Tuesday, December 23, 2003

My Initial top tens...

This will most likely be my last post in 2003 unless I have time right before the new year.
I'm still working in my top ten movie list because there are some films I need to catch in order to feel like I'm being fair.

But here are my initial top thirteen movies of the year list.

Movies:
Fiction film
Man Without a Past
Hero
The Son
Japon
American Splendor
The Station Agent
Unknown Pleasures
demonlover
Lilya Forever

Non Fiction film
The Fog of War
The Same River Twice
Winged Migration (which may not really qualify as non-fiction)
Rivers and Tides

Music:
Here are the top nine albums I have listened to and enjoyed the most this year.

OutKast - Speakerbox / Love Below
The Delgados - Hate
blur - Think Tank
The Shins - Chutes too Narrow
Postal Service - Give Up
The Libertines - Up the Bracket
The Raveonettes - Chain Gang of Love
Super Furry Animals - Pahntom Power
The White Stripes - Elephant
I'm still deciding on #10.

And here are some of the older CD's I finally caught up with and enjoyed in 2003. (Year of release in parenthesis)
Boards of Canada - Music Has The Right to Children (1998)
Neko Case - Blacklisted (2002)
John Cale - Paris 1919 (1973)
The Essex Green - Everything is Green (1999)
The Pernice Brothers - The World Won't End (1998)
Porcupine Tree - In Absentia (2002)

Books:
Here are a few books I read this year.
- Picasso's War - Martin
History of Spain during its civil war and what Picasso's Guernica is all about. Fascinating.
- The Lion's Grave - Anderson
Columns by John Lee Anderson from the pages of the New Yorker about Afghanistan post 9/11.
- Easy Riders Raging Bulls - Biskind
Tell-all about directors et al of 1970's Hollywood cinema. Good dish.
- Positively 14th Street - Hajdu
Bob Dylan Joan Biaz, Mimi Biaz Richard Farina and the folk scene of the 50 & 60's. Well researched.
- Botany of Desire- Pollan
Do we choose plants or do they choose us?
- Going with the Grain - Seligman
Woman takes trip around world to discover people, places and bread.
- Libraries in the Ancient World - Casson
Title says it all.
- Robert E Lee - Blount
Short bio on the Confederate General from Penguin.
- Lies and Lying Liars - Franken
Funny and partisan as hell but - as far as I can tell - accurate.
- It Don't Worry Me - Gilby
Film criticism book about films of the 70's.
- Understanding Jefferson - Halliday
Personal bio of Thomas Jefferson and who he slept with. Insightful and scholarly.
- The Kiss- Harrison
Terrifying memoir about a woman growing up and dealing with a controlling mother and an incestual relationship with her father.

As is evident from this list I don't read fiction much. Movies tend to fill in my fiction requirement.

Happy Viewing
Happy Listening
Happy Reading &
Happy Holidays
Top ten lists...

Movies:

Everyone loves top ten lists.

Here is the site to visit for lists galore.

It grows by the day.

Music:
Popmatters

Playlouder
Future movies...

Movies that could be interesting or really bad.

1) "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is to be made into a big budget fantasy movie in New Zealand.

It will be the first of five films based on CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, provoking comparisons with the Lords of the Rings trilogy, also shot in New Zealand.

2) The long road to make Sendak's 1964 classic "Where the Wild Things Are" into a movie is on a new and decidedly hip track. Sendak says he and director Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich," "Adaptation") are talking about bringing the book to the screen for Universal, with a screenplay by Dave Eggers ("Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," "You Shall Know Our Velocity").

Monday, December 22, 2003

Who got 'im?..

How come this isn't getting press in the American media?

And was Saddam drugged and left for US Forces?

We love Democracy...

Noam Chomsky writes about the Iraq War:

Last December, Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, released a dossier of Saddam's crimes drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-British support of Saddam.
With the usual display of moral integrity, Straw's report and Washington's reaction overlooked that support.
Such practices reflect a trap deeply rooted in the intellectual culture generally — a trap sometimes called the doctrine of change of course, invoked in the United States every two or three years. The content of the doctrine is: "Yes, in the past we did some wrong things because of innocence or inadvertence. But now that's all over, so let's not waste any more time on this boring, stale stuff."
The doctrine is dishonest and cowardly, but it does have advantages: It protects us from the danger of understanding what is happening before our eyes.
(...)
One might recall another recent illustration of Wolfowitz's love of democracy. The Turkish parliament, heeding its population's near-unanimous opposition to war in Iraq, refused to let U.S. forces deploy fully from Turkey. This caused absolute fury in Washington.
(…)
What's revealing and important… is that Washington's display of contempt for democracy went side by side with a chorus of adulation about its yearning for democracy.


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Then there is our contempt for France, Germany, Russia.... If someday an Iraqi democracy votes against one of our wars then I'll know we did them a favor.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Music lists...

It's that time of year when the music magazines on and offline list their best albums of the year. Here is the long awaited NME list.

1. The White Stripes - 'Elephant'
2. The Rapture -'Echoes'
3. The Strokes - 'Room On Fire'
4. Elbow - 'Cast Of Thousands'
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - 'Fever To Tell'
6. Rufus Wainwright – 'Want One'
7. Kings Of Leon - 'Youth And Young Manhood'
8. OutKast - 'Speakerboxx/The Love Below'
9. Radiohead - 'Hail To The Thief'
10. My Morning Jacket - 'It Still Moves'

And here is the top ten from Pitchforkmedia.com.

1. The Rapture - 'Echoes'
2. The Books - 'The Lemon of Pink'
3. Sufjan Stevens - 'Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lake State'
4. Radiohead - 'Hail to the Thief'
5. Manitoba - 'Up in Flames'
6. Prefuse 73 - 'One Word Extinguisher'
7. The Shins- 'Chutes Too Narrow'
8. M83 - 'Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts'
9. Broken Social Scene - 'You Forgot It in People'
10. Unicorns - 'Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?'

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Only Radiohead and The Rapture makes both of these lists.
More lists to come.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

O'Reilly = Liar again...

Nitpiker, The Drudge Report and Demagogue prove to the world that FOX News star Bill O'Reilly was lying when he went on the Today show and told Matt Lauer that he had not only outsold Al Franken but, 'We're running against Hillary for most copies of non-fiction books sold this year.'

The USA Today list shows O'Reilly way the hell down at #63 for all books sold this year!
Hillary is #7 and Franken is #21.

To be fair O'Reilly is #19 on the Non-Fiction list
Hillary is #4
Franken is #9

O'Reilly is however beating 'The Doctors' Pocket Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter' and a few other notable titles including the 2003 sales of Michael Moore's book 'Stupid White Men', which was released in 2002.

But who's counting?
Trilogy List...

David Eliot at The San Diego Union Tribune has a few words about trilogies in cinema history. Some that worked and many that didn't.

Any true trilogy has to be a story that spreads over three films and winds up in the final film. These would include:

Godfather films
Original Star Wars trilogy
The Matrix

And foreign films:
The Apu Trilogy (Pather Panchali, Aparajito, World of Apu).
Three Colors (Blue, White, Red)
The Antonioni trilogy (L'Avventura, La Notte, Eclipse)

Many trilogies are actually sequels. Those not mentioned in the article are:
The Terminator
Mad Max
Austin Powers
Evil Dead
American Pie
Back to the Future
Die Hard
Indiana Jones
Jaws
Scream
Hannibal
And of course, Weekend at Bernies

Or trilogy/sequels with more than 3 are:
Alien
Lethal Weapon
Friday the 13th
Nightmare on Elmstreet

The point of course being that few trilogies - until 'The Lord of The Rings' - are as good at the end as they are at the beginning.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

On this day...

Notable things
1777 George Washington's army returns to Valley Forge PA
1843 "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens was published.
1852 1st Hawaiian cavalry organized
1875 Violent bread riots in Montreal
1903 At 10:35 AM, 1st sustained motorized aircraft flight (Orville Wright)
1944 The U.S. Army announced the end of its policy of holding Japanese-Americans in internment camps
1947 New York struck by a blizzard, resulting with 27" of snow
1955 Carl Perkins wrote Blue Suede Shoes
1959 The film "On the Beach" premiered in New York City and in 17 other cities. It was the first motion picture to debut simultaneously in major cities around the world.
1962 Beatles 1st British TV appearance
1969 50 million TV viewers see singer Tiny Tim marry Miss Vicky, on Tonight Show

Birthdays of note:
1770 Ludwig van Beethoven Bonn Germany, composer
1873 Ford Madox Ford England, novelist/editor (The Inheritors)
1929 William Safire political columnist (New York Times)/speech writer (Nixon)
1935 Cal Ripken Sr baseball manager (Baltimore Orioles)
1937 Art Neville (Musician)
and
1966 I was born!
We Swear this worked in 1903...

Flight Re-creation fails.

One-hundred years after the Wright brothers' first flight, an attempt to re-create the moment failed Wednesday when a replica craft couldn't get off the ground and sputtered into the mud. Organizers hoped to make a second try.

A cheer rose from the crowd of 35,000 when the muslin-winged flyer roared to life and began moving down a wooden launch track. But that cheer suddenly turned to a groan when the rickety craft stopped dead in a muddy puddle at the end of the track.


-----
Makes you wonder what they did right.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Gift idea...

A HEAVY weight book about Muhammad Ali.
Goes for a mere $7500 and at 75lbs is enough to break the coffee table.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Victory for Iraqis...

The capture of Saddam Hussein was good news and big news and may go a long way toward quelling the resistance in Iraq. [although if may take a few days.] If anything the citizens of Iraq can breath a sigh of relief that Saddam won't be back to kick them around. They can instead look forward to a public trial or maybe a hanging [although I don't think the Geneva Convention rules will allow that].

Many on the Right feel that the news came as a shock to the anti-war crowd, the Left as well as a few Democrats. But wasn't it inevitable that Saddam would be caught? I'm suprised it took us so long to get him. And I'm not sure that Saddam had anything to do with the numerous attacks over the past few months anyway. But symbolically his capture - and more particularly his easy surrender - will make him more a fool than a hero in the eyes of the radical Muslim factions of Iraq. Factions that could have used his death to carry our furthur attacks.

Questions still remain about:
How long will our occupation last?
Will we be there long enough to make a difference or too long without help from abroad?
When and how will we recruit the help of other countries?
Will other countries want to help if they don't get a share of the oil money?
What kind of government will replace Saddam?
And will that government be a freer one than Saddam's or will it be another dictatorship-democracy supported by the US?
Will the many tribal groups in Iraq work together or will the country become a hotbed of civil war?
Will our commitment to the people of Iraq become as solid as our commitment to our economic interests in the country?

Other questions related to the Saddam are:
Will he reveal any hidden WMD?
Will he reveal any connection to 9/11?
Will he shave that ugly beard?

Thus far he has denied any connection to Al- Quada or if there are hidden WMD's anywhere in Iraq.
Most of the reactions to Saddam's denial of WMD or a 9/11 connection will most likely be, 'Of course he would say that.'
If you are on the Right it is because Saddam is lying. If you are on the Left it is because there is no connection and no WMD.

There is no doubt that this is a victory for the Bush Administration at least in the short term and if you want to put up a scoreboard that reads: Bush: 1 Anti-War crowd: 0 then feel free but maybe it's time for us to stop making this a Right / Left political fight and instead accept the fact that this is a victory for the people of Iraq as well as something our soldiers can be proud of. We need to let everyone have their moment of celebration. Then we need to help Iraq build a good democratic government that can help bring stability to the region.

Let's not abandon our plans or these people.
Film Critic's Awards...

The New York Critics have named their film awards.
Best Picture: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Best Director: Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation
Best Actor: Bill Murray Lost in Translation
Best Actress: Hope Davis American Splendor
Best Foreign film: City of God
Best Non-Fiction film: Capturing the Friedmans

Boston Film Critics ring in:
Best Picture: Mystic River
Best Director: Sofia Coppola Lost in Translation
Best Actor: Bill Murray Lost in Translation
Best Actress: Scarlett Johansson Lost in Translation
Best Foreign film: The Triplets of Belleville
Best Non-Fiction film: Capturing the Friedmans

San Francisco Critics:
Best Picture: Lost in Translation
Best Director: Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings
Best Actor: Bill Murray Lost in Translation
Best Actress: Charlize Theron Monster
Best Foreign film: The Son
Best Non-Fiction film: Capturing the Friedmans

Friday, December 12, 2003

Best of...

MSN has a web page titled American Dreams that are various lists - by 'experts' - of things like:

Best American movies of all time. [Good general list]

Most influential albums since Elvis. [This list is woefully short on rap and hip hop!]

Dream Cars to drive. [I'll take #4]

Jobs [# 5 would be fun but #10 is most appealing]

Homes [I''ll take #3 in the autumn, #7 in the summer, #8 in winter and I'll give #1 to Howard Dean or any Democrat who wants it]

Fashion Trends [I remember #4, 6 and 9 - although I'd like to forget]

and even top 10 tips for an eye-opening first date. [This is a lame list - go with #10].
Zell's Ill Logic...

Last night on Hardball Georgia Democratic Senator Zell Miller told Chris Matthews that the Democrats were presently made up of the far Left and the far, far Left.

Wait, repeat that Zell? The Left and the far, far Left?

Just how out of touch is this man?

I've scoured the Senate and can think of no one who is far Left much less far, far Left. There are a few Liberal Left leaning senators but at the end of the day these guys don' t really hold Leftist politics.

I suspect that this is all about the Iraqi war. There were 23 senators who voted against the war [one was Lincoln Chafee Republican from RI who isn't a leftist]. But on other issues the Democratic senators are centrist to conservative at least as much if not more than they are Liberal. But Left? No way. As an example even the more Liberal senators don't support gay marriage.

Miller isn't such a bad guy. After all he sponsored Bill S.CON.RES.134 which was a concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress to designate the fourth Sunday of each September as "National Good Neighbor Day". But man, his view is way off in left - no - Right wing field.

The thing to know about Miller is that he wasn't appointed to the Senate until 2000 after the death of Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell so he has not had a long enough service with the Senate to understand that the Democrats and the Republicans are not the same party.

Miller too has a provential view of the world. He seems to be cut from the cloth of the old Dixiecrats. Or maybe he is living in the 19th century awaiting the great debates of John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster.

One thing for sure is that his record shows that he only votes with Democrats less than 45% of the time.

Perhaps it is in bad taste but Jimmy Carter is right about Miller.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Net Escape...

Here's a snowglobe for your shaking enjoyment.
Bush Vs Democrats...

There is no doubt that Bush and the Republicans who run the House and the Senate are trying to change America. They realize that they have the upper-hand for the first time in close to 50 years and they will not rest until they dismantle (or at least change) all that they can. Yet the Democrats have not been strong enough to stop Bush.

This is why Howard Dean now appeals to so many. He is an outsider who sees too many Democrts bending over to accomodate Bush rather than fight him. Of course, it has been difficult since bills like the energy bill were drafted by Republicans behind closed doors.

Now is the time to take this country back.

Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post has a good short article on the Democrats and Dean's appeal.

By winning office with a negative 540,000-vote margin and then proceeding to govern in the most relentlessly partisan fashion from the right, the president has made unmistakably clear that the concerns of Democrats are of no interest to him. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the Republican leadership relies solely on Republican votes to get its measures passed, going so far as to exclude mainstream Democrats from conference committees. When America's new laws are to be negotiated, Republicans talk only to themselves.
(...)
Howard Dean's initial appeal has been to those Americans who always knew they were on the margins of George Bush's America. Not the socioeconomic margins, not the African American and Latino communities, but the political, cultural and existential margins -- the young, urban, white middle class in particular. Dean's are the people who were bowling alone -- not churchgoers, not union members. They shared a set of beliefs on which they'd never before had an opportunity to act collectively.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Dean endorsed...

Now that Gore has endorsed Dean many pundits say that the Democratic run for the White House is all but over.

But Alex over at Public Nuisance tells us it ain't over yet. (Monday post)

Dean is by no means a certain winner in Iowa, and even New Hampshire is still a possible source of grief.
(...)
Clark can and almost certainly will win in a two way race with Dean. A continued large field after Feb 2 will give Dean more primary wins, but fewer delegates.
(...)
If Dean and Clark are one-two, they might both offer the Vice Presidency to the number three man, probably Gephardt. Gephardt, being no fool, will take Clark's offer. A Clark/Gephardt ticket is highly electable....


Joshua at Talking Points Memo adds a few words too:

Normally, these sorts of endorsements don't count for that much. But the real story about this primary race is how much the national Democratic electorate remains pretty much untilled ground.

-------
In my humble opinion an endorsement from Gore can't hurt.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Take back the House...

MrLiberal @ Daily Kos surmises the chances that Democrats have of taking back the House of Representatives from the GOP now that the Colorado gerrymandering plan has been declared unconstitutional.

"With the ruling overturning the GOP gerrymander in Colorado, Democrats can add two more seats to their lists of targets. And if, as we can now hope the Texas Redistricting Massacre is overturned as well, then Democrats can plan how to narrow the GOP Majority in 2004. After careful review of 30 GOP-held House seats that could be vulnerable, I have narrowed that list down to the Top 10 Democratic takeovers in 2004."

Click here to see the list.
Abortion controversy...

By and large most Americans are still pro-choice despite the Bush Administration's attempts to hammer away at Roe v Wade.

Here's a bunch of recent polls that tell us what America thinks.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

A look around the blogs...

Pandagon calls FOX News' Neil Cavuto ‘a little milquetoast pansy’ because he believes the movie Bad Santa dishonors the tradition of Santa.

Electolite says that Ralph Nader cannot tell the difference between standing water and hot air.

Calpundit questions a best selling grammar book over the use and misuse of that beguiling little punctuation: the apostrophe.

MrJeff3000! tells us about his encounter with Double Zout - a nefarious little candy.

Fanatical Apathy tells us why he would vote for Marilyn Manson over George W Bush.

Ultragrrrl gives us her (really damn early) top ten albums of the year list.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Dean on Hardball...

Howard Dean was on the Hardball College Tour last night. He did fairly well even though Matthews rode him on his military deferment, he referred to Russia as the Soviet Union and he showed indifference to whether the world court at the Hague or the United States should try bin-Laden when (and if) we catch him alive.

That last one is a wrong-headed opinion since the terrorist acts of 9/11 were on American soil. Should it come to a trial we should be the ones to try bin Laden. Period.

As is expected the Right Wing out there is having a field day with these gaffes.

[transcript here].

Anyway, at times Matthews can be funny. Note this remark about the Administration's inability to find bin Laden.

MATTHEWS: Is the president as commander in chief responsible for [the] failure to catch bin Laden? I mean, he is six foot eight. He's on dialysis and he's riding a mule. Why can't we catch this guy?

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Update Thur Dec 04, 03:28:00

It should be noted that if you take a close look at the transcript when Dean first mentions the Soviet Union he actually says the former Soviet Union. [Rashomon's italics]

We're spending a lot of money in Iraq. (...) And we're not spending money on human intelligence and on cyber-intelligence and on cargo inspection and on buying the enriched uranium stocks of the former Soviet Union.
Top ten movie lists...

Artforum picks the top ten films of the year. The critics include John Waters, Amy Taubin, Geoffrey O'Brien, James Quandt and Stephanie Zacherek.

Here's John Waters' list:

1. Irreversible (Gaspar Noe) The art shocker of the year is also the year's best. Put on the horrifying sound-track CD (there is one), take a roofie, and remember this amazing journey into rape and, yes . . . intimacy.
2. Dog Days (Ulrich Seidl) Runner-up. The most humiliating film ever made (for both actors and audience). Astonishingly hateful and original. Vienna never looked so depressing.
3. The Son (Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne) Lead actor Olivier Gourmet won the best-actor award at Cannes for this performance, despite the fact that he's filmed almost entirely from the back of the head. If this isn't art, what is?
4. Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary (Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer) Very Paul Morrissey. Very Andy Warhol's Hitler's Kelly Girl. Chillingly simple.
5. Medea (Lars von Trier) I kiss the ground of New York's Screening Room for booking this beautifully muddy, 1988 shot-on-video masterpiece when it finally got a theatrical release this year.
6. Swimming Pool (Francois Ozon) Sexual compulsion, a semi-erect "Hollywood loaf," and the most amazingly naked performance of the year (Ludivine Sagnier).
7. Cet Amour-la (Jose Dayan) Jeanne Moreau is Marguerite Duras and as much fun as Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest.
8. Ken Park (Larry Clark and Edward Lachman) Leave It to Beaver goes hard-core. Bravo! Clark's the only director who consistently makes the New York Times rise to his bait.
9. Anything Else (Woody Allen) The critics are full of it! Woody is still smart and funny, and nobody does a medium master shot better. Christina Ricci is the perfect Woody Allen leading lady.
10. Friday Night (Claire Denis) The most provocative traffic jam since Fellini's 81/2. So slow. So infuriating. So sexy.

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Okay, so chances are you haven't heard of some of these. But it is Artforum afterall and John Waters isn't necessarily mainstream.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Republicans Vs. Republicans...

The Medicare bill caused a bit of a division among the Republicans in the House and the Senate.
Many Democrats feel the bill is basically a glorified HMO which in time will privatize the entire Medicare system.
At issue for Republicans is the big government stigma that hangs over the whole bill. On FOX News Sunday Tony Snow pointed out that if Bill Clinton had passed this bill Republicans would have made a ruckus.

Some Republicans in fact are.
Here's an argument from Chuck Hagel Senator from Nebraska:

I voted against the Medicare reform bill because it will not strengthen Medicare and does not responsibly address the need for prescription drug coverage. It will add trillions of dollars onto Medicare's current $13.5 trillion in unfunded liabilities for future generations.
(...)
We have come loose from our moorings. The Medicare reform bill is a good example of our lack of direction, purpose and responsibility. If we don't get some control over this out-of-control spending and policy-for-the-moment decision-making, we will put America on a course that we may not be able to recover from.

We need to reform Medicare. We need a responsible and affordable prescription drug plan for seniors. But this legislation does not fit that prescription. The forces of reality will require us to go back and try to undo the damage we've just done to Medicare and future generations. We then will have another opportunity to do it right.


Then there is this nasty piece of business reported by Robert Novak.

During 14 years in the Michigan Legislature and 11 years in Congress, Rep. Nick Smith had never experienced anything like it. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, in the wee hours last Saturday morning, pressed him to vote for the Medicare bill. But Smith refused. Then things got personal.
(...)
On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat.


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I wonder if Nick will now be disqualified from Medicare?