Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 In Review: Movies

**** a serious man
**** fantastic mr. fox
**** public enemies
*** coraline
*** the informant!
*** up
*** up in the air
*** where the wild things are
** cloudy with a chance of meatballs
** julie and julia
** men who stare at goats
** monsters vs. aliens
** star trek
* angels and demons

Saturday, December 19, 2009

2009 In Review: Music

**** ac newman - get guilty
**** bruce springsteen - working on a dream
**** cheap trick - the latest
**** new york dolls - cause i sez so
**** pet shop boys - yes
**** raveonettes - in and out of control
**** soundtrack of our lives - communion
*** brendan benson - my old familiar friend
*** camera obscura - my maudlin career
*** mew - no more stories...
*** son volt - american central dust
*** the bats - the guilty office
*** the invisible cities - houses shine like teeth
*** the orange peels - 2020
*** tinted windows - tinted windows
*** yo la tengo - popular songs
** burning hearts - aboa sleeping
** god help the girl - god help the girl
** lily allen - it's not me it's you
** neko case - middle cyclone
** nous non plus - menagerie
** pete yorn & scarlett johansson - break up
** robyn hitchcock - goodnight oslo
** sting - if on a winter's night
** tegan & sara - sainthood
** tori amos - midwinter graces
** trashcan sinatras - in the music
** u2 - no line on the horizon
** wilco - the album
** young galaxy - invisible republic
* carbon-silicon - the carbon bubble
* chris isaak - mr. lucky
* the clientele - bonfires on the heath
* the postmarks - memoirs at the end of the world

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wunder Blog : Weather Underground:
"Arctic sea ice loss appears to have created a new atmospheric circulation pattern that brings more warm air in the Arctic, creating a positive feedback loop that causes even more sea ice loss. This feedback loop increases the likelihood that an ice-free Arctic in the summer will indeed come by 2030, as many Arctic experts are predicting. It's worth noting that such an atmospheric circulation shift was not predicted by the climate models. Indeed, the loss of Arctic sea ice over the past three years exceeds what any of our models were predicting (Figure 4). While we can rightly criticize these models for their inaccuracy, we should realize that they are just as capable of making errors not in our favor as they are of making errors in our favor."

But this is a major point that "climate deniers", as anyone who questions Al Gore are being so called, point out: a lot of the dire predictions of disaster are based upon models that by definition are incomplete. The arguments to "go green" should be based upon the obvious reasons: oil is finite, conservation saves and makes money. Companies are coming to that conclusion so stop with all the predictions of disaster.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Edge: TOXO — A Conversation With Robert Sapolsky
"In the endless sort of struggle that neurobiologists have — in terms of free will, determinism — my feeling has always been that there's not a whole lot of free will out there, and if there is, it's in the least interesting places and getting more sparse all the time. But there's a whole new realm of neuroscience which I've been thinking about, which I'm starting to do research on, that throws in another element of things going on below the surface affecting our behavior. And it's got to do with this utterly bizarre world of parasites manipulating our behavior. It turns out that this is not all that surprising. There are all sorts of parasites out there that get into some organism, and what they need to do is parasitize the organism and increase the likelihood that they, the parasite, will be fruitful and multiply, and in some cases they can manipulate the behavior of the host."

Every thought you have is a physical process.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

An email from Noam Chomsky

It's about priorities not economics.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pats' Belichick defends decision to go for it - Yahoo! News:
"Bill Belichick defended his decision to go for it on fourth down as criticism mounted Monday of the call that led to the New England Patriots stunning loss. The coach hailed as one of the NFL's best was a target of columnists, talk radio callers and two of his former players. Why, they all wondered, did he gamble with a six-point lead and just over two minutes to go against the Indianapolis Colts? The gamble failed and the Patriots lost 35-34 after leading by 17 points in the fourth quarter Sunday night."

Nice to have some other successful coach second guessed by 'experts' instead of Mike Martz for a change. There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, the whole premise that the entire game came down to this one play is ludicrous. What about the Patriots' fumble in the end zone? Why wasn't THAT the one play of the game? And statistically speaking, the odds were in his favor to go for it on 4th and 2 and not punt, particularly with an elite QB on the other team.

No, I did not question the decision to go for it, but I sure questioned the play calls the entire last series. Why keep going to Welker for minimal yardage when you have one of the best deep threats in all of football, Randy Moss? And if you ARE going to Welker repeatedly, why not send him a few yards BEYOND the barest minimum you need? Or even throw in a run if you insist on getting only the 2 yards necessary. At least the clock would have kept running.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Case for God by Karen Armstrong - Hardcover - Random House
"We have become used to thinking that religion should provide us with information. Is there a God? How did the world come into being? But this is a modern preoccupation. Religion was never supposed to provide answers to questions that lay within the reach of human reason. That was the role of logos. Religion's task, closely allied to that of art, was to help us to live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems that we could not solve: mortality, pain, grief, despair, and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life."

Throughout most of the book, Ms. Armstrong gives a wonderful summation of human history with an emphasis on human religious understanding. Full of insights, connections, perspectives, it is a tour de force and well done. But her point, that to deride religion is to misunderstand it, fails to convince. For sure, the "real" religion Ms. Armstrong describes is indeed a wonderful thing. The only problem is that for 99% of religious practitioners in the world today, their religious understanding bears only a fleeting resemblance to that. And their priests and rabbis and imams like it that way. THAT is the problem.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Director Polanski feels depressed in jail: lawyer - Yahoo! News:
"Director Roman Polanski is feeling depressed two weeks after his arrest in Switzerland to face U.S. extradition for a 1977 case involving the rape of a 13-year-old girl, his lawyer was quoted as saying on Sunday.

'I found him to be tired and depressed,' Herve Temime told the Sonntag newspaper, one of two newspapers he talked to after visiting the Oscar-winning director in a Zurich prison.

'Roman Polanski, who is 76, seemed very dejected when I visited him,' Temime told another newspaper, NZZ am Sonntag.

'Polanski was in an unsettled state of mind.'"

For the love of God won't someone DO SOMETHING so this poor man's mind can be settled again? He is such a very important member of our species I am not sure how we are going to survive without him in a happy state.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Is cropping a photo lying?:
"This is hardly photo fakery. Crops aren't lies. Full-frame photos aren't the truth. Kennerley himself could have easily taken that exact picture in the moment."

But he didn't take the picture Newsweek wanted. And THAT is why it is wrong to crop the picture. Newsweek wanted to portray Cheney in a particular light and the photo submitted did not do that. Why didn't Newsweek just commission an artist to create a comic of Cheney butchering meat? Because they wanted to lie to people using a "real" photo of him doing just that.

Secondly, Jason, you can't say the original photo is a lie in order to defend the crop as NOT a lie. If the source is a lie, how can the crop be the truth?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NFL - Indianapolis Colts/Miami Dolphins Box Score Monday September 21, 2009 - Yahoo! Sports:
This game completely demolishes all the old school adages about how to win a football game. Somewhere, Mike Martz has a big smile on his face when reading this box score. Miami had overwhelming advantages in number of plays, first downs, time of possession, rushing yards, only punted once, had no lost fumbles. They had a "balanced" offense in that they rushed 49 times and threw 33 times. They had over 400 yards in total offense.

And still lost.

The difference was the Colts scored and scored quickly when they had the ball. Why? They threw it and threw DEEP. 12.3 yards per pass ATTEMPT. Miami did everything "right". But so what? Final score is all that matters. Yes, against a mediocre offensive team, Miami's approach will usually succeed. But against a wide-open offense, forget it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Behind the NFL’s Touchdown Binge - WSJ.com:
"This drive to efficiency may also apply to the people who make the rules. If it's human nature to promote speed whenever the action appears to be slowing down, it's no surprise the NFL decided, in 2004, to tell officials to crack down on the amount of contact defensive backs can have with wide receivers. In scientific terms, the NFL wanted to make the system flow more efficiently. (The fact that touchdowns make for good television might have played a role here, too.)"

A pretty good example of trying to make the facts fit the theory. The league has been tweaking the rules for years in an effort to generate more offense. And why is an NFL offense the only part of the game that is supposedly "more efficient" or "faster"? It's a game of offense AND defense and both have been "evolving". Modern defenses are very fast and VERY big. QB's need to be 6' 5" just to see over the linemen! And this theory kind of distorts evolution. Things evolve to fit their circumstances, their environment, NOT to achieve some ideal. There is no "progress" in evolution, no design, no intelligence. To think otherwise is to miss the point entirely.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Insta-Cake | MetaFilter
"Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix dry ingredients in a nonstick 8 x 8 pan or a loaf pan:
* 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (no fancy cake flour needed)
* 3/4 cup sugar (sweet but not cloying)
* 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* Additional spices to taste: try 1/2 teaspoon each of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg to start

Add wet ingredients: stir into dry ingredients in the following order with a fork until combined, but do not overmix
* 3 tablespoons oil (the original used 4 T, and I've seen as high as 6 T, but 3 works just fine)
* 1 tablespoon white vinegar
* 1 cup cold water with 1 teaspoon vanilla added (you might also add 1 teaspoon of peppermint or almond extract)

Put into oven for 30 minutes for an 8 x 8 pan, or 40 minutes for a loaf pan. Cake is done when it pulls slightly away from the sides and/or a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean."

I've seen a few other "Wacky Cake" recipes, but this one has the least sugar and I can assure you it will produce one of the best tasting chocolate cakes you have ever tried. Icing is superfluous it is THAT good. And when I made it, I did not have a non-stick pan so I spread some oil in a glass pan and mixed the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then poured the wet ingredients into the same bowl in the proscribed order, mixed together with a fork until combined, then poured into the glass pan. Baked for exactly 30 minutes. Great recipe.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Singletary set the tone, which was tough and disciplined:
"Other coaches will do the same thing, typically in a panic. When Singletary gathered the defense around him, TV cameras showed a calm, determined face, without a hint of anxiety. At one point, he pointed backward toward the sideline with his thumb, like a hitchhiker in reverse. 'I really don't remember what I was saying,' he said later. 'Maybe: 'Let's get out of here.' ' The 49ers' defense, as recommended, held Arizona to a field goal, and the moribund offense suddenly revived itself and scored what would turn out to be the winning touchdown in a 2o-16 season opener. That timeout wasn't wasted. The 49ers finished the game with one remaining."

I told myself I would stop linking to sports writers' idiocy, but this one struck me because it emphasizes how these writers skew their writing depending upon their personal opinions of the coach. When Mike Martz was OC, he was derided for "wasting" timeouts, ie using them in unconventional situations. He was also declared "egomaniacal" in nearly every piece written about him, primarily because he wanted things done his way. Now, Singletary is praised for using unconventional timeouts and there is no question at all that he not just wants things his way but DEMANDS things are done his way. The team even uses his egomaniacal pronouncements as advertising! I point this out to re-emphasize my point: sports writers today are among the least talented and certainly the least journalistic writers around. They get paid for having an opinion (usually wrong) and for cracking jokes (usually bad).

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Truthdig - America the Great ... Police State
"For those of us who had hoped that the Obama administration would present us with a rebirth of the old republic that was so rudely erased a few years ago by that team of judicial wreckers, Bush and Gonzales, which led, in turn, to a recent incident in Cambridge, Mass. that inspired a degree of alarm in many Americans. But what was most alarming was the plain fact that neither the president nor a “stupid” local policeman seemed to understand the rules of behavior in a new America, where we find ourselves marooned as well as guarded (is that the verb?) by armed police who have been instructed that they are indeed, once armed, the law and may not be criticized verbally or in any other way and are certainly not subject to any restrictions as to whom they arrest or otherwise torment. "

Glad to see that Gore Vidal is still around and still writing essays. Someone should tell him about the new tasers which are capable of 3 firings before having to be recharged. They taser grandfathers, pregnant women, naked people. They used to say "If you're innocent you have nothing to fear" but that is decidedly NOT the case any more.
A Death Foretold:

He became disinterested in fiction ever since that day. And he began to cringe whenever he heard the phrase "no regrets" for he had many. Nothing but, practically. And he began to see his life as a series of failed exercises, mistakes, blunders, well-intentioned but monumentally wrong decisions for all concerned. Outwardly he appeared at the very least, contented. Some might even say happy. But inwardly, he began to die from that day on. A slow process of letting go of everything that he had been clinging to for nearly all his life. It started out to be a difficult process. But as each thing began to fall away, it became easier. He was surprised at times by how easily he was able to do this.

Had he arrived, finally, at that place of peace? Had the letting go finally become enough? No, there was still more. Nine and a half years and still more to go. But it would happen. One way or the other, everything would become free again. And he felt it would happen soon. Very soon.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Moody Blues Live at Ironstone, July 24, 2009 ****
Thoughtful, emotional, elegiac, yet always with a sense of humor and warmth which resonates through nearly every song in their repertoire, the 3 remaining members of the original band, augmented by 4 exceptional musicians including the star-in-waiting Norda Mullen filling in for departed member Ray Thomas put on a remarkable show tonight. Nothing new to promote except a DVD of a 1970 concert on the Isle of Wight, and no new material to try out, but their catalog is more than adequate to sustain a riveting 2 hour performance that ran the gamut from the near schmaltzy "The Day We Meet Again" to the iconic "Question". Maybe it's the fact that I have reached "a certain age" that I find the Moodies more and more compelling given their penchant for musing on the passage of time and the losses contained therein, but hearing them tear into their songs also is somehow reaffirming and uplifting. The lads may be paunchy and jowly, but they still love their music and their fans and life itself and seem intent on sharing that as long as they can.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Public Enemies (2009)****
Breaks new ground in the use of hi-definition digital video which brings a searing immediacy to the already exhilarating Dillinger story. Some beautiful camera work and design, well put together by Michael Mann. Leaves you with the question who was the bigger public enemy? Dillinger and his contemporaries, or the power-craving "G" men and their wire-taps and "enhanced" interrogation techniques?

Friday, July 03, 2009

Palin resigning as Alaska governor in surprise move - Yahoo!:
"In a rambling statement to the media, in which she took no questions, Palin, 45, indicated she wanted to extend her influence in U.S. politics and some analysts said she appeared to be laying the ground for a run at the presidency in 2012.

'We are not retreating, we are advancing in a different direction,' Palin said, employing the imprecise circumlocutions that characterize her public pronouncements. 'We know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in time.'"

She "indicated she wanted to extend her influence in U.S. politics"? Um I think you have to HAVE influence before you try to extend it. At any rate she stayed true to form, taking no questions, which to her means picking on her. But I'm surprised that everyone seems to be at a loss to figure this out. Let me break it to you: she will have a talk show a la Limbaugh or Ingraham on Fox News or CNBC before the year is out.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Rapture (1991)****
With this film, writer/director Michael Tolkin basically says "Okay, let's take the re-borns at their word and assume that this whole end-of-the-world-rapture business is true, literally, and see what happens." And he proceeds to do that in an austere, intelligent, minimally manipulative way and takes the story right to the end and lets us make our own judgments about it. Mimi Rogers is exceptional in a unique and powerful film.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bug resurrected after 120,000 years: Scientific American:
"The tiny purple microbe, dubbed Herminiimonas glaciei, lay trapped beneath nearly two miles of ice in Greenland. It took 11 months to revive it by gently warming it in an incubator. Finally the bug sprang back to life and began producing fresh colonies of purple brown bacteria."

You just KNOW some idiot is going to leave a petri dish uncovered some night and BAM it's out the door! This could be the Mastodon Flu bug or God know's what else.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Can a machine change your mind? | open Democracy News Analysis:
"...what it feels like to be conscious of something, or to be in a particular state of pain or serenity, surely goes beyond those brain properties. A scientific description of what happens in the brain when someone has a certain thought or experience seems inevitably to leave out what the thought is about or the experience is like. Once again, there’s something left over, something which, if the person were observing their own brain states, they would be having in addition to seeing neurons fire and synapses wiggling."

ALL thoughts you have in your "mind" have a physical, material basis. To me, that is undeniable. Right now, our ability to explain and identify that physical basis is incomplete. We are getting there and I believe shall get there eventually, inevitably. No, I don't think consciousness is simply synapses wiggling. I think your entire body participates in consciousness. But it is a physical, material phenomenon nonetheless.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Origin of Life: American Scientist
"If this notion turns out to be true, it will have important implications for a deep philosophical question: whether we should understand the history of life in terms of the working out of predictable physical principles or of the agency of chance. We are, in fact, arguing that life will appear on any planet that reproduces the environmental and geological conditions that appeared on the early Earth, and that it will appear in order to solve precisely the sort of "stranded electron" problem discussed above. The currently popular view that complex life was something of a frozen accident was set forth in Jacques Monod's classic book Chance and Necessity (1970). We, of course, are arguing the opposite, if only for a significant part of basic chemical architecture....It has not escaped our notice that the mechanism we are postulating immediately suggests that life is widespread in the universe, and can be expected to develop on any planet whose chemistry resembles that of the early Earth."

Interesting explanation for how life emerged from inorganic matter. I think every "how" is explainable. It's the "why" that is so perplexing.
The Torture Memos and Historical Amnesia:
"Accordingly, what's surprising is to see the reactions to the release of those Justice Department memos, even by some of the most eloquent and forthright critics of Bush malfeasance: Paul Krugman, for example, writing that we used to be 'a nation of moral ideals' and never before Bush 'have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.' To say the least, that common view reflects a rather slanted version of American history."

That darned Noam Chomsky! Always remembering things. Why can't he move on, put the past behind him and work towards a better future? Now is not the time for looking back in anger or retribution.

God help us.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Steeler Harrison's pit bull attacks young son:
"Parise said Harrison has not had trouble with the animal in the past.

'I've been with that dog personally, he's a wonderful animal,' Parise said.

Parise said he doesn't know why the boy's mother let the dog out of the pen, other than to say he believes it was for a routine reason such as feeding or to care for the animal. The boy's mother does not live at the house, Parise said.

'There's no reason to believe that this is anything other than something that sometimes happens to children,' Parise said. 'The child should be fine.'"

I love it. Stupid is as stupid does. I used to be optimistic about the future prospects for society, human beings. But day after day after day you keep getting reminded just how obscenely stupid people truly are. We are a doomed species.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Angels & Demons (2009)*
Momma said "If you can't say something nice..." so here goes: There are some nice pictures of Rome and Ayelet Zurer is very attractive.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

AND HE SHALL BE JUDGED: GQ Features on men.style.com:
"This mixing of Crusades-like messaging with war imagery, which until now has not been revealed, had become routine. On March 31, a U.S. tank roared through the desert beneath a quote from Ephesians: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” On April 7, Saddam Hussein struck a dictatorial pose, under this passage from the First Epistle of Peter: “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”"

I'm not sure what to even think about this. It's abhorrent, for sure. Diabolical, certainly. And makes George W. Bush look like even more the fool than I could have possibly imagined. Remember the old SNL routine with Phil Hartman playing Ronald Reagan, pretending to be folksy, a bit daft, when "on camera" but then switching to master manipulator when off? Well that could NEVER happen with W as we can now know for certain. W was truly an idiot.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bob Dylan | Together Through Life (2009)*
I think it is high time Mr. Dylan drops the singer part of singer/songwriter and just sticks to song writing. Maybe he could write Brian Ferry's next album or bring back Manfred Mann or The Byrds. Because he can write excellent songs. And this latest album just may be full of them. But his voice is just so very bad right now, and frankly has been for the past several years, it is incredibly distracting from the songs themselves. Plus, he's never been the best interpreter of his own material let's face it. Very disappointing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Emanuel Rejects Trial for Memos' authors - washingtonpost.com:
"'It's not a time to use our energy and our time in looking back' out of 'any sense of anger and retribution,' Emanuel said on ABC's 'This Week.' His remarks reflect the White House's effort to claim a middle ground after the release of the memos, which had been top secret, angered backers of the Bush administration's interrogation policy."

Well then how about using some of your precious time and energy to prevent or at least discourage future violations of law out of a sense of...oh what's that word again...oh yes, JUSTICE? DECENCY? MORALITY? ETHICS? This administration is about nothing else than getting re-elected. It's almost an exact rehash of the Clinton years: the idea is simply to BE president. Not to govern. Not to uphold The Constitution. Not to try and make the world a better place. None of that. Just make sure you get re-elected and you win.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Raw Story | Economist: US collapse driven by 'fraud'; Geithner covering up bank insolvency:
"In an explosive interview on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal, William K. Black, a professor of economics and law with the University of Missouri, alleged that American banks and credit agencies conspired to create a system in which so-called 'liars loans' could receive AAA ratings and zero oversight, amounting to a massive 'fraud' at the epicenter of US finance. But worse still, said Black, Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, is currently engaged in a cover-up to keep the truth of America's financial insolvency from its citizens."

Why is this considered "explosive"? Has the author of this piece talked to average Americans? If so, he would find that EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS because it is self evident. We know what a Ponzi scheme is. We know what fraud is. I think the real problem is journalists are JUST NOW coming around to understanding what was done. It takes a while because all they really know is how to be a journalist. (Whatever that entails.) Hopefully they will be able to raise enough moral outrage before the whole thing is over and maybe we can manage to save a few bucks here and there. Personally, I think it is all over but the shouting and Mr. Obama has been a total and complete bust. His handling of the financial situation (it's not a crisis) has been an abomination, his plans for healthcare are disastrous, he supplicates himself (and hence ourselves) to Saudi kings, kisses Israel's ass as it continues its genocide against Palestinians and pledges to "win" in Afghanistan while the real source of trouble, Pakistan, goes off the rails. So I guess we try, try again in 4 years, huh?

Monday, March 23, 2009

NFL to make AFC West road format more reasonable - ESPN:
"East Coast and West Coast teams have complained about their cross-country trips. Under the proposed changed -- which does not require a committee vote -- the NFL will alter its AFC West scheduling formula so that no team would have to play at Oakland and at San Diego in the same season.

To modify the issue, the schedule will be adjusted so if a team is scheduled to play at Oakland, it would play at either Denver or Kansas City, two teams that are geographically closer to the east and midwest, and not at San Diego. If a team has to play at the Chargers, its schedule would include visiting either Denver or Kansas City and not the Raiders."

This is ridiculous. Are you telling me that an extra hour or so of sitting on an airplane is that big a deal to professional athletes? Unbelievable.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Obama: AIG can't justify 'outrage' of exec bonuses:
"In a letter to Geithner dated Saturday, Liddy said outside lawyers had informed the company that AIG had contractual obligations to make the bonus payments and could face lawsuits if it did not do so."

Yeah, and...? So what? I'm sure AIG faces dozens of lawsuits each and every day so why would these new lawsuits be so special? And each one of those new lawsuits would LOSE. But the fact of the matter is, the way this was done, and Paulson started it all, was just to hand over a blank check to these firms. Why Obama hired Summers and Geithner is the single biggest mistake of his presidency. A VERY stupid mistake.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Curious Case of Neko:
I LOVE Neko Case. Of that there is no doubt. As lead chanteuse of The New Pornographers, she is without peer. Her voice is such a force that she elevates nearly everything she touches with it. My life is better off having listened to Neko Case.

I want to make that clear.

It's just that when I listen to her solo stuff, I am underwhelmed. I mean, there is obvious intelligence, thought, effort, art going on in her songs, I understand that. And she has some hooks, some strong melodies, some vibrant chord structures. And as for her lyrics, I like animals too, and nature and even indecipherability (is that a word?). But for some reason or another that perpetually escapes me, her songs just do not resonate with me. By that I mean, make me NEED to hear them over and over again. I listened to Middle Cyclone and while I like several tunes on it and adore her voice, I could never hear that album again and be quite content. And I LIKED it! But it does not compel me.

I am so sorry, Neko. I want to NEED you badly because I know how good you are. But it's just not happening.
Coraline (2009)***
Fantastic animation, art direction, voice work, technical expertise, all to the service of a story that fails to engage and resonate.
SFGate: Politics Blog : Schwarzenegger "compares legislature to dogs":
"Kicking off his major special-election reform campaign in San Francisco Thursday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered some of the toughest medicine yet to those in his own party, saying critics who insisted he could close the state's $42 billion deficit through spending cuts alone 'are guilty of political cynicism at its worst.' Speaking at to a full house at the Commonwealth Club of California event at the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, the governor said of the legislators: 'These are not serious people.'"

I was embarrassed when The Governator was elected. I was concerned that Arnold would be one of those "not serious" people. But I was wrong. I have not agreed with everything or even MOST things he has done or supported or tried to do, but I have to admit, he does take this seriously not as a politician seriously trying to advance his career, but as a person who truly thinks he has something to offer society as a public servant. Now I don't mean he is some sort of secular saint, far from it. But, like Nelson Rockefeller, the Kennedy's, et al, he really does seem to want to give something back to the society in which he has decided to make his home. If more of our elected representatives thought that way, approached their jobs that way, we would all be a lot better off. But instead we get career politicians who by necessity become beholden to moneyed interests because the costs of campaigning are so great. I think we could have done a LOT worse than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Beat the Press | The Media Continue to Ignore Welfare for Citi Shareholders:
"The article even includes a bizarre statement to discourage those who oppose welfare for the super-rich: 'Nationalizing Citigroup outright would be a huge challenge, given the company’s size and international sweep. In countries like Mexico, for instance, a state-controlled bank might run afoul of local ownership regulations.'

This could almost be a line in a comedy routine -- Mexico is going to keep the United States from putting a bankrupt bank in receivership. It's too bad that the NYT didn't identify anyone who made such a statement, we all could ridicule this person until they faded from public life."

God bless Dean Baker! Righteous indignation when it is called for. Why isn't HE running the Treasury?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Senators to be grounded until tax bill OKd:
"The budget agreement contains nearly $16 billion in cuts, $11 billion in borrowing and more than $14 billion worth of temporary tax increases that all but a few Republican lawmakers have criticized as the deal killer. But as the budget impasse hit day 103 on Monday, state finance officials said they would have to pull the plug on the public works projects that have been allowed to continue thus far. In December, state finance officials said the state's fiscal crisis was so dire that they needed to halt financing for 5,600 construction projects across the state. Then last month, they agreed to exempt 276 projects that were either too far along in construction or would cost the state too much to halt and restart later. Now, those projects would have to be halted as well, Genest said."

Okay, enough. California needs to amend the 2/3 majority rule for budget passage, and to eliminate propositions from impacting the budget directly. I don't like taxes either, but they are a necessary evil if you want an orderly, functioning society. And believe me, try making money in a chaotic, dysfunctional society and see what good it does you to have your precious low tax rate.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Martz: 'People are determined to keep me out' - NFL- nbcsports.msnbc.com:
"“Maybe at some point in time he had a reputation of being arrogant or whatever but when we had him here, I worked with him, we had a lot of conversations and I felt very comfortable with him,” says Singletary. “We spent many hours together. You hear about Mike: ‘The guy’s arrogant. He’s tough to work with. He wants to throw ball all the time ... bottom line for me is he really tried to do what I asked him to do. My approach with him was I didn’t come at him as ‘I’m head coach around here.’ When you come at Mike Martz, you have to do it in a respectful way. Mike can be a very nice guy. But if you ask 10 people, you may get 10 different answers.”"

Lazy journalists love labels. It's shorthand for a story. And the laziest sports journalists work in television. Every time Mike Martz's name is mentioned on a football chat show, or during a game, the word "arrogant" is used. Never, NEVER have I heard an explanation or a basis ever explained. Even in print, they often just repeat the phrase without any backup whatsoever. To get to be a head coach in the NFL, you need to believe in yourself. This, in Martz's case, is called "having a big ego". Believing in your abilities and philosophy is called "arrogance". Now I ask you, why isn't Mike Singletary called arrogant when he demands that the offense by run-oriented? Why isn't that called run-happy?

Mike Martz is smart, knows how to be a head coach, players really like him. The current vogue in the NFL is for unproven head coaches. Hopefully Mike will be back soon.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Playing God in the Garden - New York Times:
"A few days later, once the slips of potato stem have put down roots, they're moved to the potato greenhouse up on the roof. Here, Glenda DeBrecht, a horticulturist, invited me to don latex gloves and help her transplant pinky-size plantlets from their petri dish to small pots. The whole operation is performed thousands of times, largely because there is so much uncertainty about the outcome. There's no way of telling where in the genome the new DNA will land, and if it winds up in the wrong place, the new gene won't be expressed (or it will be poorly expressed) or the plant may be a freak. I was struck by how the technology could at once be astoundingly sophisticated and yet also a shot in the genetic dark.

''There's still a lot we don't understand about gene expression,'' Stark acknowledged. A great many factors influence whether, or to what extent, a new gene will do what it's supposed to, including the environment. In one early German experiment, scientists succeeded in splicing the gene for redness into petunias. All went as planned until the weather turned hot and an entire field of red petunias suddenly and inexplicably lost their pigment. The process didn't seem nearly as simple as Monsanto's cherished software metaphor would suggest.

When I got home from St. Louis, I phoned Richard Lewontin, the Harvard geneticist, to ask him what he thought of the software metaphor. ''From an intellectual-property standpoint, it's exactly right,'' he said. ''But it's a bad one in terms of biology. It implies you feed a program into a machine and get predictable results. But the genome is very noisy. If my computer made as many mistakes as an organism does'' -- in interpreting its DNA, he meant -- ''I'd throw it out.''

You really have to read the entire article, and then try to figure out a way to deal with your overwhelming rage. Monsanto is so completely unconcerned about anything other than making money it's almost a parody. Unfortunately, it is an all too real beast in the world and a very effective one at that. It is to the biotech industry what Enron was to the energy industry. Yeah it's that bad.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle withdraws as nominee for HHS secretary:
"'It really sets us back a step,' said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. 'Because he was such a talent. I mean he understood Congress, serving in the House and Senate; he certainly had the confidence of the president.' Said White House spokesman Gibbs: 'We're looking for a new nominee, but the problem has existed for quite some time and the work toward a solution to make health care more affordable won't stop or won't pause while we look for that nominee.'"

The only talent Daschle has is for sleazy schmoozing. He is on the payroll of the health insurance industry! How Obama could seriously think (and all indications are he still does) that this man was the solution to health care issues is beyond me. Look, this is not that difficult. The TRUE solution is ridiculous simple. The complications come in when you are beholden to private industry that has fed off the miseries of millions of Americans for so long they see it as their right to continue their craven, cruel ways. As I've said before, the best answer is Medicare for all. Single payer health insurance coverage is the only way to go. We already pay more than enough to cover it, and it is dead simple and THE most efficient way by any measure you care to use.
Obama budget official withdraws for tax reasons - Yahoo! News
"'I recognize that your agenda and the duties facing your Chief Performance Officer are urgent,' Killefer wrote in the letter to the president, asking for her nomination to be withdrawn. 'I have also come to realize in the current environment that my personal tax issue of D.C. Unemployment tax could be used to create exactly the kind of distraction and delay those duties must avoid.'"

WTF? Is it that difficult to find competent individuals that HAVE paid their taxes like most people? And it doesn't appear these are minor issues like a missing receipt for charitable contributions but serious violations regarding payroll taxes, etc. Things that a lot of people would go to jail for. This is a serious problem.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Saboteur (1942)**
The script is not up to the challenge of sustaining a 2 hour chase film. Hitchcock tries his best to liven things up with imaginative scenarios like a circus trailer, and the climactic sequence in the Statue of Liberty is still thrilling, but it takes a long time to get there and the implausibility of it all is hard to dismiss.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Family Plot (1976) **
Hitchcock's last film and not a particularly good one. It seems as if he was not really interested and aside from his silhouetted cameo, you wouldn't know he directed it. No sense of style to it, the script is dull at best, the look of the film is shoddy. It resembles TV movies of the time. Mildly pleasant, but forgettable.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

U.S. peanut plant shipped salmonella-tainted products: FDA - Yahoo! News:
"More than 500 people in 43 states and Canada have been sickened in the outbreak, which also may be linked with eight deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of those made ill are children. 'The team identified approximately 12 instances in 2007 and 2008 where the firm identified some type of salmonella ... and released the products,' the FDA's Michael Rogers told reporters in a telephone briefing. Records at the plant showed that after the company tested the peanut products and found salmonella, it sent at least some to an outside lab that showed no contamination. The products were then illegally shipped for sale, Rogers said. 'There (were) no steps taken (by) the firm as far as cleaning or to minimize cross-contamination,' Rogers said."

What this country needs to do is help the businessman who has to deal with tons and tons of paperwork. It costs so much money just to file all the paperwork. Get off the backs of businesses and the economy can work again! Yep. Government regulation is the problem.
Scharffen Berger, Schmidt plants to be closed:
"Hershey released fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday that were above analyst expectations and projected growth of up to 3 percent for 2009. The company said it earned $82.2 million, or 36 cents a share, in the quarter ending in December, compared with $54.3 million, or 24 cents a share, it earned for the same period last year."

One of the more cut-throat, greedy, stock-driven corporations around. Earnings ABOVE expectations, and they still want more. Let them eat chocolates?
Foreign Correspondent (1940)***
I find it interesting that the acting in most of Hitchcock's earlier films is in such a natural style especially as compared to other films of the era. It's very refreshing and gives his films a modern feel. This one is no exception. A complex plot about spies and thrilling sequences including an extremely well done plane crash in the Atlantic add to the fun.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Yorker: How Should Obama Reform Health Care?:
"The results have been remarkable. After a year, 97.4 per cent of Massachusetts residents had coverage, and the remaining gap continues to close. Despite the requirement that individuals buy insurance and that employers either provide coverage or pay a tax, the program has remained extremely popular. Repeated surveys have found that at least two-thirds of the state’s residents support the reform. The Massachusetts plan didn’t do anything about medical costs, however, and, with layoffs accelerating, more people require subsidized care than the state predicted. Insurance premiums continue to rise here, just as they do elsewhere in the country. Many residents also complain that eight per cent of their income is too much to pay for health insurance, even though, on average, premiums amount to twice that much. The experience has shown national policymakers that they will have to be serious about reducing costs."

The writer takes a looong way to get there and uses inaccurate language to do so. We do not need to "reform health care", or "nationalize health care". We need to reform/nationalize health care INSURANCE! Once we do that, and remove the ability for private companies to gin the system for exorbitant profit, health care costs WILL come down. It has happened time and time again in country after country. Nobody pays as much as we do already and for lesser overall quality care. The only thing standing in our way is the insurance lobby. And I just don't think Obama is gutsy enough to actually take them on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Synecdoche, New York (2008)****
Saw this too late for my 2008 review post, but clearly the best picture of the year. So dense, so layered, so emotional, it stays with you long after you leave the theater. Charlie Kaufman seemingly threw every idea he had into the film and, for me anyway, it worked beautifully. My only quibble would be the casting of Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead. Yes you need a strong actor because he is on screen nearly every second and must carry the film, but I just did not find him appealing in the least and that hurt the overall impact a bit. Heck, Tom Noonan, who plays a character who is hired to play Hoffman's character in the film, would have been fine.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Torn Curtain (1966)***
Much better than Topaz, Hitchcock's other Cold War thriller. Julie Andrews seems very out of place though and yes I think Eva Marie Saint would have been a better choice. Some truly memorable sequences, beautifully structured shots, interesting camerawork...all Hitchcock hallmarks are available here. What holds the picture back though is a distractingly bad script and a few too many explanatory scenes which despite Paul Newman's best efforts are not in the least bit believable.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Scientist: Did Our Cosmos Exist Before the Big Bang?:

"ABHAY ASHTEKAR remembers his reaction the first time he saw the universe bounce. "I was taken aback," he says. He was watching a simulation of the universe rewind towards the big bang. Mostly the universe behaved as expected, becoming smaller and denser as the galaxies converged. But then, instead of reaching the big bang "singularity", the universe bounced and started expanding again. What on earth was happening? Ashtekar wanted to be sure of what he was seeing, so he asked his colleagues to sit on the result for six months before publishing it in 2006. And no wonder. The theory that the recycled universe was based on, called loop quantum cosmology (LQC), had managed to illuminate the very birth of the universe - something even Einstein's general theory of relativity fails to do. LQC has been tantalizing physicists since 2003 with the idea that our universe could conceivably have emerged from the collapse of a previous universe. Now the theory is poised to make predictions we can actually test. If they are verified, the big bang will give way to a big bounce and we will finally know the quantum structure of space-time. Instead of a universe that emerged from a point of infinite density, we will have one that recycles, possibly through an eternal series of expansions and contractions, with no beginning and no end."

This is the kind of stuff that scares the hell out of me. Pondering The End is bad enough, but trying to imagine NO end is even worse.