Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hypocrite of the Day -- John McCain

Oh, John, why did I ever respect ye?

Then (6 years ago):

"I am a pro-life, pro-family fiscal conservative, an advocate of a strong defense, and yet Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and a few Washington leaders of the pro-life movement call me an unacceptable presidential candidate. They distort my pro- life positions and smear the reputations of my supporters.

Why? Because I don't pander to them, because I don't ascribe to their failed philosophy that money is our message.

Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right."


Press release from Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, March 28, 2006:

American military hero and Arizona Sen. John McCain will deliver the Commencement message at Liberty University on May 13, at 9:30 a.m., in the Liberty University Vines Center.

While Sen. McCain and Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell have had their share of political differences through the years, the two men share a common respect for each other and have become good friends in their efforts to preserve what they see as common values. This will mark his first ever appearance at Liberty University.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I read an interesting interview with Nobel laureate, Herbert Hauptman (1985 Nobel Price in Chemistry) in the latest issue of Free Inquiry, which I've excerpted here:

FI: Over 90 percent of the members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences are atheists or agnostics. Do you think there is a relationship between being a good scientist and being a religious skeptic?

Hauptman: What are religions based on? They are not based on evidence but on faith. On the other hand, a good scientist insists that, before one assents to a claim, there must be good evidence for that claim. If you live by this principle of science, I believe you will end up believing as I and most of the other members of the National Academy of Sciences believe: that there is no God.

FI: What do you think of those scientists who believe as you do but refuse to let their views be known?

Hauptman: I do not think they should be in the closet on this issue, but it is really a matter of how you allocate your time and energy-and a matter of conscience. Still, I think we would be better off if scientists were more open about their lack of belief in God.

FI: What is one question about the science-versus-religion controversy that you would like answered?

Hauptman: When will religion no longer be an issue of importance to the majority of the people in our society?

I bring this up not to so much question the existence of God (of which my views are well-known) but rather to ask if most of you agree on whether God and science are compatible? Can they be? Can a good scientist believe in God? Would belief in God affect how you study something and the conclusions that you make? Does science help some to understand God? Some say science proves the existence of God. Do you?

I know this is more JA and CK's turf (and they do it a lot better than me), but you'll have to forgive my indulgence.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Signs of the Apocalypse

Watching Mr. Bush speak in public is like watching high schoolers giving speeches in class. You know, that uncomfortable feeling you have for someone obviously having a difficult time. Nervous laughter, inordinate amount of hand gestures, painful silences, repetition. So the recent news conference in Cleveland was no exception. Usually the President's handlers keep him away from such unscripted moments but his recent nose dive in the polls has called for drastic measures. After his performance there, I wonder if they are wishing they had kept him silent.

During the news conference, a questioner asked the President, referring to Kevin Phillips book called, American Theocracy: "... He makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the Apocalypse. Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the Apocalypse?"

Bush hemmed, hawed, stammered, made inappropriate facial gestures ... but W-O-U-L-D N-O-T S-A-Y N-O. To any sane person, religious or not, you would not even have to think about it. An unequivocal, emphatic NO. Not Bush. So afraid to offend the lunatic fringe of Christiandom, he tried to change the subject.

Jon Stewart, as usual, had a very funny and astute take on Bush's performance. He kidded about Bush having an inner-dialogue that was alternatively telling Bush to not sound crazy and to appeal to the base. He failed miserably on both counts.

Some of us feel the apocalypse is coming. They say the signs are around us: plagues and pestilence (disease), an impending World War III. I think that every time Dubya opens his mouth in public, it is a sign of the apocalypse.


On the subject of religious loonies ... more fun with science in our classrooms:

Scientist discovers that evolution is missing from Arkansas classrooms

I love this line from the subject of the author, "I am instructed NOT to use hard numbers when telling kids how old rocks are. I am supposed to say that these rocks are VERY VERY OLD ... but I am NOT to say that these rocks are thought to be about 300 million years old." Yeah, we all know who wants you to say they (and everything else) is about 6,000 years old. We are in hell.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dixie Chicks -- Not Ready to Make Nice

Good for the Dixie Chicks. After paying a dear price for one simple sentence ... said in London: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

... they are not backing down. And they shouldn't. Too many people kiss ass for money or for political reasons (McCain ... you tool).

Here's the Chicks latest single: Not Ready to Make Nice

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting

I’m through with doubt
There’s nothing left for me to figure out
I’ve paid a price
And I’ll keep paying

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I know you said
Can’t you just get over it
It turned my whole world around
And I kind of like it

I made my bed and I sleep like a baby
With no regrets and I don’t mind sayin’
It’s a sad sad story when a mother will teach her
Daughter that she ought to hate a perfect stranger
And how in the world can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they’d write me a letter
Sayin’ that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting

Monday, March 20, 2006

V for Vendetta

Color me impressed. We saw V for Vendetta this last weekend and we were not disappointed. From the minds of the men that brought us The Matrix, the Wachowski brothers, comes a darkly comic vision of a world that has sacrificed freedom for what they consider to be security ... and discover their error all too late.

Sound familiar?

The graphic novel by Alan Moore that the screenplay was based on was a denouncement of Margaret Thatcher and the England of that time filtered through an environment reminscent of Nazi Germany. The Wachowski brothers, and the director of the movie, James McTeigue (1st AD from the Matrix movies) have modernized it, while keeping the setting in England.

McTeigue, despite having been groomed in the world of sci-fi laden movies like the Matrix and Star Wars, directs a suprisingly human and non-effects-laden film.

The actors are universally good. Hugo Weaving's dialogue behind the mask (as the main character V) can be hard to understand at times but does not significantly detract from his performance. I really like Weaving (Elrond in LOTR and Agent Smith in the Matrix) and he gives a stylized, flamboyant performance of a Phantom of the Opera type character. Natalie Portman as Evey does a great job. Thankfully, with Closer and this movie, she is able to actually have some roles that are not wooden characters(paging Mr. Lucas ... let someone else write dialog ... please). She has natural vulnerability and strength that are used in equal parts in this role. Evey is ironically very similar to John Hurt's character Winston Smith in 1984: a disaffected commoner in a totalitarian system that seeks to lift the yoke of oppression not because of any heroic desire but more from necessity.

The parallels to 1984 (even without the appearance of John Hurt) are obvious. From the general setting and feel of it to the ever-present appearance of media and TV's and finally to the story itself. But even more, in tone it reminds me of Fight Club and A Clockwork Orange ... though not as violent as those two films. You find yourself rooting for someone you feel guilty for liking. Are we products of our environment? Is V a terrorist? What is terrorism? Isn't being under the thumb of an oppressive government that uses fear as a tool terrorism? It certainly makes you reevaluate the black-and-white views of many people in our government now days. It's perhaps a scary path to go down, but it is thought-provoking. People should never be afraid of the power of ideas. It is the suppression of art and ideas that pervades this movie that makes you afraid of the path that we are going down.

I believe the biggest point of the movie is not effects or shock, but ideas:

"People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people"

"Writers use lies to tell the truth and politicians use lies to cover the truth up."

There are many scenes that are very obvious in their indictment of our current society:

  • Hooded prisoners a-la- Abu Graib in hidden prisons
  • A pompous, hypocritical TV host that purports to be on the side of God, the "Voice of London", that spouts invective (O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Hannity)
  • A self-righteous leader who rose to power during a time of fear and exploits it to suppress freedom (also in the name of religion)
  • Wire-tapping made legal
  • TV whereever you look --- molding your life
  • Avian flu, viruses
  • Government in your bedroom
  • Fear as a tool
  • Use of the term "rendition"

Some people may take this movie too literally. It's not promoting terrorism. It's promoting people thinking. This movie is every bit as political as Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana and addresses treatment of minorities like Brokeback Mountain and Crash. But the difference is that those movies don't speak as much to a younger generation raised on Star Wars and the Matrix. If the fact that the Wachowski brothers are involved helps bring this younger generation in the door and opens their eyes a little bit ... more power to it.

My wife commented that she had to turn away from network television tonight because the similarities to the fictious ones in the movie were eerie. She went into this film with no real idea of what it was about and she was reluctant to even go because she thought it was in the Matrix vein. And she loved the movie. I went in with a lot of knowledge of it and loved it anyway. We highly recommend this movie.

Cyberkitten posted some nice movie posters for V for Vendetta on his site:

V for Vendetta
Resistance is Character Building
Revenge is Meal Best Served Cold

Saturday, March 18, 2006


"The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain." -- Colin Wilson

Here's to you, the blind conformist, the jingoistic patriot. You don't want to rock the boat. You know who you are ... you're the guy who is so unconfident in yourself that you have to sway with the prevailing winds of popularity. You don't have any real opinions. You don't need them. Someone on talk radio or Fox News is happy to give them to you. Who cares if what they say is as fickled as your allegiances.

You do not want to be burdened down by the facts. The facts that you are given are repeated like a mantra ... even though they have no basis in fact or are dubious at best: Sean Hannity

Just one example:

HANNITY: "It doesn't say anywhere in the Constitution this idea of the separation of church and state." (8/25/03)

FACT: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." (1st Amendment)

The Document Sean Hannity Doesn't Want You To Read

But that doesn't bother you either. Your own president uses the same techniques of repitition and attacking the messenger. If you disagree with something he does, you "hate" the president. If you're not with us, you're against us. If you disagree, you are a terrorist. Blah, blah, blah.

Your congressional leaders join in the fun too. People like Bill Frist give new meaning to the phrase flip-flopper. He has never met a prevailing wind that he didn't sway to. For the president when it was fashionable and against when it would help his own presidential run. For or against stem cell research depending on which week you ask him. For or against the Dubai Ports Deal depending on what his colleagues say.

And when real rebels, like Senator Russ Feingold, actually calls the President on one of his many errors, Bill Frist makes an asinine statement, "I was hoping deep inside that the leadership in Iran and other people who really have the U.S. not in their best interests are not listening because of the terrible, the terrible signal it sends.". Let me get this straight ... he is worried that pointing out how the President is violating our Constitution will send the wrong message to other countries. You, Mr. Frist, with your riches and your exagerrated southern drawl to seem like a "common" person, are embarrassing.

"Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy." -- George Bernard Shaw

You all have what is called cognitive dissonance, buyer's remorse if you will. You bought what Dubya was selling 6 years ago. You were fooled into supporting an unsupportable war. You are afraid to admit you were wrong, so you keep changing your tune to fit the facts. Who cares if when the war started, you said:

Chris Matthews: “We’re all neo-cons now,” he crowed on April 9, 2003, hours after a Saddam Hussein statue tumbled in Baghdad.

“We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical, who’s not a complicated guy like Clinton or even like Dukakis or Mondale, all those guys, McGovern. They want a guy who’s president. Women like a guy who’s president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president. It’s simple.”

Tony Snow of FOX News: "Tommy Franks and the coalition forces have demonstrated the old axiom that boldness on the battlefield produces swift and relatively bloodless victory. The three-week swing through Iraq has utterly shattered skeptics’ complaints."

You like to float out weak-minded centrists like Matthews and Alan Colmes and call them liberals. Colmes said - "Now that the war in Iraq is all but over. Should the people in Hollywood who opposed the president admit they were wrong?"

War-Loving Pundits

"Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious." -- Oscar Wilde

The temporary comfort of patriotism will be replaced by the embarrasment of history. Joseph McCarthy and those that supported him thought they were being patriotic too.

I heard a great interview with director David Cronenberg on NPR this last week. He talked of many things, including the nature of his movies. They generally address those unpleasant characteristics of each of our thoughts or personalities that we don't want to admit. He made a statement something to the effect that society needs both conformity and rebellion. Without the respect of being in a society, anarchy would prevail, but without those that would rebel and point out the limitations of society and it's leaders, dictatorship would prevail. It's the duty of writers, artists, activists, etc. to be vigilant. He's right ... but it's not only the duty of artists to do this. As former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (and Reagan appointee) spoke of recently, it is the duty of citizens to be vigilant or else the balance of power of the government will be swayed by "naked partisan reasoning". It was her, not some wacked-out liberal like me, that spoke of the fear of us sinking into a dictatorship:
O'Connor, a former Arizona state senator, is accustomed to political jostling. But, as she rightly said last week, democracy itself is jeopardized when critiques metastasize into threats over specific rulings. Such judicial bullying, O'Connor pointed out, is how dictators thrive in former Communist and Third World countries. She reportedly added, "It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speaks up against political attacks on courts

Take solace in the fact that civilization requires both conformity and rebellion. Unfortunately, we have way too much of the former and not enough of the latter. You are fulfilling your role all too well.

"One of the great attractions of patriotism it fulfills our worst wishes. In the person of our nation we are able, vicariously, to bully and cheat. Bully and cheat, what's more, with a feeling that we are profoundly virtuous." -- Aldous Huxley

With much cudos to Great White Bear and his recent rant: WHY I AM SO F***ING ANGRY!!!!!. His passion and intelligence are always inspiring to me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Merrill Keiser

Unfortunate proof that stupidity, homophobia and religious extremism are not confined to the Republican Party:

US Senate candidate says Elton John worthy of death

Merrill Keiser, a Democratic candidate United States Senate from Ohio, believes that homosexuality should be punishable by death. Kaiser’s opposition for the Democratic nomination is US Rep. Sherrod Brown.

Some excerpts from the transcript of the interview:

Host Chad Larson: Elton John, he comes to the state of Ohio, he’s gay and proud,
you want him dead? Should he be killed?

Candidate Merrill Keiser: I
would prefer that he repent

Larson: Obviously, he’s not repenting,
should he be killed?

Keiser:Well he’s worthy of death ...

There's a lot of speculation that he's not even a Democrat ... but rather a plant by the Republicans. The only reason he even ran as a Democrat is because that was what he was previously registered as. He has never held office and every one of his views counter that of the Democratic party:

Candidate says incumbent Republican not advocating biblical values enough

Democrat or not, this man's fringe views will get him shut down. You know you are kook when even the Republican party wouldn't have you.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Income Gap

"An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics." -- Plutarch

"The form of law which I propose would be as follows: In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plagues -- not faction, but rather distraction -- there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor, again, excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil . . . Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth." -- Plato

One of my big pet causes is income inequality and the effects that it has on our society. Jon Talton of the Arizona Republic wrote a pretty good article on it this last week, which I've excerpted below:

The grand canyon -- The gap between the haves and have-nots gets worse

The American Dream: It used to mean that any kid could become president, of a company if not the United States, that the poorest citizen could work hard and gain prosperity, security and, yes, the pursuit of happiness.

It was an ideal, sure, but for much of the 20th century it was also a reality.

Now the dream is being downsized alongside the corporate icons and government programs that made it possible, leaving many parents to hope that their children can just get a full-time job with benefits.

This year's report on income inequality from the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities showed that the share of income held by the richest 1 percent was the largest since the years before the Great Depression. The data show Arizona with the greatest increase in income inequality between the top and bottom earners over the past 20 years.

... According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth for a median family rose only 1.5 percent between 2001 and 2004.

Those families face rising interest rates and record debt loads. Expenses keep going up for everything from gasoline to health care, child care and college tuition.

... The reasons are complex, and include:

  • Global competition and more open trade have pressured American companies to cut wages and other labor costs to survive.
  • Deregulation allowed record numbers of mergers in formerly staid industries such as banking, telecommunications and airlines, eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs and driving down wages.
  • A rising gap between the skilled and less-skilled tends to disproportionately reward highly trained workers in certain fields.
  • Major losses of manufacturing jobs have taken away a path to rising incomes and secure benefits for blue-collar workers.
  • The decline of unions has helped drive down wages and diminish the political power of organized labor in Washington.
  • Immigration has provided business with a steady pool of low-wage labor, especially in the jobs once taken by the poorest Americans.
  • More corporate power than ever controls politics, as seen in the revamp of bankruptcy laws and lax antitrust enforcement.

The pain from these forces is not being evenly shared. The share of income held by the richest 1 percent was the largest since the 1920s. The top 100 chief executives make an average real compensation that is 1,000 times the pay of the average worker. In the mid-1970s, it was about 39 times the pay of the average worker.

The gaps are even more pronounced for minorities. For example, nationally 30.4 percent of Black workers and 39.8 percent of Hispanics earned poverty-level wages in 2003. The numbers are even more severe for minority women.

... But his (Robert Gutierrez -- former mainframe operator, now security guard) philosophy gets an edge when asked about the rising gap between rich and everyone else.

"The people on top - and I say this as a Reagan Republican - those people don't care. They're not the ones that worry about paying for health care or college for kids or the cost of food prices."

Gutierrez paused. "We're in a boat with lots of holes in it. Ninety percent of the people are bailing with tin cans, and 10 percent are sitting high and dry on the luggage. And we're sinking."

Some are reluctant to call this a class war, but you have to call it like it is.

People are being penalized not for their knowledge or character but for the financial position into which they were born. The ruling class is supplied with people and money from the rich and in turn, it helps to make sure that the rich stay rich.

Until the cannibalistic relationship between the government and rich is broken, the disparity between the rich and the poor is going to grow.

The rich complain about welfare, yet they are the biggest recipients of corporate welfare. How is it that a significant portion of the most successful companies pay NO TAXES WHATSOEVER? Please explain to me how that is fair.

And the beat goes on: The world gets 102 more billionaires

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich." -- John F. Kennedy

"Between persons of equal income there is no social distinction except the distinction of merit. Money is nothing: character, conduct, and capacity are everything. There would be great people and ordinary people and little people, but the great would always be those who had done great things, and never the idiots whose mothers had spoiled them and whose fathers had left them a hundred thousand a year; and the little would be persons of small minds and mean characters, and not poor persons who had never had a chance. That is why idiots are always in favor of inequality of income (their only chance of eminence), and the really great in favor of equality." -- George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Operation: Mindcrime

"The dirtiest book of all is the expurgated book." -- Walt Whitman

Too long in the company of like-minded people and sycophants, Arizona politicians make the mistake of thinking their harebrained conservative ideas should be the law of the land. From the state that brought you numerous concealed gun laws, dragged their feet on an MLK holiday and had two spectacular crooks for governor comes this:

Opt-out for students offended by courses

The proposed law would have had students be able to pick alternative titles if they found something objectionable. This law was thankfully even too far out there for most Republicans and was defeated ... but not by an overwhelming majority as would be the case in any sane state:

  • "The Arizona Senate on Thursday refused to give university and community college students a right to alternative coursework if they object to material that they find personally offensive.

    The proposal backed by social conservatives drew criticism from several Republican senators who said it could be applied to important works of literature that contain objectionable material but still should be taught." -- Arizona Republic, March 9th, 2006

The very point of college is be challenged and to get out of your "zone". If you only ever read or hear ideas that you already agree with, how are you learning? I fear that laws like these are an outgrowth of the home-school mentality of a growing portion of the Religious Right.

"Take away the right to say "fuck" and you take away the right to say "fuck the government." -- Lenny Bruce

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


The musical tastes of my wife and I rarely intersect. But when they do, it's generally for a good reason. One such intersection is Bruce Springsteen. While hers is a lifelong appreciation begun with his music and growing into his politics, mine is the opposite. His support of organizations like Amnesty International and the Vote for Change Tour elevated him in my eyes long before I realized the brilliance of his music.

Well, he has done it again with the announcement of the release of an album of songs by Pete Seeger, folk musician and political activist. From Common Dreams

"... Bruce Springsteen next month will be releasing an album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, featuring thirteen traditional songs associated with Pete Seeger, the writer, performer, preserver, and champion of folk music.
With this disc, Springsteen continues as a pop culture-political force. It's an intriguing move for him. In the 2004 campaign, he spearheaded the anti-Bush and pro-Kerry Vote for Change tour--which also included R.E.M., Pearl Jam, the Dixie Chicks, Jackson Browne, Kenny "Babyface Edmonds, Bright Eyes and John Fogerty. Toward the end of the presidential campaign, Springsteen appeared with Kerry at huge rallies, in which he excited crowds but--unfortunately--highlighted the down-home-real gap between himself and the supposed star of these events. From identifying with Kerry's well-intentioned though poorly-presented conventional liberalism to celebrating Seeger's gritty authenticity and radicalism--that's an intriguing pivot.

Seeger has had a decades-long career that has combined promoting traditional folk music and practicing political activism. The latter led him to being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, where he was grilled on whether he was a communist. Seeger declined to talk about his political associations or ideas, but offered to tell the committee what songs he had sung in public. The committee was not amused. He was sentenced to one year in jail for contempt of Congress, but the verdict was overturned. Still, Seeger ended blacklisted and banned from performing on network television.

Springsteen's album is not an act of rehabilitation. That's hardly needed. Seeger long-ago transcended those ugly days. His neverending devotion to traditional music and activism outlasted his foes. But what Springsteen is doing is reaching beyond his roots to honor a historian of American song--for Seeger's mission has been to keep alive a certain slice of homegrown American music. The new album will include renditions of "John Henry," "Eyes on the Prize," "Shenandoah," and "We Shall Overcome."

Springsteen started out as a fast-singing wordsmith who obviously had been influenced by Bob Dylan and bar-band rock of the 1960s. But the Dylan who hovered over Springsteen's first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, was not the early, political Dylan but the next-generation beat-literary-fantastist Dylan, who threw together images and plot-lines to create impressions, not manifestos. In fact, Springsteen's career path flipped Dylan's arc. Dylan dropped the politics as his star rose; Springsteen expanded his range to include politics as his catalogue grew. It was after his Born to Run breakthrough that he began to identify with causes, perhaps first with his participation the No Nukes concerts of 1979. His songwriting, too, began to examine the plight--that is, stories--of living-on-the-edge Americans. "Born in the USA" was not a jingoistic anthem, as columnist George Will and Ronald Reagan falsely described it. It was a haunting tribute to veterans who had been screwed twice: first by the Vietnam War, then by the deindustrialization. The Ghost of Tom Joad, released in 1995, was a quiet-but-angry, Woody Guthrie-flavored look at the down-and-out of America. (Years earlier, Springsteen had started performing "This Land Is Your Land" during concerts.)

While Springsteen clearly made a conscious attempt to connect with Guthrie (as Dylan had done in his salad days), one might not have associated his decades of rock-driven work with Seeger. But by nobly nodding to Seeger in this way, Springsteen not only closes a circle, he advances it. This disc is a generous gesture. Fans of both men ought to hope the execution is as grand as the idea."

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Notes

I'm probably one of the few males that actually watched (and enjoys) the Oscars. It was an interesting Oscars ceremony because all of the major movies hit on a political theme. Homosexuality, terrorism, oil, racism, corporate corruption, etc. It was the first time that I can remember where every movie had something serious to say.
My take on some of the awards:

Best Picture -- Crash - Well-deserved and the one that I would have picked. I think it was better crafted and had more to say than it's main competition, Brokeback Mountain.

Best Director -- Ang Lee - this one probably made sense. Brokeback Mountain was a lot more about the pacing, the look and the subject matter than it was about the acting. Crash was much more reliant on across-the-board quality acting and a good script.

Best Supporting Actor -- George Clooney - I saw more of the nominees (4) in this category than any of the others and based on those, I'd have to agree with Clooney winning. His performance in Syriana is riveting and unlike anything he had done before. I could have easily have seen Dillon winning also but I think he was hurt by the quality of all of the other performances in Crash. I can't help feeling that this might have been a token award for Clooney based on the overall quality of everything he has done this year. But I have not see Good Night and Good Luck, so I cannot speak on whether he would have been deserving of winning for his other two nominations.

Best Documentary -- March of the Penguins - I saw and liked March of the Penguins, but I believe that Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room was a much better movie. March of the Penguins was largely a glorified kids' after-school special.

For probably the same reason that a lot of people hated the following speeches, I liked them. They're pretentious and probably overstate the importance of film. But that's the point. If art is not trying to rattle society's cage a little bit, then it's not doing it's job.

"And finally, I would say that, you know, we are a little bit out of touch in Hollywood every once in a while, I think. It's probably a good thing. Uhm, we're the ones who talk about AIDS when it was just being whispered. And we talked about civil rights when it wasn't really popular. And we, uh, you know, we bring up subjects, we are the ones, this Academy, this group of people gave Hattie McDaniel an Oscar in 1939 when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters. I'm proud to be a part of this Academy. I'm proud to be part of this community. I'm proud to be out of touch. And I thank you so much for this." -- George Clooney, on accepting the Best Supporting Actor Oscar

"Bertolt Brecht said art is not a mirror to hold up to society but a hammer with which to shape it, so I guess this is ours," he said, waving his Oscar. "I just want to thank those people who take big risks in their daily lives when there aren't cameras rolling, and when there aren't people to applaud, and the people who stand up for peace and justice and against intolerance. So I dedicate this to them." -- Paul Haggis on accepting the best Original Screenplay Oscar

I thought Jon Stewart was great ... but maybe just a little bit subdued (probably on purpose). The political style fake ads of the nominees were funny. His ad-libs were not forced and were well-received. He was not overtly political but did manage some jabs, including the following at the media:

"And "Capote" and "Good Night, and Good Luck are about determined journalists defying obstacles in a relentless pursuit of the truth."

"Needless to say, both are period pieces."


As I mentioned earlier, I finally had the chance to see Brokeback Mountain. Like any movie, if you hear too much hype (good or bad) about it, it taints your view. You catch yourself looking at every scene with blinders on. I liked the movie anyway. I don't think it tries to play up the fact that it's about a gay relationship. It just puts it out there: this is real life, it's not always convenient or practical, it doesn't always end up great, homosexuality is not a "lifestyle choice".

The pacing, spare dialogue, and cinematography reminded me of Clint Eastwood directed movies ... and that is meant as a compliment. The acting was universally good, especially Heath Ledger. He had described his method of approaching the role as embodying a "clenched fist". You could definitely see it ... the rage and confusion bubbling beneath the quiet exterior his whole life. A lot of people lauded Michelle Williams' performance playing the wife of Heath Ledger's character, but I actually preferred the performance of Anne Hathoway as the wife of Jake Gyllenhaal's character.

I think that the movie would have played even better for me if I went in not knowing it was about gay cowboys. That way you're not sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for the other shoe to drop ... for the scene you are already know is coming to happen. It shouldn't be about THAT scene. It should be about two people loving each other.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Just saw Brokeback Mountain in the nick of time before the Oscars. Loved it. I thought Ledger's performance was fantastic in it's subtelty.

I didn't get to see everything but did get to see 3 of the nominated best pictures (Crash, Brokeback, and Munich). Crash was my favorite of the 3 ... and my favorite of the year, period.

I'll write more about Brokeback and the Oscars later. Also, see Sadie's site, Sadico Junction, as I'm sure she's watching and will have some good feedback. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jewish Atheist, Great White Bear, Laura at Sarchasm, and Cyberkitten giving their take also.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


"We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian." -- Lionel Trilling

Reminiscent of a company town ... where God is the CEO ... Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan is trying to establish a town in Florida where abortion, pornography, and birth control are outlawed:

Catholic Town of Ave Maria

Some details of the town:

  • massive church with what is being billed as the largest crucifix in the nation, 65 feet
  • "stores will not sell pornographic magazines, pharmacies will not carry condoms or birth control pills, and cable television will have no X-rated channels"
  • homeowners own land but all commercial property will be controlled by Monoghan so that provisions will be put in leases to control what is sold

~~ "I believe all of history is just one big battle between good and evil. I don't want to be on the sidelines," Monaghan, who sold Domino's Pizza in 1998 to devote himself to doing good works, said in a recent Newsweek interview. ~~

Governor Jeb Bush, a convert to Catholocism, was at the groundbreaking and hailed it as an example of "faith and freedom". How is a place where you are told what you can buy an example of "freedom"? Typical Bush family double-speak.

Understandably and thankfully, not everyone (even Catholics) are on board with this:

~~ Frances Kissling, president of the liberal Washington-based Catholics for a Free Choice, likened Monaghan's concept to Islamic fundamentalism.

"This is un-American," Kissling said. "I don't think in a democratic society you can have a legally organized township that will seek to have any kind of public service whatsoever and try to restrict the constitutional rights of citizens." ~~

I'm thinking about building a town as an answer to Ave Maria. It will have:

  • no place to purchase books of the "Left Behind" series
  • no place to watch FOX News
  • centered around a library and theater
  • a place where families of all kinds are encouraged instead of ostracized
  • a place that makes abortions safe and rare instead of illegal and frequent
  • The town will have it's own hypocrisy police. You will be cited if you are against abortion yet beat the drums of war.

"Not in Utopia, -- subterranean fields, --
Or some secreted island, Heaven knows where!
But in the very world, which is the world
Of all of us, -- the place where in the end
We find our happiness, or not at all!" -- Williams Wordsworth

Happy Birthday Alex!

"Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children." -- George Bernard Shaw

The little guy turned 5 yesterday. Alex, we love you and are so proud of you.

School birthday party

Birthday party at As You Wish