Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tonight's Movie Review: In The Loop

I unexpectedly got real TV back again this week and tonight's choice was between the Las Vegas card-counting caper movie 21, which so far is pretty lame, and a zombie movie I didn't even know Tarantino made and with my man Clooney, but I passed.
Nothing can surpass In The Loop, which I watched earlier tonight and which one Rotten Tomatoes reviewer described aptly:

It's as if Jane Austen and Monty Python collaborated on an episode of The West Wing.
I couldn't find my favorite scene, so here's the official clip from about the only clean scenes in the movie.

UPDATE: I should mention that you will need to listen very carefully to this movie because these people are mostly British, and speak a lot of very funny words very quickly. The language is scandalous. And hilarious.

Health Care Reform: A Little Perspective

Rick Hertzberger has a short essay based on some guy named Ruskin's observations about the pathetic fallacy. Honestly, I didn't have the patience for it, but here's what I will remember:
On May 20, 1962, at Madison Square Garden, John F. Kennedy spoke to some twenty thousand people at a rally in support of a bill to provide hospital care for the aged, one of forty-five such rallies around the country. In his speech, President Kennedy acknowledged that his bill would fall short of meeting every need. “We’ve got great unfinished business in this country,” he said, “and while this bill does not solve our problems in this area, I do not believe it is a valid argument to say, ‘This bill isn’t going to do the job.’ It will not, but it will do part of it.”
Two months later, Kennedy’s bill was defeated in the Senate. It took his assassination, a huge Democratic victory in 1964, and the legislative talents of President Lyndon Johnson to get Medicare enacted. The health-care bill now being kicked and prodded and bribed toward passage will not “do the job,” either—only part of it. Are Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress doing enough? No. But they are doing what’s possible.

Satan Writes A Letter To Pat Robertson

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Dear Pat Robertson, I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth -- glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox -- that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it -- I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings -- just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract. Best, Satan

Friday, January 15, 2010

Martha Coakley, Sen — Mass.

I admit I was going for Coakley early on merely because she is a woman. And a Democrat, of course.
So now progressives looking into the real Martha find the chinks. They say she's just another Mass. Dem. political hack, likening her to John Kerry. I say, so?
They say she's run a horrible, insider campaign and didn't even look like she was trying. Well, it also looked from the get-go that she had it wrapped. Dino Rossi v. Chris Gregoire comes to mind, remember that?
And she's not as liberal as Teddy. Well, who is? As for the great Kennedy icon, anybody here old enough to remember his attempt to get the nomination away from Carter?
And there's also this little embarrassment when Boston became a laughing stock after the authorities overreacted big time to a silly prank.
But besides the fact that we absolutely must have her vote on health care, I still want her as the next woman Senator, on the absolutely pragmatic feminist position that incompetent or otherwise dismally disappointing women have as much right to power as their similarly afflicted male counterparts.
Would probably rewrite and put a little snap into that if I had time. But there.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Massachusetts Is Burning

or something like that. When Nate Silver says it, it's pretty much so.
Martha Coakley doesn't need your money, send it to Haiti.
But she could use an hour of your time to call a few voters and get them to commit. It's Get Out The Vote politics, and it works. Honest. I'm gonna do some more before Tuesday.

Haitian History, But You Might Not Want To Know

From AlterNet
In the 1820s, the former President proposed a scheme for taking away the children born to black slaves in the United States and shipping them to Haiti. In that way, Jefferson posited that both slavery and America’s black population could be phased out. Eventually, in Jefferson’s view, Haiti would be all black and the United States white.

Conan vs. Zucker

In case you haven't heard, the head of NBC reportedly said he'd keep O'Brien off the air for 3 1/2 years because Conan refused to let Leno have the 11:30 time slot back.
I know, I know, we've got Haiti and Massachusetts and the banks to worrry about. But I'm kinda getting into this stuff. So is Andrew Sullivan.
"I remember thinking that Jeff is a different species than I am. That species could easily rip my throat open," - Conan O'Brien, about Jeff Zucker and their relationship at Harvard.
Conan ran the Lampoon; Zucker ran the Crimson. I knew neither. I just remember that everyone hated Zucker and thought Conan was some sort of comic deity.

Rachel Maddow: Obama's First Year

Erm, About This Excise Tax Thing

Looks like the White House brought labor on board.
Here's Ezra's take.

'The Bodies Stopped Bothering Me After A While'

Blogger in Haiti:
The bodies stopped bothering me after a while, but I think what I will always carry with me is the conversation I had with Jacqueline before I left her. How could I leave someone who was dying, trapped in a building! That’s so wrong! At the very least, she needed someone to sit and comfort her in her last hours. But if I hadn’t found my way home last night, then today I wouldn’t have been able to bring the CWH crew in. Still, leaving her was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. She seemed so brave when I left! I told her I was going to get help, but I didn’t tell her I would be gone until morning. I think this is going to trouble me for a long time.

Sitting Bad, Standing Good

I once thought I'd set up the ironing board in my living room and blog while standing. Reading this, I am reminded to do that maybe, uh, tomorrow.

Credit Card Companies: Makin' Out Like The Bandits They Are

Capitol One, Mastercard, Visa, Bank of America, American Express. You name, they're pocketing it with every online donation you send to Haiti. Or anyone.

UPDATE: According to later news, some of them committed to drop the transaction charges.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Prop. 8 Before Court

and it's the third day of argument.
Of note, from Andrew Sullivan:
The defense is citing Brokeback Mountain and Will & Grace as proof gays are no longer discriminated against.

Haitian Relief

Go here.
Vetted by better informed people than me.

Action Alert: Call For Coakley

Health care reform may depend on it. Easy, fun, I did 21. (I have a phone card, took about an hour.)

Harry Reid Is Not Stupid

Full portrait in the NYT:
By suddenly inserting a public-insurance option into his bill — catching the White House and some of his colleagues by surprise — he demonstrated to supporters of the public option that they did not have the votes for it. He got credit from Democrats like Harkin for doing what he could to try to pass it. Lieberman took the blame for killing it. And Reid got his 60 votes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


is the name of the over-80 chorus from Massachusetts and also the name of the documentary about them. It was on PBS tonight, but you can get it from Netflix.
I'd post my favorite, which was Forever Young, performed at a state prison. It had the guys crying. But it's been disabled on YouTube.

Of The Top Ten Netflix Favorites For My Area

I have seen only three — The Wrestler - eh, Slumdog Mr - sure, once - Rachel Getting Married, great but no second viewing — wouldn't accept payment to watch the others I've heard of and two I haven't heard of.
Kind of fun little trivia game for those of you interested.
Thanks, Mardie, and thanks for the Twitter idea, although I forget to check it.

The Beaver Now Only Part of Canada's History

I'm sorry, but some days you just need a laff.
Um, that would be every day.

Sushi Etiquette

Here it is for those of you who care. I do not. Sashimi, maybe.

Prediction: Sarah Palin

will crash and burn on national television. Are they doing delayed broadcast on this? Will the screen suddenly go black? Oh, the possibilities.
I know, I believe it because I want to believe it. Still, it warms me.

Legalize Marijuana New GOTV Strategy?

If the Democrats are worried about voter turnout in this year's off-year elections, especially the apparrent dissatisfaction and disappointment of its progressive base, maybe they should try getting marijuana legalization measures on the ballot in as many blue states as possible.
Genius, julimac, pure genius.

What (Some) Ex-Presidents Must Do To Make A Living

Okay, so Clinton's post-presidential activities have been both laudable and questionable, and we all know G.H. went all Moonie on us while Jimmy's out there pounding nails for Habitat and, um, trying to make peace and assure fair elections.
But this, this is just priceless:
The former leader of the free world will be joined by such top-notch acts as comedian Frank Caliendo, Three Dog Night, the Bellamy Brothers, a country music group, Dennis Miller, and a Beach Boys cover band, "Papa Doo Run Run."
I wanna see him play a little air guitar with the Beach Boys cover band.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Missed out on that one. Must have been hanging out with the wrong crowd.
The other nine words and phrases you must stop using. Now. It's official.

I Didn't Know That

So I must sheepishly admit that all along I've bought into the Military Industrial Complex bogeyman, believing that the U.S. is basically supporting the defense of its allies because they won't do it themselves and we're such pushovers or good guys or whatever that we just pay the bills and keep on keeping on and besides that it's good for business. Really good for business, those fuckers.
Then along comes the data, out of the blue, that sort of bursts that bubble. This is all in the context of Krugman countering a current conservative wave of argument against evidence of the economic success of more socialistic countries in Europe.
Yes, we spend more on defense than the major European countries. But it’s on the order of 1 or 2 percentage points of GDP. That’s not nearly enough to explain why they can afford such big welfare states.

Of course, Krugman's chart may not include all the equipment they buy from us and all the money we loan them to do that. He's as capable of being disingenuous as any human being, but I think he's cute. A little wimpy, but cute. But not as cute as Rahm Emanuel.

UPDATE: One of Krugman's commenters checked it out, and no, he's not being disingenuous, it is all defense expenditures, not just NATO. The countries listed are just NATO members, that's all.
So, bullshit, you conservative idiots. You could at least learn to Google.

The Next New Thing: Bood Dept.

Huffpo's got this up for Jeremy Rifkin's newest book. I likee. No, I no readee yet.

Er, Book Dept., Book Dept. I need staff.

Well, Then

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin … “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
The Once And Future King, T.H. White

Oscar Time

Katherine Bigelow

Nominations are due out, um, soon.
The three NYT critics list of "should be's" agree on only one, The Hurt Locker, coming to my house next week.
I think that any critic who names Julie and Julia, Public Enemies or Funny People should also be arguing for shorter lists.
The Hurt Locker's director, Katherine Bigelow (briefly married to James Cameron, I love this kind of trivia) is also on all three lists, again the only one to make all three.
I'm now suspicious. If the Oscars turn out this way, the film could actually make money.
Whoaa, Mama, it takes screenplay, too.
Wait, if Bigelow gets it, she'd be the first woman, right? And with a best picture, wowza!
No, wait, did Sophia Coppola get it for Lost In Translation? Dunno. Too late to check.

UPDATE: Wiki Answers
Three women were nominated in the Best Director category. The last two won an Oscar for the screenplay of the movie they directed.

1976 Lina Wertmuller, Seven Beauties

1993 Jane Campion, The Piano

2003 Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Crunch Time On Health Care Reform

All about the numbers, give a little here, take a little there. But a quick and interesting read if you're a health reform nerd.
In the meantime, there's one poll that shows Martha Croakley behind her Republican opponent for Teddy Kennedy's old seat. Election is Jan. 19!
Zounds! Her loss would kill the bill.
The progressive blogs are full of exhortations to make calls and ring doorbells.
Josh Marshall sort of reassures us that polling in these kinds of races is notoriously unreliable, and another equally credible poll has her up by 15.
All depends on who goes to the polls. Some say she relied too heavily on consultants and didn't really start campaigning until quite late, like two weeks ago.
Seems to me I remember Gregoire being legally constrained in the gubernatorial race because she was still AG, as is Croakley.
I want another woman senator. And I want health care reform.

This Is Nice

Thanks, REEUQ.

Don't Be Evil

Is this good for you or is the Internet changing the way we think and making us stupid? You know the answer, you old test-taker you. I don't even have to give you a selection of answers. All of the above, right?
Anyhoo, The Edge has a bunch of distinguished folks responding to this question, and if you want a flavor of it, Newsweek offers a remarkably uninteresting discussion. But short.
I know the Net (in Germany, they call it the Network although I can't remember if they capitalize it. I have taken to capitalizing Internet like I capitalize God.) has excited me ever since we got instant desktop access at work and didn't have to go into the special room with the special computer after having convinced the gatekeeper our research was worth those old by-the-minute AOL charges. Boy, those were the days, huh? No, I was not around for hot type, though.
There are a whole bunch of essays and I won't get around to them, but be my guest.

Issue O' Teh Day

On MetaFilter: Are pantsless subway riders in NYC passe now? Or too conformist? Or something? Or are critics just dicks in pants? You be the judge.

NEXT UP: Mashups in general. Yes or No?

It's All Going To Hell In A Handbasket. Or Not.

Andrew Sullivan recommends James Fallows' assessment of America and our future.
It's well worth your time.
Ralph Nader, for whom I worked as a researcher in my teens and early 20s, and from whom I became estranged after his 2000 run for the presidency, made a similar upbeat point in a recent reconciliation conversation in Washington. First he elaborated the ways that Congress, the media, the regulators, and both political parties were more in thrall to corporate power than ever before in his memory. But, he said, “you’ve got to be very careful about thinking things can’t rebound. My favorite phrase is ‘America is a country that has more problems than it deserves, and more solutions than it applies.’ We don’t want to be Pollyannas, but we really should believe that we can turn things around.”
Another nugget:
The simplest measure of whether a culture is dominant is whether outsiders want to be part of it.

Jump To The Chase

Fix Congress:
Now the most populous state, California, has 69 times as many people as the least populous, Wyoming, yet they have the same two votes in the Senate. A similarly inflexible business organization would still have a major Whale Oil Division; a military unit would be mainly fusiliers and cavalry. No one would propose such a system in a constitution written today, but without a revolution, it’s unchangeable. Similarly, since it takes 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster on controversial legislation, 41 votes is in effect a blocking minority. States that together hold about 12 percent of the U.S. population can provide that many Senate votes. This converts the Senate from the “saucer” George Washington called it, in which scalding ideas from the more temperamental House might “cool,” into a deep freeze and a dead weight.
“The Senate is full of ‘rotten boroughs,’” said James Galbraith, of the University of Texas, referring to the underpopulated constituencies in Parliament before the British reforms of 1832. “We’d be better off with a House of Lords."

CONCLUSION: Even the government we have is better than less of it.
Isn't that pretty much what Nader said? Oh, Jim, you librul media scum.

Avatar: Okay, I'm Going Out On A LImb Here

Avatar was unimpressive. There, I said it. The second bad thing I've said this week, if you ignore all the F words.
Yeah, Avatar was really pretty and charming. Like Fantasia was pretty and charming, so it's got that going for it, although a bit pricier. And it had lots of really, cool action, so my inner 14-year-old boy, Chad, liked it a lot.
The plot and the characters were ridiculous — that Gireen, c'mon, that kind of constant state of rage and any real person would have had a massive coronary about five minutes in — which I would have forgiven had it locked me in.
But it didn't. It just didn't. I tried to explain to a movie-loving friend what I felt about it and tried to recall what other movie was just great until I got home and realized I had forgotten everything about it. Then this reviewer reminded me. It was The Matrix.
"I think there are aspects of being human that a movie like Avatar wants to collude with its viewers in denying—aspects of need and of unfixable brokenness."
He puts way too much weight on the movie, in my opinion. I can live without unfixed brokenness. If I have to. Cameron didn't have to make Children of God, for G's sake.
Avatar is about as harmless as any contemporary entertainment can be these days. I don't have to get all philosophical about it. (I bet James Cameron isn't either.) I liked Nemo and whatever those other ones were about the New York zoo animals and Ice Age (not Ice Age Two).
And it really pissed me off that Cameron stole the buff, vaguely Hispanic female copter pilot right out of Alien, I or II, I can't remember. He stole Sigourney Weaver, too, but she's way past the underwear stage that would have pleased Chad.
I'd probably go see it again at IMAX, cuz the visuals are really marvelous and I missed a lot of detail.
I dunno, maybe it's just because I didn't get those cool 3-D glasses. Or maybe it is because I was supposed to just love it when, really, it registered at about a WallE.
Hope Where The Wild Things Are works better for me when we get around to it. I expect it will.

Second thought: After reading Filthy Critic's review, I think I'll just rent District 9 again.

Third thought: Of course you should go out on a limb, that's where all the fruit is.

Fourth thought: I am revising my Netflix list based on Filthy Critic because whoever's list I was using gave me two losers in a row, Goodbye, Solo and something else about two uninteresting people who have one night stand in San Francisco and bike around together afterwards, saying little and revealing nothing.

10 Places You Can't Ever Go

From the Web's premiere listmaker Listverse.
Fun read, especially all the commenters arguing with him about the British spy palace.


NOT, repeat NOT, honorary Contrarienne.

Born the niece of French General Gouraud, Violette Morris was a naturally gifted and strong athlete who excelled at sports. She was an accomplished boxer who regularly competed against and beat men. Morris also went on to become a cycling champion, later graduating to riding motorcyles and racing cars. She was so committed to auto racing that she actually had an elective double mastectomy (yes, she had her breasts removed!) so she’d be more comfortable behind the wheeled of the tight-fitting cyclecars she raced back in the 1920s. Wow.

During WWII when France was occupied by the Nazis in the 40s, Morris joined the Parisian Gestapo and worked with the notoriously brutal “rue Lauriston” interrogation squad. In 1944, while she was traveling with military colleagues by car from Normandy back to Paris, the French Resistance bombed Morris’ vehicle, killing her along with everyone else. Yup, she definitely lived life to the full and died with her boots on.

Gestapo, eh. Takes all kinds. From The Selvedge Yard, where there are more women in racing.