February 25, 2007
My theory was that Arkin would win because Little Miss Sunshine was the only nominated movie out on DVD until just a few weeks ago. Therefore a lot of the voters were probably too lazy to go out and see the other movies, but I'm sure they had Netflix.
February 24, 2007
The Sandpiper, 1965
This movie is set in the beautiful Central Coast of California, from San Simeon to Big Sur. The restaurant Nepenthe even makes an appearance. You may remember I wrote a poem about Nepenthe. In case you don't remember, this is a good excuse for me to re-post it.
At NepentheThe Nepenthe of 1965 looks pretty much the same as it did the last time I was there, about ten years ago. I see from their website that they've bumped the price of their hamburger up to $13 since then! In The Sandpiper, it was a hippie hangout too, and the scene of some minor fisticuffs between Charles Bronson and Richard Burton.
At the edge of a deep
The hissing ocean so far below
Barely seen this morning
Through the fog
Cool gentle breeze, and
Green strands among blue waves
Of the pacific, sea of forgetfulness
Calming spirit and mind
As you sit waiting
Pale rays of gold
The sun from your left
Warms your arm and lights
This contented respite
On your journey south
Sailing through the mist
Wings teetering, acute dihedrals
Vultures float like seraphim
Two hundred feet beneath
Your outdoor table, where
You eat your nine dollar hamburger
And quaff o quaff this diet coke
Elizabeth Taylor plays Laura Reynolds, a free spirited artist/feminist/atheist who's moved to a cozy shack on the beach in order to raise her son far away from the evil influence of traditional values. She doesn't have a high opinion of men, most especially Richard Burton's character Dr. Hewitt, an Episcopal priest.
Taylor's son gets in trouble with the law for shooting a deer, and the judge orders Taylor to send him to the private religious boarding school run by Burton. Single mom and school principal soon clash over child rearing philosophies, as in this scene.
Dr. Hewitt: It may be hard for you to believe Miss Reynolds, but boys like children of their own age. They also like some order in their lives. Given just a little time, Danny will adjust beautifully.Despite the parent/teacher friction, Burton quickly becomes smitten by the new MILF, even though he's a priest, and he's already married to another hottie, Eva Marie Saint. It doesn't take long before Burton abandons his scruples and they fuck while a little broken-winged sandpiper looks on.
Laura: Adjust to what?
Dr. Hewitt: To himself, to other people, to society.
Laura: That's just it, I don't want him to adjust to society!
Dr. Hewitt: Well if you want Danny to be a non-conformist, San Simeon is the best place that could happen to him, we'd give him a set of values there that he can rebel against later. Otherwise, he may rebel against yours.
Laura: Oh I see. You mean you teach children evil, so they can rebel against it when they grow and become good.
The Sandpiper is not a particularly good movie. It's really slow and there's some corny "oh God how I want you" dialogue. The best thing about it is the Oscar winning theme song "The Shadow of Your Smile," and of course the scenery. Check out both in these opening credits.
I expected better from director Vincente Minnelli (An American In Paris, Gigi) and writer Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, Spartacus). I gave it three stars on the Netflix scale, "liked it," but just barely.
BUtterfield 8, 1960
I'll tell you right up front, BUtterfield 8 is one of my favorite Elizabeth Taylor movies. Beautifully shot, amazing performances, great characters, and no Richard Burton! Instead we get Laurence Harvey in the best performance of his career. He plays the same self-important prig that you saw in The Manchurian Candidate and The Alamo, only this time with a lot more depth. He's a playboy who married well, but messes around on his wife out of self-loathing and boredom. He treats his women like whores, until meeting Elizabeth Taylor's character, a nympho by the name of Gloria Wandrous. As in The Sandpipers, Elizabeth Taylor gets cast as the "other woman."
Interestingly, Elizabeth Taylor is at the apex of two love triangles in this one. It's more of a love bowtie, I guess. A subplot involves Taylor's best friend, a writer played by Eddie Fisher, her real life husband at the time. Fisher's girlfriend wants to get married, but he's having trouble getting past his barely concealed crush on Elizabeth Taylor, who toys with his affections mercilessly. Again, she's the "other woman," this time preventing a marriage.
But it's the fiery relationship between Taylor and Harvey that provides all the action in this movie. It opens with Elizabeth Taylor waking up alone in Harvey's bed the morning after their first tryst. She wanders around the mansion, and after brushing her teeth with whiskey, finds a thank you note from Harvey with a wad of cash for her trouble. In retaliation, she scrawls her response in the mirror and steals one of his wife's furs.
The second time they meet is at a bar. I love the dialogue in this scene because they spar like two champions in a draw match. You wonder, has the playboy finally met his match? Has the man-eater finally met hers? At the climax of the scene, Harvey grabs her wrist in a vice-grip, while she crushes his instep with her heel.
Ouch. They both retire to neutral corners after that, but by the end it's Harvey's character who throws in the towel. Can you blame him? It's Elizabeth Taylor! He's so in love he vows to change his life around for her, leave his wife, and get a real job. Taylor cleans up her act too, and it looks like she's become a one man woman at last. But, and there's always a but, in the end their high hopes all come crashing down. Quite literally.
Elizabeth Taylor won the Best Actress Oscar for this role, and she totally deserved it. (She was up against Shirley Maclaine for The Apartment that year. Wow, I'm glad I wasn't voting.) Remember this was 1960 and frank treatment of sexuality was still pretty daring. There's a scene at the end when Taylor breaks down in front of Eddie Fisher, telling him a dark secret. Even by today's standards, that scene still blows me away. That's all I'll say about it.
Hollywood still makes movies about slutty women, but nowadays it's all about shock value and appealing to the sickest impulses of the criminal mind. It's enough to make me turn into a feminist. "Hey let's chain a naked chick to a radiator for the whole movie?" How disgusting. I'll take the classics and Elizabeth Taylor over Christina Ricci and fetish porn anyday.
I gave BUtterfield 8 four stars on the Netflix scale, "really liked it."
Nicole Richie, with a previous DUI on her record, not to mention a heroin bust, decides to smoke weed, pop vicodin, then get in her SUV and drive the wrong way on an L.A. freeway. Luckily, nobody got killed as a result of that brain fart.
Not to be outdone, Nicole's pal Mischa Barton, whose sister just went into rehab, and whose OC character got killed in a car crash, borrows Nicole Richie's car, slams into another car in a parking lot, then a few days later gets photographed smoking a j while driving her own car.
Congratulations, Mischa, you're in the club. Hopefully you won't kill anyone either. Not that you care, you stupid skank.
P.S. In unrelated Brittany news, it's impossible to pick a favorite in Stereogum's photoshop contest, but #11 is up there.
February 21, 2007
Stephanie Edwards: Two words: Loved her.
Amy Krebs: Cute girl, big pores, didn't like the dress, loved the shoes, hated the song choice. Maynard had more personality.
Leslie Hunt: I like Leslie. I think her personality is a little quirky, maybe a little bizarre. I love the pirate boots. She should do some sixties hippie material, Michelle Phillips or stuff like that. I think she could be good even though her voice really lacks range.
Sabrina Sloan: Very pretty girl. Great style. Smart song choice. Love love love the black patent stack heels. Nice job with a difficult song. I think I have a crush on her. But on my scorecard, Stephanie was just a notch better, despite what Simon said.
Antonella Barba: Overrated. Safe song choice. She was out of tune. And the red top with the cut-out shoulders was sooo New Jersey.
Jordin Sparks: Impressive. Maybe my favorite so far. With a song that is not vocally challenging, the temptation is to sing it safely, but she made it her own. Very nice. Jordin could win this thing; I wouldn't be surprised. Good personality too, and she managed to kiss up to Simon without making it obvious.
Nicole Tranquillo: Randy said it was "rough," Paula said "she can sing," and Simon thought it was "indulgent." I think they were all right. There's nothing wrong with her instrument, but that performance was odd at best. The words were indecipherable and her facial contortions were completely unnecessary. Honestly, it was painful and embarrassing to watch. Prediction: she may not be here next week.
Haley Scarnato: So many Italian girls representing tonight! That song was so boring I completely forgot to listen. Her outfit was hideous. Black strapless jumpsuit with an Eighties big-belt. Nauseating. She may survive to next week, but it won't be on the strength of that performance.
Melinda Doolittle: Someone is lying to us. This is not a shy girl with no self-confidence. You can't fake that kind of stage presence. I don't believe that whole shtick, but the storyline will probably win fan loyalty. She doesn't need the gimmick though, because she might be the best singer in the competition. She'll make it to the top six, easy. Maybe even final two.
Alaina Alexander: Bye-bye.
Gina Glocksen: I like her, but I hated the song, "All By Myself," what a boring song choice. It's boring in the original version. Who does it even? See, I don't even remember the original artist. I know Celine Dion did it, but someone else did it first, and I can't remember who.
LaKisha Jones: Very nice. She sounded like she'd been in the business for years. Professional. I hesitate to make the comparison to Mandisa from last year, whom I loved. But the judges were obviously thinking the same thing when they picked her. She's better than Mandisa was, which is very good indeed.
Even the worst of tonight's women were better than the men last night. Easy prediction: this year's AI champ will be one of the girls.
I hope you've heard about the latest Clinton-Bomber skirmish. It's a sure sign of the even worse backbiting to come.
The latest row was sparked by music mogul and former Clinton toady David Geffen, now a Bomber groupie, whose comments were a knife in the back of Mrs. Clinton. He said:
Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it's troubling.Slate.com cited this theory on why David Geffen might have turned against the Clintons:
The gossip passed around by those who follow Hollywood and politics holds that Geffen fell out with Bill Clinton much later over the then-president's refusal to pardon Leonard Peltier and over Clinton's subsequent allusion to Geffen's thwarted lobbying effort to demonstrate that he didn't dole out pardons as favors to certain friends.Anyways, Hillary didn't like what Geffen said and her campaign wants Bomber to disavow the statement and return Geffen's money. Bomber, perhaps deciding it was best to draw a line in the sand early against the Clinton machine, said no.
At a candidate forum in Nevada today, Hillary played the "politics of personal destruction" card, which I think Bill invented:
I sure don't want Democrats or supporters of Democrats to be engaging in the politics of personal destruction.She said, no doubt hiding an ironic smile.
I'm fascinated by Bronco Bomber. If I was a liberal, I'd totally jump on his bandwagon, and not just because I love making fun of his name. He's got a lot of strengths. He's very personable and yes, I hear he's articulate and clean too. I think we all want a candidate who bathes regularly, regardless of our party affiliation.
I'm not yet convinced however, that Bronco Bomber is not this season's Howard Dean. Being a media darling means nothing to the Iowa caucusers. Serious political junkies have to admit that raising a ton of money means nothing if your organization doesn't know how to use it.
People like David Geffen may represent the vocal face of the Democratic party. But they don't represent the majority of voting Democrats, who are more centrist than the press corps realizes. That's why Dean came in third in Iowa last time, even though the media kept treating him like he was the front runner. Rank and file Democrats were rightly suspicious of Dean's electability, and they went for the safer bet, John Kerry. The trouble was, they didn't inspect the goods well enough before switching to Kerry, and they got burned.
Not that I place much stock in the "Hawkeye Cauci," as Rush calls it. I don't. New Hampshire has always been a more reliable indicator of party preference, historically. And Bronco Bomber is no Howard Dean; they don't share the same negatives. That's good for Bronco. Unfortunately his poll numbers are not in a range where he should be getting the kind of press he's getting right now. The latest polls have him losing to Hillary by an average of 18.2 points. That's a lot of ground to make up, even for a media darling.
For now, Bomber's just not a credible challenger, though I love watching him make Hillary sweat.
The BBC seems overly concerned with this little bit too:
US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.Well, duh. One of the arguments against attacking Iran's nuclear research sites is that they might retaliate against our ships in the Gulf, and threaten shipping. Therefore, it makes sense that any attack plan address that threat too, by targeting "air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres."
It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.
Calm down Beeb.
February 20, 2007
Brandon: Not a note in tune. Perhaps he'll get it right eventually.
Sundance Head: WTF? "Like Dad at a wedding" was spot on. He's unusual enough that he'll last into the final six, but tonight was not good.
Paul Kim: Kevin, tell your bro to put some shoes on. Sucked.
Does anybody belong this season? What the hell is going on? And please, someone tell the contestants that the whole holding your hand up like a phone and mouthing the words "call me" has been done to death.
Boy Band Wannabe #1, Chris: Check out his dad in the audience. Now we know where he got his moves. Baaaaad.
Nick "Vote For" Pedro: Dude, instead of slouching, try moving the mike up. It might also help if you found at least one note too.
Everybody sucks tonight. I don't remember a season that has started out this bad. But I had a feeling after getting a taste of these losers last week.
Boy Band Wannabe #2, Blake: His dad is the disastrous byproduct of a cloning experiment using Bill Cowher and Victor French's DNA.
Sam Jaya: I didn't think he was that bad. The judges all beat up on him. But a little vocal coaching and he could be good to go.
Paula looks like she's either had a cervical fusion recently and is unable to move her neck, or someone injected botox directly into her carotid artery.
Chris "The Funny Gigh" Sligh: With that hairstyle, he's gotta do at least one Weird Al song before he gets kicked off. He was okay. I expected more. Like Sundance, his personality might carry him probably into the final six.
Jared "Welcome Back" Cotter: Best so far, and he wasn't that good. I'll pick him to make it to the final six though.
Boy Band Wannabe #3, A.J.: Luther Vandross? What's going on here? Doc, you gotta help me! I came here in a time machine you invented, and I need your help to get out of the year 1985!
Phil The Navy Guy: Gollum can sing.
Tonight's show was the worst AI ever. I hope the girls will be better tomorrow, but about half of them are Barbies who don't belong up there either.
February 17, 2007
February 14, 2007
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
February 12, 2007
The vikings are gone, but Denmark is still invading Britain, via Lego.
February 11, 2007
It must be yet another sign of global warming, because that "chill wind" is getting downright balmy.
I'm sure there's lots of guys working in thinktanks and war colleges whose job it is to figure these things out, but so far I haven't seen nor heard of any effective way to fight guerrillas other than by total unrestricted warfare which we won't do. How do you counter the weighty advantage they've claimed for themselves by co-opting the machinery of world public opinion? How do you beat an enemy that has perfected the use of civilian deaths both offensively and defensively, if your one achilles heel is the fear of civilian deaths?By researching the bio of Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, whom I quoted in my last post, I found this essential article by George Packer in the December 2006 issue of The New Yorker. It may contain the answer to my question, namely "is there another way?"
The article is New Yorker length, unfortunately. But it's Sunday Morning, so why not print it out and read it with your coffee instead of the funnies.
Lt. Col. Kilcullen and Dr. Montgomery McFate* are two people who may provide the "new way" I've been talking about. I have read about the social sciences approach to counter-insurgency before and I was very skeptical. The New Yorker article is detailed enough to be persuasive. The anthropological approach is more than just "hearts and minds" b.s. Properly implemented, it's an integrated and adaptable strategy that includes force, coersion, propaganda, and all those other fun things I've said we need to be doing. But it also recognizes that we're in a new "information age" and we need to understand and adapt to the advantage this gives our enemy.
Another very important concept, which I've not considered before, but which makes perfect sense to me, is this:
I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in East Timor, [Kilcullen] said. After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, The problem is Islam, I was thinking, Its something deeper than that. Its about human social networks and the way that they operate. In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgencya local separatist movement with mystical leaningshad resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that its not about theology. He went on, There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive whats happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not Islamic behavior. Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, People dont get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks. He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.I think it's really more complicated than just saying "kill the enemy." As a spectator, I've been as guilty as anyone in believing that our problem was an insufficiency of ass-kicking. Kilcullen sees radical Islam as just a template that the terrorist assholes plug into when they decide to dedicate themselves to their particular brand of assholery. But it's social networks, i.e. their friends, family and local communities, that are the avenue towards jihad. I think about gang members here in the U.S. These are "military age males" who would probably be joining al Qaeda if they were in Pakistan. Why, because they're assholes, and gangs or al Qaeda are what their particular social networks would drive them towards.
We need a strategy that understands and targets those social networks with a flexible and multi-faceted approach. The correct strategy should work not only in Iraq but also in the "long war," which includes Afghanistan, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and wherever else radical Islam is making inroads. But as the article points out, not many in government understand the problem or have the expertise to tackle it. Another obstacle is the decades long antipathy of social science academics to any endeavor that might be considered patriotic.
That needs to change.
* A fellow Cal Bear.
February 10, 2007
The vast majority of reporters and columnists who write about Iraq and pretend to know what they're talking about are completely incompetent to do so. Not only is their journalism degree inadequate for the task (it's a glorified general ed degree) but their undisguised bias robs their output of any credibility. Yet, from my desk chair, I'm forced to rely on these people almost exclusively for my information. So, as a result, my opinions are just about as worthless.
That's why I'm taking a wait and see approach. I do consider myself an expert on another thing, though: I'm an expert on the domestic battlefield. This is why I have said over and over again that we must achieve success in Iraq quickly, because if Americans don't see progress soon, our next president will pull the plug on the whole noble enterprise.
So I was very encouraged when the President yanked the most recent generals in charge, good men though they might be, and replaced them with guys who understand the need for a change in strategy. Today is General Petraeus's first day on the job. His resume is impressive.* He's had success before.** I wish him and his new strategy well.
Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen is an advisor to Gen. Petraeus and an expert on counter-insurgency strategy. He's also a Duntroon grad and a veteran of East Timor. In this post at Small Wars Journal, Kilcullen outlines the two schools of thought regarding counter-insurgency.***
An illustrative anecdote:
In Timor in 1999 I worked closely with village elders in the border districts. I sat down with several of them one afternoon to discuss their perception of how the campaign was progressing, and they complained that the Australians weren't securing them in the fields and villages, that they felt unsafe because of the militia (the local term for cross-border guerrillas) and that we needed to do more to protect them. In actual fact, we were out in large numbers, securing the border against infiltration, patrolling by night, conducting 14 to 21-day patrols in the jungle to deny the militias a chance to build sanctuaries, and working in close in the villages to maintain popular support. There had not been a single successful attack by the insurgents on the population for more than two months. So, "objectively", they were secure. But -- and this is the critical point -- because our troops were sneaking around in the jungle and at night, staying out of the villagers' way and focusing on defeating enemy attempts to target the population, they did not see us about, and hence did not feel subjectively secure. This was exacerbated by the fact that they had just experienced a major psychological trauma (occupation, insurgency, mass destruction and international intervention) and as a society they needed time and support for a degree of "mental reconstruction". Based on their feedback (and that of lots of other meetings and observations) we changed our operational approach, became a bit more visible to the population and focused on giving them the feeling, as well as the reality, of safety. Once we did that, it was fine.Adaptation is the key, and I'm glad to see that we're trying something new. I hope it works.
In other words, we had to shift from a more enemy-centric approach to a more population-centric approach to adjust to the developing situation. My personal lesson from this experience was that the correct approach is situation-dependent, and the situation changes over time. Therefore the key is to develop mechanisms that allow you to read the environment, to be agile and to adapt . . .
You can see how the above example illustrates the need for more troops and contact with the population. It's more than just switching to a zone defense from man-to-man. At least in the short run, our new strategy will provide the enemy with more opportunities to kill Americans. We're not going to like that here at home, and I have no illusions that the media will understand what's happening or that a different strategy is at work. The commanders in theater, and the President must realize that the home front will not cut them any slack and they have to get it right this time.
* But so was McClellan's.
** But so did Hooker.
*** The comments are especially interesting.
February 09, 2007
February 08, 2007
February 07, 2007
In a head-to-head matchup against McCain in a Gallup poll of Republicans and Republican "leaners" taken Jan. 25-28, Giuliani beat the Arizona senator handily in most categories: better public speaker, more likable, better chance of beating the Democratic nominee, would run a more positive campaign, would perform better in debates, would do more to unite the country, would manage the country more effectively, would be better in a crisis, better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans, and strength of leadership.What did I just say?
The Monitor article from which I pulled that quote also says that Giuliani's approval ratings are at 62%. Sixty-two percent! That will change as the attack machine heats up. But I ask you, can anyone name another public figure with numbers over 60%? I can't think of one. That's unheard of in this age of hyper-negativity.
On the other hand, some analysts say that McCain's recent dip in polling is due to his more vocal support of the President's Surge plan. It's possible that not a lot of poll respondents knew Giuliani's position on the Iraq War is identical to McCain's. Or maybe they do, but they just trust Giuliani more.
That's my take. Even if I liked McCain, I would always favor a guy with executive experience over legislative experience. Theoretically, executives must work in the real world where results are expected. Therefore, they should be more results oriented. Legislators on the other hand, work in a world of theoretical projections, possibilities and imaginary outcomes. When they fuck up, they're rarely held to account because they simply blame the other party, the executive, or both.
[How can I quit blogging this summer when Campaign '08 is already so interesting?]
The judge released the Astronut chick on bail because he didn't consider her a flight risk! In what universe is she not a flight risk?!?! Hellooooo!?!? She's a pilot. She can fly! By definition that makes her a flight risk.
And not only that, she's an astronaut. What's to stop her from getting into her spaceship and flying off to another planet tomorrow? Then the only way we could catch her is by sending a team of astronauts after her. And I doubt we have many astronauts trained in law enforcement.
This is a bad situation just waiting to happen. What if, for instance, she escapes to the moon? Would the cops/astronauts have jurisdiction there? Maybe at Tranquility Base, since that's U.S. territory. But what if she hides out in some other crater with a jug of water, some Tang and a box of Depends? We might never find her. I don't think her GPS bracelet is going to be much help on the moon.
Or what if she made it all the way to Mars? I'm sure there's no extradition treaty with the Martians, and they hate us anyway. Oh those Martians would jump at the chance to grant asylum for an ex-astronaut simply to embarrass us, like the French do with Roman Polanski. Those Martians think they're so superior, just because their orbit is bigger than ours.
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