Tuesday, July 31, 2007

INGMAR BERGMAN 1918-2007

I’m not as versed in Bergman as I should be. Maybe his death will give me a chance to visit his work some more.

THREE STRANGE LOVES (1949) –You wouldn’t figure it for a Bergman film, but the love –triangle subject matter was treated in a much more European manner although I remember the interiors and cinematography seemed like a 1940s Hollywood. It just happened to be one of the few Bergman movies the Pensacola library owned and it’s overall mediocrity kept me from trying other lessor known films like THE MAGICIAN.

WILD STRAWBERRIES (1957)
– This was my first Bergman film. I couldn’t figure out how a man’s travel with his daughter-in-law could make for a classic film, but I gave it a run. It turned out to be a great introduction to Bergman, because his approach to material is usually superior to the plot itself. It had a funny effect on me at the time. I liked it a great deal and I wanted to watch it again soon after. I decided that I watch some of his other films first, but his best films were unavailable in Pensacola. I’ve slowly watched a few here or there on Netflix, but I have a way to go. I would still consider it to be my favorite of his movies.

THE SEVENTH SEAL (1957)
–It’s hard to set a film in the middle ages and make it work. I can hardly think of another off hand. Bergman not only captures small villages and great areas of desolation, but intertwines the black death quite well too. This was the first one I saw on Netflix and it’s understandable why it’s his most iconic. Death as a character could be quite hokey in the wrong hands, but Bergman makes it believable and haunting and compelling.

CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972)
– After THREE STRANGE LOVES I thought I would check out something more well known and Cries and Whispers was nominated for Best Picture and Director. A movie full of death and near death and pain and remorse can get to you. I think I gave up on it after 45 minutes. It did more than anything else to quell my Bergman appetite for a while.

FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1982) – This is the one I’ve seen most recently. Although 3 hours long, the story arc and tertiary characters work well enough that it didn’t seem overlong. I understand he did a 4 hour version for Swedish TV. It also helped me to understand why critics point to certain Woody Allen traits and call the Bergmanesque. Woody’s scene at the end of Match Point where the Tennis Player talks to the deceased is a clear homage to Bergman and one that I would have missed without watching this film. Although it's longer than most of his work, it's also less dark than the others I have seen.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

THOU SHALT NOT KILL THE CUTE ONES

Irony is never lost on the Dude.
Hai Nguyen, 24, was fishing off a Newport pier about 12:30 p.m. Friday when the sea lion snatched the bait from his fishing pole.

"It was close enough so he could just reach out and stab it in the water," said Sgt. Evan Sailor, a police spokesman. "A number of people witnessed it and called police."

The sea lion, a six-foot female weighing about 150 pounds, was stabbed in the heart and was euthanized. Nguyen could face a $25,000 fine and up to a year in prison if convicted on the animal cruelty charge.
Nguyen argues that the sea lion was in the act of committing a felony while Nguyen himself was in the act of killing sea creatures so no harm, no foul. Meanwhile, Pacific Marine Mammal Center employees are pushing to classify this as a hate crime and the woman who got raped on the pool table in THE ACCUSED wishes she had these witnesses in the bar that night.
THE SUPREMES

Senator Chuck Schumer says that the Senate should not confirm another Supreme Court Justice during Bush’s time in office. It would be a disaster he says to see another Roberts or Alito replace a Stevens or Ginsburg.

Schumer’s assertion comes as Democrats and liberal advocacy groups are increasingly complaining that the Supreme Court with Bush’s nominees – Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito – has moved quicker than expected to overturn legal precedents.

Senators were too quick to accept the nominees’ word that they would respect legal precedents, and “too easily impressed with the charm of Roberts and the erudition of Alito,” Schumer said.

The term that ended in June was notable for several rulings that reversed or chipped away at several long-standing decisions, delighting conservatives but enraging liberals.

Breyer has publicly raised concerns that conservative justices were violating stare decisis, the legal doctrine that, for the sake of stability, courts should generally leave precedents undisturbed.

I ran through the constitution again and I didn’t see the word “precedent” anywhere. Do they use a different constitution in the senate? It does say 1789, maybe the country was overthrown between then and now and I've got the wrong document.

According to Webster, "precedent" means, “prior in time, order, arrangement, or significance.” It seems that precedent is just another word for tradition, defined by Webster as, “an inherited, established, or customary pattern.”

Webster says a conservative is someone “tending or disposed to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions.” So why are conservatives delighted that the new court isn’t upholding tradition?

Charles Schumer was born in 1950 so he probably had other things on his mind when the Earl Warren Supreme Court started knocking down tradition after tradition. He would probably be angered to know that school prayer, a long time tradition, was outlawed with the decision Engel v. Vitale (1962)

It also might burn him to know that the court ruled in Miranda v. Arizona (1966) that you had to read a suspect his rights making it tougher to extract confessions. In the old days you could simple ask the guy if he did it.

You can’t just blame Warren though. In 1971, the Burger court ruled Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education that school districts can and should bus children to schools far from their homes so people who look different could be bused in the other direction. It ended the traditional idea that a school was a part of a shared community. The court instead saw school as a laboratory for social engineering.

Lucky for Schumer the solution is in front of him. According to the Constitution, he's actually a member of the only government branch allowed to create federal law. Just write the law very simply in a few pages so that even the dumbest court member will know just what you mean. The power is all with you gentle warrior.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

NUGGETS FROM THE YOU TUBE DEBATE

I didn't watch it so I cannot comment on the whole, but these quotes struck me.
Obama said he would be willing to meet individually with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea during the first year of his presidency. "The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous," Obama said to applause.

This blanket diplomacy panacea is a total fraud. The candidates never tell us what they'd say in these talks, but we're to assume that it would be thoughtful and measured and the world's madmen would nod and embrace our tender leader.
Clinton immediately disagreed and said she would send envoys first to find out their intentions. "I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes," she said. Her campaign quickly posted the video on her Web site, trying to draw a distinction with her chief rival and show she has a different understanding of foreign policy.

You can see how Hilary's time in the White House has given her a much more realistic outlook in these things.
On another foreign policy topic, Biden said he would send 2,500 U.S. troops to Darfur to try to end the civil war there. It took three tries to get Clinton to answer the same questions. She finally said U.S. ground troops don't belong in the fight because they are overextended in Iraq.

Let's pull the troups out of the Middle East where the war is and create a bloodbath so we can send them to Africa to end one.
She also refused to call herself a liberal. "I prefer the word progressive, which has a real American meaning ...," she said.

What will you call yourself when "Progresive" becomes the pejorative term for more taxes and less freedom?
Obama, a freshmen lawmaker trying to appeal to the public's thirst for change, replied, "One of the things I bring is a perspective ... that says Washington has to change."

Another nonspecific attribute that he assigns himself, perspective. What perspective? Every Democrat is trumpeting change.
Clinton claimed she has a 35-year-record as an agent of change. "The issue is which of us is to lead on Day One."

Obama has perspective, but Hilary is an agent. The professor versus the operative.
When was the last time a presidential candidate was forced to promise to work at minimum wage? That is effectively what happened when a voter asked whether the candidates would serve four years at $5.85 an hour rather than the president's annual $400,000 salary.

"Sure," replied Clinton.

Think the media will hold her to this one if she's elected?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

ZOMBIE-IN-LAW

From the Newsweek article: "I was there one minute and the next thing I know, it's a few days later and people are telling me I was dead and came back," says Duffield. But Duffield's memory and intellect and personality all returned intact from his brush with death, as did Bondar's. This is, on some level, deeply mysterious. We experience consciousness embedded in time, a succession of mental states continually re-created in our brains, even during sleep. But when the brain shuts down, where does the mind go?"
Great question. Dude, you are holding out on us. Surely you have a theory?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"It's A Wonderful Life" - The Hitchcock Version

The magic of editing trailers

Friday, July 20, 2007

MAMA AND DADDY

Hello faithful readers of the Junto Boys Blog. SirSaunders here, I'm back from a wonderful family vacation (the first real vacation in 3 years). We went to BEAUTIFUL Savannah, Georgia and visited Fort Jackson. We then journeyed to Augusta, Georgia to visit my sister-in-law and her family. Then to the Lake House on Lake Seminole for a few days. I went to my 20 year high school reunion and realized again why I left Bonifay 20 years ago. Then we finalized our two week extravaganza on Panama City Beach where I laid under an umbrella and delighted in my happy life. But all that moving around got me to missing the Junto Boys and thinking about you fellows. I've enjoyed the recent blogs particularly Tom's "Secret" comment (I noticed that too) and Kevin's Lazarus brother-in-law article (speculation: does this hypothermia technology bring us closer to cryogenic storage of humans and thus possible long term space travel Ala "Alien?"). But I digress.

My thoughts lately have been with an eye toward the election next year and what the American People want/need out of a candidate. Truthfully, after spending a lot of time in the country and in Bonifay on my vacation, I concluded it boils down to a simple truth: Mama and Daddy. You see the American People are like children in a big family. When times are good and everything is right with the world, you want Mama. You want Mama to tend to you, care for you, wipe your mouth, clean your table, mend your clothes, bathe you, tuck you in at night and tell you that all is good with the world. You need Mama. You love her because she rocks you and makes you feel wonderful, nurtured, and loved. But then...night comes... It's 2:33am and you are awakened out of a dead sleep. You hear a crash down the hall. Has someone broken in? Is there an intruder? Hairs stand on end and you brake out in a cold sweat. Who is it you call for? It sure ain't Mama, it's Daddy. You want big strong Daddy to get his gun and search the house and defend the homestead. You want Daddy to chase off the monsters and tell you all will be fine with the world. You are glad to have him. Whew! Thank goodness for Daddy. Then the sun rises, the glass is cleaned up, the window is repaired. Life goes on. Hmmmm...it's not scary now. I guess I'll ask Mama for some breakfast. And the cycle continues.

This is why, Baring a new attack and baring a complete foul up by the candidate, a Democrat will win in '08. We've forgotten (or don't want to remember) the broken window, we just want Mama to fix breakfast again. Because really, if that bad man comes back again, then we'll just holler for Daddy, Daddy!!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

Happy Birthday.




ZOMBIE-IN-LAW

Marci's sister in Tucson phoned last year to announce that her husband was in the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. This was shocking news as he was only 40 years old and physically fit. He swims every morning at the U of A pool. One morning after his swim, he collapsed in the shower. There was one other guy in the locker room and he decided to not ignore the thud. He checked it out and found dead Brian then went looking for help. The first person he ran into happened to be a paramedic who tended to Brian and called for backup. He wound up at the U of A hospital which is one of a handful of hospitals with the necessary equipment to induce hypothermia for cardiac patients. They shot him up with chilled saline and wrapped blankets around him which are infused with the chilly stuff. They kept him in a coma for a few days at 92 degrees and when he woke up the only lingering effect was a great story. Now he is on the cover of Newsweek - and this so soon after he was named Time's Man of the Year.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

TOM’S MOVIE REVIEWS SINCE MAY

*** Superior Film
** Solid Effort
* Same ole
# Sleep Aid


***A MAN ESCAPED (1957) – I decided to try another Robert Bresson film after getting enjoyment from PICKPOCKET last time. The setting is World War II, our hero is a French resistance member in prison and dying to get out. The plan and the time that it takes to find a way out are the gist of the movie. It’s all in style and tension and Bresson serves up another winner.

**ARMY OF SHADOWS (1969) – French Resistance again, but this time from my pal Melville, of Le Samurai fame. The Nazis were not kind to the Frenchies that didn’t play ball. It follows the journey of a resistance fighter raising money and pulling schemes. Like the Andy Garcia movie I review later, it’s uplifting and scary watching a guy trying to get his country back.

*BREACH (2007) – Based on a true story of Robert Hanssen, the FBI agent turncoat in bed with the Russians. Chris Cooper plays Hanssen effectively. Ryan Phillipe is cast to annoy Dude as the young aide planted to get the goods on Hanssen. Cooper/Hanson’s intelligence and observation are so keen that he proves to Phillipe that he can tell when he’s lying and soon thereafter fingers him for snooping around in his office. That’s on the first day and it makes Phillipe’s quest look hopeless. But after that scene, Cooper never really calls the aide out on any of his lies or suspects any of the subterfuge. The setup is solely to make us uneasy in their confrontations rather than introduce a real character trait that will play out later in the plot. The actor that plays Phillipe’s wife is supposed to be East German but her accent sounds Scottish when she bothers to use it, and her looks are not the least bit European. I have to comment on the politics. William Hurt already starred in the TV version of Hanssen’s tale and while I’m sure that would have been enough usually, this movie arrives so that Hanssen’s personally conservative manner can be construed to be a part of his overall deficiencies. He chastises Phillipe for noticing the beauty of another woman and pressures him to bring his non-catholic wife to mass. He also comments on not liking to see women wear pants and disparages Hilary Clinton. Only a rotten spy could think these things. CIA spy Aldrich Ames gave something like $5,000 to the Democrat National Committee and that didn’t get mentioned in his TV movie starring Timothy Hutton. The reliable Laura Linney is kind of wasted as the boss that puts Phillipe up to all this. The rarely seen Anne Archer plays Cooper’s wife. Overall it’s probably a little smarter than the typical piece in this genre, but there is nothing new in approach. It’s just a matter of waiting around for the capture.

*THE GOOD SHEPHERD (2006) – We have moles in the CIA too, but before we get to that director, Robert DeNiro shows us the early history of the CIA through a young agent played by Matt Damon. It follows along pretty nicely for the most part, but becomes too much near the end when the web encompasses Damon’s family. Did we really need such melodrama? Good turns by John Turturro as the loyal aide, Michael Gambom as his college professor, and Alec Baldwin as his contact in the FBI. It has all the style and presence of a great movie, but the plot eventually gets in the way. No amount of makeup makes Matt Damon look 50 years old. The scene with his grown son makes them look like school chums. Like BREACH it begins with a flashback. Does no one read Syd Field? I guess it’s rare to see any biographical movie not flashback. WALK THE LINE is another recent example.

**THE LOST CITY (2005) – Actor/Director Andy Garcia is entirely out of step. How else do you explain that this biographical movie doesn’t begin with a flashback? But that’s not his only deviation. Unlike regular Hollywood that embraces Castro and idolizes Che, Garcia makes a movie about what frauds they were. He doesn’t sugar coat Batista and his corruption, but instead shows how that corruption brought about an opportunist Castro who proved even worse. Since the OCEANS movies are more about attitude than character and since Garcia hasn’t made any other A list movies in ten years, I forgot what an effective actor he is. And if you think about him being 2 years older than Alec Baldwin and still capable of playing leading men, you wonder if he hasn’t been blacklisted for his political beliefs. Maybe he’ll get a documentary in 20 years about this injustice. The acting is uneven in the other performances and cameos by Dustin Hoffman and Bill Murray are entertaining but although disruptive. Hoffman just always seems like he’s acting to me even when he’s entertaining. Murray is really quite a hoot, although there is no real purpose for his character and the tone changes in any scene he’s in. It’s funny what passes as bravery these days. Michael Moore is considered brave for making movie’s that aligns with every Hollywood prejudice. Sure sure the Cuban revolutionaries had some missteps, but this is wonderful health care. Actual bravery is portraying Che in a negative light when your peers think the opposite. I mean OCEANS director, Steven Soderbergh is making his next movie about Che and I don’t think it will be about how he liked shooting people for the kick it gave him. I expect a wonderful little movie from Soderbergh, directed much more skillfully with a softer poetic side of the brute, pure fiction of course but a boon to those T-shirt makers. Garcia’s movie is a little long, but the cinematography is first rate. And you root for Garcia the whole way especially as he puts himself in peril by opposing the revolution. This movie gives you the cost of utopianism, the people trampled, the families split apart, the businesses lost all so the worker’s paradise can begin. It’s a grown up movie about what really happens in socialism and the cost of romanticizing it.

*SUPER SIZE ME (2004) – If you need to learn that eating McDonalds is bad for you maybe this is educational. For me, it’s just funny to watch him eat Big Macs and act surprised at the results. Seeing his vital signs wither after a month of McNuggets shows the resilience of the human body more than anything else. The implication in the movie is that the grim reaper had a hand on Morgan’s shoulder. But we all know that people eat like this for years without dying. Maybe I could get famous by making a movie about how taking a bath makes you wet.

**LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006) – I think patriotism can boil down to one moment in this film. Were you happy the first time Americans bombed the Island? I found the Japanese soldiers very compelling and their challenge daunting. But when the bombs fell I could only say, sorry boys, you were born in the wrong century. It’s a tribute to Eastwood’s filmmaking that he didn’t let the sympathy that would be very easy to feel for individual soldiers translate into a hope that they’d beat back the Americans. And the Japanese are sympathetic. They don’t want to be on the island either. Some of them have been to the United States and they remember it fondly. They expect to die and want to do so honorably. The material surprises me considering Eastwood said that his friendship ended with Ronald Reagan after Reagan visited the Bitburg Cementary in 1986. Does this movie mean that Eastwood is ready to forgive our enemies in World War II or just ones that bombed us in the first place? Overall the movie is a little long. There isn’t much going on. We see flashbacks on the two main characters and learn a little about a few others. It’s not a movie that many people would have attempted. I felt that it was a solid effort overall, although I think I would have nominated FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS instead.

**LITTLE CHILDREN (2006) – I got the impression from marketing and nominations that this was some sort of intense drama when it’s actually a sly and subtle comedy. The main characters played by Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet are the Little Children of the title. Both have child/adult relationships with their spouses, Wilson especially, and that frustration leads to their eventual affair. The subplot of child molester Jackie Earle Haley is also an example of adult infantilism as he still lives with and is cared for by his mother. His mother is worried about Haley. She sends him off on a date with a disturbed but otherwise sweet girl. He’s going to need a new mother when his real mother dies, she reckons. The date goes well at first. The two talk easily and the troubled girl opens up. He’s gentle with her and they quickly form a bond. What happens next only happens when a writer is having fun with us. And he’s having a lot of fun on this one. The last part of the movie is just nothing but symbolism on top of symbolism. There’s the obvious breaking of the porcelain kids. Haley’s solution in how to be a good boy made a bell ring in symbolville. And that the leading man misses his clandestine meeting with Winslet due to a skateboarding accident isn’t without meaning either. It’s almost like the movie opens with the children being sent out to play and although they all get dirty and hurt, they all come right back home to the parents.

*THE SENTINEL (2006) – It’s today’s generic modern action/suspense movie. Take a decent idea and fire it up into an interesting plot and then start adding elements that make the whole thing a cartoon and somewhere settle for an ending that’s forced, hollow, or uninspiring. Secret Service Agent Michael Douglas saved Reagan’s life and was subsequently passed over for promotion. Currently Douglas is taking it out on the country by banging the First Lady (Kim Basinger). Since we know that Douglas is capable of such treachery then it shouldn’t be surprising that his former best friend and fellow agent, Kiefer Sutherland, hates him because he suspects that Douglas was banging his wife too. That’s not even the plot just the background. The plot has some other secret service agent conspiring to kill the President and frame Douglas for it. So Douglas has to escape the clutches of Sutherland to clear his name. Chase, gunplay, explosion and Douglas gets to Basinger who believes him and she eventually tells Sutherland that Douglas is a good man even if he’s capable of banging a first lady. Would you be surprised to learn that Douglas makes it all the way to Toronto on the run and then almost single handedly saves the President’s life? Would you further believe with a line or two of dialogue that Kiefer suddenly believes that Douglas didn’t bang his wife and that they could be friends again? Somewhere in there we also get to believe that Eva Longira is an agent too. Still it’s entertaining enough once you forgive the writing shortcuts.

*NOTES FROM A SCANDAL (2006) – Cate Blanchet plays the free spirited teacher coming to a new school and Judy Dench plays the veteran that takes her under the wing. Though British the conflict is somewhat topical with the U.S. school system. Blanchett shows that she can play more than graceful beauty. Dame Judy has that presence you expect. Those two make the movie more interesting than its mediocre material would let on.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

SECRETS AND MORE


Trish uses SECRET deodorant. The ad campaign from my childhood was “strong enough for a man but made for a woman.” I saw a TV ad for Secret today and it said “Secret, strong like a woman.” What? The original meaning was that men smell like oxen and their deodorant has to be strong. The secret behind SECRET is that it’s strong enough for a man, but made for people who shouldn't stink as much, but just might. I can’t help but think that someone must have decided the original wording was offensive because it implied that women weren’t “strong.” But what does it mean to be "strong like a woman?" It’s like saying, “Sensitive like a man.”

Unless something has happened elsewhere in the country where women have taken over chopping wood, mowing the lawn, and bench pressing, I just don’t see the point. Can women be physically strong? yes. Can men be sensitive, yes. But that’s not how you associate those attributes, because each is less so than the other. Other similar examples would include “sweet like cheese”, “angry like a priest”, and “erudite like an uncle.”

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The Left is always down on corporations, but I think we libertarians have been the first to notice that corporations are adhering to political correctness at an alarming rate. Other than making money, there are very few things that corporations do anymore that are overtly right wing. Still, they are evil and greedy and heartless. Years ago when the union guy (I should do an entire entry on him sometime) was trying to recruit me I saw him sitting in our cafeteria with his boss, the VP of the local. I introduced myself and asked why the union gives 98% of their money to Democrats. Because Democrats have traditionally supported the working man etc. and corporations are greedy and we need someone on our side. But what exactly are we getting for our money considering that our CEO is a Democrat? So, ah how long have you worked here . . .

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Back in graduate school, my professor of American politics was a Democrat. I think he worked for Carter at some point or was somehow connected to that circle. He made the case in class one day that it didn’t matter if the United Nations was ineffective, a point I suppose he was ceding, because having a forum to keep the discussion open is valuable. That crosses my mind often when I’ve had it with the U.N. I tend to think that his 1994 analysis was dead-on in a cold war world. But in a world of rogue nations and terrorists I think the United Nations is becoming a barrier to solving problems. The organization is outmoded because it’s chartered on the idea that everyone is reasonable. Sting was right that the Russians loved their children and it turned out they loved them enough to surrender to Reagan. But today’s villains don’t get that channel. There is no Whitehouse hotline to Osama’s mountain cave or Saddam’s palace. The U.N. cannot be effective in bringing them together for meaningful dialogue. What they can do is get a group of nations together to disagree about strong action and since they have somehow become the only arbiter of international law, we become the rogue nation for being sober and decisive. I don’t know how we’d be any worse without them.

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The FAIRNESS DOCTRINE is irksome, but with the rise of the Internet and Satellite Radio, the biggest victim will be AM radio. So many small stations became profitable simply because Rush Limbaugh was worth listening to.

The government once split up the Hollywood Studio System that produced, distributed and shown pictures under one umbrella. What if movie theatres had to balance their product with an equal number of pictures of opposing view? A Clooney movie about McCarthy runs next to a film about Kennedy botching the Bay of Pigs while spooning some mob mol. A Stone movie about the CIA’s assassination of JFK runs next to a film about how the de-funding of the CIA led to 9-11.

Have you ever seen HBO produce a conservative documentary? It would irk them no little to have to start producing them.

What’s really great about the FAIRNESS DOCTRINE debate is how the Left fears actual political speech, but will consider every verbal and even nonverbal vulgarity to be fully protected. We right-leaning individuals have for so long expected movies and TV to be slanted that we laugh it off under most circumstances. We’re so use to having to defend our views we’ve become good at it. They just cover their ears and chant “la la la la la” until they can reach the tuner.

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And what happened over at NBC? Jack Welch’s legacy is not in the news division. Covering the Live Earth concert, NBC said that it didn’t consider climate change a political issue. Wow. That’s what we mean when we say liberal media. There was a time when fighting our country’s enemies wasn’t a political issue. The only thing beyond question these days is misapplied science presented in the form of a church revival.

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David Beckham is Becks. Prince William is called Wills. Is that a common British nickname idiosyncrasy or do they only speak plural about larger than life characters?

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Back to talk radio, Walter Williams guest hosted Rush on Friday and I had to run to my afternoon appointment and I didn’t get to listen to any of it. What a big disappointment. He doesn’t host often and I always look forward to it. He’s brilliant and as a bonus Thomas Sowell nearly always comes on with him for 30-60 minutes to talk issues. You never see Sowell on TV or only hear him on radio when Williams is the host. It’s almost worth breaking down to order Rush 24/7 just to hear Williams do his thing. With my luck, he doesn’t archive the guest hosts.

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I owe this blog movie reviews going back to early May. They are mostly written, but I have 2 or 3 to go. Maybe later this weekend.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

SURGEON GENERAL STRIKES

I'm shocked to find gambling. . . you know the rest.
President Bush's most recent surgeon general accused the administration Tuesday of muzzling him for political reasons on hot-button health issues such as emergency contraception and abstinence-only education.

Dr. Richard Carmona, the nation's 17th surgeon general, told lawmakers that all surgeons general have had to deal with politics but none more so than he.

For example, he said he wasn't allowed to make a speech at the Special Olympics because it was viewed as benefiting a political opponent. However, he said was asked to speak at events designed to benefit Republican lawmakers.

"The reality is that the nation's doctor has been marginalized and relegated to a position with no independent budget, and with supervisors who are political appointees with partisan agendas," said Carmona, who served from 2002 to 2006.


1. Like a lot of useless government jobs we don't need a Surgeon General.

2. Presidential appointments are political by nature. Did this guy think he was being brought into the administration to disagree?

3. Why would he be surprised that people who work for the President favor positions that the President favors?
Another report, on global health challenges, was never released after the administration demanded changes that he refused to make, Carmona said.

"I was told this would be a political document or you're not going to release it." Carmona said. "I said it can't be a political document because the surgeon general never releases political documents. I release scientific documents that will help our elected officials and the citizens understand the complex world we live in and what their responsibilities are."

Any document released to "help elected officials understand their responsibilities" is political. If you are intent on persuading elected officials, your making a political statement regardless of the research that strengthens your argument.

This guy wanted a cushy political job where he could be a one-man band releasing documents how he sees fit impacting legislation and then wanted to be treated as some sort of old testament prophet rather than a political animal. Apolitical science is when researchers let the public draw their own conclusions to the findings in a study. An executive branch job is a mouthpiece job. If he wants to be his own man he should create a program on talk radio.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

MY FRIEND SHAM

It’s been a tough July. I haven’t felt much like blogging. Our dog Shambaugh has been battling health problems since late last year and the time finally came to say goodbye. He lived more than 12 years which is quite an accomplishment for a big dog. He was born the same year as Buckingham and outlived him by 5 years. Trish saved him from a shelter back in 1996 shortly after she graduated from college. She would go to the shelter 2 times a week looking for a Golden Retriever but couldn’t help noticing this mutt made of malamute and possibly a hint of wolf. He didn’t bark like the others. The first time Trish saw him, he put his paw up on the cage as she walked by.

After seeing Sham for more than a month she noticed that he was getting pushed father down the line. The people at the shelter said that dogs get pushed down the line farther as they get closer to the end. Sham was only a couple of days away from the needle when Trish decided to abandon her retriever plan and take Sham instead. Her father was against it but her mother lobbied hard. He didn’t want any dogs around the cats. Sham was relegated to the garage, and then the kitchen, and then downstairs and finally in a month he owned the whole house. Tricia’s parents became so fond of Sham that they flew him back to Iowa during the first few winters after Trish moved to Florida.

Sham was already an older dog when I met him in 2002. Bucky had died of cancer only a month earlier. Sham reminded me of Bucky quite a bit. Neither barked often, Bucky only when I confused him and Sham only at other animals. Neither made good watch dogs, neither met a human they didn’t like. A few years ago Trish found Sham with a captured opossum in his mouth. She got angry at him and forced him to spit it out. It reminded me of the time that Bucky caught the small yippie dog in the same grip.

He would often sit between the couch and coffee table while we watched TV. It would sometimes startle him when I cheered for the Yankees or yelled at the TV for some political speech I was seeing. He was slow to new things. We lived in this house for more than a month before he felt comfortable climbing the stairs. Tricia’s mother bought him a special orthopedic bed last year and he was three weeks before he would try it out. You didn’t have to convince him to eat any kind of meat or peanut butter. He would pretty much eat it until it stopped coming. He was only a portion of his old self, but it was a reminder of what he use to be. Tricia put her Appletini on the porch floor once and Sham snuck in and drank it gladly. He did the same with beer another time. Why would a dog like beer? He was so interested in the TV that time we watched the documentary about wolves.



Sham’s decline began with his inability to jump up on furniture. I use to ask Trish why she let a big dog like that jump on couches and beds and later I felt sad when he was no longer able to do so. Last September we found him limping after returning home from some outing. Soon he could no longer climb the stairs. We gave him medicine and he could climb the stairs again, but it killed his appetite and he dropped from 80 lbs to 50lbs. We saw a thing on the CBS Sunday Morning show about giving pets acupuncture and we tried it in January. It gave him his mobility back and his appetite returned. But he hated going to the place. The lady doctor there had no bedside manner and didn’t understand Sham like his regular vet. She kept forcing him down rather than waiting for him, which only made him hate the whole experience. On top of that, the treatments were effective for shorter periods of time. Finally last week, he had gotten so that he couldn’t even get up in the mornings. He would frequently fall and just sleep where he lied. He stopped coming up to us or listening to us. He seemed by the end to be in his own world much of the time.

Not having him around has been tough. I drive home and think that he will greet me. I go out to get the mail and try to remember not to let him out. When I wake up in the morning I look over the rail upstairs to see if he’s asleep. My mind still hasn’t totally accepted that he’s gone even though I stood by the Vet in his final moments. It seems trivial to worry about animals with so many problems in the world, but its loyal dogs like Sham that make life less brutish. It was a gift to know him.

Monday, July 09, 2007

EARNIE NIEMI SIGHTING


Edgewood High School, Ashtabula, Ohio, 20-Year Anniversary. Earnie (in blue) was my pal and neighbor from kindergarten through 9th grade. He was an Indians fan before it was cool.
ART FOR ART'S SAKE

. . . is only good if you're Art.

There is this great passage in FINAL CUT: Dreams and Disaster in the Making of HEAVEN'S GATE, after the studio execs finished watching a 5-1/2 hour cut of the movie.

(pp. 338-339, edited)

"No way is this company going to release a movie that's five and a half hours long," said Albeck, minutes later in my office, his mouth a line that could have been drawn with a ruler.

"I couldn't hear anything," said Dean Stolber.

"This isn't a case of trimming or losing a sequence or two. The battle sequence alone is an hour and a half long!"

"I'd get on the phone fast if I were you," I advised.

"I don't know," Goodman said, trying to cheer himself up. "I didn't think it was that bad."

"Yes, it is," I said. "It's intolerable, unbearable."

"Some of it's beautiful," he said wanly.

"All of it's beautiful," I said. "It's just unwatchable."


That is how I felt watching THE ENGLISH PATIENT. The female lead was tremendously beautiful, and visually the movie was elegant and beautiful, but as a movie for me it was horrible, and I went to see a movie not an art exhibit.

It's hard to make good entertainment. I finally got back around to 24 and picked up Season Three, which so far is worse than Season Two, which was worse than Season One. Ratatouille, however, was great. We saw that Saturday. And there are several inspired cartoons on Nick that are wonderful. Not much else that comes to mind.
THE EASIEST PREDICTION I EVER MADE

Well, as I predicted, the Live Earth concerts were a great success despite their failure to draw interest. I also wondered about the curious diplomacy of the world's biggest polluter, literally and morally, telling the rest of the world, much of which is trying to figure out where its next meal is coming from, how they (not we) can help save the planet. This article addresses both points.

Evidence is accumulating that most normal people are fed up with being lectured about the need to conserve energy by people who fly in private jets and own multiple mansions. Fifty-six percent of the British public, for instance, believes that global warming fears are "exaggerated."

Repackaging is quite the order of the day when products flop in the marketplace. So we have the curious spectacle of morphing press coverage. For example, an early Reuters report bluntly described the extremely poor turnout for the free Live Earth concert in Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach (on a "perfect" winter night - when tropical Rio is merely comfortably warm) as les than 100,000. Since the hype had it that over a million would come, and since Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones managed at least twice as many concert goers a year ago in the same location, it does look like an embarrassment.

But in the hands of the Associated Press, the same concert was a huge success - the biggest crowds in the whole world for the triumphant effort. Suddenly less than one hundred thousand became "400,000" and they were "packed" onto the famous beach, which just recently was thought able to handle a million-plus concert-goers.

I have yet to see any crowd estimates for the Washington, DC concert, but the photos in the Washington Post show what looks like an awfully puny turnout there. Apparently the concert in Wembly Stadium in London sold 65,000 tickets, though. For their money, the fans got to see Madonna simulating sex with a guitar and other big names of yesteryear doing their thing. The critics were not impressed, while at least some of the fans weren't buying the ideology:

Certainly, on the way into the show, some of the 65,000 people who'd spent $110 on a ticket appeared unaware of the seven-point pledge that Al Gore, the event's chief impresario, had asked all spectators to make. Asked about it, they offered blank looks and said they were there for Madonna (whose annual carbon footprint, according to Buckley, is 1,018 tons -- about 92 times the 11 tons an average person uses per year).

"I'm not even sure who Gore is," said Georgie Simpson, 35, from Ipswich, in eastern England. "Frankly, I think it's cheeky of Americans to come over here and lecture us. They are the worst polluters."


America's rock stars lecture the world on how to behave. How uniquely American. And they wonder why Muslims want to erase us.

Friday, July 06, 2007

ALERT: WOMEN NOT MORE TALKATIVE THAN MEN

A new study finds that women and men use about the same number of words per day, squashing conventional wisdom.

The researchers placed microphones on 396 college students for periods ranging from two to 10 days, sampled their conversations and calculated how many words they used in the course of a day.

The score: Women, 16,215. Men, 15,669.

The difference: 546 words: "Not statistically significant," say the researchers.

The researchers collected the recordings as part of a larger project to understand how people are affected when they talk about emotional experiences.

They were surprised when a magazine article asserted that women use an average of 20,000 words per day compared with 7,000 for men. If there had been that big a difference, he thought, they should have noticed it.

They found that the 20,000-7,000 figures have been used in popular books and magazines for years. But they couldn't find any research supporting them.

"Although many people believe the stereotypes of females as talkative and males as reticent, there is no large-scale study that systematically has recorded the natural conversations of large groups of people for extended periods of time," Pennebaker said.

Indeed, Mehl said, one study they found, done in workplaces, showed men talking more.

Still, the idea that women use nearly three times as many words a day as men has taken on the status of an "urban legend," he said.


An interesting follow-up study would test whether the verbal output of college-age men is significantly higher than the verbal output of older married men. I think we all know the answer, and that is why I am not ready to throw out the urban legend.

I was not included in the test sample and would have skewed the data since I speak about 36 words per day and half of those are "Good morning." I used up most of my quota trying to meet girls in college.
THE MAN WHO USED TO BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT

On the eve of Live Earth, which will be hailed as a wonderful success, basically giving reporters the day off, Al Gore is advocating a consumption tax on gasoline and home heating oil that would hit the poor the hardest, and at a time when gas is hovering around $3 a gallon. And people want him to run again?

Putting a crimp on global warming can't be done solely by promoting new energy technologies and voluntary conservation. Consumers of oil and coal need a direct tax shock.

But the last time Congress raised the gasoline tax was in 1993. In the Senate, Gore cast the deciding vote. At the next election in 1994, the GOP won big on Capitol Hill. Politicians took note.

It may take more than one Live Earth concert to warm up the public and politicians to a carbon tax.

In other news, Big Al had to cancel some Live Earth promotional appearances to bail his namesake son out of jail and get him checked into rehab. Didn't we all think the same thing when we heard the news? -- Wow, a Prius can go 100mph?! Great day for Toyota.

I don't think I've heard Live Earth mentioned, ever, by any human being who was not on TV. Now it may be true that I run in more conservative circles (though the opposite is true at work), but it seems in my little world that there is absolutely no buzz whatsoever around this supposed mega-event. Another media-fueled event that real people could give a flip about. Yawn.

Monday, July 02, 2007

THE CIA

I've been thinking about E's question since last week.

The CIA presents the same problem as does other government organizations. Is eavesdropping on conversations any more intrusive than payroll deduction? The question is whether our country is better or worse having intelligence gathering considering the methods they take.

Considering 9-11 was a lack of imagination, I think that a weak CIA left gaps in our protection. And the disasters resulting from those gaps create a much more radical response than simply beefing up intelligence. Now we have a department of Homeland Security and more federal employees harassing us at airports. I would much rather had those furtive CIA agents from the 1950s all along, the guys overthrowing governments and engaging in covert activities.

I think the reaction of the CIA, FBI etc. in the 1960s is supposed to shock us, but protesting a war at home with troops in the field is possibly treasonous. This is especially true of organizations that were socialist in nature that were taking funds from our communist rivals. The Soviet Union had been funding the American Communist Party since the 1920s, so some of these organizations weren’t just an outlet for free speech, but paid propaganda by the enemy.

The independent hippies had every right to protest, but when they’re on the same side as paid agents, there is a responsibility to watch them. In the case of the newspapers printing the Pentagon Papers in a time of war, well I think the response to that was much less draconian than what would have happened during the Civil War or even World War II. Lincoln would have jailed those editors. Nixon showed restraint in contrast.

In the case of John Lennon, the guy wasn’t even a citizen. Anytime a foreign national comes into your country and protests your war, you have every right to watch his activities and make him feel less wanted.

Can the power of the CIA cause damage to our freedom? Sure. But enemies can cause damage too as recently witnessed. The CIA is one of the few organizations trying to defend the American way of life, while most others are simply trying to “fix” the perceived unfairness of our economy.

The question as to whether the CIA is engaged in grand conspiracies through history is debatable. I can buy that small groups within the agency know more about certain mysteries than they divulge. But it’s hard to believe that any bureaucracy with people competing for prestige and power would really put all that away to band together to pull off some big hoax on the citizenry. In my experience with bureaucracy, no issue is ever settled. The prevailing winds change back and forth and the rivals each get what they want for a while. Every kept secret is a potential power play from some ambitious minion. How do you keep big internal shenanigans secret within such a system like that?

And for the government conspiracies to work, you have to believe that those agencies are efficient. I’ve never witnessed it. It’s not hard to ascribe any number of nefarious things to the CIA, but can they really keep a lid on what they do? Howard Hunt couldn’t manage a 3rd rate burglary.

I think a better CIA means not only fewer 9-11 incidents, but many fewer agencies like the Department of Homeland Security. I will take my chances with the CIA not because they are perfect, but that they are an overall benefit despite their shortcomings and the alternative.