Sunday, September 30, 2007

SHALINI - The Surface and the Shine (2007)****
Sort of a companion piece to Dynamico (3 songs were written by or with Mitch Easter), this record doesn't quite achieve those lofty heights. But this is a great CD, much better, more consistent than "Metal Corner" from 2004. Classic, heavy power pop with tons of hooks, riffs and harmonies. "Gloria" is...well glorious!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Time Machine (1960)****
Apparently this is a guy flick. Well then since I'm a guy, I loved it! George Pal's crowning achievement, it's underlying intelligence and imaginative art direction (of which Mr. Pal was a crucial, yet uncredited, component) plus sincere performances and excellent script make this the classic that it is. Yes there are blue, hairy cannibalistic beings preying on docile, almost albino humans, plenty of borderline cheesy special effects, but there is a sincerity and attention to story that is a cut above the standard "B" movie. Rod Taylor is in fine form as well. And it all comes in at an economical 103 minutes!
Scientists get first look at nanotubes inside living animals:
"'Carbon nanotubes are much smaller than living cells, and they give off fluorescent light in a way that researchers hope to harness to detect diseases earlier than currently possible,' said research co-author Bruce Weisman, professor of chemistry. 'In order to do that, we need to learn how to detect and monitor nanotubes inside living tissues, and we must also determine whether they pose any hazards to organisms.'"

Thanks again to Robot Wisdom, what freaked me out about this was the fact that we are capable of creating things "much smaller than living cells"! These things can be placed inside us and we wouldn't have the slightest idea they were there. Nano-technology is not sci-fi and not a dream. It is reality. Incredible.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

ABC News: Obama Floats Social Security Tax Hike:
"'If we kept the payroll tax rate exactly the same but applied it to all earnings and not just the first $97,000,' Obama wrote this week in an Iowa newspaper, 'we could eliminate the entire Social Security shortfall.'"

Again, there is NO Social Security shortfall projected until 2046. Repeat: 2046! There has never been a time in the history of the Social Security program that it was in such good financial shape. For a major party candidate to not only say such a thing but to actually believe it to be true is mind-boggling to me. I had considered supporting Mr. Obama but if he can't understand this concept, nor hire a consultant who understands this concept, then how can he run the country?

Friday, September 21, 2007 & A with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh:
" JJ: That's all they are? Marginal? SH: With these stories, if they slow down or make people take a deep breath before they bomb Iran, that is a plus. But they are not going to stop anybody. This is a government that is unreachable by us, and that is very depressing. In terms of adding to the public debate, the stories are important. But not in terms of changing policy. I have no delusions about that."

Via Robot Wisdom, Seymour Hersh articulates our present predicament: we have a government that is unreachable by us. Exactly how I feel, and exactly why when I stop and think I get depressed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)****
Nothing Earth shattering here except a finely crafted and executed whodunit featuring an exceptional performance by Albert Finney in the lead role. He is on screen almost the entire time and never ceases to be interesting or entertaining. A great actor in a great role.
The Passenger (1975)***
Michaelangelo Antonioni is a gifted director with a wonderful visual sense and assured abilities with a camera, but as a screenwriter he leaves a lot to be desired. Some interesting ideas but you have to strain to get a hint of them. Still, an interesting and thoughtful work.
The Black Hole (1979)*
An embarrassment for all concerned. The story makes little sense even within its limited and scientifically inaccurate universe. Clearly an attempt to re-work "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" into an "outer space" environment, it succeeds at absolutely nothing. A complete failure.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Greenspan Concedes Mortgage Dilemma:
"'While I was aware a lot of these practices were going on, I had no notion of how significant they had become until very late,' he said in a CBS '60 Minutes' interview to be broadcast Sunday. 'I really didn't get it until very late in 2005 and 2006,' Greenspan said."

But, but you're Maestro! You knew EVERYTHING! Think about this for a minute: he was aware that dangerous, questionable, extremely risky lending practices were not only happening but causing the run-up in housing prices thereby creating an unsustainable market bubble, AND HE DIDN'T GET IT!

I think he is a liar. He could NOT have been that stupid. I think his banker friends wanted him to look the other way and he complied. They got theirs. And now, unfortunately, the rest of the country will get ours.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Doctor Dolittle (1967)**
Here is one flick that could do with a Tim Burton directed remake. Johnny Depp would be great as the lead. And I'm sure Mr. Burton could bring it all in at around 100 minutes or so and not the incredible 152 minutes this film takes! And that doesn't include the intermission. So yes, my regular rant about the length of the film is warranted here. And there are about 6-7 songs too many. Mr. Harrison's talk/sing style gets wearisome too, although he does a nice job overall. Anthony Newley is tough to take though.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Britney Spears earns scorn for MTV performance - Yahoo! News:
"The 25-year-old singer, whose professional achievements have been overshadowed by her personal crises in recent years, performed 'Gimme More' in a black sequined bikini and knee-high boots. No longer boasting the buff body that helped drive her to international superstardom almost a decade ago, the mother of two moved sluggishly around the stage at the Palms casino, often with the support of a troupe of dancers. At one point, the camera panned to rapper 50 Cent, sitting in the audience, who looked bewildered by the action on stage. 'She blew it,' gossip columnist Perez Hilton told Reuters. 'Everybody knows Britney lip-syncs, but that's because she dances so much. She barely even danced in this. It was so bad. It was painful. It was embarrassing. And I loved it!'"

Talk about high expectations! You'd think Ms. Spears was supposed to be doing an excerpt from King Lear or something. Come on, LIGHTEN UP! I thought she looked pretty damn good. Just how "buff" do we want women to be for heaven's sake? I'm not a big fan of her music but the song, "Gimme More", was a "danceable ode" as Sir Paul might say, perfectly acceptable at the disco and to my dirty-old-man eyes she seemed to give it the attention it deserved and seemed to move around the stage appropriately. It wasn't a transcendent performance but this was the MTV awards for crying out loud! I think it's just a fashionable thing to berate Ms. Spears and that sort of thing just irritates the hell out of me. You want to punish her for her behavior? Ignore her. If you can.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Bush: No Interest In How Iraqi Military Got Disbanded; No Effort To Reverse Decision?:
"Mr. Bush acknowledged one major failing of the early occupation of Iraq when he said of disbanding the Saddam Hussein-era military, 'The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen.' But when Mr. Draper pointed out that Mr. Bush's former Iraq administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, had gone ahead and forced the army's dissolution and then asked Mr. Bush how he reacted to that, Mr. Bush said, 'Yeah, I can't remember, I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'' But, he added, 'Again, Hadley's got notes on all of this stuff,' referring to Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser."

Do any Congressional Democrats get The New York Times? Do they read the front page? Just asking.
Coming months vital for U.S. Iraq strategy - Yahoo! News:
"U.S. President George W. Bush, on a surprise visit to Iraq, raised the prospect of troop cuts after meeting top commanders at a desert air base in western Anbar province on Monday. 'I think the next three to four months is critical,' said Odierno, head of day-to-day U.S. military operations in Iraq."

I had to do a double take when I saw that headline. I thought I had stumbled upon The Onion instead of Yahoo! News. Can these people even hear themselves speak? Ever since July 2003 some "senior official" has been saying "the next 3-4 months are critical". What a joke. Oh and how very brave of Mr. Bush to visit Iraq. It's always a surprise too. That's a nice touch. I miss the flight jacket though.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)**
Yet another flick that is WAY too long. 2 hours and 12 minutes! It is a full 37 minutes before we get into the volcano! I wonder if I am just getting more used to the tempo of action flicks of today. This film is from 1959. There is a HUGE amount of set up in the first 37 minutes which I doubt would be tolerated today. James Mason is, of course, solid, Pat Boone manages to be not too embarrassing, Bernard Herrmann's score is tremendous and the cave settings are spectacular. A fine family film.