Friday, February 27, 2009

Overdue Oscar Musings

A little late, but I'll give a few thoughts on the Oscars and a response to the following comment by Great White Bear:

"okay, I am impatiently waiting to see your Oscar thoughts!

I eventually saw all the best picture nominees except "The Wrestler" My thought.... Clint Eastwood got jobbed! Gran Torino was easily better than any of the nominated films, and Changeling was better than all but Frost/Nixon.

And Frank Langella's Nixon was better than Penn's Milk!"

Best Picture - I saw all the Best Picture nominees except The Reader. We're going to see that tonight for our anniversary (15 years ... yay!!). I did see one of my favorite actresses, Kate Winslet, in her other big movie this year, Revolutionary Road with Leo DiCaprio. That movie was good and very representative of the suburban malaise of that period (and this period, for that matter) but maybe just a tad depressing. It reminded me a bit of the movie The Ice Storm, also set in suburban Connecticut, which hit upon the same subject but was set in the 70's instead of the 40's and 50's.

I didn't get to see The Wrestler, Gran Torino or The Changeling but want to see all of them.

Frost/Nixon was great and it was my pick for Best Picture until I had seen Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog had everything - setting, music, anguish, redemption, fresh faces. I wholeheartedly agreed with all the awards it took in.

Best Actor - I do agree that Langella was better in Frost/Nixon than Penn in Milk but I cannot fault Penn's performance at all and I think he's owed an Oscar or two. His acting is consistently great and this is such an un-Penn-like role that he pulled off. He got jobbed big time last year for directing and Best Picture with Into the Wild.

Langella truly transcended in that performance and you don't hear a lot of people giving credit, but I thought Michael Sheen as David Frost was fantastic.

Overall, I think it was a great year for Best Actor nominees. I would have had no problem with any of the nominees winning, save Pitt. And that's not a knock on Pitt. I thought he was fine, but the other four nominees gave the performances of their careers.

Best Actress - I saw none of these movies but I'm happy to see Winslet win. I'll let you know what I think of her in the Reader this weekend.

Best Director - I think Danny Boyle had the most complicated job of any of the nominated directors - A couple of countries, iffy working conditions, non-English speaking non-actors, an unconventional narrative. And he pulls it off. Plus I dig him because he directed one of my favorite movies of all time - Trainspotting.

I also like the subtle directing job of Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon.

Music - The Academy consistently fucks up the nominations in this category and slightly redeems itself with the winners. Last year, they didn't nominate any of the songs from the best soundtrack of the year, for Into the Wild, but the winner from the good movie Once slightly made up for it.

This year, Springsteen didn't get nominated for the Wrestler song. I mean, WTF? Why were only 3 songs nominated in this category? All that being said, I liked the noms and win for Slumdog and I always like Peter Gabriel.

Best Supporting Actor - I saw 4 of these performances. I've already ranted about the advanced screening of Tropic Thunder that I saw. I love Robert Downey but did not like this movie. Nuff' said.

I really like Josh Brolin in Milk and felt that Emile Hirsch and James Franco could have easily been nominated also. Brolin is turning into quite the character actor the last few years (No Country, W, Milk) and is at the top of his game. But this category was going to go to Ledger, and rightly so. It takes quite an original performance to make you forget Jack Nickolson's portrayal of the Joker.

Best Supporting Actress - I only saw Henson in Benjamin Button and she was good.

As for the telecast itself, I thought it was fine. I like how they have several former winners present the acting awards. But, I'm a sucker for awards shows, so my threshold for being impressed might be lower than other people.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

War on Drugs

artwork courtesy of IPW artist Linda Eddy

I don't often find reason to agree with Ron Paul, but on Bill Maher's HBO show on Friday, I found a big reason:

... Speaking live from Clute, Texas, the libertarian-leaning Republican did what few other members of Congress will and openly called for the United States' War on Drugs to be abolished ...

"I don't like pot," said the congressman. "But I hate the drug war, so I would repeal all of prohibition. But, I wouldn't even bother taxing it. People have the right in a free country to make important decisions on their own lives. If they want to make mistakes, they can. They just can't come crawling to the government to get bailed out or taken care of if they get sick.

"I believe in freedom of choice in all that we do, as long as the individual never hurts anybody else. So that means I would get rid of all the federal laws. I would dispose with the drug war. We're spending tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars on this, then we march into places like California, override state law, arrest sick people and put them in prison."

"It makes no sense whatsoever," he insisted ...

"The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced." -- Albert Einstein

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Scourge of Modern Civilization

  • they are like Muslim terrorists

  • ---------------------------------------------

  • "... the greatest threat to America going down."

  • ---------------------------------------------

  • "They're mean. They want to talk about being nice. They're the meanest buggers I have ever seen."

  • ---------------------------------------------

  • "What is the morals of a ____ person? You can't answer that because anything goes. So now you're moving toward a society that has no morals"

  • ---------------------------------------------

  • they are trying to get into our schools and indoctrinate our children

Bar your doors!! Head to the bomb shelters! Be very afraid because they are apparently some pretty bad dudes. Where can you find them? In our schools ... in our workplaces ... in our families. Who are these people? They are us. They are not some fringe group hell-bent on destroying us. They are not any more immoral than the rest of us.

They are gays. And if Utah State Senator Chris Buttars is to be believed, they are a bigger concern than the economy or global terrorism. It would be comforting to say he's just some wack-a-doodle that doesn't represent a larger portion of the population. But that would be a lie. His views are very representative of a large portion of the state of Utah and of the Mormon Church. A chuch that was tacitly encouraging it's members to fund the anti-gay Proposition 8 in California. A church that just recently admitted an even larger role in Proposition 8:

The Mormon church has revealed in a campaign filing that the church spent nearly $190,000 to help pass Proposition 8, the November ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California.

The disclosure comes amid an investigation by the state's campaign watchdog agency into whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints violated state laws by not fully disclosing its involvement during the campaign.

While many church members had donated directly to the Yes on 8 campaign – some estimates of Mormon giving range as high as $20 million – the church itself had previously reported little direct campaign activity.

But in the filing made Friday, the Mormon church reported thousands in travel expenses, such as airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals for the campaign. The church also reported $96,849.31 worth of "compensated staff time" – hours that church employees spent working to pass the same-sex marriage ban.

I'm sick of the purveyors of intolerance using the crutch of accusing their accusers of religious intolerance. It's akin to the KKK getting upset if we call them on their racism. Ignorance given credibility by a large church is still ignorance. And I'm sick of a federal government that ignores the separation of church and state and that doesn't threaten churches like this with the taking away of their tax-exempt status. They are certainly allowed to have their views, but let's see how freely they would use their money to influence legislation if they had to pay taxes like the rest of us.

"The Bible itself is intolerant, and true followers of God's word should be as well." -- Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University

"Don't get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance." -- Bill Maher, from his one-person show Victory Begins At Home

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My haul from the VNSA Used Book Sale

I talk about this sale every year ... because it's awesome!

Here are the highlights of the books (almost all hardbacks) that I picked up at this year's VNSA Used Book Sale -- 52 years of selling gobs of used books to benefit local charities (AZ Friends of Foster Children, Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa Country, and Toby House:


The System of the World by Neal Stephenson
A World Out of Time by Larry Niven
Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Achlles' Choice by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow (I just read Towing Jehovah by this author ... very good)

Science Non-Fiction

The Revenge of Gaia by James Lovelock
The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene
The Riverkeepers by John Cronin and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.


Nickel and Dimed
This Land is Their Land

both by Barbara Ehrenreich
Right is Wrong
Fanatics and Fools

both by Arianna Huffington
Stupid White Men by Michael Moore
The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman


Beyond Good & Evil by Nietzsche

"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." -- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Do the Evolution

Do the Evolution by Pearl Jam

I'm ahead, I'm a man
I'm the first mammal to wear pants, yeah
I'm at peace with my lust
I can kill 'cause in God I trust, yeah
It's evolution, baby

I'm at piece, I'm the man
Buying stocks on the day of the crash
On the loose, I'm a truck
All the rolling hills, I'll flatten 'em out, yeah
It's herd behavior, uh huh
It's evolution, baby

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, he's my clone
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
This land is mine, this land is free
I'll do what I want but irresponsibly
It's evolution, baby

I'm a thief, I'm a liar
There's my church, I sing in the choir:
(hallelujah, hallelujah)

Admire me, admire my home
Admire my son, admire my clones
'Cause we know, appetite for a nightly feast
Those ignorant Indians got nothin' on me
Nothin', why?
Because... it's evolution, baby!

I am ahead, I am advanced
I am the first mammal to make plans, yeah
I crawled the earth, but now I'm higher
2010, watch it go to fire
It's evolution, baby
Do the evolution
Come on, come on, come on

Happy 200th Birthday Mr. Darwin!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hard Work

"Hard work is a misleading term. Physical effort and long hours do not constitute hard work. Hard work is when someone pays you to do something you'd rather not be doing. Anytime you'd rather be doing something other than the thing you're doing, you're doing hard work." -- George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?

This morning was not "hard work". Getting up each morning to go to clients ... that's hard work. I took part in the restoration, road removal & clean-up of a section of the Sonoran Desert National Monument with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition:

"A significant part of the Sonoran Desert National Monument is currently closed to vehicular access because of the excessive damage it is receiving from illegal off-road vehicle use, trash dumping, etc. The area we are restoring is inside a wilderness. We will be removing a road that has been illegally created inside the wilderness boundary ..."

About an hour drive SW of Glendale, it was a great way to spend a Saturday morning. Great scenery, nice weather and a worthy mission. We swung hoes or pick axes to break up the ground hardened by illegal vehicle traffic. The hardened ground does not allow the desert plant life to grow. By breaking it up, grasses will reestablish themselves ... and quickly. We moved dead logs and dug holes to put dead bushes in. This was done to discourage the use of these paths again.

The leader of the restoration showed us a different area that they had worked on last fall and you could barely tell anything had been there. It had been a large parking area that had remnants of fires and rutted paths, and now it looks like normal desert with grasses and creosote bushes.

I guess that's the heartening thing about fixes to our environment -- changes made can make a difference and can allow the earth to recover.

It sucks that this type of work has to be done. Shooting guns, littering, and a complete disregard for designated wilderness areas -- not things that will endear a person to me. And not exactly things that will convince me of your intelligence. But despite my disappointment of a section of our society, I was heartened and encouraged by the selfless effort of a different section of our society - the volunteers.

Large off-road vehicles, recreational gun use, and Budweiser (the most popular litter item) are things either informed by a lack of knowledge of Freud or perhaps by too much knowledge of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh:

"The Earth’s ecosystem is not fragile, and humans are not capable of destroying it" - Rush Limbaugh

One wishes that Rush's influence was more fragile, but people will always look for views that reinforce their prejudices. Our hope should be to rid people of their prejudices and then his idiocy will have nothing to take hold of.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Shock Doctrine at work in AZ

To get an idea what modern conservatism has become, take a look at our little test bed here in Arizona. With the exit of Janet Napolitano to the Obama administration and a looming economic crisis, it was the perfect opportunity for our mouth-breathing Republican state congressmen and a pliant new Republican governor to gut education and social programs in the so-called interest of reducing the state budget deficit. Classic disaster capitalism - use crisis and disasters to push through your free market agenda, reduce government and eliminate social programs. Legislators hide behind the deficit, saying that cuts in all programs are needed. The public is blinded by the crisis and lets it happen. Included are:

  • a $300 million cut to education

  • $25 million cut to state parks, including at least 5 park closures

  • cuts to libraries and museums

  • "layoffs and furloughs for state workers, and elimination of a welfare program for disabled people waiting for Social Security benefits"

But not all the news is bad. Some programs didn't get cut ... they even got a boost. Guess which:

"Not everything was red ink: The budget package includes $1.6 million for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to use for immigration enforcement ..."

You fucking hypocrites. It's not about balancing the budget. It's about pushing your agenda. Shit on those not able to defend themselves and prop up xenophobic sociopaths. I guess they have their priorities straight.

We're in hell. Janet! Please come back!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Stuff White People Like

I'd guess that a lot of you have already heard the Stuff White People Like list by blogger/ author Christian Lander . For those that haven't, you might suspect it has stuff like "pick-up trucks", "guns", "NASCAR". Not at all. It's a little more pomo than that. It's more about making fun of guilty-conscience, Facebook-loving, sushi-eating, farmer's market shoppers who judge people by their carbon footprint. People kinda like ... well, me. Here are just a few of my favorites:

  • #107 Self Aware Hip Hop References

    ... dilemma for white people who had to show both that they loved hip hop but also that they were aware they were white. The brilliant solution they came up with was to appropriate hip hop words and mannerisms and filter them through a white appropriateness system.

    For example, white people find it particularly hilarious to take slang and enunciate every word perfectly.

    “Homey, that bernaise sauce you made is wack. Do you know what I am saying? For Real.”

    “Well, I used a different type of butter. I switched the style up, so let the haters hate and I’ll watch the deliciousness pile up.”

    Since the above exchange involves people who are very aware of their whiteness it is hilarious, but if it were to be said by wiggers, it would be tragic. The difference is subtle but essential...

  • #64 Recycling

    Recycling is a part of a larger theme of stuff white people like: saving the earth without having to do that much.

    Recycling is fantastic! You can still buy all the stuff you like (bottled water, beer, wine, organic iced tea, and cans of all varieties) and then when you’re done you just put it in a DIFFERENT bin than where you would throw your other garbage. And boom! Environment saved! Everyone feels great, it’s so easy!

    This is important because all white feel guilty about producing waste. It doesn’t stop them from doing it, but they feel guilty about it. Deep down, they believe they should be like the Native Americans and use every part of the product or beast they have consumed. Though for many white people, this simply means putting plastic bags into a special drawer where they will accumulate until they are eventually used to carry some gym clothes or bathing suit. Ultimately this drawer will get full and only be emptied when the person moves to a new house. Advanced white recyclers will uses these grocery bags as garbage bags.

    If you are in a situation where a white person produces an empty bottle, watch their actions. They will first say “where’s the recycling?” If you say “we don’t recycle,” prepare for some awkwardness. They will make a move to throw the bottle away, they will hesitate, and then ultimately throw the bottle away. But after they return look in their eyes. All they can see is the bottle lasting forever in a landfill, trapping small animals. It will eat at them for days, at this point you should say “I’m just kidding, the recycling is under the sink. Can you fish out that bottle?” And they will do it 100% of the time!

    The best advice is that if you plan to deal with white people on regular basis either start recycling or purchase a large blue bin so that they can believe they are recycling.

  • #60 Toyota Prius

    Over the years, white people have gone through a number of official cars. In the 1980s it was the Saab and the Volvo. By the 1990s it was the Volkswagen Jetta or a Subaru 4WD station wagon. But these days, there is only one car for white people. One car that defines all that they love: the Toyota Prius.

    The Prius might be the most perfect white product ever. It’s expensive, gives the idea that you are helping the environment, and requires no commitment/changes other than money.

    The Toyota Prius gets 45 miles per gallon. That’s right, you can drive 45 miles and burn only one gallon of gasoline. So somehow, through marketing or perception, the Prius lets people think that driving their car is GOOD for the environment.

    It’s a pretty sweet deal for white people. You can buy a car, continue to drive to work and Barak Obama rallies and feel like you are helping the environment!

    Some white people decide to pull the ultimate move. Prius, Apple Sticker on the back, iPod rocking, and Democratic Candidate bumper sticker. Unstoppable!

    ... Also, if you see a white person in a Prius you can say “wow, that’s great to see that you’re doing something for the earth.” The white person will feel very good about themselves and offer to drive you home, to Ikea, or drop you off at 80s night.

  • #5 Farmer's Markets

    ... White people like Farmers Markets for a number of reasons. The first is their undying need to support local economies, and the idea of buying direct from the farmer helps them assuage the fears instilled in them from reading Fast Food Nation (and yes, every white person has read this book).

    White people also like Farmer’s Markets because it is outdoors (they love being outdoors), they can bring their dogs and children in expensive strollers, and they get to see other white people. If they are single, this is a good place to meet other single white people who share their passion for sustainability.