Thursday, December 23, 2010

Woman found dead in home of August Busch IV:
"A law enforcement source told the Post-Dispatch that the death was initially being investigated as a possible overdose.
It's not immediately clear if Busch was at the residence. Frontenac police, who cover Huntleigh, said they would release a statement later today. Local attorney Art Margulis, who is a lawyer for Busch, told the Post-Dispatch: 'I can tell you there is absolutely nothing suspicious about her passing, and it's a tragic and untimely death of a young person. A very kind young person, by the way.'"

Yes let's make sure that we get it out in the press that Busch "might" not have been there at the time this "very kind young person" met her most unkind fate. What a strange thing for a lawyer to say!

Let's see how well the cover up goes. At one time, the Busch's owned St. Louis. Since the sale of the brewery to In-Bev, not so much.
Black Swan (2010)****
A film about the limits of obsession featuring a career-defining performance by Natalie Portman. Darren Aronofsky lets his images do the talking for the most part and the result is very impressive.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"“After I worked with Clint [Eastwood] I went back and said, ‘Look, Clint is having a blast and he’s going to be 80 years old.’ And Steven says back, ‘Yeah, but he’s a storyteller and I’m not,’” Damon recounted. “If you’re an actor or a writer or someone working in film, it’s such a waste. For me, I’m going to spend the next 40 years trying to become a great director and I will never reach what he’s reached. And he’s walking away from it.”"

Agreed. Soderbergh is one of a handful of directors with a half dozen essential films to their credit. And he's still doing great work. The Girlfriend Experience was exceptional.
The latest Jets controversy is the strangest one yet - ProFootballTalk:
"If he didn’t care about it, the comment would be something other than “no comment.” It would be something along the lines of, “See, I told you I was married to a supermodel, too.” The more likely reality is that he simply assumed that no one would be smart enough to connect the dots, and that if anyone ever did he would just ignore it and move on."

Don't get me wrong, I am NOT a fan of Mr. Ryan at all. I don't like his extreme arrogance and big mouth. But, this kind of thing is clearly way out of bounds for reporters and there was a time when they knew that. The only reason they are making a story out of this is because they do not like him. Very petty stuff. I mean, who DOESN'T like a pretty foot every now and then? ;-)
The Last Several Days . . . | The Agonist:
". . . have not been without good news: the repeal of DADT, the passage of the new START treaty and today's Senate vote to actually do something for our 9/11 responders. So, credit where credit is due: Obama, the Senate Democrats and the House Democrats and a few, very few, Republicans willing to tell the party crazies to 'eff off.'"

I've seen this sentiment echoed in various lefty blogs but nobody is connecting the dots: this is the other shoe dropping from giving in to the Republicans on the Bush tax deal. And what did they get? Things that they would have gotten anyway! There is NO WAY START would not get passed. DADT was a matter of time. Even the military was for repeal! And would the Reps let the 9/11 Responders bill go down by the time the 2012 elections came around? I don't think even they are THAT stupid. Yet Obama gave away the store to get these things. And who pays for it? We, the taxpayers do. Color me unimpressed. We already have Obama pulling shit like this and there is all this posturing about cutting Social Security on the near horizon. This guy is still bad news.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Divided FCC adopts rules to protect Web traffic - Yahoo! News:
"At the same time, the two Republicans on the FCC worried that the rules will discourage phone and cable companies from continuing to upgrade their networks by making it difficult for them to earn a healthy return on their investments. They also insist that the regulations are intended to fix a problem that does not exist, as all the major broadband providers have already pledged not to discriminate against Internet traffic on their networks."

ROFLMAO! Ya gotta love those Republicans. In the face of overwhelming, easily verifiable evidence to the contrary, they stick to their guns. So the phone and cable companies are finding it "difficult for them to earn a healthy return on their investments"? Then why are their profits obscenely stratospheric? And the new regs are unnecessary because the providers have "pledged" not to break them? Really? They can't seriously believe that all we need is a pledge from corporations, right?

I haven't read the new regulations and have heard some very conflicting reviews saying all sorts of extremes on both sides so I can't comment on them yet. But clearly there are efforts underway by the major ISP's to restrict, financially at least, internet traffic based upon origin and destination and we need rules to prevent that.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 In Review: Music

**** Apples In Stereo - Travellers In Space and Time
**** Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love
**** Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy of Love
**** Crowded House - Intriguer
**** Elvis Costello - National Ransom
**** Frankie Rose and the Outs
**** KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit
**** New Pornographers - Together
**** Paula Carino - Open On Sunday
**** Shalini - Magnetic North
**** Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
*** Blitzen Trapper- Destroyer of the Void
*** Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
*** Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
*** Goldfrapp - Head First
*** Hellogoodbye - Would It Kill You?
*** Joan Armatrading - This Charming Life
*** Like - Release Me
*** Mystery Jets - Serotonin
*** Pernice Brothers - Goodbye, Killer
*** Ringo Starr - Y Not?
*** Shonen Knife - Free Time
*** Teenage Fanclub - Shadows
*** Vampire Weekend - Contra
*** Wavves - King of the Beach
*** We Are Scientists - Barbara
** Annie Lennox - A Christmas Cornucopia
** Avi Buffalo - Avi Buffalo
** Brian Ferry - Olympia
** Field Music - Measure
** JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys - Fidelity!
** Magic Kids - Memphis
** Spoon - Transference
* Devo - Something For Everybody
* Robyn Hitchcock - Propellor Time
* Various Artists - Electric Cambodia
TRON: Legacy (2010)**
At least the first movie made some logical sense. This one is incoherent. Jeff Bridges does fine work and Olivia Wilde looks cute but that's it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Romeo Is Bleeding (1993)***
Bloody, violent noir with a spectacular, mesmerizing performance by Lena Olin as a brutal and sexy assassin. The rest of the cast is very good, particularly Juliette Lewis.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Al Franken: The Hardest Vote I've Taken:
"And for the Minnesotans truly suffering right now -- men, women, and children on the edge of economic disaster -- the alternative is simply unacceptable. If we let Republicans block unemployment benefits, even temporarily, there will be a lot more pain for working families, a lot more homeless kids spending Christmas in a shelter or a car."

So the only alternative is to immediately acquiesce to ALL Republican demands without a fight at all? This is nothing but extortion and to let the Republicans get away with it, without ANY political damage is just about the stupidest thing I've seen Democrats do and that is saying QUITE a lot. I thought Franken was smarter than this.
Intact Grains vs. Whole Grains | Summer Tomato:
"Lesson 1: Refined grains contribute to nearly every chronic disease in modern civilization.

It is universally agreed in the nutrition community that refined, processed carbohydrates are the worst things to eat on the entire planet. And it is impossible to overstate how remarkable this is. The nutrition community is one of the most disagreeable bunches in all of science. But across the board–from vegans like Colin Campbell to carnivores like Robert Atkins–not a single one of them considers processed carbs to be nutritionally neutral. They all consider them dangerous.

Without question, refined carbohydrates contribute to poor health."

Sensible advice from Ms. Pino. Watch those refined carbs over the holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Night Train to Munich (1940)***
Coolly directed by Carol Reed it nevertheless has a handful of terrific action sequences as Rex Harrison attempts to rescue a lovely Margaret Lockwood and her father from Nazi Germany as Britain enters the war.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Argentina, Uruguay to recognize Palestinian state - Yahoo! News:
"'The Argentine government recognizes Palestine as a free and independent state within the borders defined in 1967,' Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said, reading a letter sent by President Cristina Kirchner to Abbas. Timerman said the recognition reflected a general consensus among members of Mercosur, the South American trade bloc. Uruguay announced soon afterward it will recognize a Palestinian state next year. 'Uruguay will surely follow the same path as Argentina in 2011,' deputy foreign minister Roberto Conde told AFP. 'We are working towards opening a diplomatic representation in Palestine, most likely in Ramallah.' Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay all make up Mercosur. Venezuela's membership is pending."

The tide is shifting...South!

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)***
Fine effort from Terry Gilliam, back in Munchausen territory with an original story about a traveling stage act with an incredible gimmick. Maybe a metaphor for Gilliam's trials in film-making?
Persons Unknown (1996)**
Not quite abysmal, not quite good, yet maintains interest with a top notch cast and decent script. Another heist-gone-bad picture, but not up to Mamet or Coens levels.
Ex-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski: Spokespersons of US Right "In Most Cases Stunningly Ignorant" - SPIEGEL ONLINE
"SPIEGEL: And the American decline. Are Americans aware of that trend or does the fate of Carter await President Barak Obama should he openly address the issue?

Brzezinski: I am very worried that most Americans are close to total ignorance about the world. They are ignorant. That is an unhealthy condition in a country in which foreign policy has to be endorsed by the people if it is to be pursued. And it makes it much more difficult for any president to pursue an intelligent policy that does justice to the complexity of the world.

SPIEGEL: Yet the American right is still convinced of American exceptionalism.

Brzezinski: That is a reaction to the inability of people to understand global complexity or important issues like American energy dependency. Therefore, they search for simplistic sources of comfort and clarity. And the people that they are now selecting to be, so to speak, the spokespersons of their anxieties are, in most cases, stunningly ignorant."

No argument here.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

I Am Legend (2007)**
For those scoring at home I have now seen all three film versions of the Richard Matheson novel and not one of them could muster more than 2 stars. Each had different flaws though. This one tries to shoehorn some quasi-religious message onto the proceedings and makes the infected humans into cartoon killing machines. Will Smith just does not have the screen presence to overcome the weaknesses.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The MacKintosh Man (1973)***
Nicely done espionage actioner crisply and imaginatively directed by John Huston. Solid cast with Paul Newman and James Mason standouts.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Heartbreaker (2010)*
Has the feel of a French remake of a bad Hollywood rom-com. Mildly amusing. The only saving grace is lovely scenes of Monaco and environs.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

US cuts access to files as Interpol seeks Assange - Yahoo! News:
"The government scrambled Tuesday to prevent future spills of U.S. secrets like the embarrassing WikiLeaks' disclosures, while officials pondered possible criminal prosecutions and Interpol in Europe sent out a 'red notice' for nations to be on the lookout for the website's founder.
Interpol placed Julian Assange on its most-wanted list after Sweden issued an arrest warrant against him as part of a drawn-out rape probe — involving allegations Assange has denied. The Interpol alert is likely to make international travel more difficult for Assange, whose whereabouts are publicly unknown."

Glad to see we have our priorities in order. International manhunt for Assange. US "ponders" criminal prosecutions for Assange. Yet confessed torturer and serial murderer George W. Bush and his pals are having the times of their lives. Look forward! Look forward!
Scrooge (1970)***
Enjoyable retelling of the venerable Dickens classic in late 60's musical form. Albert Finney is very good but the tone strays into cartoon land and loses a bit of the humanity. Still some nice musical numbers tastefully directed by Ronald Neame.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)***
The action moves away from Hogwart's and the film brightens up (literally) significantly which is a plus. A lot of time spent with Harry, Hermione and Ron on an extended camp-out which sets up an emotional climax in the next film. A long film but it didn't feel so which is a credit to director Peter Yates.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Man in the White Suit (1951)**
Well made, Guinness is again marvelous, but when it's over it seems such a trifle.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Clinton gives thumbs-up to new Bush memoir:
"'George W. Bush also gives readers a good sense of what it's like to be president, to take the responsibilities of the office seriously, do what you think is right, and let history be the judge.'"

No. Wrong. We don't need history to be a judge. We HAVE judges. And just because you are president, that doesn't mean you just "do what you think is right". We have laws. Presidents ARE bound by those laws. George W. Bush has admitted to major crimes. He needs to be tried and JUDGED and sentenced. History has NOTHING to do with it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The City of Your Final Destination (2009)****
Yeah the story doesn't amount to much (sort of a Uruguayan "Howard's End"), and the lead actor is miscast and ineffectual, but the cinematography, production design, direction and acting by the supporting cast is so strong and compelling it more than compensates. Lovely picture.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alan Greenspan: The Banks Robbed You in [Market-Ticker]
"There are two fundamental reforms we need - to get adequate capital and, two, to get far higher levels of enforcements of statutes of fraud statutes, existing ones. I'm not even talking about new ones. Things were being done which were certainly illegal and fairly criminal in certain cases. Fraud, fraud is a fact. Fraud creates very considerable instability in competitive markets. If you cannot trust your counterparties, it won't work. And indeed, we saw that it didn't."

Finally, Mr. Greenspan, now that he is out of power and a borderline laughing stock, admits that he CAN recognize reality once in a while. Fraud is no longer a prosecutable offense in this country apparently so I don't hold out any hope. But wait a minute. Wasn't he IN CHARGE of the banks as Fed Chairman???

via The Agonist.
Last Holiday (1950)**
Another droll British comedy-drama with Alec Guinness fine as usual. The story just doesn't amount to much. A bunch of snobs learn that we're all just folks.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Elvis Costello - National Ransom (2010)****
It's like Blood & Chocolate but performed by a 5 star bluegrass band. 20 songs (including a bonus EP) as topical as ever, as timeless as ever, as angry as ever, as hook-laden as ever. I felt his last album was a mis-step but since it led directly to this triumph it was worth it.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Bush's Opposition To Abortion Grew After Mother Showed Him Dead Fetus In A Jar
"According to Bush, he didn't recount the story primarily to explain the genesis of his anti-abortion views, but rather 'to show how my mom and I developed a relationship.'"

Oh, in that case, ok...I mean...what? WHAT? Jeez there are SO MANY LEVELS of weird here it is unbelievable. The Onion really has its work cut out with these people don't they?
Brooke the Immortal: An American Child May Hold Secrets to Aging - SPIEGEL ONLINE:
"'Different parts of her body are developing at different rates, as if they were not a unit but parts of separate organisms,' Walker explains. He believes that there is only one explanation -- a failure of central control genes.
Normally, a carefully orchestrated genetic program allows a tiny egg cell to grow into an adult body. But if this master plan is impaired, the marvel of growth goes awry. Walker believes that this is precisely what has happened with Brooke. Genes that play an important role in physical development are either inactive or defective. 'If we identify those genes, we might be able to understand the development and subsequently the aging of the body,' says the scientist.
'Aging happens when developmental genes merely run out of meaningful information and subsequently cause chaos,' Walker says. His idea is to simply shut off the master genes of development. This, he hopes, will put a stop to the aging process. If Walker is right, the consequences will be dramatic. A body manipulated in this fashion would no longer change, but would only perform repair work. Eternal life would be within reach."
Self Comes To Mind | Wired Science:
"It turns out that the “higher” parts of the cortex are inseparable from the “lower” parts, and that “you” – the “you” reading these words – emerge in large part from the brain stem, the nub of tissue just above the spinal cord. We arise, in other words, from the place were brain and body meet, where flesh and feeling are emulsified together."

Brain and body are inseparable. No body, no "self".

Friday, November 05, 2010

Union Station (1950)***
Tight little noir about a kidnapping plot gone awry with some inventive scenes in the municipal tunnel underneath L.A.'s Union Station. Lyle Bettger is a scary psychotic villain.
It Was the Banks |
"This is why, in a crisis, you need new people. You must be able to attack past administrations, and override old decisions, without directly crossing those who made them.

President Obama didn't see this. Or perhaps, he didn't want to see it. His presidential campaign was, after all, from the beginning financed from Wall Street. He chose his team, knowing exactly who they were. And this tells us what we need to know about who he really is."

Unfortunately, Obama still does not see this. He thinks he has actually done something praiseworthy and we just don't get it.
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)***
Funnier than most later-day Allen films with Mira Sorvino walking away with the picture in her Academy Award winning performance.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Last Man on Earth (1964)**
Marred by an apparently extremely low budget and some technical lapses, this film nonetheless has some redeeming features, namely a fine performance by Vincent Price, and some interesting and novel ideas. Probably the first vampire-zombie picture, it's a rare post-apocalyptic story that doesn't lay the blame at man's feet. Still, a quite bleak and harsh look at humanity.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Dracula (1931)***
Highly influential version of the Dracula story primarily due to the spectacular production design and some strange and interesting performances. Lugosi is startling as the Count and Dwight Frye as Renfield almost steals the picture. The only thing lacking is some stronger direction from Tod Browning who just doesn't seem to be interested.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)***
Entertaining take on the vampire legend, although claiming this is "Bram Stoker's" version is quite suspect. The venerable tale is enlivened by Gary Oldman's and Anthony Hopkins' performances and Francis Coppola's interesting and offbeat visual style. The sex is more explicit, the blood and gore more visible. Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves stand out as miscasts, although the entire project might not have happened were it not for Ms. Ryder so what can you do?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Omega Man (1971)**
I'm not quite sure what got into Charlton Heston in the late 60's/early 70's, but he made 3 iconic sci-fi dystopian pictures almost in a row: Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, and this one. Very cynical, very bleak, very depressing views of humanity, full of interesting ideas, but, except for "Apes", made on a shoestring budget and sorely lacking in imagination. I kind of admire Heston for taking chances like this even though he sometimes is woefully miscast. "Omega" is competent, kids will find it scary.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)***
Above average "is-my-husband-trying-to-kill-me" gothic melodrama, well-cast with a fine lead performance by a gorgeous Valentina Cortesa as the threatened wife. Robert Wise does a good job of creating atmosphere and maintaining the suspense. Alfred Hitchcock would have approved.
The Return of the TARP Lie About the Commercial Paper Market | Beat the Press
"This is worth mentioning now because this hoary lie keeps popping up. Let's be clear, it was important for the Fed/government to take steps to sustain a working financial system. But these steps could have included conditions that made Wall Street pay a huge price and change its mode of operation forever.

The decision to give the money essentially without conditions was a political decision that was attributable to the banks' political power. As a result, these parasites are more economically and politically powerful than ever. The public should know the truth even if they lack the money to do anything about it."

God, and/or Aqua Buddha, bless Dean Baker!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to use, abuse, and leave Facebook Groups:
"There have been a number of criticisms since Facebook's original announcement about the Groups feature, the most prominent being that anyone can add you to any group, with or without your permission. You would likely find out about this by suddenly getting an influx of e-mail notifications about group activities, or watching the little badge at the top of your Facebook page constantly light up with new updates."

I tried out this supposedly new group thing and it hit me: Facebook is the new AOL. And they are going to be toast. And it is all because they do not care at all about the UI. Facebook is about maximizing the back end. That is where all their efforts and probably their best programmers are directed.

Either that or they are just plain incompetent.

They bill the "new" groups as a way for YOU to segregate your friends into groups that YOU want. But they didn't create a new feature, they just made making public groups easier. You could ALWAYS place your friends into different groups by creating lists of friends. And this was known only to you not your friends. These new groups go way beyond that. And try deleting the group once you create one. You have to remove each friend from the group then yourself and it magically "disappears" although that is questionable considering this is Facebook.

There is a HUGE window of opportunity for another player or two to step in with a user friendly social networking web app that actually works and is intuitive from a user standpoint.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)***
Good, effective "re-imagining" of the oft-told tale of the mad genius who can't let dead dogs lie. Literally. Some great art direction, original ideas, and not as heavy handed with the music and closeups as subsequent Hammer films would be.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

And Then There Were None (1945)**
Earliest version of Agatha Christie's whodunnit stage play has problems with a whimsical tone while the bodies pile up. Apparently this is in keeping with the stage play but doesn't work well on film. At least not in this instance. Perhaps because the actors are too good in their roles?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Soylent Green (1973)**
Bleak, depressing vision of the now near future, 2022, but clearly dated to 1972. Extremely low budgeted and unimaginative art direction really hampers the film. The helmets used for riot gear by the police are not modified football helmets but ACTUAL football helmets spray painted grey. Hilarious. Except for Edward G. Robinson, a very poorly cast film. Heston doesn't even come close to being believable. Lots of huge plot holes.
The Ladykillers (1955)**
Energetic performances from Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers enliven the film, but the best it can do is be a droll bit of British caper-film whimsy.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Brain cells of rats used within experimental robots:
"...he [cyberneticist Kevin Warwick] argues that the field is advancing at a rapid rate, and that it won't be long before we have a cultured set of brain cells that rival the size of simple mammalian brains. At what point can we consider these robots 'alive', let alone 'intelligent'?"

Friday, October 08, 2010

Horror of Dracula (1958)**
Retelling of the Dracula story with Peter Cushing a fine Van Helsing and Christopher Lee a menacing and bloody Count. Lots of sexual subtext, but fairly genteel especially for a Hammer film.
Black Narcissus (1947)****
Gloriously photographed and directed with fine performances from Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron. Interesting, original story and script. A film almost more about color and composition than plot. A textbook on the proper use of closeups.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Son of Frankenstein (1939)***
Needs about 10-15 minutes cut, but surprisingly effective second sequel to the original 1931 classic. Bela Lugosi is unrecognizable as Ygor and turns in one of his better performances. Karloff is in fine form as the monster. Apparently this was the inspiration for Young Frankenstein as many of the setups in that movie appear here.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Review: "The Social Network":
"'The Social Network' is not a documentary. It is a dramatization, Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's take on recent history, adapted from Ben Mezrich's 'The Accidental Billionaires.' In an interview, Sorkin has said that Zuckerberg emerges in the film as a kind of 'tragic hero,' which is exactly what you would say if you'd just portrayed a billionaire as barely a human being.
But make no mistake, whether the movie is fair or horribly unfair - I know nothing of the actual facts and can't make that determination - its portrait of Zuckerberg is a hatchet job of epic and perhaps lasting proportions."

When Mark Zuckerberg's IM chats were made public it cemented my distaste for him and his creation. All it took though was Aaron Sorkin to make me almost root for the guy. And Sorkin has also caused me to re-think my position on bio-pics in general. Because of the unique power of film, filmmakers MUST stick to the facts as much as possible IF you are using real names or else make it glaringly obvious that the work is fiction as in "Inglourious Basterds". Sorkin does nothing of the kind and in fact what makes this film all the more repellent is how it is using Zuckerberg and Facebook to provide legitimacy and relevance and import to its product. Zuckerberg may well be a despicable human being but using despicable means to get back at him is just that: despicable.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)***
Splendid take on the Cary Grant battle of the sexes comedies of the 30's and 40's with a handful of genuine laugh out loud moments. Goes on a bit too long, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Is Aaron Sorkin's 'The Social Network' the Scathing Portrait of Mark Zuckerberg That Facebook Fears? -- New York Magazine:
"“I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling,” Sorkin says, blithely tossing potential critics a couple of hundred rounds of free ammo. “I feel like, had I met Mark, I would have felt a certain obligation to make the character sound like Mark, walk like Mark, all of those things. And frankly, I probably would have had an affection for him that I wouldn’t have wanted to betray.”"

Who's the real asshole here? To my mind it's Sorkin. Look, if you are going to use real people and real events in your "storytelling", then you need to stick to the facts. They are using Facebook to sell their movie which they admit is fiction. I would think Facebook has a legitimate legal case here. Sorkin could have easily changed the names of everybody and his precious "storytelling" would be just as shitty. Supremely over-rated, egotistical, smug, dismissive hack.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What Netflix CEO hopes U.S. won't notice:
"THR: Are you concerned that American Netflix subscribers will look north and ask for the same discount Canadians get at $7.99?

Hastings: How much has it been your experience that Americans follow what happens in the world? It's something we'll monitor, but Americans are somewhat self-absorbed."

Hastings is catching some heat for the above comment but it is an undeniable fact. Most Americans couldn't pick Canada out on a map let alone care what happens there. Maybe he shouldn't have used the words "self-absorbed" but it is accurate. And besides, as Hastings points out later in the interview, Canadian subscribers are only getting the streaming option. Americans also get the DVD by mail option so there is a reason why there is a price difference.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top economic adviser to leave White House - Yahoo! News:
"In a statement, Summers said he will miss working with the president and the economic team but looks forward to returning to Harvard to teach and write about the economic fundamentals of job creation."

Balls. The man has balls the size of musk melons. This is the kind of job I want: you can be absolutely wrong about your chosen field, a complete failure, and walk away with your reputation and earning ability intact. Has there EVER been a disgraced economist? We have double digit unemployment on his watch and he's going to teach/write about job creation?

Why stay until December 31? Leave now please. No, really, you've done WAY too much already. Asshole.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson (1976)**
More typical Robert Altman film, about "the show business" of America. It's got good ideas, good actors, some fine scenes, just not very entertaining overall. Apparently the final cut was not Altman's so we don't know what might have been.
The Talk of the Town (1942)**
Preposterous, sort of love triangle, that tries half-heartedly to be a screwball comedy.
The Man Who Never Was (1956)**
Strange film, oddly directed with a stiff Clifton Webb trying to deceive the Germans about the British invasion plans. Gloria Grahame steals the picture despite wearing distractingly oily makeup throughout.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bernie Bytes: Cardinals making changes:
"Of course NY shortstop Derek Jeter faked getting hit by a pitch in Wednesday night's Yankees @ Rays game. And why wouldn't he? It's Jeters job to get on base so naturally he'll try to sell it to the umpire. What, you don't think there's been low-level conniving and acting jobs during MLB baseball games for as long as MLB has been in existence? This is no different than a diving outfielder pretending that he made a catch when, in fact, the ball skimmed the ground before he gloved it. Or a catcher taking a close ball and sliding his glove back to the edge of the strike zone to "frame" a pitch for the ump in hopes of convincing him that the pitch was a strike. At no time has there been a middle infielder who has slapped a late tag on a runner and told the umpire, 'No, the man was safe. You called him out but I was late with the tag, so you need to change that call.' Baseball players look for an edge. They've alwas been actors."

Wrong, Bernie. What Jeter did was WRONG and you need to say it. There is a big difference between not correcting an ump's call and deliberately trying to deceive the ump. Stan Musial played an entire career without doing that and he was one of the top 5 players of all time. It's something called integrity and sportsmanship. Something you, Bernie, wouldn't know a fucking thing about.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's a Gift (1934)****
The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)****
I guess "historical reenactment" is the best way to describe this amazing film of late 19th century Italian peasant life in one small enclave in Lombardy shared by 4 families. Nothing much happens except...real life.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ace In The Hole (1951)**
A cynical film about a cynical protagonist about whom it is very difficult to care. Some nice one liners though.
Quintet (1979)**
About as bleak and misanthropic as a film can be. Well made but tough to watch vision of the future of humanity in an ice covered, barren world bereft of hope. Definitely not a Hollywood type movie and a very atypical film from Robert Altman.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

News Desk: State Secrets : The New Yorker:
"An eleven-judge panel sided, 6-5, with lawyers working for Obama’s Justice Department, which essentially claimed that protecting state secrets is more important than protecting human rights. Amazingly, the Justice Department argued successfully that the entire subject of “extraordinary rendition”—dispatching torture suspects to other countries to be interrogated harshly—was so sensitive that it had to be hidden from the American public, to the point of barring its victims from seeking redress in court. The court accepted this logic even though Hollywood has already released a high-profile movie about the subject—“Rendition,” starring Reese Witherspoon—and countless articles have been published about the controversial practice. Particularly troubling, the government was not merely intent on hiding sensitive facts in the case—such as agents’ names, or liaison countries’ identities—but, rather, on placing a legal shroud over the entire C.I.A. program."

Wow. This is a watershed case. This ruling is far more damaging to the idea of America than some idiot preacher burning Qur'ans. Let's see: the government can read your emails, all internet activity, all cellphone activity, place GPS tracking devices on your cars, have you taken from your home and tortured in Egypt, have you killed, pretty soon they will also decide not to pay you any retirement benefits that you have been contributing towards all your working life. Gee it's great to be an American!
The American (2010)****
My kind of movie. Italian medieval hilltop towns, beautiful actresses (Violante Placido looking remarkably like Sophia Loren), spare dialog, meticulously composed scenes, minimal score, almost no exposition. Lots to chew on in this picture.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Von Ryan's Express (1965)****
Thrilling WWII actioner with a strong cast and even stronger script. Some directorial lapses, and could have been a bit shorter, but made up for with a beautifully shot and executed last 15 minutes. Well made picture.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)**
Cary Grant trying to run a cargo airline in some South American outpost while dealing with Jean Arthur and Rita Hayworth. For the time, probably ground breaking, but seems clichéd and heavy handed today. Jean Arthur seems miscast especially up against bombshell Hayworth.

Friday, August 27, 2010

7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)***
Imaginative and at times profound fantasy from George Pal. John Ericson is a serious problem though and really hurts the film. Tour de force performance from Tony Randall. Good script.
Mulholland Dr. (2001)****
Classic post-modern noir from David Lynch. Not all the scenes fit together all the time, but each one is shot and executed with great care and talent.
Anguish of romantic rejection may be linked to stimulation of areas of brain related to motivation, reward and addiction:
""This brain imaging study of individuals who were still 'in love' with their rejecter supplies further evidence that the passion of 'romantic love' is a goal-oriented motivation state rather than a specific emotion" the researchers concluded, noting that brain imaging showed some similarities between romantic rejection and cocaine craving. "The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that romantic love is a specific form of addiction."

To paraphrase Mr. Robert Palmer, you might as well face it, you really ARE addicted to love!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Runaways (2010)***
Captures the mid-'70's vibe perfectly, but I think the decision to avoid ALL exposition leaves the viewer confused as to what drives these characters to do what they do and act as they do. Still it is an enjoyable picture and the actresses are all good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Celeb doctor was tweeting about dog before fatal crash:
"Don't tweet and drive, kids. You might end up like Dr. Frank Ryan, a famous Hollywood plastic surgeon who died after driving off a cliff near his Malibu home Monday. Ryan, known for working with celebrities such as Heidi Montag, was tweeting about his border collie, Jill, just seconds before the crash, the doctor's ex-girlfriend told People Magazine."

My nominee for the 2010 Darwin Awards.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Children of Heaven (1997)****
Beautifully made tale about 2 Iranian children who have to share shoes for a few weeks. Captivating performances from the children, smart direction. Important film these days.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)***
Supremely odd and quirky pastiche of film noir tropes put together with exquisite attention to detail and technique by the Coens. Well acted by a very good cast.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Town Called Panic (2009)***
It's adults playing with plastic toy figures making up a story as they go along. Basically. But it's great stop-motion animation and pretty funny most of the time. Loses some steam in the second half, but finishes nicely. One instance where dubbing into English would be a mistake. The voice overs are just perfect.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Force 10 from Navarone (1978)**
By-the-book Alistair MacLean actioner.

Monday, August 02, 2010

TRON (1982)**
Very much a product of its time (video game parlors!) but not obnoxiously so. It has an internal integrity and consistency of tone that is actually remarkable for something so inconsequential. It's not campy, not unintentionally laughable, not preachy, not pretentious. It's an ok picture.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Facebook | Anne Rice:
"As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."


Friday, July 23, 2010

Inception (2010)***
I *really* wanted to like this a lot more than I did if that tells you anything. It has a labyrinthine, multi-level plot which keeps you on your toes, a top notch cast, some spectacular FX work, and is NOT based on a comic book or video game! (See Hollywood, it can be done.) It's a bit too long and a bit too action-y but most importantly, when all is said and done, you get off the ride and don't care about anybody in the film. THAT is what prevents me from giving it 4 stars. But technically, it's a tour-de-force. The top contender for best editing Oscar by far. (If you've seen the film, check the comments for additional ideas since there be spoilers.)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Family's pit bulls kill 2-year-old Concord boy
"A 2-year-old Concord boy was mauled to death today by three pit bull terriers belonging to his family, police said...The dogs attacked the 2-year-old boy when he walked into the garage, police said. The family has two other pit bulls, which were in the yard at the time. All five dogs have been removed from the home by Contra Costa County animal services."


Wait, let me guess: "We never had trouble with them before."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Chart of the Day: Social Security | Mother Jones:
"According to Gallup, 60% of Americans now believe that they'll never see a dime from Social Security. As Dean Baker points out, this is a remarkable victory for the Social Security doomsayers. They've spent decades claiming that Social Security will go broke, and now a large majority of Americans believe them."

The question they asked is somewhat vague. The question should be "If left unchanged, do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?" The answer there is factually "yes". However, given the enormous and unrelenting campaign to dismantle the program, and Democrats' insanely idiotic acquiescence to it, I am convinced that the system will not pay me a benefit when I retire. That's because retirement age will be 80 and I will be dead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lindsay Lohan Is in Jail -- Daily Intel
Thank goodness our justice system is there, protecting us from the likes of Ms. Lohan, Ms. Hilton, Ms. Stewart et al. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Blankfein etc. are safe on their yachts.
The New Pornographers Concert Setlist at Fox Theater, Oakland on July 18, 2010 |
A rare appearance with all 8 members, a beautiful, recently restored art deco theater, a warm Summer evening and quite possibly the WORST sound system in any concert I've ever been to. And this performance was obviously set up to showcase the group's more mercurial members, Dan Bejar and Neko Case. While enjoyable, it would have been more so if I could have actually heard the vocals.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The gut's 'friendly' viruses revealed : Nature News:
"This microscopic dynamic ecosystem affects our lives in ways we still do not fully understand. Indeed, the rise in the incidence of food allergies in Western societies has led to hypotheses that extreme hygiene disrupts the ability of microbes to colonize human guts, resulting in a lack of tolerance to usually harmless foods."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Still Walking (2008)****
Lovely slice of Japanese family life in a beautiful seaside town as the grownup children return home on the anniversary of their brother's death.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bowling Alone? Erskine Bowles Goes Off the Deep End | Beat the Press:
"When the co-chairman of President Obama's deficit commission gets his deficit numbers off by 100 percent, you would think this would be worth a little media attention. But apparently this is not the case."

Mr. Baker, this entire commission is almost completely off the media radar and that is they way they want it. I thought with Bush gone we wouldn't have to worry about Social Security for at least 4 years but guess what? I really think Obama will get this done for them. And nobody will say a word about it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)**
Nice to see Jim Broadbent, if one COULD see him through the murky, oftentimes totally occluded visuals. What I could make out of the production design is still first rate and Evanna Lynch as Luna Lovegood is still so good she needs her own picture.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Girlfriend Experience (2009)****
Sasha Grey delivers a compelling performance in Soderbergh's excellent "experimental" film. One of the more beautiful looking digitally shot films I've seen and his trademark discontinuous editing really works here.
The Big Heat (1953)***
Good performances and a tough, taut script brings this noir to the top of the B's.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

BBC News - US soldier linked to Iraq helicopter video leak charged:
"The US military has pressed criminal charges against a soldier suspected of leaking video of a US helicopter attack in Iraq to the website, WikiLeaks. Army Spc Bradley Manning is accused of transferring classified data on to his personal computer and transmitting it to an unauthorised third party. Spc Manning allegedly handed over footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007."

So let's get this all straight: a whistleblower who exposes evidence of a US war crime is being charged and vigorously prosecuted, yet George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, et al who are admitted liars and war criminals keep getting their pensions in safety and comfort. Blackwater stays on the payroll. Yep that's the change we all voted for all right! Obama you rock!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Father Goose (1964)***
Nice performance by Cary Grant in his penultimate role. He really seems old though next to Leslie Caron who is just not up to his level in this picture.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Baron of Arizona (1950)***
Enjoyable yarn about a true land grant swindle and the incredible lengths "The Baron" went through to nearly pull it off. Nice lead role for Vincent Price.
The Desert Rats (1953)**
By-the-book WWII actioner with a stiff upper lipped Richard Burton stuck with Aussie troops and forced to hold Tobruk from an advancing Rommel. James Mason steals the picture in his one scene in the film.
The Long Goodbye (1973)****
Interesting, off-beat take on the detective mystery from Robert Altman.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Avertible catastrophe:
"In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts."

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Hunger (1983)***
Interesting and novel twist on the vampire myth with nice performances from the principals. Too often though it feels like a parody of a 1980's movie. Poorly directed by Tony Scott.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) **
Strange, disjointed biopic of the famous German general with James Mason excellent as always. Hopefully I can find a non Henry Hathaway directed picture for my next viewing.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Sons of Katie Elder (1965)**
Cartoon-ish Western with some awful acting, clichéd script, ham-fisted direction yet some beautiful cinematography by Lucien Ballard.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sic Semper Tyrannis:
"McChrystal must be fired. Then he should be put on the retired list in his permanent grade with no end of career award. Then some thought should be given to the clear violation here of Article 88 of UCMJ. Active duty military people are free to express their opinions to their superiors. They are not and should not be free to use the press against the civilian government."

Agreed. But I do not expect it to happen. Obama doesn't seem to have the guts.

UPDATE: I was wrong.

UPDATE: Maybe not so wrong.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lilies of the Field (1963)***
Character study with Poitier filling in the blanks in the spare script. A bit heavy with the score at times, but Poitier gives a well-deserved award winning performance.
Toy Story 3 (2010)****
Another success for Pixar and another sequel that is every bit as good as if not better than the original. Goes to some darker places than the previous films, but the kids won't mind.
Down to the Bone (2004)***
Tough, truthful, uncompromising, though not especially entertaining slice of working class American existence. Vera Farmiga is compelling and interesting.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The New Age (1994)**
It's not essential to care about the protagonist in a story or a film, but it is almost essential to care about something in the story/film. I had a hard time caring about anything in this movie and maybe that is Michael Tolkin's point. Either way you're left with some good ideas but not a good film. Apparently Isabelle Adjani was originally cast in the Judy Davis role and could possibly have been a better fit. Nowhere near as great as Tolkin's previous film.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

He Was Tortured, But He Can’t Sue | The New York Review of Books:
"Canada, in other words, played a relatively small part in Arar’s injuries, as compared to the United States. Yet Canada’s Parliament issued a unanimous apology, and the government paid Arar $10 million (Canadian) for its role in the wrong done to him. Here in the United States, the response could not have been more different. US officials have never apologized to Arar. They persist in leaving him on a “no-fly” list, despite the fact that Canada has cleared him of any suspicion, much less wrongdoing. And when we filed suit in 2004 to seek damages from the US officials directly responsible for the decision to send Arar to his torturers, lawyers for the Bush administration argued that even assuming that federal officials had intentionally delivered Arar to Syria to be tortured, and blocked him from seeking court protection while he was in their custody, they could not be held liable for his injuries on the grounds that the case implicated secret communications and national security concerns not appropriate for court resolution. Regrettably, the courts agreed with the Bush administration position—and so has Obama’s Department of Justice."

I had hopes that I would be able to be proud of my government again. "Had" is the key word there.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ne le dis à personne (2006)***1/2
Excellent French thriller with Dustin Hoffman look/act-a-like Francois Cluzet in the lead. A sort of "toutes les étoiles" cast, all excellent, but Kristin Scott Thomas steals yet another picture with a terrific performance. A straight-up thriller with no subtext to speak of, yet told with lots of style and inventiveness. Bogs down in the final act amid beaucoup exposition.
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)**
Two stars for the 2, count 'em, TWO excellent battle scenes that incorporate actual footage. Otherwise a maudlin, melodramatic male weepie.
U.S. Identifies Vast Riches of Minerals in Afghanistan -
"An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and Blackberries. The vast scale of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth was discovered by a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists. The Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai were recently briefed, American officials said. While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war."

Oh shit. Now we will NEVER leave Afghanistan!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Helen Thomas' Sisters: Media Got It Wrong | The Maynard Institute:
"In a telephone interview initiated by Journal-isms, three of them said Thomas was not calling for the destruction of Israel or the return of all Israelis to Europe or the United States, as has been the running narrative, but was expressing her opposition to the disputed Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

'They should stop confiscating the land that belonged to the Palestinians. We feel that there should be a two-state solution in Palestine,' said one sister, who did not want to be identified. The sisters, who spoke from the home of one of them in the Detroit area, which houses the nation's largest concentration of Arab Americans, range in age from 87 to 95. Thomas is 89. A brother is 100. The family is Lebanese-American."

I must say when I first read what she was reported to have said, I had assumed she was talking about the illegal settlements in Gaza and the West Bank of which she is absolutely correct. But she caved so quickly and made other comments that seemed to suggest she meant ALL of Palestine.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Receiver Isaac Bruce's No. 80 to be retired by St. Louis Rams - ESPN:
"'To me he was a complete receiver,' said Mike Martz, the offensive coordinator in 1999 and the Rams' head coach in 2000-05. 'The other part of him, the humility that he played his entire career with, spoke so well about who he is as a man.' Bruce recalled another former Rams receiver, Jack Snow, taking him aside not long after Bruce was chosen in the second round out of Memphis in the 1994 draft. The Rams were terrible, but Snow told him he was willing to fight anyone who ran down his organization. 'We came to this organization that was at the bottom of the barrel,' Bruce said. 'At that moment I knew this was where I was supposed to be.'"

Thank you Mr. Bruce. Every time he was on the field he was compelling.
Tablet Magazine: Indispensable - by Lee Smith:
"Oren [Israeli ambassador to the US] disagrees. “'We are aware that this is a certain body of thought in the Washington bureaucracies and the think-tank world, but it is not so with the American people or policymakers,' he said. 'Israel is the only democratic American ally in the Middle East that can field a highly trained combat-proven army in 12 hours.'...'Our critics don’t get it,' Oren said. 'In Jenin, we went house-to-house and sent 23 soldiers to their death. But if we’re going to be called war criminals no matter what we do, then maybe that changes our thinking.'"

I love that: "no matter what we do". Yeah like even when we "defend ourselves" by pirating vessels on the open seas, blockading entire nations for years at a time, carry out assassinations all over the world, etc. How can we win when we're even criticized for that?

This guy Oren is a piece of work though. Now it is understandable why the US continues to stick by this rogue nation. Oren is very very good at his job.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Petulia (1968) ****
The first 20 minutes or so lead you to believe you are watching a goofy, kooky, kitschy 60's movie with all the attendant clichés. But stick with it and it ends up being a film that goes well beyond its time and hits hard at some uncompromising and revealing truths about people.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Despite pressure, Israeli PM firm on Gaza blockade:
"The 1,200-ton Rachel Corrie, which was carrying 11 pro-Palestinian activists, nine crew and hundreds of tons of aid, was intercepted in international waters, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Gaza's shore and was being escorted to the nearby Israeli port of Ashdod, the military said.
The military said Saturday's takeover began at 12:15 p.m. Israeli time (0900GMT) and took just minutes.Footage provided by the Israeli military showed three small navy vessels pulling up to the Rachel Corrie. In a second segment, footage from an Israeli aircraft hovering about the cargo ship showed the activists sitting down in the middle of the top deck."

They need to keep sending ships right after each other and force the Israeli navy "commandos" to overextend themselves. Just grind them down. Gandhi is the example to be followed. Just keep coming at them peacefully yet forcefully. This blockade is criminal and is in no way self-defense.

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Frontal Cortex: Memory Is Fiction:
"After all, we like to think of our memories as being immutable impressions, somehow separate from the act of remembering them. But they aren't. A memory is only as real as the last time you remembered it. The more you remember something, the less accurate the memory becomes. The larger moral of the experiment is that memory is a ceaseless process, not a repository of inert information. It shows us that every time we remember anything, the neuronal structure of the memory is delicately transformed, or reconsolidated."

Thursday, June 03, 2010

U.S. Citizen Was Among the Dead on the Gaza Flotilla -
"Reports in the Turkish press identified the American as Furkan Dogan, 19, who was born in the United States before returning to Turkey with his family as a young child...The Cihan news agency reported that Mr. Dogan had one bullet in the chest and four bullets fired into his head from close range. Israel has blamed activists for the confrontation, which occurred as Israeli commandos dropped on ropes from helicopters onto the biggest of the vessels, the Turkish-owned Mavi Marmara."

For over 3 years you illegally occupy another nation, blockade its ports and seal off its borders illegally, severely restrict the flow of ANYTHING into or out of that nation, starve the nation's occupants including the aged, women, children, civilians, then you attack and murder unarmed foreign nationals attempting to confront the blockade and blame THEM for the war crime. Has Dick Cheney somehow become president of Israel? Is he really in control there? Because this looks like his fingerprints all over this one.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Actress Q'orianka Kilcher arrested at White House:
"U.S. Park Police have identified a woman arrested for tying herself to a White House fence as actress Q'orianka (kohr-ee-AHN'-kuh) Kilcher. Authorities say the 20-year-old Kilcher tied herself to the fence Tuesday and her 41-year-old mother, Saskia, poured a black substance over her. They told officials they were protesting a visit by the president of Peru. Q'orianka Kilcher's father is a Peruvian Indian."

Good for her!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Fort Apache (1948)***
THE source for all those movie clichés about the cavalry. Not as majestic or as visually stunning as The Searchers, probably because of the lack of color, but every bit as complex with the absurdities and cruelties of the military life fully exposed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Vertigo (1958)****
I was going to give this one 5 stars but I'm not sure if I have ever given that many before. Can't seem to be able to do a search of the archives. Will look in to that possibility. At any rate, every time I see this film I see something new and that is the mark of a true 5 star film. This is the creepiest you will ever see Jimmy Stewart in a motion picture.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Don't Look Now (1973)****

Even Venice is creepy in this thriller, from the time when movies were made for adults not teens. George Lucas would change all of that.
The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

You know how there are some films that are so bad they are good? This is not one of those. This one is so bad it is VERY bad. I can't give it a rating because it is one of those rare films that I could not watch in it's entirety. Believe me, there is no reason in the world for you to try and watch this picture.
Life of Brian (1979)****

"He's not the messiah. He's a very naughty boy!"
A Night to Remember (1958)****

Far superior to the execrable Titanic. The only flaw being some stilted, heavy-handed dialog in the opening and closing scenes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Toxic chemicals and their effects on the body : The New Yorker:
"The inadequacy of the current regulatory system contributes greatly to the atmosphere of uncertainty. The Toxic Substances Control Act, passed in 1976, does not require manufacturers to show that chemicals used in their products are safe before they go on the market; rather, the responsibility is placed on federal agencies, as well as on researchers in universities outside the government. The burden of proof is so onerous that bans on toxic chemicals can take years to achieve, and the government is often constrained from sharing information on specific products with the public, because manufacturers claim that such information is confidential. Several agencies split responsibility for oversight, with little coördination: the Food and Drug Administration supervises cosmetics, food, and medications, the Environmental Protection Agency regulates pesticides, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees children’s toys and other merchandise. The European Union, in contrast, now requires manufacturers to prove that their compounds are safe before they are sold."

I wonder just what does the Toxic Substances Control act do? According to the law then maybe Monsanto IS correct? WTF is going on here???

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine ****
As entertaining a book about the incredibly incompetent and corrupt US financial system as there could possibly be. It's just so depressing that it is not fiction.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yellow Press - Elvis Costello:
"It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July."

Good for him.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg Mocked 'Dumb Fucks' for Trusting Him:
"More ammo for Mark Zuckerberg's privacy critics: The Silicon Alley Insider has a transcript of IMs between a then-19-year-old Zuckerberg, shortly after he launched Facebook, and a college friend. Zuckerberg's comments, strung together: 'Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard. Just ask. I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS.' Asked how, he responds: 'People just submitted it. I don't know why. They 'trust me.' Dumb fucks.'"

I really don't have a problem with a company providing free software in exchange for some personal information used to show me targeted ads while I use that software. That's the idea behind a lot of software on the Internet such as Google, Yahoo, etc. But if the company tells me to go ahead, use your real name, your real information because you can make this as private as you want and only those who you allow to see it will ever see it, when all along they had no intention of adhering to that standard, and not only that, if you opt out and want to delete your information you cannot! Really Mark? You don't know why all those people trusted you? BECAUSE YOU LIED TO THEM! That is something I have a big problem with. And that my friends is a little thing called "fraud" that apparently is no longer a crime in this country.

Welcome to the new privacy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Carbs against Cardio: More Evidence that Refined Carbohydrates, not Fats, Threaten the Heart: Scientific American
"Will the more recent thinking on fats and carbs be reflected in the 2010 federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, updated once every five years? It depends on the strength of the evidence, explains Robert C. Post, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Findings that 'have less support are put on the list of things to do with regard to more research.' Right now, Post explains, the agency’s main message to Americans is to limit overall calorie intake, irrespective of the source. 'We’re finding that messages to consumers need to be short and simple and to the point,' he says. Another issue facing regulatory agencies, notes Harvard’s Stampfer, is that 'the sugared beverage industry is lobbying very hard and trying to cast doubt on all these studies.'"

OMFG who ARE these guys??? "We'll put it on the list of things to do", "Might be too complicated for dumb stupid consumers", "Lobbyists for Coke and Pepsi don't like it so probably not". Fuck the pyramids and all that other crap they create to make things "simpler" for us morons. How about this message "LAY OFF THE CANDY BARS!" to paraphrase Marlene Dietrich. It's very, very simple: eat as little processed/added sugar/flour as possible. And there is a mountain of evidence that overall calorie intake is not as important as the type of calories consumed.
Civil Eats - Supreme Court to Hear First GE Crop Case:
"The case began in 2006 when the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) on behalf of a coalition alfalfa conventional and organic farmers and environmental organizations over USDA’s approval of Monsanto’s GE “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, engineered to withstand repeated dousing of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. Farmers and environmental advocates raised alarm about the unintended spread of Monsanto’s patented variety and transgenic contamination of natural alfalfa given that alfalfa is pollinated by bees that can fly many miles distance.

In 2007 a federal district court agreed with CFS, holding that USDA had illegally approved the GE alfalfa and stopped any further planting until USDA complied with environmental laws. Monsanto, who had intervened in the case, appealed the ruling, but a federal Court of Appeals agreed with CFS, first in 2008 and then again in 2009.

Now, Monsanto has taken their case to the only court left—the U.S. Supreme Court. Monsanto was able to get the Court to take the case over the objection of both CFS and USDA. The Court only hears about 80 cases a year out of around 8,000 attempts. Here’s the point Monsanto wants addressed: although it is undisputed that USDA violated environmental laws and that the agency must rigorously analyze the crop’s impacts if it is to again approve it for sale, Monsanto is arguing that the lower courts should have allowed the planting of the now-illegal crop to go forward anyway, before the agency did its homework All lower courts agreed that the planting of Roundup Ready alfalfa should halt because of the unknown and potentially harmful impacts of the crop on farmers’ livelihoods and the environment."

So what Monsanto is implying, and indeed have said explicitly before, is that they should be able to plant whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want until the USDA can prove what they have planted is not safe. The Supreme Court thinks they have a point otherwise why take the case? Why hasn't Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto lawyer, recused himself from this? Do not be surprised if Monsanto wins this one. They are the Enron of chemical companies. Only this time it is our food supply that is at risk.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Will Goldman Sachs prove greed is God? | Business | The Guardian:
"People have to understand this Randian mindset is now ingrained in the American character. You have to live here to see it. There's a hatred toward 'moochers' and 'parasites' – the Tea Party movement, which is mainly a bunch of pissed off suburban white people whining about minorities consuming social services, describes the battle as being between 'water-carriers' and 'water-drinkers'. And regulation of any kind is deeply resisted, even after a disaster as sweeping as the 2008 crash.
This debate is going to be crystallised in the Goldman case. Much of America is going to reflexively insist that Goldman's only crime was being smarter and better at making money than IKB and ABN-Amro, and that the intrusive, meddling government (in the American narrative, always the bad guy!) should get off Goldman's Armani-clad back. Another side is going to argue that Goldman winning this case would be a rebuke to the whole idea of civilisation – which, after all, is really just a collective decision by all of us not to screw each other over even when we can. It's an important moment in the history of modern global capitalism: whether or not to move forward into a world of greed without limits."

I know some of these tea party types. Many are "Christians". This just reinforces the theory that the human brain is "designed" by and for hormones that drive its behavior. The very notion of a "self" is preposterous. We are dumb, stupid animals.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at War: Information Clearing House - ICH:
"The 2011 military budget, by the way, is the largest in history, not just in actual dollars, but in inflation-adjusted dollars, exceeding even the spending in World War II, when the nation was on an all-out war footing.

"This military spending in all its myriad forms works out to represent 53% of total US federal spending.

"It’s also a military budget that is rising at a faster pace than any other part of the budget (with the possible exception of bailing out crooked Wall Street financial firms and their managers). For the past decade, and continuing under the present administration, military budgets have been rising at a 9% annual clip, making health care inflation look tiny by comparison."

Truly obscene. And what is almost worse is the fact that this is NEVER brought up in ANY political discussion. The first thing they go after is "entitlements" which is a code word for Social Security, which is completely funded by your tax dollars until 2037 at minimum. Yes, Medicare has funding problems. Fixable problems. But this military spending is THE reason why our debt is the way it is.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Don't Choke : The Frontal Cortex:
"Interestingly, it turns out that simple differences in presentation can influence whether or not a math problem gets processed as a 'verbal' problem or as a 'spatial' problem. (More spatial problems, such as rotating an object in your mind, are more likely to be processed in the right PFC.) For instance, when an arithmetic problem is presented horizontally (84 - 18 = 66) it's seen as more verbal, since we're 'reading' the numbers from left to right, just like a sentence. In contrast, when a problem is presented vertically it's seen as more spatial:
In other words, merely changing the presentation of the problem can dramatically alter how the brain processes the information."

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

the only functioning economy the US has left - Niqnaq:
"It’s striking, of course, that all this is happening at a moment when, domestically, small businesses can’t get loans and close to 10% of the population is officially out of work, while state governments are desperately scrabbling for every available dollar (and some that aren’t), even as they cut what would once have been considered basic services. In contrast, the Pentagon is fighting its distant wars as if US pockets had no bottoms, the national treasury had no limits, and there was quite literally no tomorrow. And there’s one more small contrast to be made when it comes to the finest military in the history of the world: for all the private security guards, mountains of burgers, lakes of gasoline, miles of blast walls, and satchels of cash to pass out to the locals, it’s been remarkably unsuccessful in its pacification campaigns against some of the motliest forces of our time. The US military has been fought to something like a draw by relatively modest-sized, relatively lightly armed minority insurgencies that don’t even pass muster when it comes to shooting straight. Vast piles of money and vast quantities of materiel have been squandered; equipment by the boatload has been used up; lives have been wasted in profusion; and yet the winners of our wars might turn out to be Iran and China. The US way of war, unfortunately, has the numbers to die for, just not to live by."

And all of this is apparently untouchable, yet Social Security and Medicare are "bankrupting the country". Americans are the stupidest people on Earth.

Monday, March 29, 2010

President makes surprise stop in Afghanistan - - March 28, 2010:
"President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Sunday for a firsthand look at the 8-year-old war he inherited and dramatically escalated.

After an overnight flight from Washington, the president landed in Afghanistan for a stay of just a few hours, all in darkness. He flew by helicopter from Bagram Air Field to the capital, where he was greeted at the presidential palace by Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, given just an hour’s notice of Obama arrival. A military honor guard stood at attention as Obama walked across red carpets.

It was Obama’s second stop in a war zone as commander in chief, coming about a year after a similarly secretive trip to Iraq."

Like Bush before him, Obama is a coward. The troops he sends to die don't have the option of staying just a few hours, all in darkness. It made me sick whenever anyone in the Bush administration made these "surprise" visits and it still does with Obama. Disgusting.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Matt Taibbi - True/Slant: The Catholic Church is a Criminal Enterprise:
"But these guys not only don’t kill themselves, they go out in public ranting about how wronged they are and how they’ve been fucked over by the evil New York Times for airing out their dirty laundry. Again, I admire the balls, but seriously, they must know the game is almost up. Sooner or later people are going to catch on, the state is going to make a move, and there’s going to be a hell of a lot of church property going up for auction along with the seized Escalades of DEA-busted drug dealers. Or maybe not in this lifetime — but one can only hope."

A bit over the top, but just a bit. Stuck in the middle of hard-right Catholicism though, it's apparent they have circled the wagons and girded their loins and battened down the hatches. The God of Love is nowhere to be found any more. It's Us against Them and Them is pure evil everywhere you look. Oh and Them is everyone else regardless.

So keep it up Matt et al. Constant pressure over and over may yet do some damage.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dennis Kucinich Flips On Health Care Reform: Will Support The Bill:
"Kucinich explained his decision in the following terms: He fought to make the bill better as long as he could. The bill is now written and the decision is not whether it's the bill he'd want but whether it is better to support it as it is or oppose it. If this health care reform effort failed, just as Clinton's effort failed a decade and a half ago, it would make future attempts at reforming the system that much more difficult. 'This is a defining moment for whether or not we'll have any opportunity to move off square one on the issue of health care. And so even though I don't like the bill, I've made a decision to support it in the hopes that we can move towards a more comprehensive approach once this legislation is done', he said. 'A health care failure could destroy any transformative potential left in Obama's administration', he worried."

I don't understand the rationale that if THIS bill fails, all future bills will fail also. That's not even logically sound. And as far as this administration having any "transformative potential", they destroyed that as soon as they took office and picked Clinton's money men and decided to continue the Bush policies.

I don't understand, with a majority in both houses of Congress and control of the executive branch, how this party cannot create any constitutional law it wants. The Republicans were able to do just that for 8 years. It's just another example of the mind boggling ineptitude of Democrats.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Reason So Many People Are Unemployed (Aaron Swartz's Raw Thought):
"Now some people will claim that the Federal Reserve has done all it can to create more jobs but the recession is so deep this time that there’s nothing else it can do. But that’s just not true — even the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, says it’s not true. He was asked about this in a Senate hearing. As the Economist summarized his response: “Mr Bernanke does not want to risk a de-anchoring of inflation expectations. He is willing to accept 10% or greater unemployment and the resulting economic and political fall-out in order to avoid that risk.”"

What courage! Willing to accept political fall-out, willing to let millions lose their jobs all to prevent the "de-anchoring of inflation expectations".

But what do you do when your outrage meter is already at 10? There is no 11, just 10.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Official dogma: Iraq War a success - Glenn Greenwald - "It was only a matter of time before American elites abandoned their faux regret over Iraq. For tribalists and nationalists, America can err in its execution but never in its motives."

It's like 200+ years of history never happened for these people.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Glenn Greenwald - Dick Cheney's Taunting
"In general, people who commit felonies avoid publicly confessing to having done so, and they especially avoid mocking the authorities who fail to act. One thing Dick Cheney is not is stupid, and yet he's doing exactly that. Indeed, he's gradually escalated his boasting about having done so throughout the year. Why? Because he knows there will never be any repercussions, that he will never be prosecuted no matter how blatantly he admits to these serious crimes."

Not just Cheney but Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, etc. all admitted to war crimes in public. This is what happens when you "look forward not backward". And there are people who wonder why "liberals", meaning any American who actually thinks laws matter, can't just give Obama a chance. I mean he's only been on the job for a year, what can one man do?

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Good calories, bad calories ... - Google Books:
"The 11 Critical Conclusions of Good Calories, Bad Calories:
1. Dietary fat, whether saturated or not, does not cause heart disease.
2. Carbohydrates do, because of their effect on the hormone insulin. The more easily-digestible and refined the carbohydrates and the more fructose they contain, the greater the effect on our health, weight, and well-being.
3. Sugars—sucrose (table sugar) and high fructose corn syrup specifically—are particularly harmful. The glucose in these sugars raises insulin levels; the fructose they contain overloads the liver.
4. Refined carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are also the most likely dietary causes of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the other common chronic diseases of modern times.
5. Obesity is a disorder of excess fat accumulation, not overeating and not sedentary behavior.
6. Consuming excess calories does not cause us to grow fatter any more than it causes a child to grow taller.
7. Exercise does not make us lose excess fat; it makes us hungry.
8. We get fat because of an imbalance—a disequilibrium—in the hormonal regulation of fat tissue and fat metabolism. More fat is stored in the fat tissue than is mobilized and used for fuel. We become leaner when the hormonal regulation of the fat tissue reverses this imbalance.
9. Insulin is the primary regulator of fat storage. When insulin levels are elevated, we stockpile calories as fat. When insulin levels fall, we release fat from our fat tissue and burn it for fuel.
10. By stimulating insulin secretion, carbohydrates make us fat and ultimately cause obesity. By driving fat accumulation, carbohydrates also increase hunger and decrease the amount of energy we expend in metabolism and physical activity.
11. The fewer carbohydrates we eat, the leaner we will be. "

Monday, February 08, 2010

NFL Game Center: New Orleans Saints at Indianapolis Colts - 2009 Super Bowl

A good game, not a great game. The difference was New Orleans was the more aggressive team AND they did not make any big mistakes. Indianapolis seemed just a bit too controlled and methodical. They should have come out smoking in the first quarter when they had the Saints on their heels. The Saints were very tight and were playing very conservatively. The Colts let Drew Brees settle down and after that he was nearly flawless.

One refreshing change I noticed was the total lack of the "balance" comment regarding play selection. Both teams were "pass happy", the derogatory phrase usually applied solely to Mike Martz' offensive calls and in fact the Colts had the worst rushing record in the entire NFL during the regular season. But you can't second guess Mr. Manning, the unanimous choice for greatest quarterback ever.


This game was also the final nail in the coffin of the "run for 3 yards and a cloud of dust" offense that is the holy grail for old school, smash mouth, "real" footballers. You will NOT be able to win any more with Trent Dilfer and his ilk as your quarterback. The game is about the pass now once and for all. I'm not a big fan of the short passing game that was on display yesterday, in which the short pass is the substitute for the run, and firmly believe if the Colts had stuck to their regular season stretch the field offensive philosophy they would have won. But with all this passing going on, which is really unstoppable if you have a decent quarterback and the team executes properly, I predict the onside kick will be used much more often. And also, defenses will petition for a little bit of help rules-wise or else this will become like a basketball game.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On gospel, Abba and the death of the record: an audience with Brian Eno:
'"I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it."'

Monday, January 11, 2010

Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals - Box Score - January 10, 2010 - ESPN:
"Green Bay Passing
A. Rodgers 28/42 422 10.0 4 1 121.3"

Aaron Rodgers gave one of the all-time best performances by a quarterback in a football game, let alone a post-season playoff game. Such a performance, particularly the 10 yards per passing attempt, will win most of the time. The exception being...when Kurt Warner is the opposing qb. I don't think ANY quarterback has ever had the game Warner had in a playoff game or ANY game at any level. And I can't understand the deafening media silence about it. It seems they really do not like him AT ALL. And I understand he can be irritating even to his most ardent admirers. But damn the man can play this game! More touchdown passes than incompletions! One for the ages.