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.