Friday, September 30, 2005

Shiny Happy People

UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Here is a hilarious parody movie trailer for the movie The Shining that would make Kubrick proud. As an editor and film nut, I can appreciate how well this is put together. (The use of Peter Gabriel's sickly-sweet "Solsbury Hill" is particularly inspired.) And as the great Jeffrey Wells put it:
...it has a dark undercurrent because it perfectly nails the idiot-virus affecting movie advertising attitudes right now. It shows that you can take footage from any drama and lie through your teeth and make it look like a total fluffball movie...and this is what marketing people do all the time, because all they want to do is get people to show up on opening weekend, period.
Here's another link, just in case. (I think people are on to this one because the downloads are starting to take longer.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

What have your friends done for you lately?

MANIFESTO


Michael Brown isn't doing himself any favors this week as he continues on the downward spiral that started with Katrina. Considering he was incompetent and under qualified for the job, I don't think anyone is really that surprised by his performance and "you culpa" attitude ("Brown Out"). However, looks like there might be some hope that cronyism is losing favor with the new spotlight on these top spots. Unfortunately there is an entire book of want ads for jobs that are assigned based on favors, donations, friendships, etc. And according to my fav CNN producer, the pages of this Plum Book aren't being dog-eared by anyone worthwhile. Prior to the Brown spiral, anyone qualified could see that there wasn't an heir apparent and didn't want to pound the pavement in three years. That narrowed it down to the losers who didn't see the writing on the wall. So Bush's team really screwed up with the hiring, but even with this spotlight, how can you ever really get rid of cronyism when it takes so much money and moral/ethical compromise to to become president?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

My psyche explained

Whatever

A few blogs have pointed out the American Library Association's list of the "most challenged books" of 1990-2000, as in the books that parents, bible-thumpers, and crazies wanted removed from library shelves last decade.

Some of these books are relatively obvious, or at least I had heard of these books being sources of complaint before: Huck Finn, Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, Madonna's Sex, Heather Has Two Mommies.

But a number of other books really surprised me, maybe because I just do not remember why they might be controversial. James and the Giant Peach? How to Eat Fried Worms? FIVE different entries from Judy Blume?

I don't read as many books as I should, but from first grade through about seventh grade I was an avid reader. Looking at this list now, I wonder what kind of warped child my parents, and particularly my mother, were trying to raise? I think most books I read were recommended, bought, or brought home for me by my mother, and I can go through this list and count at least 12 that I read by the time I was 13 (and there are probably more that I just don't remember reading).

On a related note, any library that wouldn't carry To Kill a Mockingbird is not a library I would want to visit.

Edited to add: Just kidding Mom (not that I think she's reading). Though I'm still mad you made me read A Day No Pigs Would Die.

Drilling for Profits

MANIFESTO

So who profits when your gasoline prices go up? As cynical as I am about most big corporations, it is almost staggering what the oil companies are now doing to the American people. The Boy King promised to make sure there would be no "gouging" of gas prices by station owners after Katrina but maybe he should do something about the companies that refine it.
When the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline peaked at $3.07 recently, it was partly because the nation's refineries were receiving an estimated 99 cents on each gallon sold. That was more than three times the amount they earned a year ago when regular unleaded was selling for $1.87...Companies that pump oil from the ground swept in an additional 47 cents on each gallon, a 46 percent jump over the same period. (emphasis mine)
So there you have it. Why are gasoline prices so high? Because the oil companies are ripping you off without pity. With BK in office, expect him to do nothing but encourge this practice through non-action. This is the most shameful thing I've read about corporate greed since Enron. There is nothing free about a Free Market.

Justice DeLayed

MANIFESTO

House Majority Leader and Most-Evil-Bastard-on-the-Planet Tom DeLay was just indicted for one of the many many things he has done to help destroy democracy in America.

So who get this fat envelope full of money to make this go away?

A stash of faith

WHATEVER

So am I the only one who finds this funny? This lady was being hailed as a hero for her "faith."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Interview of Champions

WHATEVER

I am a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, and I really enjoy even the weirdest of his writings. If you missed him on the Daily Show last week, it was up and down, with him making some real sharp points, but then kind of rambling a bit. It was great to see him, and sad to see him at the same time (not that I am blaming him for getting old.)

But he mentioned his list of "liberal crap I never want to hear again," which Jon Stewart promised to put on their website. I'll admit, I don't really get it.

Although his last point is pretty damn funny.

Weekend prediction

Sporting Goods

Maybe this is the pre-2004 sports fan in me talking, but I think that on Monday morning the Sox will be 2 games out of the AL East lead, meaning they will be forced to somehow make up a game next week, in order to avoid needing a sweep of the Yankees to make the playoffs.

And I think the Pats will be 1-2 after a disheartening loss to the Steelers, who will be overly excited about beating the Patriots one game too late.

As I sip my beer and think about running out into traffic, I will be reminded of the opening NFL weekend of 2003, when the Pats lost 31-0 and the Sox lost a critical game to the Yankees. And I'll think, "hey at least I won't have to go through the pain of an ALCS loss in a few weeks", and become a Cleveland Indians fan until November.

Monday morning update: Sometimes, it just feels good to be wrong.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Church folk

Sporting Goods

I missed this when it first came out, but apparantly an article about "faith in the clubhouse" has gotten Nationals outfielder Ryan Church in trouble, and the team's chaplain fired. The offending issue:

An article in Sunday's paper about Baseball Chapel quoted Church as saying that he had turned to (chaplain) Moeller for advice about his former girlfriend, who was Jewish. "I said, like, Jewish people, they don't believe in Jesus. Does that mean they're doomed? Jon nodded, like, that's what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word," Church said.
I think, like, the real upsetting part of it all is that Ryan Church had a huge game against the Mets a few weeks ago, on, like, Jewish Heritage Day at Shea Stadium. It looks as if the schedulers gave Church a reason to be extra motivated, not what the Mets needed at that point in their season.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Katrina Get Your War On

Manifesto

Here's more Get Your War On, this time Hurricane Katrina themed.

Blinding Them with Science

MANIFESTO

So this guy Darwin has a crazy theory that man is decended from apes and people all over the country are up in arms. Over half of Americans (including our President) think this theory is hogwash and are finally taking action! The Times has a story about bands of God-fearing Creationists going to museums and harrassing the workers there about the evolution exhibits.
There is more than one type of creationist..."thinking creationists who want to know answers, and they are willing to listen, even if they go away unconvinced" and "people who for whatever reason are here to bother you, to trap you, to bludgeon you."
Is this the craziest thing you've ever heard? It sounds like something out of West Side Story. (And am I only only one that wants to pick up a caveman's club and "bludgeon" them upside their empty heads?) So to fight back, museums are giving their docents intensive training about the history of evolution and its scientific merits so they have the weapons necessary to fend off these science-hating nutjobs. They have a pamphlet they've written that advises when someone asks "is there lots of evidence against evolution?" to answer, simply, "No." Take that, Bible-thumper!

The American Natural History Museum is planning "the most in-depth exhibition ever" on Darwin and his work that will open on December 8th and they have their volunteers ready for the inevitable confrontation. I'm going to be there and I hope I get to see a Evolutionist bitch-slap a Creationist in front of a giant model of DNA or something. It tells you something about the times we live in when a trip to a museum is a political statement.

So get your butts to the ANHM and strike a blow for science! I'm sure it's going to be a great show. And you can bet it took more than seven days to put together.

Select This!

WHATEVER

So as most people probably now know, the Times went "Select" yesterday meaning you have to pay $50 a year to read the editorials and such. I think this blows and am sure others have better written arguments against the change. But in the end, the new policy isn't supposed to affect me since I get home delivery on the weekends.

Except their stupid website still doesn't work when I try to log in. I get a damn "system error" message that makes we want to light the Times building on fire. Two days of this! Damn capitalism!

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stuffed

Food Fight

Think I'd disappeared? Started this when it was actually topical and then my focus spiraled. I'm going to take a guess that most of you don't pour over the Wednesday NY Times and that this might still be new to you. So, if you needed another way to spend your hard earned money, the NY Times listed 60+ new restaurants that are recently opened or going to open within the next 6 months. The hot areas still look like the meat packing district and the lower east side.

Some that look interesting:

Cookshop - Five Points has a great reputation, but Cookshop will have grill, wood-burning oven and rotisserie.

The Diner - from restaurateur, Marc Packer who brought us the still hard to get a reservation Asian hotspot, Tao.

Mo Pitkins House of Satisfaction - Latin and Jewish. Hmm. That name is a lot to live up to, but you will be able to get a manischevitini. Oy!

Fatty Crab - Asian street food in the meatpacking district. Haven't been to his other restaurant, 5 Ninth, but this one has some buzz about it.

The imports:

Buddakan - Philly import that has wonderful pan-Asian. NYC is pretty saturated there so wondering how they'll do in this scene.

Bouchon Bakery - A Thomas Keller dinner you might be able to afford now and then. Let's hope it's easier to get a reservation here than at Per Se.

Charlie Trotter's - Why is his Time Warner restaurant taking so long? I feel like they don't stop talking about the opening of this one.

Gordon Ramsey - That hideous show might be reason not to go, but then again, we want to eat his food, just not work for him.

The Iron Chefs:

Del Posto - Mario Batali teams up with Lidia Bastianich for their high class Italian. Old-school fancy with balcony tables that will overlook the main dining area. He still doesn't have four stars so this will be the new hope.

Morimoto - Masaharu Morimoto is my favorite Iron Chef. You had me at former Nobu sushi master.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Farewell, Mr. Kapler

Sporting Goods

In what has to be one of the strangest plays of the year, Gabe Kapler blew out his achilles while rounding second base on a Tony Graffanino home run. I hope you get the chance to see this on SportsCenter, as it led to a pinch-runner, mid home run trot. The weirdest part was seeing Tony G have to just stand there and wait, being unable to pass the base-runner.

I like Kapler, but over at Dewey's House they kind of sum things up well:

What Kapler provides a baseball team can, and will be easily replaced, even if it requires handing the job to a guy that hasn’t yet had the opportunity to suck the way Kapler has. I urge the Sox not to worry too much about this one. There are a lot of players that can suck at Major league Baseball the way Kapler has over the last few months.

Harsh, but true.

UPDATE (by Chill 12:20): Luckily MLB provides the highlights. To watch, follow the link from here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Incurious George

MANIFESTO

From Newsweek:
It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private...The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington...

The president did not growl this time. He had already decided to return to Washington and hold a meeting of his top advisers on the following day, Wednesday...President Bush knew the storm and its consequences had been bad; but he didn't quite realize how bad.

The reality, say several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president, did not really sink in until Thursday night. Some White House staffers were watching the evening news and thought the president needed to see the horrific reports coming out of New Orleans. Counselor Bartlett made up a DVD of the newscasts so Bush could see them in their entirety as he flew down to the Gulf Coast the next morning on Air Force One.

How this could be—how the president of the United States could have even less "situational awareness," as they say in the military, than the average American about the worst natural disaster in a century—is one of the more perplexing and troubling chapters in a story that, despite moments of heroism and acts of great generosity, ranks as a national disgrace.
Thursday night! Four days after everyone in the country, hell, the world could see how bad it was! I know he doesn't like to get his news through "the filter," but how is hurricane coverage slated by the liberal media? How is New Orleans and hundreds of thousands of miles of coastline flooding biased? And if he won't listen to the news, why didn't someone bust down his door and make him listen? Where was Karl or Dick? They are obviously keen politicians who know an opportunity (or a missed one) when they see one.

I'll put it bluntly, the President's indifference to his duties as president directly led to people's deaths. He has blood on his hands. (This time on U.S. soil.) Once it was clear FEMA wasn't up to the task, it was up to him to authorize the military to move in to help. (It is illegal for them to act on their own.) If the President had a clue, he would have done this days earlier than he did. But he was clearly out to lunch. Anyone who says Bush isn't to blame is an apologist, pure and simple. They deserve him as their leader.

No one may have noticed, but my contempt for this guy is so complete I haven't used his name in my posts (excluding quotations) in a while. He was the Boy King. After Katrina, I was trying to be respectful by referring to him as The President. But now BK is back.

How many more years are we stuck with this guy? Clinton had an affair with an intern, lied about it before a grand jury, and was almost impeached. BK's crimes (lying about WMD, for one) are immeasurably more destructive, not only now but for years to come. How much more damage can his incompetence create?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Why Shaq is better than Kobe

Manifesto

So Shaq is driving around Miami at 3 a.m. and he hears a guy make homophobic insults to a couple on the street. He then sees the guy get out of his car and throw a bottle, hitting one of the men. What does Shaq do? He tails the homophobic cretin and alerts a police officer, who promptly arrests the bastard for aggrevated assault and assault with a deadly weapon.

This just days after Shaq and his family personally lead an effort to get supplies to Hurrican Katrina victims by hiring tractor-trailers to shuttle supplies, with Shaq loading many of the trailers himself.

What more can you say? He's everything we say public figures should be.

The Mets ...

Sporting Goods

may stink but at least they have really funny commercials. My favorite is action movie Mr. Met.

MLB won't allow linking directly to files. So you'll have to navigate there yourself.

Monday, September 12, 2005

On-Dru

Sporting Goods

Hypothetical question: if a guy is being considered a top candidate for MVP because of his impressive offensive output, should a .222 average with runners in scoring position then disqualify him?

The debate continues as to whether there is really such a thing as "clutch hitting," but as a lifelong Sox fan, a guy who gets hits only 2 out of every 9 plate appearances sounds like the kind of player that makes me bang my head against the table, not like a league MVP.

Andruw Jones is a great player. But he is not the NL MVP. Home runs are not everything. Ask Adrian Beltre. Ask Richie Sexson. Ask Sammy Sosa. Ask Brady Anderson. Jones is having a tremendous year for homers, and a very good year overall. Albert Pujols is having a tremendous year, period. He has been unlucky to run up against Mr. Bonds in MVP voting the last 3 years, I hope that the writers give him his due this year.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Common's Back

Whatever

Just got passed along the full Common interview that formed the basis of the article linked below. And all I can say is that the article did not do Common's point of view justice. Just plain old bad reporting. Here's a relevant excerpt:
TOUCH: So you don’t agree with mixed race relationships?
COMMON: I don’t disagree with them. It’s just I’ve been around black girls who say, "I only date white men". I’ve been around black dudes who I see only be with white girls. Is that a lack of self-love? To say "I only deal with these type of people" has gotta be a problem.
[...]
TOUCH: Last time we talked about mixed race relationships…
COMMON: It was good that we talked about that. I talked about it even more after I hung up. I was talking to my team about it and they had their own views. My whole thing is that black women have been so put down – whether it’s due to the oppression of a white government or we [black men] putting our own women down. When dudes say they only gonna focus on white girls, to me, it’s like a slap in a black girl’s face. What’s ironic is when you hear this song on my new album called ‘Real People’. It deals with something almost of the same nature. I say: "Black men walking with white girls on they arms. I be mad at ’em as if I know they mums. Told to go beyond the surface, a person’s a person. When we lessen our women our conditions seem to worsen". I’m glad we got to discuss this though. Ya know, I still feel like because I’m an artist and I say certain things, I have a responsibility to let people know what I mean. I can’t claim to be perfect. I’m working too to be a better guy.
So it is clear that his perspective is a little more gray than protrayed by the previous article. What's funny is that I've heard that lyric on the from "Real People" a million times. I had concluded that it meant just what he says in this interview, but I dismissed my conclusion after reading the article cited below. Now I realize my original interpretation was correct. Proving once again that I'm an idiot. Just another example about how you shouldn't draw conclusions based on little threads of information. Lesson hopefully learned.

Colin Powell

Manifesto

Unlike every other prominent Republican, Colin Powell doesn't appear to be a complete shill for GOP.
"There was more than enough warning over time about the dangers to New Orleans. Not enough was done. I don't think advantage was taken of the time that was available to us, and I just don't know why," Powell said in excerpts on ABC's Web site.
He also addresses whether he thinks race is an issue:
"I don't think it's racism, I think it's economic," Powell said. "But poverty disproportionately affects African-Americans in this country. And it happened because they were poor."
I think he gets that right too. It isn't that George Bush doesn't like black people, necessarily (sorry, Kanye), it's that George Bush doesn't like poor people. Of course, neither does much of the GOP. Check out this gem by LA representative Baker (R-Baton Rouge):
"We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did."(hat tip to Armando at DailyKos)
Of course with good Colin Powell news, there has to be at least one stupid comment.
Asked whether the statement about WMD tarnished his reputation, the former general responded: "Of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."
A blot? Really? That's it? Just a blot. Hey Colin, if you are going to admit a mistake, do it and take responsibility. Don't talk about how it is a "blot" on your record. You know what is a blot on your record... a 2.5 GPA or being fired from Popeye's. Going to the international community and spreading faulty intelligence that, it now appears at least somebody in the administration knew was incorrect or at least unrealiable, little more than a "blot." Nice attempt to both take responsibility and minimize the damage at the same time. Ass clown.

"George Bush Doesn't Like Black People"

Manifesto

That was Kanye West's statement last week. Well, now some underground rappers have taken his hit song, "Golddigger", and changed the lyrics. Now it is a protest song about the response to Hurricane Katrina. If you are interested, check it out at BoingBoing.net.

(Hat tip to Darlucky who pointed me to this earlier today.)

Chuck D, founder of Public Enemy, has also released lyrics for his protest song about Hurricane Katrina. I can't wait to hear it.

UPDATE (by Chill 12:25 A.M.): Here's audio of Chuck reading it on his Air America radio show.

Finally

Manifesto

New Get Your War On.

Friday, September 09, 2005

And...you like to smell your own butt!

Sporting Goods

I sort of missed this when it first happened over Labor Day weekend, but the US-Mexico World Cup Qualifier post-game produced some of the worst sportsmanship in recent memory.

The Mexico coach, Ricardo La Volpe:

“It's a little team. Here, everyone's interested in baseball and American football and many people didn't even know that a soccer match was being played today. So it's easy for them, because they aren't playing under any pressure. My mother, my grandmother or my great grandmother could play in a team like that.”
Landon Donovan:
“They suck. I'm so happy...I just hate all the talking, all the blah blah they always talk. They think they're the best, even though we've beaten them over and over. After we got that first goal they were never in the game...Hopefully that will shut them up for the next three or four years.”
In La Volpe's defense, a loss to the US has him on the hot seat. And in Donovan's defense, he has apparantly been ripped to shreds by the Mexican press (and some of their players) over the past couple of years. But all in all, these are two teams that really seem to hate each other on a personal level. This isn't just Yankee-Red Sox 2004 stuff, this is Yankee-Red Sox late 1970s stuff.

But prior to all the smack-talk, US handily defeated Mexico 2-0, with a style of play that really put the clamps on Mexico's offense, while providing for an occasional but well-executed counter-attack. Of course, Mexico complained about the style, as they always seem to do when a team plays in a way that makes it difficult for them to win.

The game sent USA to the World Cup, while Mexico qualified just a few days later. Just for fun, and reference, here are the 10 teams that have qualified so far for Germany. That leaves 22 spots to go.

Germany (automatic), Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Argentina, USA, Ukraine, Poland, and Mexico.

So perhaps we'll get the next chapter in Germany in June. It's a long way off, but I can't wait.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Too Bad

Whatever

Well, my current favorite rapper might just be my former favorite rapper. Common, who has always had lyrics with some controversial social commentary, has stated in an interview his distaste for interracial dating.
While in London promoting Be a couple of months back, he discussed his disapproval of mixed race relationships in an interview with London magazine, Touch, where he criticized blacks with dreadlocks for dating white women, stating that those men would be "going against what the dreadlock's purpose was."
This is disappointing, but all the more disappointing given that Common had gone from a homophobic rapper, to one of the few rappers that discussed homosexuality in his songs, his own personal difficulty coming to terms with a gay friend, and his eventual acceptance of his friend. It was quite a change of heart. And all the more important that he publicly revealed his torment in his art. I can only hope he opens his mind up a little more.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mr. Gray Beard

Whatever

No longer just rejected, but bruised and refused. That's got to be tough.

What do the Mets and the Executive Branch have in common?

Sporting Goods

The overarching belief that if you say something enough times, then it must be true.

President Bush says, "We solve problems. We're problem solvers."

Willie Randolph says, "Braden Looper is my closer. He closes games."

Actually, Willie he doesn't. Left-handers are hitting over .300 against him this season with a .964 OPS(!), making him the worst possible closer. And he blew yet another big game. Let's see: opening day, game against the Yankees, 5-run lead against the Pirates, tonight's big game against the Braves. Those are four I remember off the top of my head. How many have there been? 6. 6 blown saves. Notice the pattern though. All big spots.

God I hate Braden Looper. I hope Tom Glavine takes him out tonight. (Notice I wrote "take him out." That doesn't necessarily mean kill. I learned that from Pat Robertson.)

Well, at least Willie finally stopped playing Cairo and started playing a Matsui who at least has potential and can learn something at the end of the season. Thank heaven for small miracles.

UPDATE (by Chill 10:16): Wow, the Mets got Looper a lead. And Looper gave up a first pitch single and then hit a batter, then walked the bases loaded. God I hate this guy. Of course, Willie has Shingo Takatsu warming in the pen. That makes me feel so much better.

UPDATE (by Chill 10:31): Mets lose. Thanks Takatsu. I hate you Willie.

Update (by Chill 8:54 A.M): I was making up that Willie quote last night. But from today's New York Daily News:
Randolph had no reservations about sending Looper back out for redemption. "We have to win the game and he's my closer," the manager said.

Knuckles

SPORTING GOODS

Tim Wakefield is officially my favorite Red Sox of all time. His comment last night, after pitching nine innings and getting the win with David Ortiz's walk-off home run:

"I told Dougie (Mirabelli, his catcher) after the ninth that I've got five more in me,'' said Wakefield, who improved to 7-1 in his last eight starts. "It's one of those cool nights, it's not hot, you get some energy, but we're really fortunate that David came on and won that game for us.''

What the World Sees II

MANIFESTO

Maureen Dowd:
The administration's foreign policy is entirely constructed around American self-love - the idea that the U.S. is superior, that we are the model everyone looks up to, that everyone in the world wants what we have.

But when people around the world look at Iraq, they don't see freedom. They see chaos and sectarian hatred. And when they look at New Orleans, they see glaring incompetence and racial injustice, where the rich white people were saved and the poor black people were left to die hideous deaths. They see some conservatives blaming the poor for not saving themselves. So much for W.'s "culture of life."
God I hate these people.

Bleacher Bum

SPORTING GOODS

I had my first experience with two Yankee game phenomena that I had been wanting to experience for some time now. OK, before you guess "watch the team lose 74-0" and "see the earth open up and swallow the team and the owner's box whole," I should rephrase that. There are two ways of watching the game that my fiancee has wanted to do for a few years, and I thought they sounded pretty good too, so I went along with it last night.

First, we took the "Yankee Clipper" from East 34th Street. At $18 per person round trip, it is a bit pricey. But when I considered that compared to a subway ride, I am paying $7 per trip to be sitting on a boat on a beautiful evening, instead of being crammed in to a rush hour 4 train, I forgot about that. They sell snacks, hot dogs, even beers on board. And the views are quite nice, going under a number of obscure and not-so-obscure bridges on the way to the stadium. I wouldn't ride the ferry every time, but it is a nice alternative, particularly on a late summer evening. Just make sure you get on the right boat - we almost boarded a boat to Jersey.

More importantly, I sat in the bleachers for the first time last night. Now that the section is completely alcohol free, it is a bit less dangerous than it used to be, and there were actually quite a few children out there. That said, I still wouldn't wear my Red Sox gear, or cheer for any team but the Yankees, when sitting out there. So it was a quiet night for me, mostly getting to cheer for good plays in the field and some nice pitching (especially by former-BoSox Casey Fossum and Tom Gordon), before watching the Yankees melt down in the ninth inning to lose the game. The views are pretty good from the right field bleachers, and there are pretty much no lines for food or the bathroom, so as far as game experience goes, it was fantastic, especially for $12 a ticket. No Mark Bellhorn sightings unfortunately.

If you're lucky, you'll get to sit next to the guy that I was next to, who I guess thought that barking (literally barking, not figuratively barking) at every attractive woman who walked up or down the aisle was somehow going to get him laid. Whether that was going to happen during the seventh inning stretch, after the game, or during a Yankees rally in which one of his woofees would get so excited she would just throw herself at him, I'm not sure. In any case, it didn't seem to work out. Shocking, I know.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Red Eye (Review)

Universal Remote

Wow, this movie is only 85 minutes long. And when you walk out of the theater, the first thing you notice is that the movie was only 85 minutes long. I think that is a good thing. This is a short, taut thriller. I won't say it is fast-paced. One, I already used taut and I think fast-paced would make me sound too much like Jeffrey Lyons. Two, the movie basically consists of two static sets with a short chase scene in the middle. So it isn't so fast-paced. But it is exciting.

The plot is simple. Jackson Rippner (Cillian Murphy) is a contract killer. He needs the help of hotel manager, Lisa Reisert (Rachel McAdams), so his men can kill the deputy head of homeland security. So Jack dispatches an assassin to tail Lisa's dad (Brian Cox), works his way next to her on a flight, and tells her if she doesn't help, dad is dead. That's it. The rest of the movie is cat and mouse as an ordinary person tries to stay one step ahead of an assassin.

But it is amazing what clever writing and good acting can do. Rachel McAdams is truly excellent. She has a way of drawing attention on the screen without dominating it or seemingly trying to hard. And she has a great non-placeable voice that is not so much sexy or sultry, but has a very attractive everywoman melody to it. Cillian Murphy is great. He needs to be careful about playing villians. After this and Batman Begins, he has established himself as an extremely good villian. He could make a career being a bad guy, but has much more of a career ahead of him.

The movie relies on the interaction between these very different people. One a self-confident killer. The other a woman simply looking to get along in life. It is a great dynamic and well-acted, with each person over and underestimating the other, based on how they each present themselves. If you can't catch it in the theaters, check it out on DVD. And if you don't like it, well ... it was only 85 minutes long.

(For Survivor fans, Colby, should-be winner of Survivor: Australia (the only one I ever watched, I swear), makes an appearance as a secret-service agent. He should have stuck to Gilette ads. Actually, that's not true. He's harmless.)

The 40-Year-Old Virgin (REVIEW)


UNIVERSAL REMOTE

Judd Apatow and Steve Carell's The 40-Year-Old Virgin is the 2nd funniest movie of the year, right behind Wedding Crashers. (I reserve the right to change this ranking if I ever get to see The Aristocrats.) I'm sure everyone knows the plot so I won't bother. And if you don't know it, read the title again.

The movie is very funny, surprisingly sweet, and thankfully short. Far too many comedies fall into the trap of taking themselves too seriously in the third act and take forever to cross the finish line. (Wedding Crashers is an obvious example.) Virgin deftly avoids this.

Some of my favorite lines/moments, in no particular order:


  • The "You know how I know you're gay?" fight between Seth Rogan and the priceless Paul Rudd.
  • "I'm very discreet...and will haunt your dreams."
  • Carell speaking in ebonics to his black co-worker's girlfriend.
  • "How come we never get invited to parties? What are we, fucking Al Qaeda?"
  • Carell blowing his cover by comparing the feel of a woman's breast to "a bag of sand."
  • The appearance of Rudd's ex, Amy.
  • Rogan advising Carell's to "be like David Caruso in Jade" in order to score with women.
  • Carell knowing exactly what "be like David Caruso in Jade" means.
  • The Waxing Scene.
The Waxing scene is probably the comic highlight, especially if you know the whole thing was done for real, Jackass-style. They shot it with five cameras and Carell's pain is real. His screams of agony are hilarious ("Yooooooooow, Kelly Clarkson!") but for me the real laughs come from everyone's reactions. And kudos to the great Catherine Keener for playing the hottest grandma in film history. While The 40-Year-Old Virgin is more even and consistenly funny than Wedding Crashers, it doesn't have that movie's deliriously funny moments. Now if someone would just write Paul Rudd a starring vehicle...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Kudos, CNN

MANIFESTO

Finally(!) CNN has stepped up the the plate and once again become one of the most important news outlets in the country. Their coverage of Katrina and the aftermath has been superlative, not only because it has been so extensive, but because they are finally challenging the Powers That Be for their failures. Jack Cafferty started it off with his righteous indignation at the lack of relief reaching the people. Soledad O'Brien then ripped FEMA head Mike "Brownie" Brown a new one for claiming not to know the number of people needing help. They've also given an outlet for New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's outrage. (His clip is one of the most candid pieces of political outrage I've ever heard.)

And now they have a article about the "big disconnect" between the "official" version of the situation versus what people on the ground are actually seeing. It absolutely evicerates FEMA and the government's response. An excerpt:
FEMA chief Brown: We learned about that (Thursday), so I have
directed that we have all available resources to get that convention center to
make sure that they have the food and water and medical care that they need.

Mayor Nagin: The convention center is unsanitary and unsafe, and
we are running out of supplies for the 15,000 to 20,000 people.

CNN Producer Kim Segal: It was chaos. There was nobody there,
nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water. The children, you
should see them, they're all just in tears. There are sick people. We saw...
people who are dying in front of you.

Evacuee Raymond Cooper: Sir, you've got about 3,000 people
here in this -- in the Convention Center right now. They're hungry. Don't have
any food. We were told two-and-a-half days ago to make our way to the Superdome or the Convention Center by our mayor. And which when we got here, was no one to tell us what to do, no one to direct us, no authority figure.

This is great journalism. I'm glad one of the major media companies is finally asking hard questions. There is no doubt in my mind that the harder they press, the quicker people will get the help they need.

NOTE: I can't get the stupid links for the videos I mentioned up top. To find them, go here. The clips titles are 'Cafferty: Aid Mission Bungled' and 'FEMA Under Fire.'

What the World Sees

MANIFESTO

I watched the President's interview with Dianne Sawyer yesterday and was more than a little disturbed. He looked tired. Almost weary. This is on top of the fact that he was a day late in publicly addressing the disaster, gave a critically maligned speech, the war in Iraq is getting worse and worse (the deaths of almost 1000 women and children in that awful stampede has gone almost completely unnoticed) and his Secretary of State was seen flitzing around Manhattan buying shoes and going to see Spamalot. My wife and I both agreed; he doesn't seem like the President really wants to be President anymore.

Am I the only one who sees the strain? And this is from a man who is usually energized to the point of exuberance. His visit to Ground Zero brought hope to a nation that badly needed it. It needs it again desperately now, but the President doesn't seem up to the task.

Which leads me to wonder how the rest of the world is seeing as they watch America in chaos. Reuters has an article written from England that is very humbling.

World stunned as U.S. struggles with Katrina
The world has watched amazed as the planet's only superpower struggles with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with some saying the chaos has exposed flaws and deep divisions in American society.

World leaders and ordinary citizens have expressed sympathy with the people of the southern United States whose lives were devastated by the hurricane and the flooding that followed.
There are some comments are about this catastrophe being payback for Iraq that are, of course, total hogwash. Is no such things as Karmic Justice. But it is yet another example of how unpopular that war is to the rest of the world. These countries do not hate the U.S. I have travelled abroad enough to know this. I have seen the pictures of candlelight vigils other countries held after 9/11. What they hate are the policies of this administration and the complete disrespect they show the rest of the world. The total lack of preparation for this disaster is all too reminiscent of the piss-poor planning for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.

Katrina is also a terrible, terrible reminder of how close to anarchy our society truly is. When the infrastructure breaks down so completely, so do the laws of society we take for granted. (I'm not even going to go into the race and poverty issues.)

We are supposed the be the most enlightened, the most civilied people in the world. It is very humbling to think that perhaps no society is ever truly civilized.

(Thanks to SW for the Reuters link.)

"Not acceptable"

Manifesto

I haven't really been able to write anything about New Orleans, because the more I read the sadder I get. But at least W is starting to realize how bad it is, calling the relief efforts "not acceptable."

In other news: Isaiah Thomas calls the Knicks roster and salary cap situation "not acceptable." Rob Schneider calls the quality of the new Deuce Bigalow movie "not acceptable." Axl Rose calls the delays in the long promised Guns n' Roses album "not acceptable." I call me blogging from the office "not acceptable."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices"


UNIVERSAL REMOTE / MANIFESTO

On September 23, George Clooney's second film as director will open the New York Film Festival. Good Night, and Good Luck is the story of legendary CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow and his public confrontation with Joseph McCarthy. It stars David Strathairn as Murrow, with Clooney, Robert Downey, Jr., Frank Langella, Jeff Daniels and Patricia Clarkson in supporting roles. It was even shot in black and white, amazing for a movie produced in this day and age. To quote the NYFF program:

With its expressive, fluid black-and-white cinematography, this film expertly captures the climate of fear and the downbeat, gray flannel contradictions of the era, while its theme of the news media's responsibility to speak truth to power could not be more pertinent today. We are brought deep inside the operation of a television network, as a tense political thriller about courage and patriotism unfolds: cat and mouse keep exchanging roles, and there are no absolute winners.
Edward R. Murrow was the most popular newsman of his day. He is beloved for being the first major public figure to stand up to McCarthy and his Red-baiting scare tactics. Up until that time, people in government and the press were afraid to say anything against McCarthy for fear of being smeared and ostracized. That all changed on March 9, 1954, when Murrow used his television show See It Now to expose McCarthy and his witch-hunt tactics by editing the Senator's own words together to revealed his hatred, fear-mongering and hypocracy. He and his producer Fred Friendly strung together clip after clip of McCarthy making false and outrageous accusations against anyone that stood between him and his goals. He famously accused the Democratic party of "twenty years of treason." Murrow let McCarthy hang himself with his own words. After that, dissent emerged and McCarthy was eventually censured by the Senate for his Red Scare exploits.

George Clooney, of course, is one of America's most famous liberal celebrities and to the annoyance of Conservatives everywhere, he doesn't keep his opinions to himself. Apparently, Murrow was a hero in the Clooney household. I always worry about filmmakers who make movies about people they hold too close to their hearts. There is the tendency for sentimentality that often ruins the film. I have a good feeling about Clooney, though. With his abundant producing credits and partnership with Steven Soderbergh, I feel confident he will avoid this trap with Good Night.

The film is sure to become something of a conversation starter among cable pundits with its recreation of the McCarthy Era, especially with so many parallels to our own time. And one of the most vocal critics of the film will surely be Ann Coulter. Starting with her book Treason, Coulter has been working very hard to restore the reputation of Joseph McCarthy in service to her argument that liberals (since Roosevelt) have been most responsible for undermining the foundation of American morality and politics. She calls McCarthism a "myth," and "the greatest Orwellian fraud of our times."

Anthony Fuentez, a Ph.D. candidate in American History at the University of Pennsylvania has written an extensive article countering Coulter's pro-McCarthy arguments. He quotes her most outrageous claim:
...here is the twist to Coulter's reappraisal of McCarthy: he never practiced McCarthyism. In other words, even if there were some individuals who uttered the kind of slander that came to be known as McCarthyism, McCarthy himself never engaged in it because he rarely directly called anyone a "Communist" and when he did, well, they actually were Communists. In short, Coulter argues that "[e]verything you think you know about McCarthy is a hegemonic lie."
Of course, this is preposterous. Coulter has gone on many television programs, most notably The O'Reilly Factor on July 22, 2003, and challenged the loofa-loving host to name a single person McCarthy falsely accused. Naturally when he couldn't specifically name anyone from 50 years ago that was slandered by the Senator, she used that as proof that the anti-McCarthy movement was a creation of the treasonous Left. Fuentez spends most of his article debunking Coulter's argument with a specificity that she will never find from the less informed pundits of cable news. I won't recount all the details here, but suffice it to say, its a slam dunk case.

Films that recreate history are very valuable in educating current audiences of the mistakes of the past. I know it's corny, but it is amazing how often history repeats itself. So when Good Night, and Good Luck is released in October, be prepared for a whitewash of history by Conservatives defending McCarthy's record. If I learned anything from the out-of-left-field bashing of Deep Throat, the Right loves to use the distance of history (and most people's ignorance of it) to completely remake historical persons and events as they see fit. They did it with Nixon, they did it with Reagan and now they're going to try and do it with McCarthy. But at least now you're prepared to dismiss any hogwash immediately without having to google the truth.

Well Said

Manifesto

CNN's Jack Cafferty says it so I don't have too. Crooks & Liars has the video.

UPDATE (Chill 5:32): By request, here's a transcript from Crooks & Liars.

Sacrifice

MANIFESTO

As much as I despise the President, his war, and what he stands for, this is a time in history that I am hoping he will rise to the occasion and emerge as a strong leader. The damage in the Gulf region is almost beyond estimation; it seems almost Biblical. People are wading through chest-high water in a desperate search for food. Dolphins from the zoo are swimming in hotel pools. And people are looting. They are stealing guns, hijacking medical supplies, and shooting police officers.

So far, the President hasn't been off to a very good start. A New York Times editorial today calls his speech yesterday "one of the worst speeches of his life...He advised the public that anybody who wanted to help should send cash, grinned, and promised that everything would work out in the end." And like a certain September day in 2001, he was not in Washington, and he took a disturbing amount of time before addressing the nation.

The logistical problems are enormous. 40% of the Lousiana National Guard is in Iraq. Gas prices are going to go up even further due to interruptions in shipping. Profiteering has already started; some gas stations have raised their prices to $4 a gallon. If national prices rise even higher , it truly affects us all. I don't own a car, but the food I buy at the supermarket didn't grow there. It came by truck, and now it will cost more money. So will everything else you buy. We will all need to sacrifice.

But as the Times points out, "this administration has never been one to counsel sacrifice." (After 9/11, the President famously advised the nation to go shopping when cutting back on gas consumption would have made infinitely more sense.) As much as I enjoy reading about his all-time low approval ratings, this tragedy is almost tailor-made for the President to make people forget his slip-shod handling of everything from the war, the economy, high gas prices, and the fact that he always seems to be on vacation.

I'm not being sarcastic when I say I hope the President succeeds with flying colors. I remember being completely behind him after 9/11 and hope to feel that way again now. But this is arguably a much harder problem for him and his administration. The damage in lower Manhattan after the attacks was roughly 16 acres. The damage in the Gulf region is thousands of square miles. Whole towns have been washed away. People are living on the sides of the highways in modern-day Hoovervilles. But we all know the President is uncommonly good when meeting with "normal folks." I'm confident he will make the victims of perhaps the worst natural disaster in America's history feel like he and the governement are working overtime to aid them and rebuild their communities. And after watching how he exploited the 9/11 tragedy to go to war with a country that had nothing to do with the attacks, I have trouble imagining how this event could be manipulated for political gain by the far Right. I hope I'm not being naive.

We have a link at the top of our blog for Red Cross donations or you can click here. This is a time we all need to make some sacrifices.

Health Care

Manifesto

Interesting editorial in the New York Times today by Bob Herbert. Or at least of personal interest to me. Could have been a little more helpful had it appeared a couple of months ago.

Tennis, everyone?

SPORTING GOODS

So I had my first US Open experience last night, and I have to say despite the 75 minute plus rain delay and getting home after 2, it was overall a great experience.

And this is mostly because the organizers of the event really seem to know what they are doing. Tales of unusually high security were off, as we sped right through the line. We were able to get around the pricey food by bringing in our own. And most importantly, as the stadium began to empty out after the rain and as the second match went late, US Open officials came around with passes and asked us to go down to the ground level.

So on a $15 discount ticket, I found myself 6 rows from the court, watching Rafa Nadal pick wedgies from his capri pants right in front of me. It really is a different game when you are that close, with serves coming straight in your direction at 130 miles per hour.

So if you find yourself at Arthur Ashe stadium at a night session, pray for a brief rain storm. It will drive away the families and the suits who are just there on free company tickets, and next thing you know you'll be yelling encouragement to players from just 15 feet away.

In other personal tennis news, Scoville Jenkins may be my new favorite player. Last night's score wasn't indicative of how close the match really was, or how hard he made Nadal work. That said, Nadal is really, really good. I am now a believer.