige (2006)***I guess what it boils down to is I don't like Christian Bale. He seems like a good actor and his performance is fine, it's just I don't see him in this role and I don't enjoy seeing him on the screen. The script is smart and sharp, the direction is clever and artful. It's a good film, just not up to the level of Memento which I always seem to expect, admittedly unfairly, from Christopher Nolan.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pernice Brothers - Live A Little ***
Literate, tightly constructed pop songs filled with catchy hooks and riffs. "Automaton", "Cruelty to Animals", "Sommerville" and "Lightheaded" are standouts. I would have given this record 4 stars but I find lead singer Joe Pernice's almost-whispered, delicately precise diction incredibly annoying. Don't listen to the album all at once and you'll be fine.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Jules et Jim (1962)***
The first half seems self-consciously "arty" and amazingly rushed. It all goes by in a whirlwind with no time to really connect to the characters. But the second half has many moments of deep emotion and despair as the principles realize that their dreams cannot be fulfilled yet they cannot bring themselves to dream anew. Jeanne Moreau is luminous.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

DLP Cinema technology
When I went to my local cinema to see The Departed, the theater in which it was playing used DLP (digital light processing) projectors instead of film projectors. This was my first experience with digital film projection.


I know it sounds cliched, but I have to say it: this changes everything. Absolutely crystal clear images FINALLY! You can keep your snap-crackle-pop, jittery, scratch-infested, color-faded film stock and do whatever you want with it. If I were running a cinema today, I would switch over to this technology overnight. It is really that good. I really wish I had seen The New World at a DLP theater.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Departed (2006)***
Terrific, violent actioner from Martin Scorsese evokes comparisons to his masterpiece Goodfellas but falls a bit short. The direction is top-notch, with several innovative touches that shows Scorsese is not just phoning it in here. The only problem with the flick is the cast. It's not that they aren't all good (Alec Baldwin does a great job with a small supporting role) but they are all movie stars. I never felt like I wasn't watching Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio. And that little bit of distance to their characters meant I was just not totally involved in the drama. But it's an enjoyable and thoughtful film, well worth your time.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Killers - Sam's Town***
Quite enjoyable second album from The Killers. "When You Were Young" and "Bones" are standout songs, driving and energetic, musically creative, with interesting lyrics. "This River Is Wild" though, while enjoyable, strays a little too close to Springsteen imitation/parody territory.

Saturday, September 30, 2006 - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip*
Apparently if you want to talk with Aaron Sorkin you had better be wearing your running shoes. Everybody in his shows carries on conversations while walking at a brisk pace down tight hallways that twist and turn and have an abundance of overhead lighting. It gets annoying real fast. I tried to watch Sorkin's previous show "The West Wing" but it had such an oppressive air of self-importance I couldn't stand it. His first effor, "Sports Night" was by contrast breezy, light and most importantly, FUNNY! Studio 60 for all its fast-talking and fast-walking banter is turgid and so pretentious its almost a parody of itself. Maybe it is and I just don't get it. ALL the characters are geniuses who speak in one-liners and never fail to have a smart, sharp comeback to everything someone else says. Not a good show.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yo La Tengo:I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass ****
Wonderfully eclectic collection of tunes from Yo La Tengo covers a large range of musical styles. (I don't understand why some critics complain of a record not being 'cohesive'. What does that mean and why is it important?) There are a couple of jammin' instrumentals that tend to run a bit long, but the concise, smart pop song is theorder of the day here. Brilliant.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible? | The Register:
"Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two."

As I have to flt on a business trip last week, I am dismayed to learn that we STILL won't be able to carry on liquids. And for what? How can a small group of small-minded people be allowed to mess with our lives like this? Where are the true statesmen?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Papal Address at University of Regensburg:Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization:
"In this lecture I would like to discuss only one point -- itself rather marginal to the dialogue itself -- which, in the context of the issue of 'faith and reason,' I found interesting and which can serve as the starting point for my reflections on this issue."

Oh if only B16 hadn't exiled Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, Vatican expert on the Islamic world so that he could have proof-read his text. If you read it, you are left with the sense of a smart guy trying to pull the wool over those he considers not so smart. In a speech purportedly about the differences between faith and reason, he decides that of all the possible ideas or citations available to him, he picks one, admittedly marginal to the overall idea, that is so disparaging, so completely ignorant of Islam's central idea, and then drops it. Really, that citation sticks out like a sore thumb. I can't think of any other reason to include that than to provoke a response and thereby prove the point of the speech that the Islamic world cannot be counted upon to act reasonably about anything.

Gee, what a smart guy this pope is.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Facebook's "Privacy Trainwreck": Exposure, Invasion, and Drama:
"What happened with Facebook was not about a change in the bit state - it was about people feeling icky. It made people felt icky for different reasons - some felt it for the exposure while others felt it for the invasion. Let me explain."

And danah boyd goes on to explain that, in a nutshell, news readers make her feel icky. What this really is about is danah being slapped upside the head by reality and not being able to handle it all at once. Certainly understandable. But what people need to understand right off the bat, is that The Internet is public. Every, every, EVERY bit of it. And just because YOU don't have some nifty little app that lets you make use of that fact, you can be assured that somebody, and most likely many "somebodies", do. The people that signed on to Facebook didn't know that going in and that's their fault, not Facebook's. To borrow danah's analogy, Facebook had the music up loud, but everyone in the room should have realized that the music could stop or change at any moment. And often does and sometimes you don't even realize it.

And I love it that way.

Friday, September 08, 2006

ABC tinkers with 9/11 drama - Yahoo! News:
"Further complicating the situation for ABC was a prime-time address to the nation President George W. Bush has planned for 9 p.m. EDT on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, right in the middle of part two of ABC's miniseries. The network said it would air the first hour of the film, break for 20 minutes to carry Bush's speech live, then broadcast the rest of the movie."

And does anyone think the timing of the address is an accident or coincidence? The interruption of the "docudrama" by real events will lend it even more of an aura of factuality. When I intially read reports of the complaints, primarily by former Clinton staff members, they sounded inconsequential. But it turns out, that was due to inaccurate reporting. In particular the scene suggesting Sandy Berger personally quashed a raid on an al Qaeda camp when agents were moments away from killing bin Laden was reported as being about whether Berger slammed the phone down or not.

Quite a difference.

Now it seems more and more like this film was designed to suggest that it was all Clinton's fault. We have Richard Clarke's account of the Clinton years in his book Against All Enemies and to his mind Clinton actually did more to address the threat from al Qaeda/bin Laden than any previous administration and certainly understood the threat and the need to address it much more than anyone in the Bush administration. Yes, Clinton probably could have initiated many bombing raids in Afghanistan but do you recall the political heat he got for the one he DID authorize? It had been too long since the Cole attack so the political will was very weak and his political capital WAS weakend by the incessant pillorying from Republicans over Monica Lewinsky.

Unless this film goes all the way to September 10, 2001 and shows the Bush staff completely ignoring al Qaeda and concerning themselves with Saddam since day one, it is indeed factually inaccurate and generally misleading.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bob Dylan: Modern Times **
I guess I just don't get it because as much as I would like to love this album, I just can't and I can't understand the extremely favorable critical consensus. I just don't feel any energy in this record and that may be one of its points but it doesn't make for an enjoyable listening experience. I like "When The Deal Goes Down" and "Thunder On The Mountain" but the other 8 tracks are bland and boring. I like a lot of Dylan songs and think he is a truly gifted songwriter but this is not one of his better efforts.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

U.S. Rice Supply Contaminated: "The variety, known as LLRICE 601, is endowed with bacterial DNA that makes rice plants resistant to a weedkiller made by the agricultural giant Aventis. Johanns said Bayer had not finished the process of getting LLRICE 601 approved for marketing before dropping the project years ago. But the company did complete the process for two other varieties of rice with the same gene. And although neither of those were marketed, he said, their approval offers reassurance that 601 is probably safe, too."

Probably safe? PROBABLY? This is the whole problem with GMO crops. NOBODY KNOWS FOR SURE! And this is just the stuff we KNOW about. How many other test alterations have passed into the general supply? Bayer dropped this particular variety 5 years ago. I wonder why? Do you think it's worth looking into? We're only talking about our FOOD SUPPLY.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Matador (2005)***
Enjoyable comedy/drama about an aging hit man who suddenly realizes he would like a friend. Interesting, crisply directed and well-acted, especially Pierce Brosnan as the hit man. If he keeps this up people are going to forget about Bond and Remington Steele.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cachè (2005)****
An examination of guilt and how the human mind deals with it. Or doesn't deal with it. Philosophical, metaphorical, allegorical, open-ended narrative all at the same time. Well done.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

DREW SHARP: Martz commands attention by getting close to the action:
"Martz quaffs attention like it was ice water on a hot day. Although he's not the architect of this newest Lions' new direction, he knows he's the star. All eyes gravitated to the rudimentary initial elements of Martz's offensive scheme and his interaction with his players. And the actual head coach? Rod Marinelli happily hid himself within the masses on the sideline, adapting to his new life as a first-time head coach. He's perfectly comfortable with Martz dominating the spotlight. Those closest to the situation insist that Marinelli is devoid of all ego and that's a necessity when working with a megalomaniac like the self-anointed offensive wizard. Marinelli just wants to win."

Where does one begin with such an idiot like Drew Sharp? He is a perfect example of the absolute WORST type of sports "journalist", the know-it-all-who-never-played-anything. What a loser. And to take a guy like Mike Martz, one of the more successful men in his sport, and just skewer him with all sorts of vicious and unfounded attacks is nothing short of cowardice. Megalomaniac? Self-anointed? Where does this come from? Was Sharp denied an interview or two or something? Clearly this "man" has issues and needs that have not been met. And to say that Marinelli "just wants to win" implies that Martz doesn't care about winning as long as he gets the attention.

All this because he wants to coach from the sidelines during the game?

Then based on that reasoning, Charlie Weiss, ex-offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, is also a megalomaniac and self-anointed wizard who craves attention. Also dozens of other OC's around the league. Why can't these people just report on the game and leave the personal issues aside? Or maybe that would be too much work for them?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Powell's Books looming large in the Bay Area
"Used-book sellers in the region say it's become increasingly difficult to compete with Powell's because of its vast inventory -- more than 4 million titles in stock -- and the company's ability to undercut rivals' prices. They also say that as more used-book stores go under amid economic hardship, Powell's will only grow more formidable as it snaps up huge quantities of additional books at fire-sale prices, often as low as 15 cents on the dollar. "Powell's has been doing this all over the country," said Allan Milkerit, a San Francisco bookseller specializing in used and rare volumes. "But they've been especially active in the Bay Area because of the number of used books here." "

The great thing about the internet is that it is available to everyone. Yes, Powell's had a jump by recognizing the potential of being online early on. But if these independent used book stores would get together online and offer their inventories in a central shopping experience, then maybe they COULD compete with Powell's. The thing is, the investment in such an approach is not that cost intensive. I would imagine their current clientele would appreciate being able to peruse the inventory for dozens of stores in one place, reserve a copy, have it mailed to them, etc.
Key powers agree deal to end Israel-Hizbollah war - Yahoo! News:
"An Israeli political source said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reviewing the draft resolution. Earlier in the day, Israel ordered an expansion of its ground offensive and said it would press ahead with the campaign if it was unhappy with any deal."

So Israel will just violate another UN resolution if they don't get what they want. And don't forget that the US could force a ceasefire at any time if they so desired. But then, since we are in a permanent war with "Islamo-fascists" what's the rush?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) ****
Robert Downey, Jr. in a role he was born to play, Val Kilmer at the top of his game, and Michelle Monahgan who keeps up with them pretty well, form the core of this snappy, clever, funny meta-noir. Sharply written by Shane Black in his directorial debut, this one will be considered a classic years from now.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Long Winters : putting the days to bed ****
Their best album of songs so far. Finely crafted, expertly played, they seem to take as many alt/indie rock cliches as they can cram into one song, tweak them a bit, and turn up the tempo. Interesting and emotion-packed power pop.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rice ready for new Mideast trip if needed - Yahoo! News:
"U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice would return to the Middle East this weekend if needed, U.S. officials said on Friday, as calls grew across the world for an end to the war between
Israel and Hizbollah."

If needed? IF NEEDED? What the FUCK is going on here??? She should NOT LEAVE until a peace accord is struck! If they blame Syria and Iran for Hezbollah, then surely the USA is to blame for Israel. And if that is the case we have a MORAL obligation to see that peace is reached as soon as possible NOW. Not "if needed". Jesus Christ please save us from these imbeciles.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"The ten top grossing touring musical groups for the first half of 2006 include these seven. Next to the names is the year they got started.

1976 U2

This supports the thesis of western cultural entropy outlined in 'The Quiet Storm: Blowin' in the Wind of Cultural Decay.' While there is nothing wrong with these groups, a thriving civilization would be expected to have a higher percentage of more recent bands."

WTF? Does this make any logical sense? I never even considered that civilization thrives when more recent bands make the most money in a given 6 month period.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

BBC NEWS | Americas | Cheney sued in CIA identity case:
"'This lawsuit concerns the intentional and malicious exposure by senior officials of the federal government of [Ms Plame], whose job it was to gather intelligence to make the nation safer and who risked her life for her country,' it says. The couple say the officials violated their constitutional and privacy rights in order to 'punish' Mr Wilson for his comments. The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation and punitive damages as well as legal costs. Mr Corallo [spokesman for Mr. Rove] said of the lawsuit: 'Without even having had a chance to review the complaint, it is clear that the allegations are absolutely and utterly without merit.'"

Good for her! It's apparent that they are going to get away with this in the criminal courts, maybe the civil courts can find some semblance of justice here. I would also like to know how something you haven't even read can be clear to you?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The US Military Descends on Paraguay
"Some activists, military analysts and politicians in the region believe the operations could be part of a plan to overthrow the left-leaning government of Evo Morales in neighboring Bolivia and take control of the area's vast gas and water reserves. Human rights reports from Paraguay suggest the US military presence is, at the very least, heightening tensions in the country."

This was probably not the main reason for the military buildup since that began in early 2005 and Morales was not elected president until December 2005 (although he came in a close second in 2002). But it still bears close scrutiny.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Box Office Mojo > News > 'Pirates' Raid Record Books
I have not seen this flick, nor do I intend to until it's out on video, but I am somewhat pleased that Johnny Depp's box office clout has been solidified for at least another 10 years or so. That means he gets to call the shots for his pet projects and favorite directors and maybe, just maybe will be able to finance a completion for Gilliam's Don Quixote opus?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Leftist has early lead in Mexican election - Yahoo! News:
"The Harvard-educated Calderon would be an ally of the United States in Latin America, where left-wing leaders critical of Washington have taken power in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela in recent years."

No, this isn't Fox News, it's Yahoo News. The slant in this article almost makes it unreadable. You have to tilt your head a bit. The implication here is that anyone other than Calderon would NOT be an "ally of the US". Mexico will always be an "ally" of the US. That does not mean they will agree with everything our government does or our leaders say. Yes they will, and should, be critical of US policy if it is wrong. But that does not mean they are no longer an ally. And don't you love the phrasing of "left-wing leaders...have taken power"? That seems to imply some sort of coup d'etat or military uprising when in fact these are the democratically elected governments of their respective states. The overall tone of this piece is that anarchy is imminent. Yet Mexico has a cleaner election process than we do. The result will be close but I don't know why we expect anarchy to take place when all is said and done.
U.S. Air Force discovers blogs | FP Passport
I can't believe this is happening.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Israel hits Palestinian PM's office - Yahoo! News
"Israel's air force attacked the office of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday in the latest phase of a Gaza offensive designed to force militants into freeing an abducted soldier. Haniyeh, a leader of the ruling militant Islamist party Hamas, was not in his Gaza City office at the time of the helicopter strike, witnesses said. One Hamas member was killed in a second attack on an office used by forces loyal to Hamas. A third strike hit a Hamas school, but there were no casualties."

When is somebody in the Bush administration going to put a stop to this? This is an incredibly way over the top response to a soldier being kidnapped. This is an extremely dangerous series of events for the whole world and Mr. Bush is yukking it up in Graceland with the Japanese PM. Just par for the course with this clown.

And a note to Yahoo News (or Reuters or AP) regarding their "objective" phrase "ruling militant Islamist party Hamas". For one thing, it is the democratically elected government of a sovereign state. And if you call them "militant Islamist" why not call the government of Israel "ruling militant Jewish"? Or our own "ruling militant Christian"? It certainly seems to fit given Israel's actions and our actions.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Duma (2005)****
I'm not turning into Roger Ebert I SWEAR! It's really just a coincidence that my entertainment choices lately have all been worthy of 4 stars. This is a Carroll Ballard film so you expect superb visuals, realistic animal scenes, and bonding between humans and the animals. This one though has a bit more dialogue and human interaction than I remember in his previous films. Truly a very good family film in all the best senses of the phrase.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cars (2006)****
I really believe these Pixar guys have this stuff down now. The animation in this film is just phenomenal. The level of detail is incredible. There are so many sight gags in DEEP background, so many beautiful touches all over the screen. You can enjoy this film with no sound whatsoever. And that is a bit of a drawback since the story is not really all that engaging and the characters kind of 2 dimensional (I KNOW it's a cartoon!) and there is an extended sequence in the middle of the picture that really slows things down and seems very unnecessary. So this isn't a perfect film all things considered. But it sure comes pretty close.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror - New York Times:
"The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift....While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift's records involve transactions entirely within this country, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined....Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from American laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution. But at the outset of the operation, Treasury and Justice Department lawyers debated whether the program had to comply with such laws before concluding that it did not, people with knowledge of the debate said. "

Well all righty then. Treasury officials concluded that this was all legal after a presumed strongly spirited debate. See, it's not really financial information, it's just "messages". And really, only a "small fraction" of the data is "messages" sent solely within the USA even though they have no idea if that data was examined.

This is very, very bad.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Loud Family - What If It Works? (2006) ****
This is not an album...this is an EVENT! The initial 10 song cycle is the best I've heard in quite a while. This is meta-power pop at its finest. Songs about songs and about our relationship to the songs and the relationships IN the songs. Typically brainy fare from Scott Miller and Anton Barbeau but with an extra layer of back beat and melody somehow squeezed in. 3 covers, 3 Millers, 3 Barbeaus and one collaboration plus 2 bonus tracks besides. I have not been a big fan of Mr. Barbeau's in the past but his contributions to this opus, especially the title track, are exceptional and much more cohesive than what I have heard from him before. Here's hoping this excellent effort gives Scott Miller the success in the marketplace that has eluded him so far.

Monday, June 12, 2006

HNN: Jonathan Zimmerman: A Florida law banning relativism in classes ignores reality and 75 years of academic tradition:
"And just last week, in an unprecedented move, the president's brother approved a law barring revisionist history in Florida public schools. 'The history of the United States shall be taught as genuine history and shall not follow the revisionist or postmodernist viewpoints of relative truth,' declares Florida's Education Omnibus Bill, signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. 'American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.' "

You can "view" it as factual all you want but that doesn't make it so. This is what happens when fear takes control of government. Or when power hungry people are allowed to use fear for their own ends.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Big Lebowski (1998)****
Supremely funny sendup of LA and whodunits. When I first saw it, I thought it was "minor" Coens, but with each viewing I appreciate it more. Jeff Bridges delivers a tour de force performance, but even so, John Goodman nearly steals the picture with one of the most hilarious comedic performances ever. Beautifully shot by Roger Deakins.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Elvis Costello - Allen Toussaint - The River In Reverse ****
Excellent recording. Elvis Costello continues his exploration of American southern music (see The Delivery Man) with this soulful and stirring collection of Allen Toussaint songs plus some new collaborations and the "Tramp the Dirt Down"-like Costello composition of the title track. Check out this final lyric:

So count your blessings when they ask permission
To govern with money and superstition
They tell you it's all for your own protection
'Til you fear your own reflection
But the times are passing from illumination
Like bodies falling from a constellation
An uncivil war divides the nation
So erase the tape on that final ape running down creation

Wake me up
Wake me up with a slap or kiss
There must be something better than this

Amen, brother EC, amen.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

CJR Daily: Jim Lehrer on Billy Bob, Reports of Rain and Stenography As Journalism:
"JL: That's part of it. Absolutely that's part of it. I mean, if somebody says -- doesn't matter if it's the president or who --if somebody says, 'It rained on Thursday,' and you know for a fact it didn't rain on Thursday, if the person was of a nature that you felt you should quote him, 'It rained on Thursday.' Second paragraph, third paragraph -- or in television terms second or third sentence -- you would say, 'However, according to the weather bureau it didn't [rain Thursday].' But you don't call the person a liar. The person who would call that person a liar would be the person who'd read that story and say, 'My god, Billy Bob lied.' But I'm not doing that. I'm providing the information so that the person can make their decision. People might say, 'Well the weather bureau has lied. Or I was out that day and it was raining ...'
Most of the stories I have covered in 45 years have been gray stories. There are very few really stark black and white stories. On a daily basis there are some huge ones that are, sure, from time to time, but it is helping the reader sort through all this sort of gray stuff out there. It's not about, 'This guy is a liar, this guy isn't a liar.' I wish it was that simple. It seldom ever is.

LCB: Is there any place for writing, 'Billy Bob said it rained Thursday. The weather bureau said it didn't. I was out that day and I say it didn't.'

JL: I would never do that. That's not my function to do that.

LCB: Is it a newspaper's function?

JL: Look, I'm just telling you what I do, ok? I'm an expert on the NewsHour and it isn't how I practice journalism. I am not involved in the story. I serve only as a reporter or someone asking questions. I am not the story."

Unbelievably shocking stuff. I mean, why is there even a DEBATE about what happened to journalism in the past 25 years or so? Jim Lehrer, one of the most respected journalists in America, is an absolute IDIOT.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Commonweal - Merton's Enlightenment:
"It is apparent that it was not Merton’s keen intellect that had finally decoded this higher power. Rather, his heart and soul were so completely subsumed on that day at Gal Vihara that there was no longer any need to do anything. He could simply rest in the simplicity of it all. Everything and nothing were but different words for the same reality. The venerable stages of the contemplative life had worked their mysterious power in Merton: the purgative-through decades of an ascetic life-had yielded to the illuminative-revealed in so many of his books and journal notes-and now, the final stage-the unitive-was at hand."

A beloved Christian seeker has it all finally made clear 4 days before he is accidentally killed. As he said in his journal, "The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem, and really no 'mystery'. All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

:: :: Great Movies :: Patton (xhtml):
"Franklin J. Schaffner's 'Patton' (1970), released at the height of the unpopular war in Vietnam, was described by many reviewers at the time as 'really' an anti-war film. It was nothing of the kind. It was a hard-line glorification of the military ethic, personified by a man whose flaws and eccentricities marginalized him in peacetime, but found the ideal theater in battle."

This is one of my favorite films and one of the best ever. I think Mr. Ebert is missing the thrust of this movie though. To my eyes, this is a sober, clear-eyed assessment of a madman who found his unique brand of madness most useful on the battlefield. What does that say about warfare then? Does that glorify it? Not logically. That means that war is MADNESS, hence ANTI-war. And you don't need to make an anti-war film by shoving your "message" down the throats of viewers a la Spielberg or Stone. I didn't find anything glorified in this picture. I understood that PATTON glorified war and warriors. But as we all could see he was INSANE! So what does that say about his glorification? It always surprises me to read reviews about this film that declare it as pro-war, pro-military, pro-ANYTHING. And maybe Coppola and Schaffner did intend it that way although I can't imagine why. I think they simply wanted to show Patton in all his madness and self-anointed glory and let the viewers decide if that was enough.

Monday, May 22, 2006

STLtoday - Tony La Russa on Ozzie Smith: 'He's not welcome':
"'If, as he says, he has his rightful place ... when they welcome him back -- and he deserves to be there because he was a Hall of Fame player -- he won't have to worry about running into the old skipper. I won't be in the area. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror.'"

I got to hand it to the guy he knows how to make it seem like HE is the victim. TLR came in and was asked to get rid of Ozzie. Well that was all fine and well except Mr. Smith didn't really want to leave and subsequently worked his way back to not just playing shape but starting shape and starting numbers. That didn't fit in with TLR's plan even though he made it clear that whoever had the best numbers come the end of Spring would get the nod. As many many other ball players who suffered under TLR in the past could have told Ozzie, don't count on it. TLR treats ball plaers well IF he likes them. And why he would like you or not is anybody's guess. Who could work under those conditions? All anybody wants is to be treated fairly and honestly. TLR has shown time and again that he cannot do that. Hell he cannot even be honest with himself! He sticks with some players way past their prime for reasons only known to himself and shuffles others off or sabotages their careers for equally mysterious reasons.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

KQED: Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way
I love Jacques Pepin. And having been a fan of his for quite a while, I must say this latest series of his is sort of like a master class in his philosophy of food and cooking. I also enjoy this series much more than the ones he did with his daughter, Claudine. I liked those two, but this one seems more intimate, more personal. At this stage of his life and career, Mr. Pepin (I was going to use M. Pepin but he is understandably proud of his having been an American citizen longer than a French citizen accent notwithstanding) is at the top of his game and so at ease and playful with it. Watching these episodes, I get the feeling it's just him and me in his kitchen and I feel just so privileged that such a master chef and cook is sharing his expertise and love of food and cooking. It's very comforting and enjoyable.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code reviews "frustrating," says director - Yahoo! News:
"'This sounds a little 'hucksterish', but people really respond to the movie better the second time than they do the first time. Of course it's frustrating that some of the critics have been harsh with it and that's disappointing, because I'm the type of person that likes to please everyone. I think with this project, that's an impossibility and I've kind of known that all along.'"

Of course, I have not seen the film nor do I plan to. Just going by the reviews I have read though, and what Mr. Howard says, it appears that once again he has tried to please everyone instead of trying to make a film that reflects HIS vision. I don't really believe he has one and that makes him a handy man not an artist. Don't get me wrong, handy men CAN make works of art. I consider Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark to be such a work and had Howard had that vision of the story and presented it as such it may have worked out better. The only film of his that I found entertaining is Night Shift. Come to think of it, that was primarily due to an exceptional Micheal Keaton performance and an extremely comely Shelley Long as the required hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold. I have several Catholic friends who are quite upset by the subject matter of this flick but as soon as I heard it was a Ron Howard film with Tom Hanks in the lead I KNEW they had nothing to worry about. This project has SAFE and INOFFENSIVE and DULL stamped all over it. Ignore it and it will go away.
AlterNet: The 9/11 Story That Got Away:
"'Even that weekend, there was lot else going on. There was always a lot going on at the White House, so to a certain extent, there was that kind of 'cry wolf' problem. But I got the sense that part of the reason that I was being told of what was going on was that the people in counter-terrorism were trying to get the word to the president or the senior officials through the press, because they were not able to get listened to themselves.

'Sometimes, you wonder about why people tell you things and why people … we always wonder why people leak things, but that's a very common motivation in Washington. I remember once when I was a reporter in Egypt, and someone from the agency gave me very good material on terrorism and local Islamic groups.

'I said, 'Why are you doing this? Why are you giving this to me?' and he said, 'I just can't get my headquarters to pay attention to me, but I know that if it's from the New York Times, they're going to give it a good read and ask me questions about it.' And there's also this genuine concern about how, if only the president shared the sense of panic and concern that they did, more would be done to try and protect the country."

But even if they printed the story, THE PRESIDENT DOESN'T READ THE NEWSPAPER! One of the problems with print journalism as it is practiced today is this obsession with "the story". Ms. Miller was working on this epic Al Qaida story for months and months, unable to print anything because she didn't have the complete arc yet. She has these leaks about an impending attack that, to me, an untrained eye/ear for sure, seem to be much more worrisome to the CT people yet she can't print it because she can't complete "the story"! Why not go with what you have, with something called THE FACTS and let the reader think about it a little. "Security Experts More Worried Than Usual" would be a good one. This is one great benefit of the rise of blogging: stuff gets out there! Yes, the onus is on the recipient to make sense of it all and to construct their own "story" but in reality it always has been and even if you are presented with "the story"in the print media you HAVE to read it with the knowledge that this has all been filtered already for you. Stuff is missing, sutff was added. Caveat emptor is always advisable and will always be advisable. Thanks for nothing Tom Wolfe!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Nanny McPhee (2005)**
I really wanted to like this picture because I am a sucker for Emma Thompson. She wrote the script, which is very well done, and the acting, especially Angela Lansbury who steals the picture as Aunt Adelaide, is top notch. It's a high quality fairy tale type story. My problem is the score is nearly oppressive. It is extremely annoying and annoyingly used by the director. It completely undermines all the moments it is supposed to enhance. I realize this is a film aimed primarily at children, but does that mean you have to assume they are IDIOTS? I've read a few interviews with Ms. Thompson and she never mentions the director which implies to me she was not completely happy with the finished project. And it's a shame too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Old Music Roundup:
Having recently "discovered" Viva el Amor by The Pretenders I just wanted to re-iterate that Chrissie Hynde is a genius. This is a great album and it stands up to anything in the group's catalog. I also have been listening to much of the group's past songs and one struck me as especially rewarding. It's not from one of their more consistent or critically praised records, but the song is a classic nonetheless. It's called Night In My Veins. I can't recall another contemporary singer/songwriter, with the possible exception of Lucinda Williams who can sound so sexy-in-a-dirty-in-a-good-way. This song is an expression of the joys of sensual pleasure and what could be wrong about that? (Wrong-in-a-good-way that is.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Match Point (2005)***
It's Whit Stillman meets Alfred Hitchcock via Woody Allen. Neatly written, beautifully shot and composed, well acted. I don't know if it was lead actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers' resemblance to Malcolm McDowell or the London locales subbing for New York but several scenes had a welcome Kubrick-ian quality.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Rice says "time to shake the trees" over Darfur - Yahoo! News: "'Frankly we need to shake the trees a bit, shake the bureaucracy a little bit and say to people it's not acceptable to wait any longer for at least the planning for a robust security force,' Rice told reporters."
Does this woman have no shame whatsoever? Recall Richard Clarke's testimony during the 9/11 Commission hearings describing how during the Clinton administration they took steps to "shake the trees" of the security department bureaucracies to prevent a terrorist attack at LAX. And she had the gall to testify that all the warnings and PDB's about an al Qaida imminent attack were just "historical" or some such nonsense. I guess we will have to wait for her memoirs 20 years from now before she even comes close to admitting she may have been in error way back in 2001. She is so pointless.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

May 1 protest aims to "close" cities - Yahoo! News:
"'It's intimidation when a million people march down main streets in our major cities under the Mexican flag,' said Jim Gilchrist, founder of the Minuteman volunteer border patrol group. 'This will backfire,' he said. Some Latinos have also expressed concerns that the boycott and marches could stir up anti-immigrant sentiment."

"Could"? Um I think there is already QUITE A LOT of anti-immigration sentiment. And yeah Jim, how does it feel to be "intimidated"? Be thankful that for you it only lasts a few hours. It defies explanation how so many people, many immigrants or children of immigrants, can be intimidated by someone marching down the street carrying a Mexican flag. Oh they'll have no problem with Mexican flags come May 5 as long as beer is involved. Protest marches are an essential element of America. It's high time somebody felt stirred up enough to try and change things. I hope to be among them this Monday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

SACRAMENTO / California coffers fill with $1.5 billion in extra income tax / Should money go to debt and reserves or schools and aid?:
"'The extraordinary cash developments, significantly above estimated levels, feel like the revenue performance of the late 1990s,' Hill said. 'But we don't fully understand the basis of the revenue surge and how much is one-time in nature.'"

This is mind-boggling to me. To be able to mis-estimate revenue by so much and expect to run anything like a realistic budget is ludicrous. How can we make any decisions at all based upon government budget estimates? It's basically a free-for-all apparently. And these morons are debating what to do with the "extra" cash. God help us all.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ian's Shoelace Site - Shoelace Knots - How To Tie Your Shoes
This is simply an amazing website. Everyone knows how to tie their shoes, but do they know 16 different ways to do it? I have recently become enamored of Ian's Secure Knot. I'm still kind of shocked that at this stage of my life I am learning to tie my shoes all over again. I used to just do the regular knot, then double knot the remaining loops which is indeed a secure method. But untying them was a pain. With this "new" way, it is even more secure and you can untie them with a simple pull on one lace. Incredible. (via BoingBoing.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

ScienceDaily: Scientists Make Major Finding On Potential Cure For Type 1 Diabetes:
"A major finding, which represents an important step toward a potential cure for type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes, has been made by a research team at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology (LIAI). The team, led by Matthias von Herrath, M.D., an internationally recognized expert on the molecular basis of type 1 diabetes, used a combinatorial treatment approach in laboratory mice and found it reversed recent onset type 1 diabetes in the majority of animals tested."

Awesome, awesome news. I hope this can get to the people who deal with this disease quickly enough.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

US to watch for gas price-gouging: Bush - Yahoo! News
Don't you feel relieved now? W. is watching those nasty oil companies for you. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, "Give me a break!" If it is like Bush says, that tight oil supply and increasing demand drive up prices, how come oil companies are posting record profits for the last few years? I could see record revenues, but no, these are record PROFITS. That has nothing to do with supply and demand or a true cost push to prices.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

King of Kings (1961) ****:
Shot in glorious 70mm Technicolor, this reverent, mainly literal rendition of the life of The Christ boasts a stirring musical score by Miklos Rosza, some very powerful scenes, some interesting screenplay twists such as the Roman centurion, Lucius, the friendship between Barabbas and Judas, the extended interludes with Herod and an amazing amount of screen time devoted to the motivations of Barabbas. The miracle scenes are moving and artfully done as are the scenes between Jesus and John The Baptist. To modern sensibilities, you would think the literal readings, King James-ish dialogue and pictorial staging of key scenes would elicit guffaws but the tone of the film is so dignified and respectful that it all comes together very well. The cinematography is beautiful, the script is intelligent and literate, the acting is very good across the board except the casting choices range from the inspired (Hurd Hatfield as Pilate, Brigid Bazlen as Salome, Frank Thring as Herod Antipas) to the bewildering (Robert Ryan as The Baptist, Harry Guardino as Barabbas, Royal Dano as Peter). An amazing footnote is that even in an off Oscar year of 1961, this film couldn't manage a single nomination. I suppose the Academy was still suffering from Ben Hur-itis?

But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul."

The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:35-45

Friday, April 14, 2006

Iran President Again Lashes Out at Israel - Yahoo! News
"He [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] did not say how this would be achieved, but insisted to the audience of at least 900 people: 'Believe that Palestine will be freed soon. The existence of this (Israeli) regime is a permanent threat' to the Middle East, he added. 'Its existence has harmed the dignity of Islamic nations.' The three-day conference on Palestine is being attended by officials of Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian territories."

So we're not the only country in the world with an idiot in charge. According to Juan Cole Ahmadinejad is extremely unpopular with the Iranian people so it looks like his threats and tough talk are designed to provoke Bush into doing something really, really stupid so as to rally the nation around him and preserve his power. And also to impress the visiting Hamas officials. Digby says Bush has already started doing something really, really stupid and I'm afraid he may be right. If Sy Hersh can find these things out why can't someone ANYONE in Congress find out and try to put a stop to it?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 (video/quicktime Object):
"James Ridgeway and Alice Ng have produced a stunning short video combining shots of a pleasant New York City day with the tape of stewardess Betty Ong as she described the last moments of American Airlines Flight 11." (via Undernews.)

I could not watch this entirely. As Ms. Ong is calmly, clearly and courageously trying to explain what has occurred, the persons on the receiving end of the call are being so obtuse and asinine as to defy belief. I challenge anyone to watch this in its entirety and not be in tears at some point. Incredible.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The New Yorker: The Iran Plans:
"The House member said that no one in the meetings “is really objecting” to the talk of war. “The people they’re briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?” (Iran is building facilities underground.) “There’s no pressure from Congress” not to take military action, the House member added. “The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it.” Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”"

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! The most worrisome thing is NOT that Bush thinks he is divinely driven to do whatever he wants, it's the fact that NOBODY IS OBJECTING TO HIM! So this is all really going to happen AGAIN and no one is going to say a goddamn thing to try and stop it. I never dreamed I would ever be so ashamed of my government. Jesus, what a waste!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Russell Shaw: Couric's Anchor Appointment Is a National Disgrace | The Huffington Post:
"It hasn't helped that the morning show balance has tipped to the less serious, Bauder notes Syracuse University journalism professor Charlotte Grimes as saying. Grimes - a female- tells Bowder the new anchor needs to ditch the fashion consultants and crafters of the 172 hairstyles that Couric joked about on Wednesday's 'Today' show. 'I think she does have the background but she's going to have to overcome the most recent memories of her,' Grimes tells Bauder. Still, Katie Couric is going to have to prove that she has the chops to be the steady anchor for news reports from, and about, this turbulent word we live in."

What world has THIS guy been living in for the past 30 years? When was the last time network news was relevant and not driven by profit? I'll tell you: 1974. Network wasn't called a satire for nothing. Gravitas? These people do nothing more than read the news. What kind of chops do you need? So this guy thinks Ms. Couric is too hot to read the news. She's apparently too "classically beautiful". Take a cold shower buddy. She's a LONG way from Jessica Savitch who was inarguably THE most beautiful woman to ever read the news on national network TV, albeit on Saturdays, and who did a damn fine job at that. And Edward R. Murrow did more than his share of fluff.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Must Love Dogs (2005)**
Diane Lane has fallen into the Jaqueline Bisset syndrome: exceptionally beautiful and talented actress in less than exceptional (to be kind) films. This one fits the mold. And actually, if it wasn't for Diane Lane, this film would merit one star. Very predictable direction and except for half a dozen good one-liners a weak script. The surprise for me was that I wasn't wincing as much as normal when John Cusack was on the screen. Even though he seemed to be wearing the same outfit that he wore in Say Anything in nearly every scene. I actually think he did quite well considering. He's not really that bad of an actor, I guess I feel he is miscast too often. I think that is the case here, although he does nearly pull it off.
NATIONAL JOURNAL: Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks (04/06/2006):
"I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had received 'approval from the President through the Vice President' to divulge portions of a National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to the court papers. Libby was said to have testified that such presidential authorization to disclose classified information was 'unique in his recollection,' the court papers further said. Libby also testified that an administration lawyer told him that Bush, by authorizing the disclosure of classified information, had in effect declassified the information. Legal experts disagree on whether the president has the authority to declassify information on his own."

Bush probably didn't even realize he did this. This is very telling of the way secrets, lies, and truth are co-mingled, switched around, classified, de-classified, trumped up, toned down, massaged and manipulated any way you need by this adminstration to the point where they themselves have no idea what the facts are. Most of the stuff they classified is bogus to begin with, so what's the harm in declassifying something whenever it is convenient for our purposes is apparently their thinking. Way to go Mr. President!
Downfall (2004)****
Very well written depiction of the final days of The Third Reich as the Russian Red Army closes in on Berlin. Several sub-plots are interwoven to show that even as the total collapse of a society is happening, most people find their own reasons for continuing on. Here is a film that depicts a specific series of horrific, historic events and points to modern parallels without beating us over the head with it. Bruno Ganz deserved some sort of award for his Hitler, but all the performances are top notch. Well-paced direction keeps the 2 hour and 40 minute film moving along briskly. Excellent.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Huffington Post - Delay on Hardball (video/quicktime Object)
A Harry Shearer "found object" that shows Chris Matthews sucking up to Tom Delay big time before the show begins for real. There's an implied dig at Delay for saying something cutting about Hilary Clinton, but in all fairness he is merely repeating what Matthews feeds him. It's Matthews that comes off looking REALLY bad here, as if he hasn't done enough of that already. Delay is his typical smug, self-righteous, they-are-all-out-to-get-me-I-did-nothing-wrong self.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Andalu **
I enjoyed dinner yesterday evening at Andalu in the Mission in San Francisco with some old friends. It's a great place for such an occasion because they have a great wine selection including a large number by the glass or half bottle which was perfect because I was the only one who wanted wine. Their small plates menu is also reasonably priced unlike Isa . To be fair though, you do seem to get what you paid for. The food was good, but nothing special. Go with a group for a good time not a special dining experience.
"King Kong" DVD scares up $100 mln 1st-week sales - Yahoo! News:
"The 'Kong' DVD debut contrasts to the theater box office opening in December, when 'Kong' earned $66 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices in its first five days. That was short of the roughly $75 million Universal thought it might bring. Still, the movie, which was directed by 'Lord of the Rings' Oscar winner Peter Jackson, generated a total $217 million at domestic box offices throughout its entire run and another $329 internationally for a total $546 million. It is the fourth-biggest movie release ever in Universal's history."

I don't think there have been too many major movies that made more money on the first week DVD sales than their first week box office. Half a billion dollars in total box! If I ever needed proof that my tastes in film are far from the mainstream, I can't do much better than that.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Supreme Court rejects Padilla appeal - Yahoo! News
"By a 6-3 vote, the high court refused to hear Padilla's appeal. He was confined in a military brig in South Carolina for more than three years after Bush designated him an 'enemy combatant.'"

So Scalia's ass is spared for now as well as Roberts'. And it's defensible albeit on a technicality since the appeal was based on the fact that Padilla had not been charged and so Gonzalez simply decided to do just that. Kind of a weasley defense though given the extremely important issues at stake here. I mean, if the Supreme Court doesn't want to hear a case like this, what is the point of it?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Capote (2005)*
I did not see the point to this picture. The direction is unimaginative and pedestrian. Philip Seymour Hoffman is good, but it's an easy role and he's been better in other films. Dull and dreary.

Friday, March 31, 2006

King Kong (2005)*
A bad idea to begin with, made even worse by very bad directorial decisions. At least half of this picture could have been cut including the entire first hour. Painfully bad script. Just a chore to sit through. Yes, the action scenes with Kong and all the other assorted creatures are very well done but they still don't add up to much. A near total waste of time. It's a shame it made so much money.
Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005)****
Writer/director/star Miranda July is quite possibly a major talent. This is an original, daring, extremely confident film. I can't wait to see what she does next. A movie about love, loss, loneliness and life.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Up With Grups - The Ascendant Breed of Grown-Ups Who Are Redefining Adulthood -- New York Magazine:
"(d) stay out till 4 A.M. because he just can’t miss the latest New Pornographers show, because who knows when Neko Case will decide to stop touring with them, and everyone knows she’s the heart of the band..."

I guess that alone makes me a grup. I wouldn't say she is the heart of the band but she certainly kicks them into overdrive when she sings. I've also really wanted to like her solo stuff but even though her singing is in fine form, the songs just don't grab me. Certainly not like Newman's or Bejar's NP compositions.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)**
A well intentioned film, an important film, a film of great ideas and great truths just not an especially entertaining film. George Clooney is still finding himself as a director and it's admirable that he tackles material that is difficult to film and is able to make reasonably decent films out of them. It just doesn't seem like he has found that story that he HAS to tell.
A History of Violence (2005)**
Well-acted and some scenes show a remarkable restraint from David Cronenberg but I just didn't find the overall effect of the film to be all that powerful. It's well-done and makes some good points, but it just wasn't exceptional to me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Chicken Little (2005)*
Thank goodness for the Disney-Pixar merger or we would have had to suffer through a whole series of films like this. It's just very hard to imagine, with all the wonderful fully formed stories out there, how a film like this which costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time and involves a lot of people working very hard can be made. An embarrassment.
The Squid and the Whale (2005)****
A great script, near-perfect performances and tight, concise direction. Funny, sad, real. Brilliant film.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I went to see Belle and Sebastian and The New Pornographers last night at The Concourse at The San Francisco Design Center. While I am a fan of both groups, I was most looking forward to seeing TNP live, especially because of Neko Case who has just this incredible voice that I wanted to hear live. Unfortunately, she is out on tour in support of her new solo album so she wasn't there. Also not there was the #2 songwriter and guitarist Dan Bejar who is on tour with his side project Destroyer. Still, the band came out smoking, running through a blistering set of tunes in rapid fire succession. I wasn't counting but they must have done 12-14 songs in under an hour with nary a glitch in the bunch. They were great, but I was hoping for transcendence which Ms. Case might have provided. Maybe next time.

Belle and Sebastian were good, but they seemed a little road weary to me. In fact both groups had a few too long lulls between groups of songs which brought a complete stop to the flow of the performances. They are nearing the end of the tour so maybe that was it. They also seemed overwhelmed by the size of the soldout crowd, which was probably 7-8 thousand or so, and the size of the venue itself. It's like a hangar with no seating, pillars everywhere and the sound was murky in spots and extremely bass heavy. I'll think twice about going to another concert there...unless Neko shows up!
Asia Times Online : DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA : Interview with Chalmers Johnson : PART 1: Cold warrior in a strange land: "The Soviet Union imploded. I thought: What an incredible vindication for the United States. Now it's over, and the time has come for a real victory dividend, a genuine peace dividend. The question was: Would the US behave as it had in the past when big wars came to an end? We disarmed so rapidly after World War II. Granted, in 1947 we started to rearm very rapidly, but by then our military was farcical. In 1989, what startled me almost more than the Wall coming down was this: As the entire justification for the military-industrial complex, for the Pentagon apparatus, for the fleets around the world, for all our bases came to an end, the United States instantly - pure knee-jerk reaction - began to seek an alternative enemy. Our leaders simply could not contemplate dismantling the apparatus of the Cold War.

That was, I thought, shocking. I was no less shocked that the American public seemed indifferent. And what things they did do were disastrous. George Bush, the father, was president. He instantaneously declared that he was no longer interested in Afghanistan. It's over. What a huge cost we've paid for that, for creating the largest clandestine operation we ever had and then just walking away, so that any Afghan we recruited in the 1980s in the fight against the Soviet Union instantaneously came to see us as the enemy - and started paying us back. The biggest blowback of the lot was, of course, September 11, but there were plenty of them before then."

Interesting interview which also reminds us that the real reason we are not "pulling out" of Iraq is because our bases aren't complete yet. Once they are, the troops will come home...except for those on the 3 permanent bases. This was the true reason for the war, Helen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

President Finally Calls on Helen Thomas, Says He Only Semi-Regrets It
E&P make this sound like some kind of smackdown, but she got to ask ONE question, no follow-up and Bush was able to spout his lies without any confrontation with those pesky facts. There is no dispute that upon winning the election in 2000, his administration began preparing the Iraq invasion. 9/11 to these people was a convenient excuse. We've got the Downing Street memos, numerous eyewitnesses, internal memoranda you name it confirming this. And he still is able to get away with the "9/11 changed everything" bullshit. And this juicy canard also went unchallenged: "And when he [Saddam] chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him." Um, sorry pardner but YOU decided to cease inspections. I don't really know why I blogged this item because these press events are so unbelievably lame they hurt me. The brazen laziness and timidity of the press corps is repulsive.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Am Done With Violence / Enough scenes of horrid brutality, bloodied faces, tire irons to the knee. Can you purge?
"Maybe, deeper down, you can also choose to try and cultivate that seemingly impossible Buddha-blessed, Christlike ideal so completely forgotten by the rabid pseudo-Christians of this country: Forgiveness. Wisdom. Turning the other cheek. Rejecting the Bush-fed all-American kill-'em-all, eye-for-an-eye thug mentality in favor of actual ... I don't know what. Subtlety of mind? Nuance of intellect? Elevation of spirit? I know, it's completely crazy."

Crazy, yes, but necessary.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)***
Breathtaking animation, astounding visuals one right after the other. 2 hours of imaginative and beautifully composed scenes. Yet the story is so convoluted and it is so busy with characters and plots and sub-plots, that the overall effect is less than the sum of its parts. Still, very worthwhile if only for the beautiful images Miyazaki has once more prepared for us.
Commentary - The Beatles Now: "It is, I suspect, no accident that after 1970, none of the four Beatles would write any songs or make any recordings comparable in quality to the ones they made as a group. Together, their musical limitations had been offset by the creative synergy of their collaboration (as well as by the discreet guidance of George Martin, their producer-mentor). When they began to work independently, the limitations overwhelmed them, and they spent the rest of their lives struggling in vain to rival the achievements of their youth."

I don't know about you, but I could make an awesome 5 CD boxed set of post-breakup Beatles songs and each one would be comparable in quality to songs in the Beatles' work. I also don't think their "musical limitations" (!) got the better of them individually. If anything, the LACK of limitation meant that a number of lesser material made its way into their work that otherwise would not have. And isn't it unfair to compare the Beatles individually to The Beatles as a group? Let's compare them to everyone else and they stand up quite respectably as individuals.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)***
Enjoyable adventure continuing the story of a young wizard's education. I don't think it reaches the heights of the previous film in the series, but it does all right. Certainly preferable to this.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The New York Review of Books: The Health Care Crisis and What to Do About It:
"We're talking about large cost savings. Indeed, the available evidence suggests that if the United States were to replace its current complex mix of health insurance systems with standardized, universal coverage, the savings would be so large that we could cover all those currently uninsured, yet end up spending less overall. That's what happened in Taiwan, which adopted a single-payer system in 1995: the percentage of the population with health insurance soared from 57 percent to 97 percent, yet health care costs actually grew more slowly than one would have predicted from trends before the change in system."

I believe the "tipping point" for this to happen is fast approaching because General Motors needs this. The only problems, and they're big ones, are the AMA and the insurance lobby. If enough momentum can be achieved politically, a long shot I know, they may be overcome.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Bush pays surprise first visit to Afghanistan - Yahoo! News
These people have absolutely no shame. W, Rummy, Dick, Condi, they all have to make these "surprise" visits to Afghanistan and Iraq. If things are going so well, why the secrecy? What are they afraid of?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The Calgary Sun: Medal-less Miller 'rocks':
"'The expectations were other people's,' Miller said. 'I'm comfortable with what I've accomplished, including at the Olympics. I came in here to race as hard as I could. That was my obligation to myself.' He called his Olympic experience 'awesome,' citing Sestriere's bar scene as one reason. 'My quality of life is the priority. I wanted to have fun here, to enjoy the Olympic experience, not be holed up in a closet.' "

Why is this such a horrible attitude? Aren't the Olympics supposed to be about the joy of sport? The whole medal count and the entire national pride thing is completely the antithesis of the Olympic ideal isn't it? It's supposed to be about INDIVIDUALS coming together to compete. So they try, and they fail, so what? He says he tried his best. But he's not sufficiently broken up about not winning a medal so he's a bad guy to all the sports 'journalists'. And while we are on the subject, how much longer are we going to be subjected to Bob Costas? When he started out in the business broadcasting the Spirits of St. Louis ABA games, he was loose, funny, creative, a pleasure to listen to. Now he is some pretentious automaton thinking that if he reads slowly and monotonically he will sound serious and grave and be taken seriously. And what's with the hair dye?

I watched some short track skating, some curling, some women's hockey, some luge. But it seemed everytime I watched, the focus was some American who was in like 15th place yet we saw each and every run they took. I preferred it when the Olympics were on ABC's Wide World of Sports and they focused on the top athletes regardless of nationality. NBC is just awful. And they still don't get one of the main draws of sports on TV: it's supposed to be LIVE!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

STLtoday - Religion - Controversy follows Marek Bozek from Poland to St. Louis:
"Catholics, said the 31-year-old Bozek, are taught to revere the church's authority and the authority of those in the church hierarchy. Though it is central to the church, he said, 'obedience, thank goodness, is not the highest value. There are three other values that are higher: justice, truth, charity,' he said. 'Authority and obedience need to serve these three values. If any authority demands of you obedience that would be unjust, untruthful, uncharitable, you - as a Catholic - not only can be disobedient, but should be disobedient.'"

This is theologically accurate. But you'll never hear that from a "mainstream" pulpit and I'd wager most Catholics you would talk to would say they've never heard of that. Here is another quote from Fr. Bozek that is exactly right:

"'I would never get involved here if the archbishop had not taken away the sacraments from these people,' he said. 'This is the biggest atrocity in the 21st century in the Catholic church - to use the sacraments as a game. That's a bigger abuse than the abuse of minors, or at least the same gravity, because the sacraments are the most holy thing for Catholics. If you take seriously what the church teaches about sacraments, it's the very presence of the Lord. And how can you use the very presence of God to manipulate someone?'"

Well, he goes overboard a bit on the "atrocity" business, but this is part of Burke's M.O. He threatened to withhold communion from persons who voted for candidates that HE considered pro-choice in the last general election! He quietly rescinded that edict much later but that damage had been done. Now Burke and his minions are mounting a smear campaign against Fr. Bozek. I hope he has the ability to withstand the onslaught and show Archbishop Burke as the weak, pathetic man that he is.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Raging Bull (1980)****
You can pick up the 2-disc collector's edition at Target this week for just $10. Watched it with the Scorsese-Schoonmaker commentary on last night and I was surprised to learn that the amazing fight sequences, which appear to be marvels of the film editor's art, were in fact all planned out in advance. Schoonmaker says "There wasn't much for me to do" in putting the sequences together since Scorsese had already cut it in his head and storyboarded everything. So maybe I was a little hasty in chastising Steven Soderburgh below for editing "Bubble" on the fly? Not so fast. Scorsese says that one of his original cuts had a flashback structure where we would see the older Jake, then a sequence in the past, then the older again, then back to the younger, etc. After watching it though, he said almost looked like there were two characters, two Jakes and it was off-putting. He hit upon the bookend approach and that made all the difference.