Monday, December 29, 2008

James Wolcott's Blog:
"To understand how frightening it is to be a Gazan this morning, you need to have stood in that small slab of concrete by the Mediterranean and smelled the claustrophobia. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Isle of Wight but it is crammed with 1.5 million people who can never leave. They live out their lives on top of each other, jobless and hungry, in vast, sagging tower blocks. From the top floor, you can often see the borders of their world: the Mediterranean, and Israeli barbed wire. When bombs begin to fall - as they are doing now with more deadly force than at any time since 1967 - there is nowhere to hide."

It's like poking a chained, starving, angry pit bull in the face with a stick then beating it senseless with a lead pipe when it barks at you. "If only it wouldn't keep barking at me we could have peace! It barks at me and I have to live in fear!" I simply cannot understand why Obama says nothing. All that hope I had is just about all gone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2008 In Review: Movies

**** Speed Racer
**** Vicky Cristina Barcelona
*** Burn After Reading
*** I Have Loved You So Long
*** Wall-E
** Dark Knight
* Iron Man
* Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D
* Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
* Quantum of Solace

Monday, December 22, 2008

Loud Family - Ask Scott:
"Not to say this would be true of you, but for some reason it's generally a mild shock to people that songs aren't autobiographical, when something like a film or a novel, which goes into much greater detail, is just assumed to be a complete invention."

My first thought upon reading this was that perhaps we think songs are more autobiographical because they become that way for us, the listeners. Parts of our own lives fill in the gaps in the song, the song fills in some of the gaps in our own lives. I would also say that the best novels fill the same function and are thought to be autobiographical too to a certain extent. I think films tend to be less so because there are fewer gaps that need filling so they don't become so personal. But a song, like "Inverness" which is about a feeling, a feeling we all have known at one time or another, becomes such a part of our lives when we experience it that we assume it began as a part of the composer's life too.

Just a thought.
12/22/2008 - Bruce's return only illustrates decline of Rams -
"Before Sunday's game, Rams general manager Jay Zygmunt hobnobbed with 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Martz, the Rams' head coach from 2000-2005. The former enemies shook hands, smiled and chatted. I can't curse in the newspaper, so let me say this: The Martz-Zygmunt blood feud was a significant factor in the premature destruction of the Greatest Show Era. And so now they're shaking hands and being buddies? A little late, wouldn't you say? I wouldn't expect Isaac Bruce to understand the depth of that anger, which is shared by many here."

Another fine example of why I don't read most sportswriters often. Some actually stick to the facts, some actually have some expertise. Then there are others like Bernie Miklasz. "The depth of that anger"??? Perspective please! This is a sporting event! And the so-called "blood feud" between Martz and Zygmunt is conjecture or disgruntled 3rd party opinion. Maybe Zygmunt was talking to Martz about his heart condition (which both men share) and the fact that he was going to resign the next day (today). And this idiot gets all huffy because two possibly former enemies/rivals have made up, treated each other as they should with human dignity and respect? Shouldn't that be celebrated? Isn't that what sport is all about?

What sportswriters need to do is educate their readership on a fact of life: shit happens! Randomness rules! The Rams had some great seasons, now they are having some bad ones. The 49ers had some great seasons. Now they are struggling. You can do this with EVERY TEAM IN THE NFL! Nobody wins forever, all the time. Bill Belicheck was horseshit when he coached in Cleveland. He moves to New England and now he's a god. People have got to stop thinking that winning equates to worthwhile. There is a lot of entertaining stuff going on in any NFL game if you enjoy the sport. Don't get me wrong, I root for my team as much as anyone and am disappointed when they lose or play poorly. But to have a "depth of anger" inexpressible in polite company, and to carry grudges for years and years is just obscene. Even the best sometimes lose and lose often. This is why players get pissed off at the fans who boo. They know what it is like to give your best and have the ball bounce another way. Some things, MOST things, are just out of your control.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Glenn Greenwald: Senate report links Bush to detainee homicides; media yawns
(reg. required):

"There are countless other episodes like this of human beings in American custody dying because of the mistreatment -- authorized by Bush, Rumsfeld and others -- to which we subjected them. These are murders and war crimes in every sense of the word. That the highest level Bush officials and the President himself are responsible for the policies that spawned these crimes against humanity have been long known to anyone paying minimal attention, but now we have a bipartisan Senate Report -- signed by the presidential nominee of Bush's own political party -- that directly assigns culpability for these war crimes to the President and his policies. It's nothing less than a formal declaration from the Senate that the President and his top aides are war criminals.

"This Report was issued on Thursday. Not a single mention was made of it on any of the Sunday news talk shows, with the sole exception being when John McCain told George Stephanopoulos that it was "not his job" to opine on whether criminal prosecutions were warranted for the Bush officials whose policies led to these crimes. What really matters, explained McCain, was not that we get caught up in the past, but instead, that we ensure this never happens again -- yet, like everyone else who makes this argument, he offered no explanation as to how we could possibly ensure that "it never happens again" if we simultaneously announce that our political leaders will be immunized, not prosecuted, when they commit war crimes. Doesn't that mindset, rather obviously, substantially increase the likelihood -- if not render inevitable -- that such behavior will occur again? Other than that brief exchange, this Senate Report was a non-entity on the Sunday shows."

Why are war crimes a bad thing everywhere in the world except in the good ol' U.S. of A? Where is the precious "change" if we do not prosecute these animals? Maybe Nixon was right that if the president does it that means it is not illegal?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

2008 In Review: Music

**** Aimee Mann - @#%&! Smilers
**** Army Navy - Army Navy
**** Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends
**** Delays, The - Everything's The Rush
**** Elvis Costello - Momofuku
**** Ladytron - Velocifero
**** Lindsey Buckingham - Gift of Screws
**** Mates of State - Re-Arrange Us
**** REM - Accelerate
**** Sloan - Parallel Play
**** Submarines - Honeysuckle Weeks
**** Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
*** Blitzen Trapper - Furr
*** Broken West, The - Now or Heaven
*** Duke Spirit - Neptune
*** I Love Math - Getting To The Point Is Beside It
*** Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
*** Keane - Perfect Symmetry
*** Lake - Oh, the Places We'll Go
*** Long Blondes - Couples
*** Pretenders - Break Up the Concrete
*** Ray Davies - Working Man's Cafe
*** She and Him - Volume One
*** Sheryl Crow - Detours
*** Thee Make-Out Party!!! - Play Pretend
*** We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery
** Breeders - Mountain Battles
** British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music
** Dido - Safe Trip Home
** Drive-By Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark
** Future Clouds and Radar - Peoria
** Jules Shear - More
** Juliana Hatfield - How to Walk Away
** Killers, The - Day and Age
** Lucinda Williams - Little Honey
** M83 - Saturdays = Youth
** Matthew Sweet - Sunshine Lies
** Old 97s - Blame It On Gravity
** Ringo Starr - Liverpool 8
** Sam Phillips - Don't Do Anything
** Santogold - Santogold
** Sixpence None the Richer - The Dawn of Grace
** Snow Patrol - A Hundred Million Suns
** Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
* Basia Bulat - Oh My Darling
* Bob Mould - District Line
* Chris Difford - Last Temptation of Chris
* Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams
* Enya - And Winter Came
* Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
* Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree
* Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
* Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster
* Raconteurs, The - Consolers of the Lonely
* Was (Not Was) - Boo!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Lady Vanishes (1938)***
While watching this film, an entertaining blend of comedy and suspense, I finally "got" Hitchcock's last film Family Plot. When I first saw it, I was disappointed because I had grown up with Psycho, The Birds, Torn Curtain, Frenzy, not nearly as light as Family Plot and it struck me as a sort of letdown from The Master. But really, it was a return to an earlier style for Hitch, as exemplified by The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps among others. I think I'll take another look at Family Plot soon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Business Spectator - A tsunami of hope or terror?:
"It is now getting very interesting. The three Icelandic banks have defaulted, as has Countrywide, Lehman and Bear Stearns. AIG has been taken over by the US Government, which is counted as a part-default, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are in “conservatorship”, which is also a part default – a 'part default' does not count as a 'full default' in calculating the nine that would trigger the CDS liabilities. Ambac, MBIA, PMI, General Motors, Ford and a lot of US home builders are teetering. If the list of defaults – full and partial – gets to nine, then a mass transfer of money will take place from unsuspecting investors around the world into the banking system. How much? Nobody knows, but it’s many trillions."

Another twist to the collapse of the financial world and an intriguing possible answer as to why these bailouts are so very important to the big boys.

via Robot Wisdom
Consensus emerging on universal healthcare - Los Angeles Times:
"After decades of failed efforts to reshape the nation's healthcare system, a consensus appears to be emerging in Washington about how to achieve the elusive goal of providing medical insurance to all Americans.

The answer, say leading groups of businesses, hospitals, doctors, labor unions and insurance companies -- as well as senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill and members of the new Obama administration -- is unprecedented government intervention to create a system of universal protection.

At the same time, those groups, which span the ideological and political spectrum, largely have agreed to preserve the employer-based system through which most Americans get their health insurance.

The idea of a federal, single-payer system patterned on those in Europe and Canada, long a dream of the political left, is now virtually off the table."

Now we shall see what Obama is made of. Most of this "consensus" is from the power elite, NOT folks who know what they are talking about. There is no dispute that the simplest, cheapest, most effective solution is expanding Medicare coverage for all Americans. And there is tremendous support for this idea not only among the American electorate, but among most businesses that struggle to provide health care for their workers including automakers. So if Obama truly wants the best solution to a problem and not just what lobbyists are willing to settle for, the single payer solution needs to be on that table.