Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I was lucky to have been invited to and attended a "townhall" meeting today with our Democratic candidate for senator, Jim Pederson, and his guest, former presidential candidate Wesley Clark. I'm an admirer of them both. Jim Pederson is the former party chair of the Arizona Democratic party and I have spoken to him in the past. And I voted for Wesley Clark in the 2004 Arizona Democratic Presidential primary. There were both articulate, passionate and made strong cases for a change in leadership in Washington.

This meeting was specifically on the war in Iraq. Pederson and Clark both spoke as did an Iraqi war veteran and they fielded questions afterwards. Quite the opposite of the "cut-and-run" image that the Rove minions try to cast Democrats as, they were honest about the mistakes that have been made and what needed to be done. I won't get into the finer points but suffice to say that they favored a tact that took into account Iraq's neighbors, the different factions within Iraq, and the infrastructure needs of the country itself. Due to the incompetence of our current leaders, troops in Iraq are playing policemen in a civil war. This was not their original mission and it is not task which they are ideally suited for.

One of the main points that they brought up and the one that I am going to mention here is that a main reason our mission in Iraq has failed is that we failed to consider adequately those questions that the Powell Doctrine asked:
Is a vital national security interest threatened?
Do we have a clear attainable objective?
Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
Is the action supported by the American people?
Do we have genuine broad international support?

Here's my take on how we addressed those concerns:

-- Was our national security threatened by Iraq? -- NO. Iraq had no means of directly attacking the U.S.

-- Did we have a clear objective? -- NO. Neo-cons would say that it was part of a bigger objective of establishing democracy in the Middle East. But it was not the reason offered during the run up to the war.

-- Did we honestly address the risks and costs? -- NO. Morons like Wolfowitz and Perle said the war would pay for itself. $300 billion (and counting) later .... Not to mention 2600+ American lives.

-- Did we exhaust all diplomatic means first? -- NO. We lied to ourselves and the U.N. and disregarded any international advice.

-- Exit strategy? -- Exit strategy? ... we don't need no stinkin' exit strategy. Cheney and Rumsfeld said it would take 6 days. Why these men are still in any kind of power baffles me.

-- Consequences -- We are breeding more terrorists. Our government even admits this: Report offered by Bush shows terrorism threat evolving and growing

-- Support of the American people -- At least 60% of the American people are against this war.

-- Broad international support? -- Ha-ha. Do you mean the coalition of the willing? The coalition of the economically threatened you must have meant. Moldava and Estonia ... oooohhhh. I'm really impressed.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


"The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians" -- Henry Louis Mencken

Power of Nightmares, a BBC documentary that originally came out in 2004 was being discussed the other day on a local show on the Air America affiliate here in Phoenix. I have not seen the show but the basic gist is that the fall of the Soviet Union (and them being driven out of Afghanistan), in effect, caused a parallel and dangerous escalation of the two groups most guilty of our current world situation .... radical Islamists and neoconservatives. Both made the colossal mistake of taking credit for that fall and using the resulting publicity to further their causes. And both have benefited from exaggerating the terrorist threat.

Both wanted to take credit for a fall that was going to happen without them. The Soviet Union was collapsing from within.

It's an interesting theory and there is at least some truth to it.

It's scary to think that the same supposedly good event inadvertently ignited the two most destructive forces in the world right now. Both are drunk with their own self-righteousness. They were emboldened by an event they were merely spectators to.

I hate to break it to you guys ... those that worship at the altar of Ronald Reagan ... but his policies did the exact opposite of what conservatives say they did. Supposedly for small government, the government grew under his watch. Supposedly against terrorism, he supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan ... the very same people we call terrorists now. Our policies in Lebanon got Marines killed and did nothing to stop terrorism.

Both groups understand that it is not so much what is true but rather what can you convince your followers is true.

"Arrogance diminishes wisdom" -- Arabian Proverb

Sunday, September 24, 2006

dbackdad's favorite actors: part three -- emma thompson

You may be getting the feeling that I only like British actors. Not true. There are plenty of American actors that I like but Sadie already covered a few of them (Norton, Hanks). I'll certainly work up to a few more eventually. But in the meantime, I'm definitely going to continue with my trend. And I do believe that most of the best actors are British. And Emma Thompson is certainly no exception. She's of the ilk of period-piece actresses that I really like.

Probably the first thing I saw her in (and still one of my favorites) is Howard's End. This was based on a E.M. Forster novel (he also wrote Room With a View and A Passage to India). The movie examines the interactions of social classes in 1930's England but I believe that the truths it exposes are applicable to all ages and countries. The acting is superb by a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins and Helena Bonham Carter. I believe that what I like about Thompson is her ability to show passion and feeling subtly in what some might consider fairly buttoned-up dialogue.

She again starred with Hopkins in Remains of the Day. Her acting was great but I was not as big a fan of this movie as some were.

A good deal of her career was spent acting in movies directed by her then husband, Kenneth Branagh. The first of these that I saw was Henry V. It's well-made but if you're not into Shakespeare, then you might want to skip it. Also Shakespeare ... but not quite as dry is Much Ado About Nothing. I think this film is brilliant and has some of Shakespeare's funniest writing. The cast is stellar (with the exception of the miscast Keanu Reeves) and included Denzel Washington, Thompson, Branagh, Michael Keaton, and Kate Beckingsale. Two more of Branagh's films, Dead Again -- a noirish thriller, and Peter's Friends -- a dark comedy, are also very good.

Not content with just being a great actress, Thompson is an award-winning screenwriter, having won an Oscar for Sense and Sensibility. This adaptation of a Jane Austen novel was very good and does a nice job of conveying the humor of the book. Again, a nice cast which includes Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Tom Wilkinson. Thompson also wrote the family movie, Nanny McPhee, which we just recently saw and highly recommend.

She does not confine herself to period pieces and as on occasion starred in political films, most notable: In the Name of the Father about a man falsely accused of an IRA bombing, and Primary Colors - a fictionalized account based on Bill Clinton and those around him. She is very funny in this film. She is also very funny in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, ironically following in the footsteps of a similarly over-the-top performance by her ex-husband Branagh in an earlier Potter film.

Some Thompson trivia from IMDb:

Was originally slated to play the role of "God" in Kevin Smith's Dogma (1999). She was unable to perform due to her pregnancy.
She is the only person to have won Academy awards for both acting and writing. She won Best Actress for Howards End (1992), and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility (1995).

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Clinton on FOX

This is awesome ... Bill Clinton bitchslapping Chris Wallace of FOX News:

Clinton Takes On Fox News

That channel has absolutely no credibility. Anybody that watches it to get anything close to an objective point of view is clueless.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In With the New ...

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed." -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

From Sierra Club Magazine:
John Perry, age 42
Founding member, the Compact

When John Perry and a few San Francisco friends created the Compact, a yearlong agreement not to buy anything new, they were just trying to take a personal stand against rampant consumption and waste. But as news of their idea spread, it drew more than a thousand participants worldwide--and some angry critics. Read about members' strategies and exemptions for essentials like food at The Compact.

Q: What do you make of the backlash you've received?

A: We've been told shopping is patriotic. Part of the promise of success in America is that you can buy lots of stuff.

Q: What's been hardest about living by the Compact?

A: I was a recreational shopper, especially in thrift stores. So it's been challenging to think about what I need instead of just shifting my consumption habits to secondhand goods.

Q: How has your family's daily life changed as a result?

A: We have more time and money to spend hiking, taking classes, going to performances, and eating with friends. Life gets richer and more oriented toward experiences.

How ridiculous is that? Spending is patriotic. We all remember after 9/11 -- our own president said that the way to get back at the terrorists is to keep on spending. That's the most profound lesson that he could get from that. Sad.

Is this group's choice an extreme reaction to our current society? Maybe. Is it harmful? No. Is it effective? Depends on what you call effective. I'm sure no companies are really feeling the squeeze from these few people not buying new goods. But it may not be in what these few people do but more in the effect they have on others. If just a few people read that article or if those 1,000 people tell their friends and families, it can have an effect on the environment and even on our views of each other. Gluttonous consumption would not be healthy even in a world of unlimited space and resources and no environmental problems. But that world doesn't exist.

We're a disposable society. Planned obsolescence. Fads. Ad-driven purchasing. Maybe if people looked a little harder at what they bought, companies that produced goods would care more about quality. So much of our time is spent shopping. We go to the malls just to walk around and look at things we want to buy. The people in this article are at least taking the time to stop and analyze our craziness. I'm not asking people to stop buying or stop buying new stuff. Just think about your individual footprint on the world. Do you want your legacy to be that you owned a lot of stuff?

"Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends.... Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts." -- Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


NEW YORK (AP) -- An unfinished tale by J.R.R. Tolkien has been edited by his son into a completed work and will be released next spring, the U.S. and British publishers announced Monday.

Christopher Tolkien has spent the past 30 years working on "The Children of Hurin," an epic tale his father began in 1918 and later abandoned. Excerpts of "The Children of Hurin," which includes the elves and dwarves of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other works, have been published before.

"It has seemed to me for a long time that there was a good case for presenting my father's long version of the legend of the 'Children of Hurin' as an independent work, between its own covers," Christopher Tolkien said in a statement.

The new book will be published by Houghton Mifflin in the United States and HarperCollins in England ...

I'm looking forward to that. I seem stuck in decades old sci-fi. I don't really read much fiction any more because I don't really give it a chance. The following were the staples of my shy, sheltered midwestern upbringing: Tolkien, Heinlein, Clarke, Niven, and Herbert. Good escapism and exposure to a bigger world of ideas. The last of these authors, Frank Herbert, wrote my favorite sci-fi/fantasy book of all time, Dune. Herbert creates an incredibly intricate world that does a great job of exposing the links between environment, ecology, resources, religion and politics. What are your favorite sci-fi/fantasy novels?

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Friday a.m. and I'll be off to Las Vegas with some buddies for the weekend. One of them is getting married next week and these will be a last few days of debauchery. Hopefully not too much debauchery as there will be at least two wives and one future wife who will lynch us if we do. And despite the fact that two separate people have mentioned the movie Very Bad Things when I told them where I'd be and what I was doing this weekend, there will be no dead hookers.

Trent: They're gonna give daddy the Rainman suite, you dig that?
Mike: Do you think we'll get there by midnight?
Trent: Baby, we're going to be up five hundy by midnight!
Mike: Yeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!
Trent: Vegas baby! Vegas!
Mike: Vegas!


dbackdad's favorite actors: part two -- ewan mcgregor

Next in line of my favorite actors is Ewan McGregor. The first role I saw him in is perhaps his best ... Trainspotting. One of my top 10 all-time favorite movies, it is a dizzying combination of style, music, humor and homages to other favorite films of mine (Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver). McGregor's performance is spot-on and I've read that George Lucas cast him as Obi-Wan Kenobi off of his performance in Trainspotting. But if you are queasy about drug use or dream sequences involving toilets, you might want to pass.

The strength oF McGregor is his humor. Even in his more serious roles, there is a bit of a spark in his eyes. Plus, he'll generally stay away from the typical Hollywood movies. The exceptions, of course, being Star Wars (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) and The Island. He can be forgiven for Star Wars because it is basically the dream of any male born in the last 40 years to be immortalized as such an iconic figure. And to his credit, he is probably the only actor in those films that does a decent job. And The Island, despite being a Michael Bay is sci-fi and does have some merits.

Another movie directed by Danny Boyle and written by John Hodge (like Trainspotting) is Shallow Grave. This is a very good dark comedy that also stars Christopher Eccleston (Dr. Who).

There is a wide range of roles he has taken also. British period pieces (Emma), musicals (Moulin Rouge) and war flicks (Black Hawk Down). His role in Emma is small but memorable. I really like Moulin Rouge, a quirky musical with anachronistic modern music mixed into a turn of the century Paris setting. And despite being largely a pacifist, I like a decent war flick -- which Black Hawk Down is. I say keep the violence on the screen and on off the streets. War movies with fairly realistic depictions of the pain and gore hopefully take away a little of the glamour.

Two more unconventional roles he took (with varying success) were Down With Love and Big Fish. Down With Love is a retelling or spoof of the Cary Grant and Rock Hudson type romantic comedies of the 50's but with a little more modern subject matter. The movie tries really hard ... maybe too hard. Big Fish is a much better movie. A Tim Burton Flick, it has the trademark oddity that you would expect from him. But it has a little more heart and a nice acting performance by Helena Bonham Carter (one of my favorite actresses from British period pieces).

All in all, I think he's brilliant and usually the best thing in any movie he's in.

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a f--king big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose a three piece suit on hire purchased in a range of f--king fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the f--k you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing f--king junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarassment to the selfish, f--ked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose a future. Choose life...But why would I want to do a thing like that?" -- Ewan McGregor as Renton in Trainspotting

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"We Have Not Forgotten, Mr. President"

I thought about writing something about 9/11, but my words would have paled in comparison to Keith Olbermann's:

"We Have Not Forgotten, Mr. President."

A particularly good passage:

... The only positive on 9/11 and the days and weeks that so slowly and painfully followed it was the unanimous humanity, here, and throughout the country. The government, the President in particular, was given every possible measure of support.

Those who did not belong to his party -- tabled that.

Those who doubted the mechanics of his election -- ignored that.

Those who wondered of his qualifications -- forgot that.

History teaches us that nearly unanimous support of a government cannot be taken away from that government by its critics. It can only be squandered by those who use it not to heal a nation's wounds, but to take political advantage.

Terrorists did not come and steal our newly-regained sense of being American first, and political, fiftieth. Nor did the Democrats. Nor did the media. Nor did the people.

The President -- and those around him -- did that ...

... How dare you, Mr. President, after taking cynical advantage of the unanimity and love, and transmuting it into fraudulent war and needless death, after monstrously transforming it into fear and suspicion and turning that fear into the campaign slogan of three elections? How dare you -- or those around you -- ever "spin" 9/11?

In this speech and his earlier one chastising Mr. Rumsfeld, KO has taken on a role that lightweight "news" people like Katie Couric seem afraid to. Hopefully he'll keep speaking truth to power and he'll continue having a forum to do so.

Also, a nice post on 9/11 by Josh at Schulzone.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Religion is Funny Sometimes

None of the following three church-related anecdotes are really related except that they all came to my attention in the same day. So, don't draw any conclusions from them being here together. Just a funny juxtaposition that gave me pause.

Michelle having to work today and Alex's bible class starting this Sunday presented us with an interesting quandary. Should we not take him(and risk his disappointment) or should Michelle swallow her pride and ask her heathen husband to take him? Of course, I had no problem taking him but I felt like making her squirm a little bit. After all, I could use my taking him to church as a future bargaining tool. If I was religious, that might have been a moral or ethical issue, but I was thankfully unencumbered (just kidding). And what's the worse that could happen to me inside a church? Get struck by lightning? lol

I actually like Michelle's church and I greatly admire and enjoy the company of her pastor (whom I've written of before here). So I took Alex, dropped him off in his room and found a place to sit and read. The Pastor had actually graciously offered me his office but the library was nearer Alex's room and was unoccupied. But, I felt a little guilty that the book that I brought to read did not exactly cast religion, or at least one flavor of it, in a good light. I didn't do it intentionally, though. It's just what I'm reading right now. And it's subject matter, Mormon Fundamentalism, could not be further from the religion of my wife's church.

The book, Under the Banner of Heaven, is a great book by an author that I've read before (Into Thin Air, about Mt. Everest). Mormon fundamentalism has been thrust back into the news recently because the capture of Warren Jeffs, one of the FBI's most wanted and the leader of a polygamist sect here in Arizona. The book was written a few years ago but does talk about Jeffs and his father and the other leaders.

I'm all for religious freedom, but marrying multiple 13 year-olds against their will, raping, kidnapping, incest, etc. are not my idea of how you would exert that freedom. On top of that, they hate the U.S. government and claim it has no jurisdiction over them yet they have no problem taking millions in welfare checks from the government. Some very screwed-up stuff in the name of religion. And the story of how the Book of Mormon came to be is priceless. It's so odd that even a South Park lampoon of it is not really stretching the truth: South Park Mormons

My last little religious tidbit is on an upcoming Time magazine piece on Prosperity Theology or Name It and Claim It. This is a segment of Pentecostal Christianity but is also holding a large sway over a growing number of evangelicals. It basically says that God wants you to be rich and prosperous. Now, I'm no biblical scholar but I have read the Bible and have had my share of bible classes and nowhere do I remember it saying that God wanted me to have bling. Maybe I was gone that day. Are megachurches and this brand of Christianity getting just a wee bit away from the teaching of Jesus? Methinks so.

Does God want you to be rich?

Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
Priest: "No, not if you did not know."
Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"
-- American author Annie Dillard

Friday, September 08, 2006

dbackdad's favorite actors: part one -- gary oldman

British actor Gary Oldman is one of my favorite actors. He does not take the normal roles and largely steers clear of the typical Hollywood fare.

My first exposure to Gary Oldman was in college in a movie that went beyond entertainment for my group of friends. The movie was Sid and Nancy, about the life of bassist Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols.

His performance rises to that honorable level of biopic where the actor spurns mere imitation and rather inhabits the role. Much like Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line and Jamie Foxx in Ray. You buy their performance so much that you almost forget it is a movie. It's more like a documentary.

I am not exaggerating to say that we watched the movie 50 times. I'm pretty sure that I could recite all the dialog by memory. Probably an unhealthy adulation of this movie, but it was fun. And the scars from carving words on our arms have been healed for a long time.

The next film I saw with him was Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead. This is a very funny film set on the periphery of a Shakespeare story, much like another by the same author (Tom Stoppard), Shakespeare in Love. Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are two undeveloped characters from Hamlet that are given a life of their own in this movie. Another great British actor, Tim Roth, co-stars.

While a relatively small role (time-wise), his performance is obviously pivotal to the story in the next movie, JFK, in which he plays Lee Harvey Oswald. Oldman does a very believable American accent and bears a strong resemblance to Oswald.

Creepy ... that would describe Oldman's portrayal of Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula. This is a great cast including Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder and Richard Grant. I can still hear him in his Romanian accent say, "I've crossed oceans of time to find you." Gives me chills.

Another small but memorable role was in True Romance. He plays a dreadlocked pimp who thinks he's black. If you did not know it was Oldman, it would be hard to believe that it was him. This is a funny, very underrated film that has quite a few small cameos by big actors including Brad Pitt as a hilarious pot-smoker and Val Kilmer as Elvis in an inner-dialog.

Oldman has had too many great performances that I can't mention them all here in depth. But I'd recommend him in The Professional as a corrupt policeman (including a great debut performance by Natalie Portman), in the very stylish Fifth Element as a wacked-out villain, and as Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

A big nod to Sadie and her series of favorite actors. They were well-done and my inspiration:

Kiefer Sutherland
Cate Blanchett
Edward Norton
Jennifer Connelly

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Nothing like following up a light subject like drug legalization with one on overpopulation. :-)

Whatever your beliefs on religion, politics, the environment, it's silly to deny that we are exerting pressure on our planet merely by virtue of our breeding. If we do not adjust our beliefs to a changing world, we will run out of space, out of resources, out of food. These pressures on territory and resources are causing all the major international conflicts that are going on now. What do we do? Do we change our beliefs to adjust to a changing reality? Not a pleasant thought for some, but I believe it will be necessary.

What does overpopulation stress (in the U.S.):
- our classrooms
- our highways
- our infrastructure (fire, police, rescue, local government)

... The average American's "ecological footprint" -- the theoretical area required to supply everything a person consumes and to deal with the aftermath -- is 269 global acres, almost nine times the footprint of the average person in China and more than 22 times that of the average Indian or Pakistani.

According to their analysis, the ecological footprint of the United States as a nation is bigger than the combined footprints of China, India, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Russia, which together are home to 3 billion people. So from the planet's point of view, the birth of a single American child has the potential impact of 10 births in those countries.

Jennifer Shawne believes that such statistics should be a consideration in deciding whether to reproduce: "Each child born in this country means further destruction of the planet. Now that argument doesn't really stick with people who are eager to have kids. But for others who are constantly being told by society that they are selfish for not wanting to have kids -- maybe it does help them." -- courtesy of Alternet

The United States, now at nearly 300 million people, is the only industrialized country that has experienced strong population growth in the last decade ...
... Americans consume like no other nation -- using three times the amount of water per capita than the world average and nearly 25 percent of the world's energy, despite having 5 percent of the global population; and producing five times more daily waste than the average in poor countries. -- From Alarm Sounds on US Population Boom

Am I talking about child limits like in China? No. Am I talking about taking responsibility for the strain larger families put on the earth's resources and infrastructure? Yes. Am I suggesting that people change their religious beliefs? Mostly no. Am I starting to sound like Donald Rumsfeld asking himself rhetorical questions? Yes ... I'll stop now.

We are going to have to examine policies that we are using now that are not helping the problem:

- abstinence-only education
- not making readily available the morning-after pill
- religious beliefs that prohibit or discourage contraception
- abortion bans

By no means are Christians beliefs the sole cause of a rising overpopulation crisis in America. But the attitudes of some seems to point that they are not interested in being the solution either (from How Many People is Too Many):
... Campbell (Nancy Campbell) sees no problem. "God made this earth to be inhabited. I have traveled from one side of America to the other, as I am sure you have. You travel for miles and miles and miles of uninhabited land, drive through a city and back to uninhabited land. I think that the God who created this earth knows more than the environmentalists of our day."

... Is Nancy Campbell encouraged that evangelicals are having more kids? "Yes, I think this is a positive trend. I think that Christian people, on the whole, are going to raise more God-fearing and honest citizens who will bless the nation."

Evidently being honest to yourself doesn't count. Maybe the kicker is that it's not just a religious thing, it's a political one. Maybe the intent is to maintain a permanent Republican majority. From Baby Gap: How birthrates color the electoral map:
... States, however, differ significantly in white fertility. The most fecund whites are in heavily Mormon Utah, which, not coincidentally, was the only state where Bush received over 70 percent. White women average 2.45 babies in Utah compared to merely 1.11 babies in Washington, D.C., where Bush earned but 9 percent. The three New England states where Bush won less than 40 percent—Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island—are three of the four states with the lowest white birthrates, with little Rhode Island dipping below 1.5 babies per woman.

Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility (just as he did in 2000), and 25 out of the top 26, with highly unionized Michigan being the one blue exception to the rule. (The least prolific red states are West Virginia, North Dakota, and Florida.)

In sharp contrast, Kerry won the 16 states at the bottom of the list, with the Democrats’ anchor states of California (1.65) and New York (1.72) having quite infertile whites.

Other rationalizations for unbridled breeding by Christians are sad and unintentially hilarious:


Has "be fruitful and multiply" been taken too seriously? Evangelicals consider it an edict. Was the term multiply even properly translated? -- Be Fruitful and Multiply: The most tragic translation error?

It's ironic. By being mindful of the strain we are putting on the planet, we are bringing less potential Democrats into the world. Of course, that is assuming that we take on the politics of our parents. I'm living proof that you don't. Scott will love this ... Though my parents have always voted Republican, I think if they were more active in politics and political theory, they'd be Libertarians. They've always liked living off the grid as much as possible. They have no debt whatsoever and dislike any government interaction in their life. But I digress.

You have all these silly "ban gay marriage" proposals in our state legislatures. Maybe what we need is a "ban straight marriage" amendment. :-)

“Overpopulation” a work by Victor Cauduro Rojas By permission: Global Environment & Technology Foundation

"We have been God-like in our planned breeding of our domesticated plants and animals, but we have been rabbit-like in our unplanned breeding of ourselves." -- Toynbee, Arnold Joseph English historian (1889-1975)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Drug Legalization

My world is falling apart. I've found something that I agree with Scott on. Check out his well-reasoned post on drug legalization:


BTW, Scott, it's not meant to be a back-handed compliment. I truly think you had a great post. :-)

Sunday, September 03, 2006


I haven't had a lot of movie reviews lately because the summer is a very dry time for any movies that are any good. Mostly, Alex and I have went to the discount theater and caught some of the animated flicks from about 6 months ago: The Wild, Ice Age 2, Over the Edge.

They are not worth reviewing in depth because I can basically review them all about the same: Overrated fish-out-of water stories with little plot. Overspent on voice talent. Nice messages about the environment. Largely unfunny. Kids will probably like but parents will be bored.

Highlights as far as voice talent: Eddie Izzard as Nigel and Janeane Garofalo in The Wild, Steve Carell, William Shatner, Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara in Over the Hedge, and John Leguizamo in Ice Age 2. Grade: C+

The two movies I'm reviewing are stories of hope: one old, one new. Hope's a funny thing. It doesn't just help the person with it. As they say, "a rising tide lifts all boats".

The first of these movies is my 2nd favorite movie of all time, The Shawshank Redemption, and one of the best movies of the last 20 years. I re-watched it for about the 10th time this weekend.

A story of hope under the worst conditions, Shawshank tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a man falsely convicted for the murder of his wife and her lover. Through his interaction with his fellow inmates, he not only keeps some sort of sanity for himself but helps others. I won't spoil the plot here, but suffice to say that is a story of amazing redemption.

This movie is so well-crafted that I'm reticent to name another movie that has been such a great combination of cinematography, music, acting, etc. The look, tone and subject matter are reminiscent of Cool Hand Luke and there is even a scene that is a direct homage.

Director Frank Darabont wrote the screenplay himself, adapting a Stephen King short story. The screenplay's strength is in it's ability to give the movie space. It's not overtalkative. Also, the themes of hope and redemption are woven into the dialogue largely without you knowing it. So, by the time the movie comes to its climax, you are so invested in the story, it is that much more satisfying.

Secondly, the music by Thomas Newman and cinematography by the great Roger Deakins (Sid and Nancy, Fargo, A Beautiful Mind) give the movie such a sense of beauty. It's odd to say that a movie about a prison and with drab colors can be beautiful. But this movie is brimming with beauty in every sense.

Lastly, the acting is universally spectacular. Tim Robbins is already a hero of mine for his directing (Bob Roberts, Cradle Will Rock, and Dead Man Walking) but he gives a very understated performance here that serves the story. Morgan Freeman ... well, I have never seen the man give a bad performance in anything. But it is in the supporting roles that the real strength comes out, particularly James Whitmore, William Sadler, Gill Bellows and Clancy Brown.

I can't gush any more about it without ruining the plot. But, take my recommendation and see this movie if you haven't already. Grade: A+++++

The 2nd movie is a new movie that we just saw called Akeelah and the Bee. This is a very good family movie. It tells the story of 11 year old Akeelah Anderson, played by newcomer Keke Palmer.

Akeelah lives in South L.A. and obviously has a talent for spelling but because of the environment in which she has grown up and the distinct uncoolness of excelling in anything, especially spelling, she at first tries to deny it. But she comes to find that others want her to succeed as much as she wants to succeed. Her excellence gives them hope in their lives. Kinda like a lone flower growing in a barren field.

The movie is not overly maudlin and has nice acting performances by Laurence Fishburne as her coach(who's always great in movies), Angela Bassett as her mom, and in a case of ironic casting, Curtis Armstrong (Booger in Revenge of the Nerds) as her principal. I guess the nerds have their revenge again. :-) I recommend this movie. Grade: B+