Friday, October 31, 2003

Reagan mini-series...

Even some Democrats are demanding that CBS get the facts right in the upcoming CBS mini-series 'The Reagans'. Here's part of a letter from Rep John D Dingell:

"As someone who served with President Reagan, and in the interest of historical accuracy, please allow me to share with you some of my recollections of the Reagan years that I hope will make it into the final cut of the mini-series: $640 Pentagon toilets seats; ketchup as a vegetable; union busting; firing striking air traffic controllers; Iran-Contra; selling arms to terrorist nations; trading arms for hostages; retreating from terrorists in Beirut; lying to Congress; financing an illegal war in Nicaragua; visiting Bitburg cemetery; a cozy relationship with Saddam Hussein; shredding documents; Ed Meese; Fawn Hall; Oliver North; James Watt; apartheid apologia; the savings and loan scandal; voodoo economics; record budget deficits; double digit unemployment; farm bankruptcies; trade deficits; astrologers in the White House; Star Wars; and influence peddling."

-------
This would make a good long series.



Budget Deficit lies...

Spinsanity does an awesome job of exposing the canard about California's '$38 billion' deficit. Their investigation shows that every major and minor news organization repeated the lie about the budget deficit to such an extent that the words '38-billion' and 'budget-deficit' went together like bread and butter.

In fact, the budget deficit is $8 billion.

That's eight. (notice that Grover gets it right but The Count is manipulating the numbers just like the Republicans and the media did.)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

A Letter...

Here's a Letter and an 'LA Weekly' Editor's Note (a ways down the page) from this weeks LA Weekly.

KILL BILL? WHATEVER. JUST TRY NOT TO MISQUOTE HIM

Re: “Once Upon a Time in the East” [October 10–16]. John Powers misses the point of Tarantino’s opening frame in Kill Bill. The purpose of the quote is not to give the film, as Powers says, “a tacky, freewheeling air.” The quote (“Revenge is a dish best served cold”) is a subtle joke. Tarantino attributes it to the Klingons. But, of course, it is lifted from Shakespeare. That the creators of Star Trek lifted it — at all — is Tarantino’s point.

By attributing the quote to the Klingons, rather than to Shakespeare, Tarantino is, in essence, saying: “I have brazenly stolen to make this film. And I don’t care. And neither do you.” But, like Gene Roddenberry, he has stolen not to co-opt but to (hopefully) enrich his original vision.

—John Erdos
Sherman Oaks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Actually, there is no such quote in Shakespeare. You’re doubtless thinking of Pierre Ambroise François Choderios de LaClos’ “La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid” (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, 1782).

-----

A little gentle bitch slappin' makes the world go around. Ol' Pierre Ambroise François Choderios de LaClos would be proud.
Ill Logic...

I just got wind of the fact that one Donald Luskin is threatening to sue Atrios because they called him a 'stalker' and because of offending comments that were made about him in Atrios' comments section. As a retaliatory action he got his lawyer to send a threatening letter to Atrios.

What the hell?? Isn't it the Conservatives who always bemoan our litigious society?

Luskin has been hot in pursuit of New York Times anti-Bush columist Paul Krugman for a good long time and now he is reaching out his tenticles in a hysterical way. The fact is people are biting back and he has to learn to handle it.

One thing Luskin doesn't like is that Krugman called him a 'stalker' on Hannity and Colmes. But check out this New Republic headline of an article by Luskin:
We Stalked. He Balked

That's pretty straight foward, isn't it?

Luskin's own site is called PoorandStupid.com referring not to himself and his staff but to Krugman's attempt to keep people poor and stupid. Okay, that's an opinion - and he should be allowed to have that - but when he thinks others should not openly express their views - and specifically views that could be personally hurtful - then he is simply being a hypocrite.

Many on the Left and Right use rhetoric against their political enemies. The answer is to call them on it and encourage true debate - but don't threaten a lawsuit.

Luskin needs to take it like a man, settle down, drink a beer or two and then read the First Amendment.
DVD releases...

Tuesday was an amazing day for DVD releases. Here is a list of significant DVD's that everyone should consider adding to their collection or at least seeing.

- Le Cercle Rouge (The Criterion Collection) - Jean Pierre Melville French film nior from the 1960's.
- Tokyo Story (The Criterion Collection) - Masterpiece from Yoshijuro Ozu.
- Sympathy for the Devil (Universal) - Jean Luc Godard's film that combines a Rolling Stones recording session cross-cut with fictionalised revolutionary rhetoric circa 1970.
- Hyenas (Kino) - An rarely seen African film from the 1990's by Djibril Diop Mambéty.
- Yeelen (Kino) - A fabulous award winning African film by Souleymane Cissé from the 1980's.
- The Lon Chaney Collection (WB) - Featured three Chaney films including an amazing one titled 'The Unknown' as well as a documentary on Chaney's career.
- The Hired Hand (Sundance) - an under seen, under appreciated western from the 1970’s directed by Peter Fonda and starring Fonda, Warren Oates and Verna Bloom.
- The Work of Director Chris Cunningham (Palm) - Totally wild music videos including three by The Aphex Twin.
- The Work of Director Michel Gondry (Palm) - A colection of slick but imaginative music videos.
- The Work of Director Spike Jonze (Palm) - A collection of inventive and fun music videos
- The Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles (Good Times) - Four complete Ed Sullivan shows (with commercials) which are not just cool because of the Beatles but cool because you can see what televsion was like in the 1950's.

Check them out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Film Book...

I just finished a really fine film book by Ryan Gilbey titled It Don't Worry Me: The Revolutionary American Films of the Seventies.

Ryan has a good many fresh insights into a lot of the films and the filmmakers / stars of the seventies. Here are a few choice excerpts from the Coppola chapter:

- [in Godfather Part II] the formerly boyish [Al] Pacino has calcified; he moves more slowly than ever, like a pallbearer doomed to perpetual procession....Even the Brylcreem in his hair looks like it was smeared there to snare wayward flies; you can imagine him counting his gold bars in the wee hours, and reaching into his hair for a midnight snack.

- Gordon Willis shot much of [Godfather Part II] in a virtual blackout.... The atmosphere itself [in Michael's study] is like leather upolstery, the air in that room impedes the character's movements. It takes an age to raise a glass, or to advance a few steps. The darkness gathers in Michael's hollowed cheeks like pools of oil, just as it did in his father's eye sockets.... The oppressive gloom rules out anything more hot-blooded than necrophilia.

- Coppola's eye for iconic casting is astute. Besides trading on the tarnished glory of Brando...there is the use of Dennis Hopper [in Apocalypse Now] as a photojournalist festooned with cameras and too full of chatter. Hopper had acted, on and off, in the eight years since The Last Movie was made. But most viewers must have looked at him playing Kurtz's court jester in Cambodia and thought, 'Oh, so that's where he's been all these year.'

- [Apocalypse Now] is a wild, sprawling, sometimes silly film that is almost torn apart by its attempts to fill unbridgeable gaps. Coppola's propensity for indulgence jars sharply with the pictures eloquence about the indulgences of others.

------

I'll have more tomorrow.
Google News search word-of-the-day!

Today's word: Crepuscular

Who are they, these crepuscular creeps, who procure confidential e-mails and fire them off to Newsnight reporters? Who are these cowards?

Dream-like and labyrinthine under crepuscular lighting, the exhibition is a bravura reclamation of an artist once deemed a “touche à tout”

Monday, October 27, 2003

Two Film Reviews...

Here's a review I did on Shattered Glass and here's one for The Station Agent.

The first is about a journalist who was caught fabricating a story for the New Republic in 1998 and the other is about a 4ft 9in character who inherits a railroad station house In New Jersey where he befriends a couple loners in the area.
Google news search Word-of-the-Day!

The objective:
To do a Google news search of a cool word and find interesting uses of the word in news stories and the like.

Today’s word: Farrago

Google yields:

... thrown up a dust storm of grandiose moral, strategic and ideological "reasons" for the war, each passing week brings new proof that the whole murderous farrago boils down to one thing: loot.

Johnny Depp sashays down the gangplank to defeat Geoffrey Rush's undead brigands in Disney's overlong zombie farrago.

The second a heady farrago of tries, a brawl and a streaker, and all of it culminating in a comprehensive victory for Bath.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Sun news...

Coronal Mass Ejection!
Howard Cosell's word usage...

There was a clip from a 1980 football game shown on Monday Night Football this week of Howard Cosell commenting - in his usual loquacious way - about then Philadelphia Eagles head coach Dick Vermeel. Cosell was praising Vermeel who had made the Eagles a respectable team once again after years of losing seasons. At one point Cosell said that Vermeel has 'sublimated' the team.

Al Michael then commented on Cosell's use of the word and came to the conclusion that Cosell had most certainly used the wrong word. Michaels noted that he contact NY Times grammarian / columnist William Safire about the use of the word and that they both concluded - according the Michaels - that the word Cosell meant to use was 'subjugate'.

I wasn't convinced so I looked both of these words up and it's pretty obvious to me that Cosell did not mean to use the word 'subjugate'. That would not only be the wrong word to use but it wouldn't make much sense in the context of praising the quality of the team and the relationship they had with their coach.

Here's the definition of subjugate from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996, 1998

\Sub"ju*gate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Subjugated; p. pr. & vb. n. Subjugating.] [L. subjugatus, p. p. of subjugare to subjugate; sub under + jugum a yoke. See Yoke.] To subdue, and bring under the yoke of power or dominion; to conquer by force, and compel to submit to the government or absolute control of another; to vanquish.

Vermeel subjugated his team to make them winners? That would be a pretty pejorative assessment.

Here's the definition of sublimate from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996, 1998

\Sub"li*mate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Sublimated; p. pr. & vb. n. Sublimating.] [L. sublimatus, p. p. of sublimare to raise, elevate, fr. sublimis high: cf. F. sublimer. See Sublime, a., and cf. Surlime, v. t.] 1. To bring by heat into the state of vapor, which, on cooling, returns again to the solid state; as, to sublimate sulphur or camphor.
2. To refine and exalt; to heighten; to elevate.


Obviously, Vermeel didn’t turn the team into a state of vapor but the second definition; 'to refine and exalt...to elevate' is pretty close, I think, to what Cosell meant.

If you consider the word 'sublime', which in its verb transitive use is 'sublimate', then it makes sense what Cosell was tying to say. True, he may have been using a rarely used derivation of the word sublime but that was Cosell: He used words that way.

Conclusion:
Cosell did not misuse the word sublimate. He used sublimate in the Latin sense 'sublimatus' as in sublime. Vermeel had indeed elevated a once losing team to a respectful winning one. He had elevated them to something like a sublime state.

Second Conclusion:
Don't second guess Howard Cosell. He talked a lot and people loved to hate him but he knew how to use words quite well. Better sometimes than either Al Michaels or William Safire.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Stovepipe blues...

Here’s a good interview with Sy Hersh writer for the New Yorker who has a recent article about how the Bush Administration led the intelligence community on a chase for weapons of mass destruction.

Inside the military, “stovepiping” is slang for the practice of taking a piece of intelligence or a request that should be pushed through the chain of command—checked at levels and sent from one level to another—and bringing it straight to the highest authority.

(...)

The pro-war hawks rigged the system so that negative information about Iraq, no matter where it came from was stovepiped directly to the leadership without any assessment.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Film news...

- A record-breaking 55 countries have submitted films to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Academy Award(R) consideration in the Foreign Language Film Award category. How many of these films will get picked up and released by a distributor? (Or how many are just going to sit on some shelf over at Miramax for a few years?)

- No screeners: No Critics Awards! 'Take that', says the LA Critics.

- Wow, I just realized to my amazement that the New York Times has a page where you can (I think) check out all of the movie reviews they have written since 1929. The section is broken down by year, genre, critic and country.

- Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar - a rarely seen masterpiece from 1966 - has just been released by Rialto pictures. It is in New York now. Here is a review by J Hoberman. And here is a good page on the film from Film Forum.

- I just found a good film/politics site called Green Cine Daily. It's a good read and seems to update daily, check it out.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Security test...

College Student proves airport security needs work.

According to an F-B-I affidavit, a college student told agents he placed box cutters on planes nearly five weeks before they were found.
(...)
Each bag contained a note detailing when and where the bags were carried aboard. In addition to the box cutters, the bags contained modeling clay made to look like plastic explosives.
(...)
He wrote that his actions were "civil disobedience" to improve safety for the traveling public.


- -
This kid just showed how faulty the security is at our airports and on our airplanes.
Dare I sway he may have just done us a favor?
Find out his motive and if it was merely to prove a point then 'punish' him by making him work for airport security for a year. He may be an asset.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Weak Critique...

I wasn't going to say anything about the Easterbrook column that is being accused of being faintly anti-Semitic. But now that it is out there I should add that the article is pretty short on logic all around.

Here's what Easterbrooks writes in the same article about Tarantino:

Is Quentin Tarantino the single greatest phony in the history of Hollywood?... All of Tarantino's work is pure junk. How can you be a renowned director without ever having made a film that's even good, to say nothing of great? No film student in 50 years will spend a single second with a Tarantino movie, except to shake his or her head.

Now, this is just silly. It's reads like something a fifteen year old neophyte critic with no sense of film or film history would write.

Then he goes on to write:

Why do we suppose that, with Hollywood's violence-glorifying films now shown all around the world to billions of people--remember, mass distribution of Hollywood movies to the developing world and Islamic states is a recent phenomenon--young terrorists around the globe now seem to view killing the innocent as a positive thing, even, a norm?

That's all well and good until you realize that the mass marketing of violent Hollywood films has been going on since the 1980's. Why now do the violent ones matter? And does he really think that Al Quada and other such terrorist groups are going to a Tarantino film to give them ideas or justification for their next plans? This is sheer reactionary speculation.

He goes on:

Tarantino must draw his prominence in Hollywood, and among film-buff culture, from the very fact of his phoniness. First, his career says that you can do nothing but wallow in preposterous violence and still be revered. Second, his career validates the idea that you can accomplish nothing at all in any meaningful sense and yet acquire fame.

This whole section is actually what's presposterous. Besides taking a backhand swip at film buff culture he seems to dismiss all of Hollywood on the extremely lazy conclusion that it is phony. Yeah, well they do make movies and movies are not real and they present a side of the world that is not to be believed. But we already know this - unless you're ten-years of age. The question is; to what end is Hollywood's phoniness a problem? Easterbrook doesn't explore this.

And what exactly is 'nothing at all in any meaningful sense.'? Tarantino is a filmmaker who provides fairly well written scripts and lots of action. What's the problem?

The whole review is a rant with no merit because it doesn't explore the meaning of Tarantino's movies; the self reflexsive nature, the attitude, the funny dialogue the numerous references to pop culture, music and other movies and more importantly the way he has captured the zeitgeist of the current cinema.

It's fine not to like his films but at least have the decency to write a cogent well thought out review rather than a half-witted harangue.

I much prefer J Hoberman's review in the Village Voice.

...The movie's first bromide reminds us, is a dish best served cold, and Kill Bill's saga of serial vengeance is one massive icebox raid. Tarantino layers slices from every chopsocky spaghetti western yakuza blaxploitation flick he's ever seen on the already borrowed premise of François Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black, spices these with stunts by Master Yuen Wo-Ping and themes from '70s TV shows, then ladles a mess of anime sauce over the whole Dagwood sandwich.

Eurudite and funny.
Consider this...

"There are a lot of things that are said by people that are their views and that's the way we live. We are free people and that's the wonderful thing about our country, and I think for anyone to run around and think that can be managed or controlled is probably wrong."
"...there is a very wide gray area on what the rules permit [but] at first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken."


Quick, what do these comments refer to*? The anti-Semitic remarks made by Malaysian Prime Minister or the terrorist hunting Anti-Muslim American General?

Rashomon sees a double standard.

*Answer here.

--------

And why doesn't the EU condemn the remarks by the Prime Minister?
Bush's plans?..

Bush’s War plan is scarier than he’s saying says the Village Voice

"No one who believes in democracy need feel any empathy toward the governments of Syria and Iran, for they assist the terrorist movement, yet if the Bush White House is going to use its preeminent military force to subdue and neutralize all "evildoers" and adversaries everywhere in the world, the American public should be told now. Such an undertaking would be virtually endless and would require the sacrifice of enormous blood and treasure."

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Truth the first casualty?...

Retired USAF Colonel Sam Gardiner has a fifty page briefing 'that suggests the White House and Pentagon made up or distorted over 50 war stories' in the current Iraqi War – or what he calls Gulf II.

The text of this briefing will be circulated by Joseph Wilson.

You can check out the pdf files here (look at the upper right).

Here is the first part.

He summarizes the story as follows:

The United States (and UK) conducted a strategic influence campaign that:
• ...distorted perceptions of the situation both before and during the conflict.
• ...caused misdirection of portions of the military operation.
• ...was irresponsible in parts.
• ...might have been illegal in some ways.
• ...cost big bucks.
• ...will be even more serious in the future.


[and then adds]

I know what I am suggesting is serious. I did not come to these conclusions
lightly. Because my plea is for truth in war, I have tried to be very careful not to fall into a trap of describing exaggerations with exaggeration.

You will see in my analysis and comments that I do not accept the notion that the
first casualty of war is truth. I think we have to have a higher standard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Arnold Exception...

On my radio program today I had a woman actually tell me, “Well, if you just dismiss all of the groping things, I think he’s going to be good for family values.”
- Glen Beck on a caller to his radio program. (From Hardball)

This is what I call the 'Arnold exception'.

One of the most consistent criticisms of the Right Wing is about Hollywood or, as a Conservative friend of mine says: Hollyweird. They think Hollywood lifestyles are bad for family values (which Conservatives have a monopoly on) and will have a affect on children.

They don't like Hollywood's loose morals, their sexual forays, their casual drug use, their attitudes toward abortion, gun control and religion. In short, just about all the things that define Arnold Schwarzenegger. I say 'just about' because Arnold has an (R) next to his name and he says he supports Bush - in tax cuts and the war I suppose.

So what's the real gripe? Do Conservatives really care about family values and all that or are they simply pragmatic and take what they can get?

It's true that a good many movie stars are left of center and they do party (let me tell you) but it seems to me that as soon as one of these stars comes along with an (R) next to his name then all the Right's anti-Hollywood rhetoric and reason is thrown out the window.

I should note too that most all politically successful movie stars have been conservative; such as Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Fred Thompson and Charlton Heston (who wasn't a politician per se). The exception being Clint Eastwood - who I would hardly call a 'loose morals' leftist.
Edward's answers...

I like John Edwards because he seems a little more down-to-earth than the other Democratic presidential candidates (and I like his politics) but outside of politics he isn’t as quick on his feet. Note this (albeit trivial) exchange on Hardball [scroll way down] which was done yesterday from the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government:

MATTHEWS: What’s your favorite movie? All time favorite movie. Don’t say “Sound of Music.”
EDWARDS: I’m not.
MATTHEWS: Come on, that’s the easiest question.
EDWARDS: It’s been three years since I’ve seen a movie.
MATTHEWS: Think of all the constituency groups in the Democratic Party. Think of how you can pander to them all right now. Which will be the high pander here? Favorite movie of all time, John Edwards? Hotline tomorrow. You’re being hotlined.
EDWARDS: I’m thinking. I’m thinking. Let me think.
MATTHEWS: You’re like Jack Benny, “Your money or your life?”
EDWARDS: “I’m thinking. I’m trying to come up with one.”
MATTHEWS: Come on, your favorite movie. The buck stops here. You’re president and they ask you what your favorite movie is. You’ve got to answer this.
EDWARDS: It’s in the back of my head. It’s the movie where they’re in prison and...
MATTHEWS: “Shawshank Redemption.”
EDWARDS: Yes!

And then this:

MATTHEWS: OK. Favorite philosopher. This was a question I put to the president.
EDWARDS: I don’t have a favorite philosopher. I’ve been asked this before. I don’t have one, it’s the honest answer.
MATTHEWS: Are you not a philosopher? A philosophical kind of person?
EDWARDS: Well, I think I am in the abstract, but I don’t have a favorite philosopher.
MATTHEWS: That’s an honest answer. We’ll be right back with more honest answers from John Edwards.

one more

MATTHEWS: … back in the last presidential election, George W Bush [was asked] if he could name the four world leaders of four hot spots around the world. They were Chechnya, Taiwan, Pakistan, India. Do you think that was a fair set of questions to put to a guy running for president?
EDWARDS: No.
MATTHEWS: Do you think it would be a fair question to put to you right now?
EDWARDS: No. Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: So you don’t want to go that route? That was the option you have. I have the answers here, if you wanted to try, but since you don’t want to try, we’ll move on. You don’t want to answer these questions? I know you know at least one of them. You know who’s head of…
EDWARDS: Let’s don’t go there.

------

Something tells me that he better come up with a few canned answers so that the media (or blogs much tougher than mine) don't go after him the way the Left went after Bush in 2000.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Music Quiz...

Take the album cover challenge.
See how many of the 60 album covers you can name.
Holiday...

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue
In 1493 Columbus stole all he could see

In 1494 Columbus killed more and more
in 1495 hardly a native Arawak was alive

Some became slaves
And others were 'saved'

Even though it was murder
We're told to mention it no further

It's politically correct to side with 'losers'
Better to side with the winning abusers

Let history decide
Was it genocide
Or European pride?

Was it just a bad landing
A misunderstanding
Or a planned expanding?

The lesson today
History leads us astray
Better that a murderous display
Become a Holiday

MDL

Friday, October 10, 2003

O'Reilly & Spin...

By now most people have heard about Bill O'Reilly ending an interview he had with Terri Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.

Since he ended the interview in it's 39th minute it seems sort of inconsequential. Yes, Gross was needling him. Yes, she wasn't as hard when she interviewed Al Franken. So what? Do people expect Gross to use some kind of interview template with her guests?

Of interest to us here at Rashomon was the moment (just past 18 minutes) where O’Reilly defined the word spin.

I’ve always thought O'Reilly's declaration - on his FOX News show The O'Reilly Factor - that we are entering the 'no spin zone' was a little off. I now realize that is because my (and the dictionary's) usage of the word spin is a tad different than his.

Here is O'Reilly's definition of spin.

"Spin is taking a fact and distorting the fact. Spin has nothing to do with an opinion. A lot of people don’t know what the definition of spin is. It was created by the Nixon Whitehouse way back during the Watergate years when they would take a fact – something that actually happened – and turn it around to say it didn’t happen or it happened another way. That’s spin. An opinion has nothing to do with spin – an opinion is an opinion; an editorial opinion in a newspaper, a news analysis on television. So I understand why there is some confusion there but a no spin zone means that if there is a fact that fact will stand."

Now, here's dictionary.com’s definition

Spin [transitive verb]
- [7th definition] To provide an interpretation of (a statement or event, for example), especially in a way meant to sway public opinion: “a messenger who spins bogus research into a vile theology of hatred” (William A. Henry III).

The defintion in Merriam Webster's is slightly different.
Spin [transitive verb]
- [3rd definition] a : to stretch out or extend (as a story) lengthily : PROTRACT -- usually used with out
b : to evolve, express, or fabricate by processes of mind or imagination

O'Reilly is partly correct that opinion has nothing to do with spin but where he seems to have a misunderstanding is about the nature of a standing fact. When O'Reilly says "a no spin zone means that if there is a fact that fact will stand" that tells me that O'Reilly believes that there is one absolute truth that cannot be refuted. What he refuses to (or can’t) understand is that everyone spins facts (or truth) according to their own values, their own particular relationship to the facts as well as their interpretation of the facts.

Some facts are indeed true. The terrorists attacks on September 11th 2001 are not in question. But when you start asking questions about 'who' and 'why' you get different responses and interpretations. And when you cross the ocean and go into Europe or into the Arab world you will get even more varied stories – including flat out false ones. But that is the nature of 'truth' and hence the nature of spin especially with regards to swaying public opinion.

The Japanese movie Rashomon is a great example of spin. In the movie four different people tell their version of one event. The point is this; truth is subjective and while everyone can agree an event [a woman is raped and a man is killed] has taken place no one can arrive at the absolute truth about what exactly happened. Each character subjectively spins his or her own version of the events to make themselves look good in front of a judge who will decide their fate. But they are not necessarily lying; there is some truth in each version. Although, in truth, everything the character's say must be taken at face value - because some of what they say is certainly a lie and one story most definitely is closer to the truth. [You have to watch the movie and make your own decisions on that].

The definition at dictionary.com is the closest to what I would consider spin. “To provide an interpretation of (a statement or event) especially in a way meant to sway public opinion.” (my italics). It is this 'swaying of opinion' that O'Reilly neglects to include in his defintion.

This type of spin is what The White House does quite often when they trot out the press secretary to field questions. Especially with regards to the economy or the current war in Iraq. They spin the facts in a favorable light. And, of course, we in the media [and blogs] are the ones who - through investigative journalism – should point out when the White House is or is not spinning a story.

O'Reilly too, quite often, spins various issues in the news. And this is where he is partly incorrect about opinion having nothing to do with spin. If you try to sway people to your view of the truth then you have to have an opinion of what that truth is. Whether you are a Christian Conservative or an Atheistic Anarchist your opinions about most things in life are going to be based on your beliefs. O'Reilly attempts, through getting 'yes' men or by bullying his guests, to have them arrive at the truth as he sees it. But, as most sensible viewers know, his truth is of the White Male Catholic conservative kind.*

When he tells us the 'truth' about the war, rap music, secularism, liberalism, the ACLU, Jesse Jackson, Hillary Clinton etc, et. al. O'Reilly is giving us his interpretation of the facts and attempts to sway us to his view of the world. Some would call it rhetoric.

He always says he let’s the audience decide. But I've seen him enough to know that he gets pretty worked up when someone disagrees with him (A good example here) and even though he claims to give guests the last word it is really he who has the final say in what is, to him, right or wrong.

In short he is spinning.

--------------
*[I’m of the White Male, non-religious, liberal kind – judge for yourselves].

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Arnold's win...

Arnold Schwarzenegger's victory is far more than a victory for Republicans in the state of California. It is also a boost to the entire GOP nationwide.

The chances of a Democrat beating Bush in next fall's election just got a little tougher. Why? Because the GOP will use Schwarzenegger's charisma and starpower to promote their agenda.

As my roomate (a Democratic campaign manager) pointed out glumly the Reelect Bush Campaign just got a shot in the arm because Arnold can help raise money for Bush. Any number of millionaires out there will fall over themselves to go to a dinner one-on-one with Arnold.

And you know that at the Republican Convention next year Arnold will be front and center. Just by being one of the biggest movie stars of all time he will bring voters over to the Republican party - regardless of where the Republicans stand on issues.

Am I bitter? Not really. I'm a realist.

People don't vote based on principle as much as they vote with their gut. When Reagan won in the 1980's it was mainly on his charisma and his ability to give people some kind of hope. He made many Americans - especially non political Americans - feel proud to be American. Nevermind his policies; only people who paid attention were disturbed. Most voters don't pay close attention. They go with the political tide.

Currently the tide is against Bush. I can feel it. But after last night things could change; even if the economy is bad; even if the war drags on.

Of course, all of this is contingent upon Arnold's ability to lead - if he can help revive the economy (or get credit for a revival) and help get the state out of the red. It won't be easy. But since I live in California I wish him luck.

If there is one minor bright point it is that the number of people who voted for Arnold is just over 150,000 votes more than the people who voted "no" on the recall.

That's 150,000 voters the Democrats have to work on getting back in California.

Either way though The Democrats have to reassemble and figure out how to get good footing before next fall's Presidential election.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Movies...

Here are the last ten movies I've seen.

- Black God White Devil (1964) - Significant Brazilian film about class, faith, culture and death. As a cultural artifact it is a sight to behold, as a story it is more operatic and fascinating than engrossing.
- Village of the Damned (1960) - A movie that pleads the need for abortion.
- Sweet Sixteen (2002) - A rather formulaic gritty drama about a drug dealing teenager in Scotland.
- Lost in Translation (2003) - Quiet film about jet lag in Japan with an ennui European feel and a good soundtrack.
- Return of the Seacacus Seven (1980) - Before The Big Chill there was this chatty first film by John Sayles.
- Bus 174 (2003) - A tragic bus kidnapping in Brazil is the starting point in this intelligent documentary about economic and social problems in that part of the world.
- Shattered Glass (2003) - Showtime-type film based on a true story about a journalist who fabricated more than two dozen stories for The New Republic in the 90's. It has a lot to say about today's media climate.
- Frida (2002) - A film that imagines that Frida was a movie star living in a candy-colored world where whites played Latinos and politics was nothing more than a dinner party with opinionated guests - otherwise good.
- Images (1972) - Robert Altman's long 'lost' film about a woman with schizophrenia.
- Raising Victor Vargas (2003) - A trifle of a film about three kids who contend with a crazily naive grandmother- not true to life but presented in a down-to-earth matter.
A Distinction...

The Daily Howler tells us the difference between consensual and non-consensual sexual activity.

Believe it or not a good many Republican's cannot tell the difference.

Many pundits conflated the [Gennifer] Flowers allegation with the assault allegations against Schwarzenegger. But we think you know why that is. Among other reasons, your “press corps” isn’t very smart or very honest—and you live in an age of propaganda.

Clinton should never have had sex with those women. This we can all agree on. But so far as the facts have shown it was consensual sex. Yet for the press and the Right Wing to suddenly do a 180 and quickly forgive Arnold for what appears to be problematic sexual assault charges I think once and for all kills the assumption by the Right that the media is Liberal.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Blogs of the week...

Here are a few good reads:

2 Cents
Minneapolis Star Tribune Blog

Suburban Guerrilla
Lefty Girl with attitude.

Poynter Online - Romenesko
Your daily fix of media industry news, commentary, and memos.

Apparently Nothing
A daily photoblog that is more than just a read.
Headlines...

A week ago if you had seen this headline completely out of context what would you have thought?

Women, Hitler haunt Schwarzenegger

Initially it is more funny than it is insidious.
For the record though here’s the offending quote:

"I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education up to power. And I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."

Yes, the timing of all of this bad publicity is mighty suspicious but while it may give pause to some voters I don’t think it will ultimately hurt him. Part of the reason being that most if his supporters will simply feel this is a smear campaign by a desperate Democratic party.

But still…Hitler!?

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Mea Culpa to the max...

I don't know what to make of this.

First the Arnold campaign said the LA Times story was untrue.

Now Arnold says:

"Yes, I have behaved badly some times, yes it is true that I was on rowdy movie sets ... and I have done things I thought were playful that now I recognize that I have offended people. I want to say to them that I am deeply sorry about that, and I apologize because that is not what I was trying to do. When I am governor I will prove to women that I will be a champion for women. I hope you will give me the chance to prove this."

The way I see it this is just more hype and free press for Arnold. It's supposed to show he is now a sensitive guy who now knows better and has learned - by trial and error - that groping women and embarrassing them is wrong.

Wasn't this unacceptable to Republicans when Clinton was accused of doing this during his campaign in 1992? Why now do the Republicans accept this kind of behavior?

Where are the Sean Hannities, the Anne Coulters, the Rush Limbaughs (well he's busy so never mind) or the George Will's on this story?

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Who outed Valerie...?

I wasn't going to say anything about the hottest story currently rocking DC and filling the blog world with speculation but I came across a piece by Juan Cole that was so thorough and to the point I thought I'd give his comments a plug.

It's a good long article but here's the paragrpah that caught my eye:

Ms. Plame, who really was working to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, has been ruined by persons who only pretended to do so for political gain, and whose invasion of Iraq did nothing to make the US one whit safer.
Screeners banned...

There's a big storm of outrage brewing in Hollywood; the Film Studios have agreed to ban DVD and Video screeners which are mailed in bulk to members of the Academy come awards time.

Motion Picture Association of America president (known as Satan in some circles) Jack Valenti says it is to combat pirating of the movies. Apparently the screeners end up in the hands of would-be business men who illegally copy and possibly sell them.

Whatever.

The biggest problem is that the the studios' own art-house divisions - who make many of the smaller Indie films we see - will now undoubtedly suffer the consequences. In the past ten years the Independent companies have been able to get their films seen due to the screeners. [These companies include Miramax (Disney), Fox Searchlight (Fox), Sony Pictures Classics (Columbia), Focus Features (Universal) and Paramount Classics (Paramount)].

Due to screeners over the past 15 years films that the older Academy members would normally ignore were seen and often rewarded. Now it is going to be much harder for the smaller films to get appreciated and that has many in the industry angry.

Variety writes:(no link, sorry)
Oscar-winning pics like "Monster's Ball," "Affliction," "Pollock," "The Cider House Rules," "Talk to Her" and "Gods and Monsters" would almost certainly have had more trouble mustering their nominations without the added visibility and voter awareness fostered by screeners.

What this means is that the Indie companies will have to book screening rooms, which costs money and, of course, if not properly 'advertised' to Academy members these screenings may not be well attended. And too this takes away the luxury of Academy voters seeing films at their leisure.

Piracy is a problem (I'll admit it) and it apparently lends to 'several billion dollars in lost revenue annually.' (Link) But really it is the bigger mainstream Hollywood films that are in danger of piracy. The smaller films don't have much of a demand in the black market.

In trying to curb piracy the MPAA has now shot an arrow through their own industry and it will most definetly hurt the industry more than help it.

It should be noted that truly independent companies such as Lions Gate, Wellspring and Strand will not be affected by the ban. So there is hope out there for the really, really specialized films.

Personally I'm torn. I don't like many of The Academy's choices. And living in Los Angeles and working in the industry I get weary of the marketing at the end of the year. It tends to make one cynical.

I should note too that I think any great film should be seen on the large screen as they were meant to be seen.

However, I understand that screeners can pique the curiosity of Academy members in the smaller largely ignored films, which in turn helps give the movie legs come awards time. Hence more people will go to see a Spanish film (Talk to Her) or a gay themed film (Boys Don't Cry) that they would normally avoid. It's also makes for bigger revenue for the smaller films and encourages more smaller films to be purchased at festivals and made.

On a personal note all I know is that this means I will now have to go to the movie theatres to see many of the Holiday films. There will be no more curling up on the couch with an Academy screener on a cold blustery day in December.

Such is life.

There is a good LA Times Article here.


DVD...

Roman Polanski's first film Knife in the Water has just been released on DVD from The Criterion Collection.

If you've never seen it I highly recommend you do so.

Here's my review.