Friday, March 31, 2006


The invaluable Crooks & Liars has up the new GOP censure/impeachment scare ad.

There a lot that's fascinating about it


like the massive exposure for Russell Feingold. In fact, Pres. Bush only appears in the ad for about :09 seconds. Sen. Feingold, Vice Pres. Al Gore, Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Harry Reid have almost :20 seconds of airtime.

Bush is revealed and again concealed with a fade-in and fade-out, all bookended with scary horizontal blue steel strips, some text floating inevitably towards you from the center of the screen, a kind of nuclear exposition of elliptical light pulsating out from the center behind the text, with electronic blast sfx, loud ominous techno score.

The whole ad opens with quick vignettes of some masked terrorist-looking types (staged? documentary?) running with guns through a burned-out building. Fade up/fade out, heartbeat pulsating tech score. They run outside, an old car blows up behind them.

Is it real, or is it Memorex?

So they start drumming up the terror with that sequence, have "On September 11th" come in big and readable along with some war rhetoric that spills over into the next slide, then Bush in some unidentified Big Brother-ish setting, wearing what looks like a formal jacket, U.S. flags pattern on the wall behind him.

Bush looks either as phony or sincere as you've come to harden your position on him, but he's only on long enough to say he gave his vow to not wait to be attacked again (like by Iraq again?).

Now two animated power text slides setting up the pitch. The first: "The President is Working to Defeat the Terrorists", as if there is anyone who still believes W. is all that hard-working. Then a slide with too much text, some big, some smaller, claiming he's aggressively pursuing Al Qaeda members, which to you might ring true but just made me depressed that he let Bin Laden slip away in Tora Bora.

Now come the parade of what I assume are intended as red meat targets for the hardcore Bush base; Democrats with names like buzzwords. I was surprised not to see Nancy Pelosi. Not so surprised that Hillary wasn't included as I believe they want her to get the 2008 Dem nomination, they want to run against her and will do everything they can to make Democrats think she's the best contender. Or maybe this ad was just about taking down The Men.

The thing is, aside from the ominous pulsating techno bummer music and the way some of the shots are treated or cropped, they don't seem to me like unreasonable guys. Feingold in particular, with the lion's share of screen time, comes off very serious, very normal, very good.

I'm thinking, they're hoping the emotional argument and Parallax View-style associations rev their choir, and there's enough of a groundswell of anti-Democrat Bushism that the Swing populace starts to sing along.

After the "gallery of Dem traitors" comes "Censure? Impeachment?" and sub-head "Is This the Democrats' Plan?" now with thunder SFX. (I kid you not about any of this.) Then - fade-out/fade-in - "The President is Taking the Necessary Steps to Keep America Safe."

In from the right slides a blood-red band and the words: "Who Do You Stand With?" No music now, just heartbeat and ominous technobreeze, then little white letters on black telling you it was paid for by the Republican National Committee. If you can squint to read it, kind of a punchline.

Here's my brilliant observation: it's all fear. That's the world they create in order to sell you that Bush is the only one who understands the direness of the situation (with no indication that he's really going to alleviate it).

My instinct is that while this may feed maybe a 28% Bush-committed electoral segment, it's only going to scare away potential new converts.

One big problem the Democrats have right now is the lack of a national party leader. Different pols handle different slices -- Dean outfitting 50-states for once, Schumer on Senate recruiting, Joe Biden on C-SPAN, Hillary doing the videogame values pander.

You also have Feingold trying to leapfrog his Party's stagnation. What's so strange to me about this ad is that the GOP give Feingold more prominence than Harry Reid would ever allow.

I guess that they're making sure their base has now clearly identified this new threat/target, maybe to set up a whole Fall Swiftboat campaign against Feinstein. Smears by October? September? End of April?

To me Feingold looks like such a good composed citizen in the midst of this whole berserk apocalyptic branding experience, I can't imagine it doesn't make him look good to anyone but the most wingy Dem-hater or Jew-hater or goddamned Jew Democrat hater. Or maybe I underestimate the size of that demo.

Will they ever offer hope, and not just horror film last-ditch-hope like the feeling engendered by the tiny Bush speech clip? Are we going to get an ad sometime where the goth-ish techno gives way to renewal strings and a bright, sunny palette, Bush in a sea of children, shaking hands and smiling, that childhood innocence, that Texas twinkle, the terrorists all banished from McHappyland by the Wise Emperor?

I think it all depends how well the GOP think they're doing in the polls. This could be one big loyalty test to make standing with the President win, or else walk away from the guy as much as possible.

To me the latching onto Feingold is a mistaken reading of now defunct polls, unless they're thinking they can just hammer and he'll fall fast victim to his chinks like every other Dem who has folded up their armor for the GOP before him. Feingold's stock only went up even after the Party Dems hid like scared turtles on his announcement. Aside from Republicans and Dem bigwigs, most folks seem to dig Feingold for his candor and cajones.

The theme of the next election has got to be hope, realistic hope because we're knowing the costs now. At least I think whichever party can establish that big claim, they win.

The alternative is a fear campaign. And will anyone be surprised if BushCo uses an attack on Iran to raise the fear meter enough?

The Dems shouldn't really run on fear, no matter how much every new day of Bush/Cheneyism strikes real terror in their hearts. They need to start building a credible message of how they're going to make things right, so they have some real positions that everyone can get behind.

So what's the verdict? Am I right on this ad? Or is it more effective than I imagine?

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Crazy-as-hell Sharon Stone just showed up on The Daily Show tonight and won big. Basic Instinct 2, opening tomorrow, has been delayed for years. At one point she sued the producers, who claimed that it was actually her inability to accept any male lead who was interested in taking the co-starring role is actually the thing that kept them from working. At one point even David Cronenberg was attached to direct. Yowsah.

So now they've got it set in London with a British actor I've never heard of playing opposite her. The reviews have not been kind, but at least a couple hint at the guilty pleasure of camp. Some have even tried holding it up to the yardstick of Showgirls, if you can believe how far we've come.

Word is the studio felt like the critics and weren't planning to spend a gargantuan amount on marketing or promotion. They didn't count on Ms. Stone taking to the road on her own with her own little entourage, through Europe and, with now infamously daffy results, Israel.

God bless her, interest in the film went through the roof, and if it manages to dig out from its 10% Rotten Tomatoes rating and do over $10 million this weekend, she owns the miracle.

The way she won Stewart, who had mercilessly ridiculed the video footage of her in Israel mainly just by broadcasting it, was to show up dressed terrifically (as opposed to when she recently was scary fugly), giggle to the funny guy host just like every other starlet on every other talk show (and as usual on Stewart as well), but then she disarms him with some very funny rejoinders. It seems that she knows her image, she knows this movie, she's having a blast doing exactly what she wants.

I'll see about posting a link to the interview if they put it up on the show's website (usually a day or two after airing), but the best part is when she stops Stewart, who's stumbling ever so slightly when about to ask some who-cares question about the movie, dead in his tracks. "Spit it out, sweetie," is all it takes and he's speechless, and I was laughing harder than at anything on TV in weeks. Since the last episode of Beauty & the Geek.

Sharon is our post-modern Tallulah, a grown-up sexual woman, but this time without the drinking or nicotine. At 48 years old she's staking out final claim as the sex symbol of her generation. In an age where Hollywood offers fewer and fewer meaningful roles for women, especially as they age, I have to give her credit for essentially subverting the system with those particularly cruel cards set against her.

At least until the weekend grosses come in, she's got the world on a string. Maybe, just maybe, (if you'll ever forgive the pun) Ms. Sharon Stone is crazy like a fox.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


One of my literary heroes, Stanislaw Lem, just passed away. At an impressionable age I read a fraction of his prolific oevre, half a dozen of his books over a period of several years, but I enjoyed them all and had my mind fairly blown by two.

Lem wrote under Poland's repressive Iron Curtain regime, forbidden to even write about certain topics, but his mind seems so fecund that you don't feel the limitations straining against the writer as with straight social tracts. (Credit for preserving Lem's engaging and nimble style in English goes to usual translator, Michael Kandel.) You feel his imagination, you feel this is a guy who really knows what's really going on, and although Lem and some of his admirers disdain the science fiction genre category slapped on his body of work (including Solaris), it's among the most mind-expanding science fiction.

It's been a long time since I've read them, but I'll try to do justice to the two.

The Futurological Congress (1971) is a tripfest, where Lem's favorite hero, Ijon Tichy, goes to a futurists convention in Costa Rica, winds up drugged in the middle of a coup, and awakens in the overmedicated utopia of 2039. In this vision of tomorrow, there is so much drug use that various capitalists and spies use any kind of delivery to create moods or warp everyone's reality. At points the air is so thick with competing, counteracting, mutating aerosol hallucinogens that our narrator can't trust anything he experiences, and much of it is pretty wild.

It's an acidy Philip K. Dick set-up but Lem, the more brilliant stylist, adds in helium. The story just never stops rising, with colliding characters mutating through unreliable layers of reality as one drug influence segues into another, Ijon searching endlessly for the real world, long before the end of the book clearly an absurd search.

The other one of his novel's that completely rocked my world was Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1961). Jerry Stratton describes it well here:
After an accidental holocaust in which all paper, and thus all civilization, is destroyed, the Pentagon still lives in a building deep beneath the mountains, safe from harm and still carrying out its war of words against “the enemy”, the “anti-Pentagon”. Even though “the enemy” probably doesn’t even exist. It doesn’t matter, because you can manufacture the enemy more easily if you start from scratch. Everything up to and including the stars is fair game...

...Lem constructs a place where paranoia is the ruling mindset, where everything is code, even code is in code, and the most precious item you can have is a straight razor.

A civilian wanders into the Building, but the bureaucracy has no idea what to do with him, so they turn him into an agent, giving him a “Special Mission”--but it quickly becomes clear that his real mission is penetrating the multiple layers of secrecy in order to find out what his Special Mission actually is. No one has clearance to give it to him. And those who do have clearance keep moving him off the track of his search. Slowly, his own vision of the world gets sucked into the paranoid world-vision of The Building.

We’re never quite sure what the protagonist and story-teller is in the building for...He has a pass, but the room number on his pass doesn’t exist--or at least, no one’s able or willing to tell him where it is.

The climax is simultaneously enigmatic and shattering; the vision sticks. Lem's allegory of a nightmarishly self-perpetuating bureaucracy could easily be life inside a Soviet-style fascist society, or just as easily some endlessly self-justifying war-loop government where secrecy and paranoia have already won.


The new Thief series on FX has kind of a mid-1950's urban noir feel, shades of The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing but with darkly vivid color saturations of green, red, yellow. It's a man's man's world, even more by the end of the pilot than the beginning; blood is spilt.

The cast is generally terrific, and at the center of it all is Andre Braugher, my raison d'etre for tuning in. I cherish him as Detective Frank Pembleton as the brilliant hub of the brilliant Homicide: Life on the Streets, and here he doesn't disappoint, finding material and a production worthy of his talents.

He's playing another arrogant asshole, only this time on the wrong side of the law. Pembleton earned your empathy because at heart he was an avenging angel with a hard-ass conscience. Here he's the brainiac leader of a ring of thieves who do big jobs. He seems to sub-contract out for a wealthy backer (Linda Hamilton, in good form), although their arrangement is still a bit ambiguous. He's got a moral code, a very rigid one, but it's tested as things go south very quickly in the first episode, lots of jackpots coming together at once, starting with a sloppy end to the series opening heist.

That we feel any empathy for a character who does as much bad shit as Nick Atwater is a tribute to Braugher, and I think he's bravely trying to take it to a place where our bond is sorely tested, challenging himself in a way he hasn't been since H:LOTS.

The plotting is kind of male melodramatic but the treatment is distanced, a little too MTV for my taste, maybe just signature for director Paul McGuigan, who did Wicker Park and has Lucky Number Sleven coming out. David Manson and Norman Morrill are listed as writers/producers with Morrill as creator, so who knows how much of it is their own stamp or what a different director might reveal.

The best thing they do with the story, I think already by the 45-minute mark, is to have Braugher respond to his cash-poor crew that he's got an notion about another job. The idea forming. Already something to look forward to.

I'm wondering if we're feeling enough honor among these thieves that it'll really hit us if they start tearing at each other. I don't know how well-researched the show is or if it's just a fanciful conceit of middle-class thieves. Do rings like these really exist? Do they really ever hug?

In any case we don't know so much about the codes, the bonds, how they work. The guys don't seem to be in any way Mafia, they're not the Mod Squad.

What brought these thieves together, how long have they been making it click, how often?

And do the showrunners plan on filling us in?

Monday, March 27, 2006


The unprovoked U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has now officially entered The Twilight Zone.

Da-da-da-dah da-da-da-dahhh...

Can anyone say for sure whether U.S. forces mistakenly slaughtered 16 innocent Shiites or did some Shiite groups fake the whole news?

This report quotes U.S. commanders saying, "After the fact, someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was. There's been huge misinformation." But is that the same as saying the whole thing was faked?

The NY Times article lede:
Frayed relations between Iraq's Shiite leadership and the American authorities came under increased strain on Monday as Shiite leaders angrily denounced a joint American-Iraqi raid on a Shiite compound and suspended negotiations over a new government.

The raid on Sunday evening, which killed at least 16 people, also prompted the governor of Baghdad to announce a halt in cooperation with the American authorities, and Shiite militiamen to brandish their weapons in the streets of eastern Baghdad and declare their readiness to retaliate against American troops.

So is this Lieutenant Calley My Lai massacre time, or just a manipulated triumph by radical Shiite cleric and oft-time occupation antagonist Moktada al-Sadr?

Even the consistently reliable and generally unflappable Juan Cole says:
All hell broke loose in Iraq on Sunday, but I'm darned if I can figure out most of what happened or why. It seems possible that the US committed two major military blunders that will worsen its relationship with Iraqi political forces.

He does offer a conjecture, the first plausible one I've read:
I have a sinking feeling that instead of raiding a Sunni Arab building in Adhamiyah, they got disoriented and attacked a Shiite religious center in nearby Shaab instead. Iraqi television angrily showed twenty unarmed corpses on the floor of the religious center, denouncing the US for killing innocent worshippers.

I'm just hoping there's not some nightmare retaliation around the corner. (Hate the war; support the troops.)

Just thinking, could this be the turning point where we finally start to GTF out?


A talented young writer-director to who's blog I have a link to on the side of this one is currently going though the script submission process at the same time that his feature directorial debut may be funded. The script sales process -- "going wide" -- is inherently fascinating, and over the past few days has made a robot that can write edge-of-seat reading.

Here's the set-up:
So we have two more agency passes on Ground Control. There are, I think, three left outstanding. But it definitely appears that we will be trying to sell the script ourselves. Without agency help.

I'm finding it a revealing look into a process often talked about but rarely diaried so clearly. If you want to catch all the suspense from the beginning (Friday 3/17/06) then start here.

As the first entry climaxes:
Anyway, that is the process. It all begins on Monday and if I understand everything it should only take a week or two to complete.

I suspect anyone who reads this entry be keeping their fingers crossed for this optimistic and intrepid screenwriting guy.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


You may need to be a registered subscriber to the L.A. Times in order to read this welcome review of Jessica Abel's excellent graphic novel, La Perdida, so here's a small taste of why I loved reading it when first published in a series of 5 comics, about a young American woman on a mission to find a more authentic life in Mexico:
Carla arrives with a few hundred dollars and no resident visa and immediately recognizes the Mexico of her imagination, "where the hard truth about the crime rate, and the pollution, and the disappearance of traditional culture, just didn't apply." She quickly grows restless, however, with Harry and the other members of an expatriate community that lives isolated from native Mexicans (not a single Mexican friend in sight). Longing for something more vivid, she attaches herself to a group of radical anti-capitalists, who seem to Carla to represent pure Mexican culture — without the taint of U.S. consumerism or values. Yet even as she finds what she thought was authentic, Carla feels more lost than before.

A solid description, and what ensues becomes increasingly harrowing, the shattering climax foreshadowed from the very first pages.

I was never a fan of Abel's ArtBabe series, although mainly for lack of exposure. This material was just so instantly captivating to me, having had friends go down to Mexico for extended periods of artistic habitation, having read all about Frida Kahlo and William S. Burroughs shooting his wife, having had all those capitalism/anti-capitalism discussions in my early 20's.

The look of La Perdida is very much in the Marshall McLuhan comics-as-woodcut tradition, which ends up suiting the setting as well a providing an elegant simplicity for this somewhat complex story. I'll let reviewer Karrie Higgins tell you:
Her drawings are minimal, yet filled with detail and emotional nuance. She evokes the architecture and street life of Mexico, often crowding her frames with so much activity that you feel the hustle of the city, just as Carla does. At the same time, she conveys subtle facial expressions and gestures, even with simple lines and (often) nothing but ink dots for eyes.

Amen to all that.


The New York Times is full of good cheer about what's really happening in Iraq:

- Nice normal Iraq citizens killed with impunity by roving death squads.

- You'd be an idiot not to be packin' heat if you live in Baghdad.

- U.S. troops now fighting Shiite militias (again).

And when el Presidente Bush said he didn't want to go to war, "no President wants to go to war," he was perhaps, er, how you say in America...lying.

"The U.S. was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours," the memo says, attributing the idea to Mr. Bush. "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

Is this what Republicans mean when they call themselves the party of new ideas?


Finally, a better use for tribal sovereignty than casino gambling. In defiance of South Dakota's new anti-abortion law:
"To me, it is now a question of sovereignty." President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, says "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction."

I can't imagine the GOP leadership can be happy about this part of their quadrennial platform being put into actual law, just like with the anti-immigration legislation.

The last thing they could possibly want is to still up average Americans to action. Or Native American.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Just a quick thumbs up on the season finale of The Shield. I used to call it the Most Entertaining show on television. The HBO shows are still a notch better, but that may just be a function of budget. Shawn Ryan & Co. have created the best precinct series since Homicide: Life on the Streets. In fact, the original sin from The Shield's pilot episode is when the cop protagonist, Vic Mackey, kills another cop, an undercover threat to his four man Strike Team's corrupt operation. The murdered cop was played by Reed Diamond of Homicide, being directed by his partner from that show, Clark Johnson.

While the pure jaw-dropping entertainment value has dropped a step after four high octane seasons, it may be appropriate that S-5 is less of a blast, since they're finally dealing with the full ramifications of Vic's cold blooded homicide. Even at his worst, the show has always kept part of us rooting for Vic, our Faustian bargain. Supposedly the next season will be the last, so I'm just wondering if the plan has always been to make Vic really pay for his life of crime, or does he ultimately get one last wink in.

Aside from Michael Chiklis and CCH Pounder earning an award or a nom, and celebrated season-long guest stars Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker, the cast hasn't really been celebrated. Everyone has had a chance to shine, but with this ep props must go to Kenny Johnson as Detective Curtis "Lemonhead" Lemansky, the big guy with a heart of gold, and Walton Goggins as Detective Shane Vendrell, Vic's hot-headed protege.

Early on these guys provided comic relief. How far they've come.


I can't say I'm as well informed as I should be about the immigration issues of our day. Although I've heard criticisms of Bush's guest worker plan as legalized serfdom, is actually seems like it could be the sole policy on which I could be persuaded to agree with him.

But the GOP can't seem to agree with each other. Some business interests need seasonal low salary workers enough that they favor a guest worker program. Then there's the House bill making all illegal immigrants instant felons. How many extra beds are there at Lompoc?

So there were protests today in Arizona and Los Angeles. And my favorite kind -- peaceful. No hotheads, no FBI provocateurs, and half a million in L.A. alone.

Not a bad vision of America.



Turns out Barbara and George Bush are investors in the very same Neil Bush company to which Bab's earmarked her hurricane "donation".

Does that mean she can or can't take that off her taxes?


Barbara Bush donates to a hurricane release fund but stipulates that the money has to go into an educational software company owned by her son, Neil.

Let them eat cake, baby!

Friday, March 24, 2006


Ben Domenech didn't last his first week as the Right Wing blogger in a brand new Washington Post online feature, Red America.

Seems the Post needed balance for White House Briefing blogger Dan Froomkin. To my eyes Froomkin is a journalist who mainly pulls from published news and public quotes, and analyzes the situation in terms of political power, more scorekeeping that moralizing. But you know that Blame Game crowd, they like slapping on labels, the quicker the better. A Reality-Based journalist gets called (shudder) a Liberal.

How out of control is the Post? To balance an independent journalist they hire a 24 year-old Republican Bush crony. Yes, the youngest on record!
A former contributing editor to National Review Online, Domenech later became what he calls "the youngest political appointee of President George W. Bush."

The punk even had the gall to Red-smear Coretta Scott King on the day of her funeral. Y'know, for sentimental reasons.

Sadly, it turns out Gentle Ben is a serial plagiarist.

Looks like an attempt at a face-saving resignation offered by the Post. And what's the first thing Ben does when he leaves? Blames other people. By the end of the day I guess he had gotten his ass handed to him, he finally apologizes, but really only to his cohorts, and the editors and publishers he cheated. Not to his readership or the writers he ripped off. And to top it off he does the age dodge.

Let's make one thing perfectly clear. This is not a guy to be trusted. Ever. Not in print. Maybe in housing if he goes off and does a Jimmy Carter for a decade. Chickenhawk should just enlist if he wants his conservative blogger friends to even give him the time of day.

So a former Bush operative is caught in a lie.

Imagine that.


The Sopranos this season has the longest credit roll of any series television program I have ever seen in my entire life. And, shocker, there have been quite a few of them.

I'm assuming that by now they have the best television crew money can buy in NYC. That's what you should do if you have some of the most expensive stars on television. The credits read like it's a feature now. James Gandolfini's Dialect Coach, no less.

What the hell, they're totally worth it. Gandolfini and Edie Falco must be the best acting team working today. Even when he's in a coma.

I'm guessing that HBO makes so much money on the DVD season sets that they're budgeting like a feature anyway. Does anyone know if they've hit $10 million per episode yet?

Have to say I'm excited to see where it goes. The first episode was insanely tight, laid out this very scary family right at the head of the season. It's for life, no way out.

The genius of the show is how it implicates the audience. It unerringly depicts contemporary suburban life, with all our prosaic self-deception, but then you realize those folks you're identifying with are very, very bad people. They kill people. Sometimes for a living. Sometimes for elective.

Oh beautiful.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


I've had a few folks ask me about the admittedly cryptic non-description of the blog-meets-life moment I had after getting sold out of V for Vendetta on Sunday night. At the time I wanted to protect the privacy of the other person involved, but since a little time has passed and the facts are not in any way scandalous, here's the story for those who still care.

Sometime over a week ago I wrote about my current favorite reality television program, better, funnier and more human by far than any sitcom, Beauty & the Geek. I praised the winners and urged my much more cultured friends to give it a chance, I guess maybe next season.

So I've left my car at the Arclight while heading to a nearby watering hole with the movie-missing friend, and when I head back to drive home, it turns out the person parked right next to me, also heading to their car with a buddy at that exact same moment, is the co-winner from the show, Josh! He's the geek half, of course, of "Josh & Cher".

I do one of those "are you who I think you are" looks, he's got that standing still waiting to see if I recognize him moment. I say, "Are you Josh?" and he fesses up. We have a terrific conversation.

Turns out Josh is a great guy like on the show, a deserving winner, who answers a number of my questions (yes, the way they edited it is a fair representation of what actually happened) and I tell him that I've written about the show on my new blog. He gets the URL and says he'll check it out. He also said he'd go in for the comments, likes to argue, give me "a run for (my) money."

I haven't heard anything from him this week and hope he's fine with this story, but it turns out he's a young screenwriter with one sale already under his belt, he stays in touch with the friends he made on the show, is a little more comfortable talking to women than before, and tends to dislike most movies while seeing a lot of them. He had just gotten out of V, maybe even the showing I had missed! And for those who watched this season you'll be interested to know that Wes is moving out here to try being together with Cher.

Good luck to all of them. But how strange that, in less than three short weeks, through a series of unpredictable events, blog and life are As One.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Regular readers know I've been on an Al Gore reverie for a couple of days and I guess I want to put it on hiatus until he either runs or doesn't, or maybe just until Paramount Classics releases the documentary about his global warming awareness campaign, An Inconvenient Truth, on May 26th. So here's a little coda.

Since this site is about entertainment & politics it's always nice when there's an obvious crossover character. Turns out Al has pretty respectable taste in movies, like Groundhog's Day and Being John Malkovich. So he invited Spike Jones, director of the latter, to come shoot him with his family for the day -- wife, kids, grandkids, mom.

How cool to choose Spike Jones.

Speaking of the movies, you get to see him with the family deciding what video to watch that night. They're thinking The Straight Story (David Lynch!) or Shall We Dance (original Japanese release) and all lukewarm/rejecting rejecting Mel Gibson's The Patriot. Seems he has good videowatching habits as well, always pausing for anyone leaving the room, going for the full experience. The olde fashioned way.

I think you see a genuine guy you'd have a nice time hanging out with, a breath of fresh air in that alt universe where we kicked ass in Afghanistan, didn't let Bin Laden escape in Tora Bora, and spread democracy through diplomacy, in general bolstering rather than denigrating our global reputation and influence.

Here's the pity: it was shot in 2000, shown at the Democratic Convention but not on network television, and then Gore's weak-kneed/overpaid D.C. consultants never released it into the public sphere. I'm not saying it would have won over Justice Antonin Scalia, but y'know maybe he would have seen that Al was a regular guy with a nice family and voted to let the recount proceed in Florida.

The glory of our sprawling post-post-modern culture gives us all 13:12 to check out and make up our own minds on Google video. So I'm putting the brakes on the reverie if you promise to:

see Spike's Al.


I can't vouch how good the upcoming Richard Linklater adaptation of Philip K. Dick's classic tripfest science fiction novel A Scanner Darkly will be, but I sure am excited. Check out the website and trailer here.

The animation technique used for the film is called rotoscoping and invention is credited to Max Fleischer in 1914. His Superman shorts from the 1940's rule.

This technique was also used in a terrific computer adventure game I was privileged to produce, the well-regarded but undersold The Last Express.

There's also a Wikipedia history of the project here.

Would that there was a clamor after Linklater's film comes out for the game's re-release...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


For over a year I've been saying that every time President George W. Bush opens his mouth he lies. Those lips flap and lies come out. He can't help it, he's a lying machine. That's how he's been programmed or programmed himself, because like many in his Administration he is nothing more than an extremely lucky and well-placed corporate criminal.

Check out this clip from his press conference today, an extremely rare event for him, and even more unusual taking questions from hero reporter Helen Thomas.

If you can stomach it, there's the usual litany of lies about him not wanting to go to war with Iraq, the reasons we went, the disproven conflation of Iraq with "the terrorists", the rhetorical 9/11 crutch, the works. It's like he took Helen's question as a chance to reprise the greatest hits of his lying path to ruinous war.

The way he handles it, my God, if Bill Clinton made being President of the U.S. look easy (and inadvertently made it possible for such a soft-expectation candidate as GWB to be voted in), Bush makes it look awfully hard. "It's hard work to be President", he once said. Yeah, if you combine the morals of Kenneth Lay with the one-trick intelligence of an olde time traveling medicine salesman. He makes light of how winded he is just answering non-scripted questions from non-Fox reporters. Better take a breather there, pal, schedule your next press conference for '07.

What's striking is the admission near the end of the clip, in response to a reporter's question, that how long we'll be in Iraq will be a decision for future Presidents. Note the plural! The truth he reveals, that hurts (everyone but Bush himself), is that We the People are going to be in Iraq for a long, long time.

So once again in his luckyboy fuck-up life, Incurious George has made a catastrophic mess, and plans to just run off to leave the adults to clean up after him.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Tom Spurgeon has the best web/blog/review site devoted to the art of the comic book, The Comics Reporter. The range of what he covers does the industry a rare justice. I wouldn't be surprised if its audience, already large, doubled in size over the next year or two.

I'm thinking I might get around to posting a 10 Fave Movies list for 2005, since Tom has only just posted his Top 50 Comics for 2005.

If you have even a remote interest in the form, I strongly recommend checking out his list, which has a cover shot or illustration for every title. Not only is Tom's taste impeccable, but you'll get the best overview available in any one place of the most vibrant art form currently being practiced worldwide.

I know that seems like a big claim, but just paging down through the representative images is blowaway impressive. So many different art styles, the recognizable and the totally fresh, all so masterful, elite levels of artistic and storytelling skill.

I'd say there's no more alive medium at the moment than comics, and with shows like the recent Los Angeles Hammer Museum and MOCA Masters of American Comics, it's finally being recognized by Culture.

It's where fine art and graphic art collide like 1950's Pontiacs smashing together in the desert, littering the dusty landscape with enameled steel shrapnel of cherry red and cobalt blue.


Whenever I get into a conversation about possible Democratic Presidential candidates for 2008, the list seems to be Hillary with her media and RNC pre-crowned inevitability (I believe the GOP wants to run against her, and they usually manipulate things so that they run against whoever they want), Feingold (currently rising in popularity due to his censure resolution), Wes Clark (strong on defense), John Edwards (lost last time but wasn't the designated loser), and Mark Warner (coming up the outside track). Then I mention Al. As in Gore.

The first reaction is "no way" or "Al Gore will never be President." Then I go to my talking points.

Starting with Richard Nixon. Ol' Tricky Dick lost a closely contested election in 1960, which some say was stolen from him by John Kennedy's father's political connections and Chicago Dem Machine voter fraud. He skipped the next Presidential election, came back eight years after losing as "The New Nixon" with a "secret plan to end the Vietnam War". That plan ended up being a lie, unless he meant to end it six years later after resigning in disgrace and letting Gerald Ford handle the fallout for total collapse of our war effort.

So there's already the New Al Gore. I know this because I've seen one of his barn-burner anti-Bush/Cheney speeches on CNN, because he was at Sundance with a new global warming documentary that will be distributed by Paramount Classics, because he's the only Democrat currently espousing Big Themes: media control by an oligarchy, the current GOP threat to the U.S. Constitution, saving the Planet Earth.

Most folks I talk to about this haven't heard, seen or read these recent speeches. They think "loser" even though he not only won the popular vote in 2000 and probably had Florida stolen by a combination of voter intimidation and ballot problems, he also gave the most gracious concession speech I've ever seen.

Then I pull out the big guns. Would you vote for Al over Hillary? Over Russ, over Wes, over John, even over Governor Warner?

The answers is always yes. And with the few Independents I've spoken with who rue their vote for Bush in 2000, I've heard, "Sure, I'd vote for Gore next time."

It would be a chance for us to experience the alternative reality of what might have happened had we not gotten this disastrous loser with all his cronies in office. It's a chance to give the man what he's owed. It's a chance to Save the Planet.

Al is hanging back, avoiding mainstream media, letting Hillary gather steam so he can be the solution, the anti-Hillary just when the Dems will be starving for one. He might choose not to run if the portents look bad, but I'm guessing he'll take the reinvented, outspoken, anti-consultant, radically moderate Al Gore out for a spin and we'll all be relieved.

Check out this article and tell me if I'm on the right track or not.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Blew it tonight on V for Vendetta -- got to the Arclight 45 minutes after the showing had already sold out, couldn't handle waiting 2 hours for the next one.

However, the evening wasn't a total loss. Drank some very acceptable Bordeaux at the nearby Bowery restaurant with the friend I botched the movie with, talked about film and politics. It was like live blogging.

Interestingly enough, we got into a deep discussion with the bartender of the merits and demerits of Munich, a movie I look upon quite favorably. The bartender thought it too heavy-handed at key points, something I've heard or read it accused of elsewhere.

I take the point of view that no other major Hollywood director even close to Spielberg's league (in terms of number of people having seen their films) would have the cajones or enough artistic perspective to make a creditable movie like this. I think the moral position of the movie is more complex than some of its more vehement detractors are willing to admit. Mainly, I like seeing action Jews who know how to use guns.

What's most interesting to me is that we were arguing about it at all. The bartender was basically a stranger to my friend and I, but there we were having a fully engaged conversation about something in entertainment that is ultimately a very charged political element.

Tell me if you agree, but I think we've entered interesting times not seen in thirty-odd years, where more and more people have opinions about the political world we live in, feel it affects them more directly than in quieter times, and are actually more open than they have been in years, due to the complete collapse of any built-up conventional wisdom. Oh, tis a curse to live in interesting times, but at least they feel more alive.

After drinks I had a rather odd, only-in-Los Angeles intersection of blog and life. Charter readers of Nettertainment know that I've only been doing this for two weeks, just entering my third. So to have such an intriguing -- and rewarding -- crossover just adds to the jet-fuelish feeling of suddenly publishing your personal scribbling for anyone in the world to access.

Sorry to be cryptic on this last twist, just a little curtain of privacy. I may write about it in the week to come, but in any case I appreciate the forbearance of each and every one of this blog's readers.

Here's to V later this week. PS: I won the over/under $20 million opening weekend bet. $26.1 mil to be exact. Hello, hamburger.

Meanwhile, even a senior GOP strategist says it's all over for Bush/Cheney Co. The trust is gone for good, and "The voters are way ahead of the political class, and they have lost faith in the President."


Okay, so having actually seen Brokeback Mountain (on the big screen!) I can now understand why it lost the big ol' Best Picture Oscar to Crash.

First off, it's a beautiful, original, strong movie, very well performed (I was particularly moved by Michelle Williams' work) about something that isn't really typical for the movies. I don't mean the homosexuality of the lead characters, I mean the uncommunicative nature of Men of the West. If you think Ennis (Heath Ledger) has problems expressing himself, wait until you meet his lover's father. Wait and wait for him to open his trap and all that comes out of it is mean.

As for the Most Picture debate, I think both movies come out pretty even. Brokeback has the stark Western scenery, while Crash has boatloads of well-regarded actors. Jon Stewart's line at the Oscars said it best -- Would anyone who was not in Crash please stand up?

The big difference is that, compared to Brokeback, Crash is fun. The operative part of the Brokeback Mountain title is broke. As in, no money.

How depressing! If repressed, potentially suicidal homosexuality in a stark landscape wasn't enough, there's the constant worries about money. Ennis never has any, and Jack has to marry a girl who's father takes him into the business to get himself safely off the economically frustrating rodeo circuit.

In 1971 the Best Picture Oscar race came down to The Last Picture Show vs. The French Connection. The former was a stark black & white portrayal of 1950's despair in a small north Texas town, a masterpiece of Orson Welles-influenced cinema directed by Peter Bogdanovich and adapted mainly by Larry McMurtry (imagine this, co-screenwriter of Brokeback) from his own novel.

The French Connection, another excellent movie, was also very gritty but in a contemporary urban way, with an awesome car chase in the middle.

Guess which one was more tragic?

Guess which one was more fun?

You probably already know which one took home the gold statuette for Best Picture that year...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

V: Open Thread

Expecting to see it Sunday night myself, but let's start the discussion now -- your comments below.

Friday, March 17, 2006


As in, U.S.

Specifically: Bill of Rights.

To wit:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This is the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Now read how U.S. News & World Reports (not exactly a leftist rag) will reveal, online tomorrow and in print on Monday, that the George W. Bush/Richard Cheney Administration Justice Department has authorized domestic search and seizure of homes and offices without warrant.

Check out the Keith Olberman piece tonight from his ever more essential Countdown show.

If this is true, and if it is an extension of the FISA warrantless wiretapping violation, then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should be incarcerated and charged with treason.

If this is indeed what comes out in the media between now and Monday, I hope it kicks support for Senator Russ Feingold's censure motion into high gear. To be honest, you can't really pack enough into that censure motion -- the list of crimes just keeps growing.

Now, I know that Bush/Cheney are not Adolf Hitler. That's not a fair comparison, not with the facts as they stand. Where a comparison of methods comes into play is with the slow creep, the taking away brick-by-brick of previously assumed or Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

The German Jews weren't carted off to concentration camps the very first day the Nazis took power. They lost their rights one piece at a time, losing their jobs, losing their rights of association, losing their rights of free movement, having to wear yellow Stars of David, having their homes seized...these steps all happened over a period of years.

Unless it's a case of one country taking over another, fascism doesn't happen overnight. It's too smart, too insidious. Maybe it starts with the truth, bending it to its will through media control. Then, the public softened up, if declares wars of nationalistic protection, and the need for controls at home to protect said efforts. Social controls, free speech controls, legal controls, police controls...pop pop pop.

It's up to all us U.S. patriots to stand up against these denigrations of this plain, sweet English written and enacted by our Founding Fathers.

Maybe I have a pre-9/11 mindset.

But I prefer to think of it as post-1776.


If you're looking to spend the rest of your productive hours today playing a simple but surprisingly deep and polished casual web game, I recommend visiting the Stronghold 2 site and clicking on "Minigame".

Stronghold is a series of medieval castle building/operating simulations. I've enjoyed it in the past although not to obsession (see my previous post on World of Warcraft), but this little defend-the-castle game captures the flavor of the box product's high-quality art and an aspect of gameplay.

I got to 150,000 points, losing in level 8. Can't understand how some players have made it all the way to 500,000 but isn't that always the case?


Apologies to loyal Nettertainment readers. It seems that Blogspot had issues last night and into this morning, but this site seems to be up and running again. A lot of blogs were affected, not all.

Now deep into my second week of blogging, I still appreciate the ease of set-up and free service from this division of Google (that's right!) but my faith has been shaken by the outage. Let's see if it happens again or it this was just a minor hic-c-c-c-c-c-c-cup.

Thanks again for your patience and readership.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Put a little oomph into your lungs and blow down that house of cards.

Turns out I'm actually a Jessica Simpson fan!

Turns out the citizens of the U.S. are pretty much into censuring the President!

Turns out the Bush Administration can't even competently prosecute the one alleged 9/11 conspirator it has its hands on!

So what do they do to try and re-take the news focus:

Kill and threaten to kill some more.

The most morbid Administration in U.S. history?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


We all imagine how a movie will be before it comes out, the result of some targeted marketing and each of our own preconceptions. When I was a kid and Family Plot came out, Alfred Hitchcock's last movie, I was so excited that I had a dream of the movie, based solely on snippets of the TV advertising (very cool opening with Karen Black in black trenchcoat, black hat and shades drag) and my developing sense of the master of suspense.

With a movie star, we might make projections of their personality based on maybe a TV talk show interview, along with our knowledge of their previous work.

So this weekend V for Vendetta opens and I have a $20M over/under bet going with a certain burgeoning filmmaking talent. He took under, I took over. I've been wrong before, but I just like the intensity I'm seeing in the TV spots, I think we may be hungry for that right now. As long as it's coming with enough dollops of kick-ass.

So far David Poland is aboard and David Denby, a critic I've grown up admiring, is acting the scold. So maybe it sucks, but maybe it's Fight Club, where almost all the mainstream critics got it wrong. Hell, The New York Times even printed the spoiler just a week after it had opened.

But onto star projection. As readers of this blog will know, I was measurably impressed by Natalie Portman's completely committed performance in the Saturday Night Live video from last weekend. Tonight she was on The Daily Show, and she's still impressing the shit out of me.

First Jon Stewart shows this totally insane clip from the movie. It's just shot-reverse-shot, with her all long-haired and frozen in growing terror vs. this silhouetted establishment asshole laying the fascist smackdown on her -- tell us who V. is or we're going medieval on your tokhes. Cut to Natalie getting the Full Metal Jacket barbershop treatment, in a medium-wide lateral dolly, just far enough back for us to see everything happened, but her trapped in the frame.

Then Ms. Portman comes out, maybe the only actress I've ever noticed on the show shorter than Mr. Stewart, very nice for him, and when they sit down to talk she reveals herself to be smart, alert, anchored somewhere in the real world, and with an exceptional sense of humor. I guess it's accepted wisdom that she's good-looking, but she's all the prettier her laugh tells us she gets it, she knows what's going on.

To seal the deal, when he brought up her going to Germany to shoot most of the movie, they joked heartily together about being Jewish and the tensions associated with a first visit to the Fatherland. Then she talked about how amazing Berlin is, very cosmopolitan, and now she's living in beautiful N.Y.C.

So who knows if the movie is any good. Maybe some of our readers can enlighten us, after it opens on Friday. As for me, I'm not going to the theater unless it does over twenty million dollars this weekend. Well, actually, I can't see it until next week at the absolute earliest. I'm just praying like a mantis that the buzz won't be off by then.

Natalie Portman is diminutive in physical stature but far from it in talent or focus, so I'm betting that the movie is at the very least worth watching for her performance. Any way you cut it, that young woman is a star and of the best kind, one whom you imagine will put you in touch with the raw truth and power it up with all the voltage you need for the whole journey.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Historical reference:

Vichy France was established after France surrendered to Germany in 1940, and took its name from the government's capital in Vichy, southeast of Paris near Clermont-Ferrand. While officially neutral in the war, it was essentially a Nazi puppet state that collaborated with the Nazis, including on the Nazis' racial policies.

How does the "opposition" party respond to Senator Feingold's motion to censure President Bush for breaking the law so flagrantly with the illegal wiretaps?

In America, at least, you never want to be referred to as "French-like" during wartime.

"I'’m amazed at Democrats, cowering with this president'’s numbers so low. The administration just has to raise the specter of the war and the Democrats run and hide."

You'd think the difference between now and back in Watergate, back when Cheney and Rove were cutting their teeth working for the soon-to-be disgraced President Nixon, is that there aren't any principled Republicans in government, no Howard Bakers or Lowell Weikers.

Turns out there are too few Democrats with blood flowing through their veins. Hell, even 78 year-old Senator Sam Ervin kicked ass on that crooked Chief Executive. What the hell are Harry Reid, Diane Feinstein and Ted Kennedy thinking?

This is some sort of focus group foolishness, the kind of inside-the-Beltway scleroticic party thinking that the GOP rid themselves of with the Conservative Revolution that started with Barry Goldwater's devastating defeat by Lyndon Johnson and has paid off twice, once with Ronald Reagan in 1980 and again with our current dirtbag (a police term for a criminal so far eluding justice) twenty years later. I give them credit. I hope some smart, feisty young progressive Dem is reading Richard Viguerie's book to get a clue how they did it and maybe there's hope for, like, 2016.

You win on emotion, plain and simple. Real emotion. You can manufacture some pump up on that emotion, but there's always a very real feeling at the core.

Right now that feeling, from 66% of Americans (that's a 2:1 margin of citizens), is that President Bush is incompetent, debilitatingly cronyistic, and probably doing something illegal. And he lied us into an unnecessary, misdirected, and now disastrous war by shady political means.

Two-third of all Americans would be glad to see him replaced tomorrow, if only there were someone in line we could pretend to trust. But since America's Vice President seems insane, all we can really do is censure the boy wonder.

In the face of such obvious moral and intellectual decay in our nation's highest Administration, we need fighters like Feingold, Dr. Dean (don't believe the smears) and, hopefully again some day, Paul Hackett.

What we don't need are weak-willed collaborators, apologists and serial losers.

When it's wartime and things are starting to look bad for your enemy, that's when you want to put the pressure on. You don't want to soften up and let your enemy get away with something that might lead to their re-strengthening. In the kitchen it's different, in the bedroom okay, but on the battlefield you just don't want to be compared to the French.

Support Russ.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Here's to Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat with actual rocks in his pants. If only the rest of the D.C. arm of the party would follow suit, we could get some action on the ball:

Hard Rockin' Russ

Most Americans have little time for the fine points of political discourse. We're too busy raising kids, holding down the job, trying to make this year a little easier than last. So I'm not one to hold it against the populace if discussions on the differences between national health insurance plans just makes them sleepy.

But most folks do get the broad strokes. In this case...

Dangerous Loser

...most folks know the score. So why doesn't the whole damned "opposition" party get in line behind Sen. Feingold and show us they do, too?

Call your Senator.


Very funny.

Check out the site down below the fold and then "Day Two" link.

Could become a trend, if you start seeing those initials everywhere...

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Here's what scares me the most:

October Surprise

The President of Iran is a piece of shit demagogue who seems to have started his career as a member of the 1979 U.S. hostage taking team, but the asshole mullahs pulling the big strings over there have been playing like winners ever since Bush/Cheney Inc. duped the U.S. into invading Iraq.

In a lose/lose situation like this, above all we need:


Will we get it?

Unlikely. For today's GOP, political power trumps statesmanship. Or haven't you heard.

Call me jaded, but I wouldn't be surprised if these corporate criminals want diplomacy to fail. Like it "failed" with Iraq.

More chaos means there's no time to think about how it started, just a long hellish road ahead, with millionaire munitioneers getting richer and more regular folks dying. Maybe there's a hard-to-trace retaliation in the U.S., like a dirty bomb attack, all the better to amp the war cries and install permanent one-party rule.

But even without such dire consequences, I fear that war with Iran means the earlier crimes of Iraq engagement, the ones that brought us to this point, get papered over.

In blood.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


People look at me like I'm out of my mind when I tell them that the best reality show on television right now is The WB's Beauty and the Geek. Sadly, the current season has just ended, would only that I had started this blog 'ere those 8 weeks ago.

It's the best because it is at heart good-natured without sacrificing stiff competition. It's the best because the cast this year was uniquely compelling. While here and there players become friends in other competition-based reality shows, Beauty and the Geek is the best because it is the only reality show about making a new best friend.

The central conceit of the show is that we put up all sorts of barriers to self-realization based on the defense mechanisms of limited self-image and loaded pre-conceptions about everyone else. For the purposes of this show, the categories these twin projections fall into are hot & dumb vs. not & smart.

It starts with nine couples, each dorkyass dude paired as roommate and teammate with an arguably hot, definitely appearance-oriented babe. The guys are most pathetic at the beginning, although they edit the women to make them look dense or clueless, like Legally Blonde without the SAG card.

Each week there are two challenges, like guys having to go on a blind date and gals having to go into a happening bar without make-up. The winning couple of each challence gets to select one of the two couples that goes into the Q&A elimination round. Which might be, say, questions about computers for the women and fashion for the guys.

The winners walk back to reveal themselves to the other couples while the losers get exit interviews, typically two solo sound bytes and then one together. All brief, of course, really the tag on the show. But goddamn if it isn't a choker-upper every time.

Beauties learn to not give up on their brains. Geeks learn it's actually legal for them to have a conversation with a girl. Everyone learns confidence. Everyone learns they had more internal resources than they thought.

Everyone learns that they came in with a different idea of what the process of making the show would do to them than they do now, as they leave.

Everyone learns that friendship doesn't have to be skin deep.

After just having watched the final episode, I realize that perhaps the most appealing aspect of the show is this fantasy-come-true of teamwork. Think of those movies, romantic adventure comedies, maybe, or slapstick losers-turned-winners comedies. Even an Oscar-type triumph picture like Erin Brockovich. The joy of dramatically "opposite" characters making it past their insurmountable differences to win the big prize.

And what better fantasy for a skinny Jewboy from upstate New York like me than than the beauty and the geek scaling those heights. Here it's not feature scripted, it's f'real.

As to the cast, this season's winners seemed to be the ones most alert, most sentient, ultimately growing into the most adult and interesting couple. (Funny how those last two attributes go together so much more than credited.) Yet how gratifying also to watch the runner-up geek guy's exit interview cum farewell aria and realize it isn't his allergies, he's actually crying.

I'm not going to cover what happened over the course of the eight episode season (there would have to be actual clamor in the comments) but for now I'll just say, with a little shade of SPOILERville, that as this season drew to a close, the winners earned our actual respect; the beauty became human and the geek became, at last, a mensch.

Friday, March 10, 2006


Touchy stuff this, but now we have an actual U.S. state that's bringing matters to a head.

I'm completely in favor of a woman having control over her own uterus. In the current political vernacular that makes me "Pro Choice" although I think that phrase has gotten denigrated over time. I am certainly not anti-life, although I do not hold the "Pro Life" position as currently defined. I love life, except when it sucks, but haven't given up yet.

I believe abortions should be rare but available, and I don't think they should only be for those wealthy enough to travel themselves or their precious teenager from their home state, say, South Dakota, to a free uterus state to have one.

Here's an illuminating list of twenty questions that any Anti-Abortion advocate needs to answer for their position to be coherent:

Short Quiz

For the record, I'm fine with limiting such rights mainly to the first two trimesters, otherwise I think it is a decision that is between a woman and those with whom she wishes to share the decision, and I believe that the decision is a serious matter and the procedure is no fun.

What I don't want is some legal body telling half our population what she can and can't do with her uterus any more than I want some legal body telling me what I can and can't do with my testicles. Providing, of course, that in neither case is harm being inflicted on a fully formed, out-of-the-uterus, viable human being.

In 1973, Roe v. Wade was a win for women to control their own bodies. This is the next big test to see if that liberty lasts. Or was it just a 33-year window before those rights reverted back to the state?


Okay, I know this has already gotten a lot of exposure, but can I just say that I am now really dying to see V for Vendetta.

She's the one

Let's not forget that Miss Portman went the acting distance in Closer, and her scene with Clive Owen was maybe the highlight of the movie.

I'm fine if she earned a few paychecks from George Lucas, because even there she gave a ironic performance (she was the only one in Ep. 3 who seemed to get the joke) without ironic detachment.

I think she goes for a real experience versus just theatricality. She faired better than most way back there in space.

So that's what I love about her in this video. Natalie Portman is an actress who knows how to commit.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Although I've worked in the videogame business, I'm not a hardcore player. Nor am I a casual player, except with a terrific pick-up-and-play option racing game like Gran Turismo. I'm really a binge player.

Binge players don't have a need to play every hot new game out there. We're more selective. Trouble is, when we hook into a game we love -- or, rather, it sinks its hooks into us -- the behavior becomes that of a hardcore player. All. The. Time.

With World of Warcraft, the phenomenally successful (over 6 million players worldwide), apogee-esque massive multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG, folks), it's had it's hooks into me on and off for almost a year. I've never played a game that long (periodic returns to whatever new version of Tetris do not count), certainly never a continuous game. Unlike previous binges, with Bruce Shelley's brilliant Age of Empires and previous Blizzard blockbusters Starcraft and Diablo 2, this is one long continuous game with one long character, because it is the game that never sleeps.

MMORPGs are persistent worlds. That means, except for the weekly server upgrades in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, it is always on. There are lots of mini-goals along the way, but the main drive is to take your character from level 1 to level 60, and then at level 60 into greater adventures, earning greater gear, playing in the larger and larger groups you need to form to fight, say, big huge astonishing dragons.

What is most striking to me is the sense of time passing, the sense of -- dare I say -- nostalgia I got recently upon visiting a place in the game that I had not been to in at least six months.

You play the game over two huge continents, each with over a dozen zones that you get strong enough to access as you rank up. Go to a higher level zone too early in your "life" and a monster will kill you in seconds. In this way, the game designers exert control over your experience, gating it for greater gameplay effect. (For those still just watching linear entertainment, think dramatic effect.) So as you rank up in the game you stop frequenting most of the low level areas. Too much to do in the areas at your level or, for the bold, slightly above.

I'm level 55 now but the last time I visited the town of Lakeshire in the Redridge Mountain zone must have been when I was, like, level 15 or 20, and that's around six months ago. Then, the other night, I had a chain of quests (attuned to my current level) that required several visits to Lakeshire.

When I arrived there (flow in by gryphon) and mounted my steed to ride into town, I was hit with an overwhelming feeling that I've never had playing a game before. I've had it in movies when in the final act the hero returns to a place he hasn't seen since the early reels, maybe his hometown, maybe another peaceful place for him. Lakeshire is most similar to the Shire of The Lord of the Rings but without those furry hobbits; very English countryside, bucolic, ye olde. So it was nice to ride into town and feel this strange new game feeling. A nostalgia for an electronic life lived O So Long Ago.

I remember being a lowly 15 level Mage, confined to run on foot, while being passed by swift high level players (you can buy your mount to vastly accelerate your travel time starting at level 40). Only now I was the higher level player, the veteran. Those high level players who rode past me back then must have been on the same quest I was doing now. Only this time it was me passing the 15 to 20 level players.

And what it really made me feel was similar to visiting my hometown back in upstate New York, passing my old Middle School, checking out the changes at the town's main shopping center, seeing the new houses that have come up and the familiar older houses showing signs of wear, while all my friends from childhood are scattered around the nation like dandelion seeds.

It made me feel like a, well, a ghost. A living, breathing ghost.

A ghost in my own land.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Wow, that's timely. Looks like I'm not alone on my suspicions regarding the FISA law-breaking Bush/Cheney wiretapping. Only this writer has all their evidential ducks lined up:

Like this one says

So maybe the reason for the so-called moderate Senate Intelligence GOPers folding for the White House yesterday has to do with something even worse than spying on domestic political opponents.

It seems likely, based on memos revealing a plan authorized by none other than then National Security Advisor (and I use the term loosely) Condoleezza Rice, that Cheney/Bush/Bolton spied on United Nations delegates, foreign dignitaries, in order to better jam through the resolution leading up to this ruinous Iraq War,

What might be the international uproar were such news to break wide...?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


It appears the Republican Senators controlling the Senate Intelligence Committee have squashed any hope of meaningful investigation of the White House domestic spying program, under the guise of 'oversight".

Taste of Boot

That means no investigation of what Bush/Cheney has done so far, which only confirms my darkest suspicions. They were scared of this one, big time. That's why they twisted arms of potential GOP dissenters on the committee like never before.

Is there anyone left in America who would find it far-fetched to learn they spied on their political enemies? That they used it to win elections against Democrats?

After all, they beat the drum that this and that and everything inbetween that doesn't lick the boots on the party line is jeopardizing security, providing aid to the enemy, not supporting our troops.

Remember, this is Nixon II, as Donald Rumsfeld originally hired Dick Cheney to be his assistant back when he worked for Richard Nixon, back when Karl Rove got his start with the college Republicans, learning the tools of the trade from notorious election fixer Donald Segretti. These guys know how the dirty tricks work. It's their lore.

Cheney plays Nixon -- inaccessible, imperial, arrogant, remote control homicidal -- while Bush like every other guy in his family is the front man, the salesman, the shill.

Given that these shady characters are yet to be trusted, given that they went into their own DEFCON mode to stop any investigation of their law-breaking wiretapping, given that the key players got their start with convicted felons, would it be terribly surprising to learn that they had extended their illegal eavesdropping to, say, the Kerry campaign headquarters?

You tell me.


Thanks for all the support. I love the comments – smart stuff that makes the blog so much more entertaining to read as well as write. I’ll try to keep the posts coming and make it worth your time to check back if you don’t have an RSS feed.

I’m wondering about the integration of politics into the site. Entertainment is easy because, as Mr. Looky Touchy (see links right) emailed me last night, because it’s essentially “it's fun to argue about and goof on something trivial. It's fun to laugh at politics too, but we do it for a different reason -- because if were didn't laugh, we'd be crying.”

Well, I don’t believe in crying over politics because it’s just as vicious a business as entertainment and elicits just as much psychological projection from its audience, so no crybabies allowed.

We create fantasies around our leaders like we do around our movie stars. Stagecraft is deployed, both small (local) and grand. Survivors are rewarded with our love and job security. And in our hearts, we believe they do matter. In our hearts, how we spent our verdant hours does matter to us, and why shouldn’t we care who rules there.

We’re in a particular age of stagecraft where we are accustomed, even comfortable with not believing our eyes. When a President is caught in an 18-word lie in the most widely and closely watched political speech of the year, at a time of heightened tension and anger, after that we don’t have to believe anything he says, not unless he can really back it up and so far it doesn't look good. Because now there’s only stagecraft – Social Security, Katrina, UAE, a plastic turkey for an in-country Thanksgiving photo op.

I don’t think our response is all that different any longer from watching a New York City freeway trestle roiled like a picnic blanket by an invisible alien force in The War of the Worlds. We all know the rules of the spectacle, we’ve come to expect it. For me, when I go to the movies, I’m fine with the expertly deployed stagecraft. Make me believe the most amazing things, feel something I haven’t quite felt before, I’m a happy eyeball.

Whereas with politics, I’m fine with a little stagecraft (there’s a reason they call them political parties). I like a little uplift, I like a little earnestness, I like to be able to laugh along with my favorites players and feel we're on the same wavelength.

But what I don’t like, and maybe you’ll agree with me, in politics or after I buy my movie ticket, is to feel cheated. To feel that the showperson didn’t focus a keen intelligence, deploy a powerful humanity, imbue a compelling point of view, or harness all available apparatus for their endeavor, the results of which are going to affect us directly: our world, our time.

We want to feel that no matter their ambition, those who make our laws or deliver our entertainment ultimately have our best interests at heart, and if we're clear on that, then we ultimately demand that they deliver on all that promise.

There has to be something real and good somewhere behind the stagecraft. Otherwise, sooner or later, it all turns to bitter rot.

Monday, March 06, 2006


In the Oscar post-mortem, I'm becoming increasingly convinced that the triumph of Crash is just another stretch on the road to the feature film business turning into the DVD business.

For at least the past three months you couldn't find Crash playing in a movie theater in Los Angeles. The same thing happened last year with Ray, where it was only playing in one really bad theater but landed a Best Picture nomination and Best Actor win. So at the time when dutiful folks like me wanted to catch all the Best Picture nominees in the Big Screen, the way God intended, no dice.

Meanwhile, Lion's Gate, Crash's distributor, continuously ran full-page ads for Crash in the Los Angeles Times, even evolving the killer tagline, "Remember how it made you feel?" Like way back in mid-2005 when you first saw it in the theater, if you happened to do so at the time. And the ad began to feature the DVD symbol, as that product hit the shelves.

But what Lion's Gate did most effectively (as pioneered by Miramax) was to plaster all the Academy and Guild members with screeners, those DVDs that insiders love getting at the end of the year and sorting through for their permanent collections.

As more and more pictures are nominated and even voted to win based on home screeners, the growth of this practive parallels the shrinking window between theatrical and DVD release dates. Since you couldn't see Crash in the theater at voting time (there were a handful of late-scheduled AMPAS member-only screenings, but they couldn't have been significant) one can only conclude that Crash got it's winning percentage from home viewers of the movie.

Which plays entirely to Crash's advantage -- and against Brokeback Mountain.

I've often said that Best Picture is a misnomer, that the Oscar actually goes to Most Picture. That means the movie with the strongest combination of striking visual imagery AND powerful emotion. A movie like Lawrence of Arabia has epic grandeur (visual) and a tragic personal story of how history shapes the man as much as man shapes history (gut emotion).

In a year without a visually overwhelming movie that also pulls out the emotional stops, a smaller movie can win, provided it delivers big emotions. The classic example is Marty, a small-person character piece adapted from a television play that won Best Picture against a slew of lesser, although generally bigger movies -- check if you must. It happened last year with Million Dollar Baby, where the smaller movie beat The Aviator, which didn't provide, perhaps, the right kind of emotion to win.

From all accounts -- and I'll confirm shortly when I get to see it in the theater, as I'd prefer -- Brokeback Mountain has those big Western vistas and subtle emotional moments that work best in a large darkened theater, less well on the small screen. (My friend with all the screeners was overhyped and underwhelmed watching it on her TV.) On the big screen movies can work their mood to greatest effect. On the TV screen we respond best to incident and faces (preferably in close-up or medium close-up). Crash had a plethora of both. They are the building blocks of Crash, and on their limited budget it was a very wise creative choice.

There's also enough big emotion in Crash to fill in for the win. Whether you found those big moments contrived or earned is where you come down on the film. But it is the classic small film winner in a weak year, and by weak I mean no overwhelming visual/emotional blockbuster like The Godfather or The Return of the King. Weak by Oscar standards, where all the members are looking for, please oh please, is Most Picture.

So is this the end of the movie era, where the big screen got filled by big pictures as well as big ideas and big emotions, where big spaces yielded big returns and viewer felt the moviegoing experience made them feel, well, bigger than when they came in?

Is Crash the latest, most convincing harbinger?

Sunday, March 05, 2006


It seems to me that the core problem with George Bush and Dick Cheney is a complete lack of empathy for any non-connected people in the world at large. Do these guys care about anybody else but themselves, their families, and their cronies? Do they really care about, to use the cliche, "the little guy"?

Somebody give me the evidence to the contrary, I'll listen. I'm asking for actions that really worked to help people, not pretty speeches on democracy that in their own practice only bring chaos, or social security "reform" talk that only really means killing it like Republicans tried to back when Franklin Roosevelt first created the program.

I'm talking about real actions that have helped real people, or just anything that's shown real informed non-ideological, non-Machiavellian caring.

The only remotely real moment -- or moments -- I can think of were ten minutes at the WTC site five years ago. And that extemporaneous instance has long ago exceeded its shelf life.




I mean, really?

I have to admit that I have yet to see Brokeback Mountain (we have a sitter coming next week!) but still, I'm surprised. Not that I have anything major against Crash. It certainly involved risk on the part of the makers and distributors, it does seem to provoke some discussion after viewing, and it has an impeccible cast all the way down to the smaller roles. By the way, see this and Hustle & Flow and you know Terrence Howard is a Movie Star. The kind we love.

But Best Picture? The coincidences start to (no pun intended) pile up with Matt Dillon's car crash rescue, Sandra Bullock's staircase scene, the gun thing, the hitchhiker thing, etc. so by the time the emergency room doctor turns out to can pretty much imagine the Mad Magazine parody without hitting the newsstand.

Well, I guess if you're going to give Robert Altman an Oscar, you might as well give Best Picture to Short Cuts on the same night.