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

:: rogerebert.com :: 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.