Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Memento mori, Tom:

Our life in this world — to what shall I compare it? It is like a boat rowing out at dawn, leaving no trace behind.

-- Sami Mansei
Under Pressure: Pushing Ahead of the Dame:
“'Under Pressure' is a day’s indulgence by two men past their prime, who were entering a decade that would reward and diminish them; Mercury had only a decade more to live. So there’s a sadness along with the bravado, a sense of loss to go with the heroics. Something is going away, going away for good, and Bowie and Mercury see it, if only in shadows. Anthony Miccio once called 'Under Pressure' 'the best song of all time,' and there are a few days when I think he was right."

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Grifters (1990)***
Very nicely done neo-noir about a trio of cons trying to outdo each other. Enjoyed it despite the presence of John Cusack.
Jaws (1975)***
One of Spielberg's more restrained directing jobs believe it or not. Interesting screenplay is like 2 movies in 1.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)**
If I had seen this film at the time of its release, I would have probably given it 4 stars. But I saw it for the first time 92 years later and it just doesn't hold up. It does a lot cinematically but also for a silent it is very "talky" in that there are a lot of intertitles much of them unnecessary.
The Innocents (1961)**
Deborah Kerr was never lovelier, and the black and white cinematography is very good, but the film only hints at the possibilities in the story and ends up ho-hum.
The Time Machine (2002)*
If you like special effects, you might enjoy this. If you like a coherent story though...
Volver (2006)***
Penelope Cruz shines in this comedy-drama about mothers and daughters and village life in Spain.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sic Semper Tyrannis : We should give Israel our veto in the UNSC:
"We are told by the US Government that we will veto the application because we love peace and that UN membership for the Palestinians would be an obstacle to peace. Such pronouncements reduce the American citizeny to the status of mushrooms, a rabble to be kept in the dark and fed horseshit. The truth is that our Israeli masters fear and hate the Palestinians as tribal enemies and do not intend to ever deal fairly with them. All else is lies and mirrors."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The 2 Billion UBS Incident: "Rogue Trader" My Ass | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone:
"Nonetheless, thanks to the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed in 1998 with the help of Bob Rubin, Larry Summers, Bill Clinton, Alan Greenspan, Phil Gramm and a host of other short-sighted politicians, we now have a situation where trillions in federally-insured commercial bank deposits have been wedded at the end of a shotgun to exactly such career investment bankers from places like Salomon Brothers (now part of Citi), Merrill Lynch (Bank of America), Bear Stearns (Chase), and so on.

"These marriages have been a disaster. The influx of i-banking types into the once-boring worlds of commercial bank accounts, home mortgages, and consumer credit has helped turn every part of the financial universe into a casino. That’s why I can’t stand the term 'rogue trader,' which is always tossed out there when some investment-banker asshole loses a billion dollars betting with someone else’s money."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Post: Obama Team Feared Revolt If He Prosecuted War Crimes : naked capitalism:
"The process raises a question to anyone who relies on our best-known national news-gathering organizations for political information: Why does a story of this scope arise almost by happenstance more than 2 1/2 years after decision-making by Obama’s top advisers? Whatever the case on that, let’s examine the political implications. Edley’s rationale implies that Obama and his team fear the military/national security forces that he is supposed be commanding.

"It suggests also that Republicans have intimidated him right from the start of his presidency even though voters in 2008 rejected Republicans by the largest combined presidential-congressional mandate in recent U.S. history."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Interview with Former FBI Agent Ali Soufan: "We Did Exactly What Al-Qaida Wanted Us to Do" - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International:
"SPIEGEL: As you explain in your book, you are convinced that 9/11 might have been stopped if there had not been the so-called "Chinese wall" between the CIA and the FBI.

"Soufan: We always worked together. We worked together during the East Africa embassy bombing. We had a great relationship. But suddenly that wall appeared due also to the misunderstanding of new guidelines organizing the relationship of intelligence and law enforcement. Unfortunately that directly contributed to the lack of knowledge about 9/11. We had actionable intelligence we transferred to the CIA but there was no follow-up.

"SPIEGEL: What kind of information was that?

"Soufan: We were investigating the Cole incident in Yemen. And we had a person who participated in blowing up the ship -- killing 17 sailors, injuring 39 -- tell us he delivered money to a main al-Qaida guy. So people who were involved in the Cole incident delivered money to two people who later flew a plane into the Pentagon. People in our government knew that these two people were in the United States, in San Diego. So, when you're doing an investigation and almost a year before you know about people moving and money and meetings, I think you have to understand that there are some limits to the wall. We had the lead, the CIA knew the identity of the two in San Diego but they did not put them on a no-fly list, they did not communicate their names to the State Department so that their visa would not be renewed."

I don't understand how "We had actionable intelligence we transferred to the CIA but there was no follow-up" is somehow evidence that the "wall" between the FBI and CIA prevented us from stopping the attacks. Apparently all you need to do to breach this impregnable wall is "transfer" the information you have to the other agency. Sounds to me like the problem was not that the FBI couldn't get information to the CIA, it was the fact that the CIA was incompetent.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will : Nature News:
"The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided. As humans, we like to think that our decisions are under our conscious control — that we have free will. Philosophers have debated that concept for centuries, and now Haynes and other experimental neuroscientists are raising a new challenge. They argue that consciousness of a decision may be a mere biochemical afterthought, with no influence whatsoever on a person's actions. According to this logic, they say, free will is an illusion. 'We feel we choose, but we don't,' says Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at University College London."

Why say a "mere biochemical afterthought"? All thoughts are biochemical.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Last Tango in Paris (1972)**
Maria Schneider is beautiful and Brando does his thing but it doesn't add up to much of a movie. Disappointing.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Changeling (1980)***
Nicely done, contemporary ghost story with George C. Scott and wife Trish Van Devere.
A Good Year (2006)*
Ridley Scott manages to take Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard and gorgeous Provence locations and comes up with a film that is not only bad, but insultingly so. If he would have just let the actors sit around the lovely estate used for the film and have a party it would have been a thousand times better.
The Haunting (1963)****
Still can bring the chills. Superbly directed by Robert Wise.
M (1931)****
Way ahead of its time and the best film Fritz Lang ever made. Great visuals, use of sound/silence, bizarre story.
All Through the Night (1941)**
Comedy-thriller about Nazi espionage in NYC tries hard but comes up short. Bogey is fine but the script is sub-par. Jackie Gleason and Phil Silvers in early supporting bits.