Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Finland in WWII

OK, I know this is kind of random, but I've been reading a bit about this lately. Finland is like a European Mexico (any Mexican readers, please excuse the following analogy, if you find it offensive; I'm sure no Finns read this blog, and if any do, no offense meant, either; if there any Finnish-Mexicans, I guess no apology would work . . .): It's a small country next-door to a very large and powerful country. In Finland's case, that neighbor was the U.S.S.R. Finland had been a part of Russia until the end of the First World War, and its leaders were always concerned that the Soviets would invade. Oh, and they had reason to, given the Soviet attack on Finland in 1939, the Winter War.

Through 1940-41, the British were somewhat sympathetic to the Finns. But once Hitler invaded the U.S.S.R. and thus cemented the alliance between Britain and the Soviets, the Brits were less concerned with the Finns. And Hitler had invaded Norway and Denmark, and the Swedes were not any help. The Finns had to choose sides, and you wouldn't choose the side that promised to swallow you, would you? So they worked with the Axis powers . . .


Worth a look. An interesting situation, from a foreign-policy perspective.

Gulf Coast of Mississippi Damage II

I hope a certain sister-in-law of mine doesn't mind me posting her awesome photos. If she does, I'll take them down.

Gulf Coast of Mississippi Damage

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Isn't the Christmas wreath a strange flourish on a webpage citing news outlets for spreading defamation (no object) and false information?

Update: CL seems to have lost his sense of humor (?). A Christmas wreath is a symbol of festivity. It is also, if I remember my Christianity, a symbol of the birth of Christ, the savior of mankind. So to have a symbol of festivity, hope, and God's love for mankind coupled with a hate list is funny. Or, so I thought.

Merry Christmas, anyway.

Btw, am I the one in the ivory tower? I don't work there any more. . . .

Film Review: Primer (dir. S. Carruth, 2004)

I reviewed this movie before, but then I traveled back in time and watched the movie again, and now I have no idea what this movie was about. I mean, it's about two guys who build a time machine . . . and then get in all sorts of time travel problems. Or, that's what I thought. Now I'm not so sure.

Really, I watched this film twice, and I enjoyed it both times. It's just, er, a difficult film.

Hall of Fame Ballot Thoughts?

The leading lights among the 14 first-timers on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot are position players . . . Albert Belle, Will Clark, and Ozzie Guillen and pitchers . . . Orel Hershiser and Dwight Gooden. (Note: three of five are former members of the Tribe. Oh, yeah. Cleveland is the Hall of Fame City.)

The rest of the first-timers include pitchers Rick Aguilera, Alex Fernandez, Doug Jones, and John Wetteland and position players Gary DiSarcina, Gary Gaetti, Gregg Jefferies, Hal Morris, and Walt Weiss.

This is a pretty sorry set of first-timers. I mean, I like many of these players but the Hall of Fame? Walt Weiss?

Who's the best candidate among the first-timers? (Not the most likely, because I don't think any of these guys gets in, not very soon, anyway.)

Btw, the complete ballot: Aguilera, Belle, Bert Blyleven (should be in), Clark, Dave Conception (should be in), Andre Dawson (should be in . . . c'mon, he's the Hawk), DiSarcina, Fernandez, Gaetti, Steve Garvey (nope!), Gooden, Goose Gossage (should be in and would definitely get my vote), Guillen, Hershiser, Jefferies, Tommy John (not in the Hall? but he invented that surgery!), Jones, Don Mattingly (ninophile and I would both vote for Donnie Baseball), Willie McGee, Hal Morris, Jack Morris (Jack Morris is a no-brainer here, especially if he goes in as a Tiger), Dale Murphy, Dave Parker (I'd vote for Parker but he shouldn't be in), Jim Rice (a close one), Lee Smith (no!), Bruce Sutter (the most likely inductee this year), Alan Trammell (no brainer), Weiss, and Wetteland.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Air War in Iraq . . . Unreported

Read Sy Hersh's latest. Just do.

The American air war inside Iraq today is perhaps the most significant—and underreported—aspect of the fight against the insurgency. The military authorities in Baghdad and Washington do not provide the press with a daily accounting of missions that Air Force, Navy, and Marine units fly or of the tonnage they drop, as was routinely done during the Vietnam War. One insight into the scope of the bombing in Iraq was supplied by the Marine Corps during the height of the siege of Falluja in the fall of 2004. “With a massive Marine air and ground offensive under way,” a Marine press release said, “Marine close air support continues to put high-tech steel on target. . . . Flying missions day and night for weeks, the fixed wing aircraft of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing are ensuring battlefield success on the front line.” Since the beginning of the war, the press release said, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing alone had dropped more than five hundred thousand tons of ordnance. “This number is likely to be much higher by the end of operations,” Major Mike Sexton said. In the battle for the city, more than seven hundred Americans were killed or wounded; U.S. officials did not release estimates of civilian dead, but press reports at the time told of women and children killed in the bombardments.

I haven't read about this. And you haven't either. Egad. Things are bad, people. Bad. Ba-a-a-ad.

Ever Seen John Burns on The NewsHour?

What's up with that guy's hair? Aren't there barbers in the frackin' Green Zone? Is that a wig?

If you don't watch the NewsHour, this post won't make sense to you. For which I [don't] apologize.

Blogging Statistics

Read these stats today, thought you'd like to know. Sixty-one percent of blog readers are over thirty. Seventy-five percent earn more than $45,000 a year; their average household income is $57,900. Eighty-three percent use broadband connections. Blog readers view 77% more web pages than the average Internet user and spend 23 hours a week online.

Twenty-three hours?#!@?!

You people need to get a life.

Lions Fire the Mooch

The Detroit Lions fired coach Mariucci today. I'm never sure whether firing the coach mid-season is a good idea, but it is true that the Lions did not come to play on Thanksgiving.

Remember back a few years ago, when Lions GM Millen broke the NFL's interviewing rules to hire "Mooch" and was fined $200,000 for the violation? That was the single worst management decision in NFL history (hindsight edition). Two-hundred grand to hire a mediocre (at best) coach.

Do things get better now? (With former Bears coach Dick Jauron at the helm?)

Update: Wilson disagrees. I agree with his disagreement to the extent that coaches can only do so much. But coaches usually get fired when their teams fail to play hard. The Lions didn't play hard on Turkey Day. Maybe that was because of injuries, etc. But they just didn't look like they were playing hard. Ergo, the coach gets fired. That's the way it is . . . .

Fair? No. But . . . the Mooch had a five-year, $25 million dollar contract. He'll be fine. Just fine.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Walk in the Woods

So I was able to drag the better half away from work for a few hours this afternoon and go for a hike on the Appalachian Trail, about an hour west of home, in Maryland. We did the Annapolis Rock hike, which is about 4.5 miles long. I can see why this is such a popular hike, and camping spot, in the warmer months. The vistas from the Rock itself are really amazing, at least by central Maryland standards.

The weather was a bit cool (around fifty degrees, maybe cooler at the top of the mountain). The skies were overcast. But a walk in the woods was just what I needed.

We asked cousin Simon to come along, btw, and we all three went to a great Chinese restaurant in Wheaton afterward. Wheaton, apparently, is where the best Chinese food in the D.C. area can be had.

Annapolis Rock, Appalachian Trail, Frederick County, Maryland

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lack of Posts Is Frustrating

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. To be perfectly honest, I just haven't had that much to say. I hope to pull out of this soon.

Friday, November 25, 2005

That's About Right

Sam has a point.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Film Review: Code 46 (dir. M. Winterbottom, 2003)

This sci fi love story of the future stars Tim Robbins as "William," an empathic insurance investigator (?), and Samantha Morton as "Maria," the forger he's out to find. He finds her, and then instead of turning her in, they have mad, wild sex. Then he goes home to his wife and son, but can't forget Maria. But Maria has forgotten him, because it turns out he impregnated her, and the two are too genetically close to have mated . . . Maria is a clone of William's birth mother, it turns out, so their coupling violated "Code 46." The pregnancy was terminated by the omni-present govmint and William was excised from Maria's memories.

William reunites with Maria, and they have another fling, "outside." One of the interesting aspects of this film is its depiction of a future world in which there are two classes of people--those on the inside, with "cover," basically papers that say "you have the right to be here," and those on the "outside," the desperate folks without cover. The neat twist here is that one needs cover to be anywhere, so one can have cover in one's hometown, but not cover where you are or want to go, which means that travel to population centers ("inside") becomes impossible without govmint approval . . . Maria's crime is forging papers (here called "papelles") for those who need cover to do things that the govmint, called "the Sphinx" here, won't permit. (The suggestion is that the govmint is a kind of supercomputer that treats its subjects like a nanny treats her charges, paternalistically but sternly.)

The "Man" tracks William down, and now his memory is wiped. He returns to his wife and son, never knowing about his brief love affair with Maria. Maria narrates, as she is now stuck outside, with her memories.

This is a fun movie, worth a look if you like films with a dystopian theme. The film is beautifully done, looks great, although the future doesn't look that different from today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

Oh, I miss the snow, don't you know?

I apologize for the lack of posts. I'll try to be better. The holiday season . . . what's better?

More tomorrow. Good night.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Long Weekend

OK, FFB is finally back "live." Sorry for the lack of posts.

The marathon weekend was great. We drove up to Philadelphia on Saturday morning, which was probably the worst part of the experience--I-95 traffic, especially through the "state" of Delaware. (Delaware reminds me of some Afghanistan province where the local warlords shake you down just so you can pass through.) Then we went to the Expo, got our numbers and t-shirts, bought a few things, and then checked into our hotel. Then dinner at "The Saloon," a traditional Italian restaurant that a friend tells me used to be frequented by, er, alleged participants in organized crime. (Didn't see anyone who looked, er, suspicious, but they did have a "Godfather" collage on one wall, and there was, really, a giant oil painting of a naked women over the stairwell. It was classy, though.) The food was good; I only wished that I could have eaten more. The place is best known for its steaks, but one shouldn't eat a massive steak hours before running 26.2 miles.

Sunday was just about a perfect day for a marathon. It was cool at start time and didn't warm up, too much, by the finish. It was clear and sunny, not too breezy.

We both did about as well as we had hoped, given the state of our training. I ran the marathon in under four hours, which was my goal (3:57 and a few seconds). But there's a reason for that old marathoner's saying:

You won't run another marathon until you forget the last one.

I won't be running another one for awhile. The last four or five miles . . . just hurt. Speaking of which, I still hurt right now.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Light Posting; Marathon Weekend

This has been a hectic week, and it will only get more hectic. Tonight we're going out to celebrate someone special's birthday at the Mini-Bar at Cafe Atlantico in Chinatown. So probably light posting later today. And this weekend is the Philadelphia Marathon, which means we will be away Saturday through Monday a.m. I'm taking Monday off, so I will post some thoughts on the marathon then or soon thereafter.

One thing that I am going to try out this weekend: the CVS One Use Digital Camcorder ($29.99, plus an additional fee to get your video put on a DVD; the camcorder itself doesn't have any jacks on it). I'm going to try to make a "mini-documentary" on the marathon.

Why? What's the Cause of This Sour Mood?

The latest poll show Bush's approval ratings even lower than previous polls, 34%. Now, this kind of variation (one or two points) is not terribly meaningful, but it does indicate that these low numbers, generally, are getting at something. Bush is not very popular, right now.

My question is not why is Bush faring so poorly, but rather, why is everyone else, including the Democrats in Congress, faring so poorly in these polls?

Based on these polls, one would have to conclude that the mood in the country is quite sour at the present time.

But to be perfectly honest, I don't get that sense, not in my daily life. Now, I don't necessarily interact with John Q. Public and Mary Jane Mainstreet, but I watch television, read and skim magazines, etc. The corporate media aren't showing this, not, at least, the corporate media that I consume. The bloggers have been angry for years--really, the bloggers have been angry since they came into existence (qua bloggers, I mean; they may have been perfectly happy before then).

I mean, if I had to assign a cause, I would blame . . . the war in Iraq. But is that it?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Daily Norse Myth


What is unique about Ragnarok as an Armageddon tale is that the gods already know through prophecy what is going to happen: when the event will occur, who will be slain by whom, and so forth. They even realize that they are powerless to prevent Ragnarok. But they will still bravely and defiantly face their bleak destiny.

Ah, yes, people. Bravely and defiantly face your bleak destinies. If you read this post, maybe the connection will make sense. Or maybe not.

What Happened to . . .

the Stormtroopers at the end of Return of the Jedi? I mean, we now know that they are clones without wills of their own, so they couldn't just be set loose on amnesty. They would be too dangerous. (Think about it. Killing machines, no wills of their own . . .) Now, maybe most of the stromtroopers were killed in the destruction of the Imperial Starfleet. But . . . some, at least, survived.

Maybe the whole saga is really just an anti-cloning polemic.

Gay Cowboy Movie

I don't know if y'all have heard, but there's a gay cowboy movie coming out next month. And it's supposed to be absolutely great. Like, Best Picture great. Like, it leaves you emotionally changed, great. Screenplay by Larry McMurtry, directed by Ang Lee (no relation), starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. Oh, man. Can't wait for the Hollywood Ragnarok, because this film opens on the same day as the Christ allegory The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe! (I think; I really need to check my facts. Same month, anyway.)

Btw, people, those who've seen this film (the gay cowboy movie, that is) say that one shouldn't call it "the gay cowboy movie" because the term is so dismissive. It's supposed to be a beautiful movie. And I'm sure it is. I can't wait to see it. And I lo-o-o-ove Westerns.

Oh, man. Pat Robertson is so going to freak.

P.S. The new Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line, opens this weekend (the same weekend as that wizard guy). Now, IMHO, Johnny Cash is the third coolest American of the twentieth century, behind Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood. (Yes, I'm a white guy. Very white.) So I will be seeing this one, but maybe not 'til Monday. Because that marathon thingy intervenes.

"I'm Johnny Cash."

Btw: Top Ten
T-1: Elvis Presley and Clint Eastwood
3: Johnny Cash
4: FDR
T-5: John Wayne and Jimi Hendrix
7: Humphrey Bogart
T-8: JFK and Louie Armstrong
10: Winston Churchill
HM's: Jimmy Stewart, Bruce Lee

Bush's Troubles

I haven't posted on politics lately. Primarily because I've been unable to digest everything that's been happening.

Bush's low poll numbers. The administration seems to think that coming out and (counter-)attacking its "Democratic critics" is the solution. I'm not sure that this will work. Bush's poll numbers on the war, whether he lied or misled the country into war, and his honesty numbers didn't result, primarily, from attacks from Democratic critics. Indeed, Bush's numbers have been dropping largely in the absence of high profile Democratic critics. Remember, Kerry in 2004 blasted the handling of the war but defended his vote to authorize the president to use force. But a majority of the public, at the same time, reached the conclusion that the war itself was a mistake. Since the summer of 2004, we'e heard any number of arguments about democracy, elections, constitutions, etc. But in the public mind, the war was about "a grave and gathering threat" to the United States. That, it turned out, wasn't true. Rank-and-file Americans don't care about Iraqi democracy. (CL, I'm waiting for you to argue with me on this one.) They did fear a mushroom cloud smoking gun.

Bush's problem is and will continue to be that there weren't weapons of mass destruction. He told us this was a "grave and gathering" (if not imminent) threat, and that wasn't true. Was he lying? I have my own opinion, but that's irrelevant for this analysis. In terms of mass opinion, this is a simple question: The president has the CIA, etc. He knows things. He can be wrong about things, but is it likely that he was that wrong about something so important to him? No. Ergo, he was lying. Trust in his character destroyed, probably permanently (or until WMD are found in Iraq!).

Bush might have avoided these difficulties, had it not been for Hurricane Katrina. Katrina undercut any claim the president had to strong leadership. It also demonstrated that the administration was not ready for a disaster or, er, um, a terrorist attack, despite all the time since 9/11.

What does Bush have left? Not much, except three more years to experience what unpopular presidents experience. Pain.

What do the Republicans have to build on?

Well, the Democrats are feckless. But the GOP always have that going for them. I'll say what the pundits usually say, but I'll turn it around: The GOP has to come up with a spokesperson and a national platform that is an alternative to Bush. Or 2006, and probably 2008, will be the same for them. Pain.

I don't think the GOP will do that, though.

And the Democrats? Oh, don't get me started. I still don't understand how the Dems lost to this guy in 2004 . . . except for that whole John Kerry is the most electable candidate meme . . . no, no, I can't go there. Too painful.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Our Country's Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker, at Georgetown U's new Davis Center for the Performing Arts

We don't see a lot of student productions, but a friend teaches in the Theater department at Georgetown, so we went to see the second-ever performance at the new Davis Center (the first performance was last night). The play is historical, involving a play produced by convicts sent to Australia in the 1780s. It's a very intellectual play, and a play about the theater (and what the theater can do). A play worth seeing, and a production worth seeing, if you can make it to GU by next Saturday.

We got a tour after the show of the new facility. Really great, state-of-the-teaching-art. It's great to see a university devoting resources to a field of endeavor that won't yield any patents. The arts are what make us human, people. Really.

Of course, if you patent the human genome . . . then you might make humans, too.

Btw, I tempted superstition tonight by uttering the word Macbeth in the theater. It's a long story (why I did it and why that's bad luck), but let's just say, I don't believe in evil spirits. But if bad luck comes my way, I have a ready-made explanation.

Fun with Statistics: Vikings at Giants Edition

The New York [Football] Giants defense pitched a shutout today--no touchdowns given up, and only one measly field goal. They allowed only 137 yards of Vikings offense.

But the Giants lost, 24-21.

The Vikings had a INT returned for a touchdown (92 yards), a kickoff return for a touchdown, and a punt return for a touchdown. That's never been done in the NFL before. Id'd be surprised if it's ever been done in an American rules football game before. Those three returns accounted for more than twice as many yards as the Vikings offense and for three touches.


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Film Review: Batman Begins (dir. C. Nolan, 2005)

This is an above average superhero movie, although given recent offerings (The Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Elecktra(!)) it's not that hard to be above average. Christian Bale is a better Bruce Wayne/Batman than George Clooney, although he's no Michael Keaton. (Val Kilmer is generally great, but he was not a very good Batman, in my opinion. So Bale is better than Kilmer, too.) Let me just say that Katie Holmes is sort-of attractive, but she's no Kim Basinger.

But maybe comparisons to other Batman movies are not appropriate, because this is an all-new Batman story. We see Bruce Wayne's parents killed, again, but not by the Joker this time. We see a new backstory detailing Bruce Wayne's training as a Jedi, er, I mean, what is the term . . . ninja. I get confused here, because his mentor is Liam Neeson, a/k/a Qui-Gon Jinn. Neeson is also the villain, which isn't giving anything away. As usual, the villain's plot "to destroy Gotham" is brilliant, if overkill. As many of my usual readers know, I'm rather tired of martial arts violence, so a lot of the movie left me pretty cold.

And, of course, Batman prevails. There are a lot of special effects, computer animation, etc.

Ho-hum. I need to watch more movies like House of Sand and Fog and fewer like Batman Begins. But I try to keep current with popular cinema . . . although, to be honest, I've never seen either of the recent-ish Spiderman movies.

Film Review: House of Sand and Fog (dir. V. Perelman, 2003)

This is an incredible film, really one of the best films I've seen in a long time (and I watch a lot of movies). It's really a "tragedy" more than a drama; a modern-day tragedy, in the sense of being a story of right versus right, good versus good, but with both sides flawed in fundamental ways. Jennifer Connelly plays a troubled woman (alcoholic, husband left her eight months ago, depression) who loses her house because of unpaid taxes; unpaid taxes that it appears that she did not actually owe. So she's wronged by the system. Ben Kingsley (one of our greatest actors, no doubt, and nominated for Best Actor for this performance) plays an exiled Iranian colonel, possibly a former member of the Shah's elite secret service (?), but now a man struggling to maintain his own and his family's dignity. Especially that of his wife, played by the beautiful and talented Shohreh Ashdashloo (nominated for Supporting Actress). To do this, he works two jobs: as a night clerk at a gas station, and on a county road crew. He buys the house at the tax auction for one-quarter it's true value, hoping to flip the property and use the money to secure his son's university education (and move his family back up the social mobility ladder). So the Iranian colonel needs the house; so does the depressed woman. Both have their flaws, but both are sympathetic characters, seeking to hold on to . . . home.

The story is complicated by the depressed woman's relationship with a sheriff's deputy with his own troubles. His troubles become increasingly clear as the film progresses. There's a great deal of foreshadowing of the characters' eventual fates. Let's just say that this is a tragedy, and we know what happens to characters in tragedies, don't we?

The theme here, I think, is being lost. All the characters in this film are lost. The house is a symbol of home, of having a place to be. But for one character to have this home, the others must be exiled (literally). The film is also very beautiful, and the fog plays an important role in the movie's themes. It's easy to get lost in the fog, after all.

This is the first movie for Vadim Perelman (director and screenwriting credit). Truly an amazing accomplishment.

I won't spoil the story (any more than I already have), if you haven't seen the film. And if you haven't, rent it soon. It's worth your time.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Film Review: I Heart Huckabees (dir. D. Russell, 2004)

I didn't really like this one. I've been on a realism kick for a while now, and this film isn't really shooting for realism. But it was on my list from last year, so it came in the mail. Thanks, Netflix.

Should I even attempt a plot synopsis? Jason Schwartzman plays Albert Markovsky, a troubled environmental activist. Seeking help for his troubles (or really, to solve a coincidence involving a Sudanese doorman), he turns to Bernard and Vivian, existential detectives. There's a whole lot of plot . . . a lot of characters, subplots, odd dialogue, some witty dialogue, a rival existential detective (the sexy and French Isabelle Huppert). Mark Wahlberg overacting. Naomi Watts in a bikini. And the movie is still boring. Well, I found it boring, at least. Maybe I'm not smart enough.

This is a pretty crummy review. The movie just wasn't to my mood, I guess.

Stalin Statue

Check it out.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

D.C. Voting Rights

So I saw a guy on the Metro this week wearing a baseball hat that said "D.C. Statehood" and "Green Party." He was reading a book entitled "Animal Behavior and Game Theory." (Needless to say, he had a beard. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

But seriously, living in the District means that you don't have the same voting rights as other Americans. No congressional representation, only a non-voting delegate (big whoop). No State government. Despite home rule, we are still under Congress's thumb. A thumb that has a decidedly anti-District print. So it's very different from living in a State.

I want to expand on this subject (the difference between D.C. residents and residents of the 50 States) in a later post. Right now, I just want to kick off that discussion by saying that while this discrimination against District residents is built-into the Constitution, there's a good argument to be made that this was not something that the Framers "intended," in the sense that they thought about it and then decided to treat District residents as second-class Americans. Remember, there simply was no District of Columbia at the time of the drafting and ratification of the Constitution. (Founded in 1790.) Let alone a District that has a larger population than at least one State (Wyoming, according to Wikipedia) and an economy much larger than several States.

What I'm driving at is that there's no principled justification for this discrimination, not even the quasi-principled argument that this is what the Constitution mandates. But to actually address this discrimination, one would have to attack the Constitution's preference for States as political entities, which would be almost impossible, politically, to overcome. Btw, the phrase "the Constitution's preference for States as political entities" is a strange one, to my ears, too. My argument is that persons (in a constitutional framework, especially U.S. citizens), should receive a greater preference than States qua States. But this will have to continue at another time.

I have a constitutional hook to hang this on, people. To be continued.

Kaine Wins

OK, that's not news at this point. Tim Kaine (D) was elected Virginia governor. The short post I wrote on it Tuesday night was eaten by Blogger. I will note that a former student and good friend had a paid position on the Kaine campaign, so I'm happy that all his efforts were not in vain. (I mean, you still get paid if you lose, but it's not really the same thing. Just ask the Buffalo Bills . . . but we don't want to start down that road, again, do we?)

I was also thinking about how much money the developers sank into the Kilgore campaign. What happens now? Well, one of two things. Kaine and the developers can reach a new understanding; the developers can help Kaine retire his campaign debt (I'm assuming that he has some), Kaine can take a more Kilgore-like approach to the deelopers' issues. Or the developers are in a bad place. Having supported the loser, they will now face the political consequences. I don't really follow Virginia politics, but I'll be keeping an eye on the aftermath here.

One interesting thing that comes out of this election. Kilgore's campaign tried two different attacks on Kaine. First, in a now infamous series of ads, the Kilgore people tried to dukakis Kaine's anti-death penalty position. Kaine came back, not as hard as some may have wanted, but challenged the ads. Unlike the Duke, Kaine's opposition to the death penalty was based in his (Catholic) faith. There are apparently some GOPpers who think any Democrat can be brought down in the same way as Dukakis; but that was belied in this campaign. Second, the Kilgore campaign tried to depress "liberal" voter turnout in Northern Virginia by attacking Kaine's conservatism. This was chiefly done with spliced robo-calls of Kaine calling himself a conservative; but there was also a print circular. But I think the 2000 election demonstrated to progressive voters that attacks on the Democratic candidate as not liberal enough, if followed (by, say, a vote for Nader), result in a much worse result, from their point of view (Bush in 2000, Kilgore in 2005). Thus, this sort of attack probably doesn't work anymore, either.

What's left for the rightwing attack machine?

Btw, did you know that one in seven Virginia voters lives in Alexandria county?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Film Review: Jarhead (dir. S. Mendes 2005)

Of course, had to go see this one, a Marine Corps memoir, based on the trailers/commercials and the book, which I recommend. As usual, the book is better, but the film is really quite a spectacle. The subject matter is ostensibly the Gulf War, the one where we didn't go into Baghdad, but the real subject is life in the Corps. The author/protagonist, Anthony Swofford, has a great deal of affection for his Marine mates, at least some of them (there are a few he despises, but that's just the way things go), and mixed feelings about his time in the Corps, etc. The tone is therefore somewhat difficult, because this is really a first-person slice of life film, and it doesn't really have a message. Now, there is some irony at the end ("Saddam Hussein, he's finished!"), but that's irony, not a message message, if you get my drift. (And let's be honest, if you don't get my drift, I don't think you're coming back to the blog, now, are you?)

Instead, what the film gives us is one Marine's story. A Marine sniper in the Gulf War. The story starts out with some cliches, but then goes in some interesting directions (like anyone's story). There is some wonderful inter-textuality, in the sense that the film shows clips of another war film . . . kind of along the lines of a previous post. The war itself is anti-climactic and ends before Swoff and his mates get to do that which they are trained to do: kill. Indeed, they come close but get called off at the last minute. There is something wonderfully odd about this moment: Swoff wants to get his kill, but he is shaky when it comes time to pull the trigger, and in later years, he is better off not having killed. But he cannot forget (dipping into the book now) that, at that moment in time, he wanted to kill, not because he was blood-thirsty but because that was what he was trained to do. So the book/film are an interesting study in a certain mindset. Sort of: I'm both happy and sad that things turned out the way they did. But we've all been there, right?

The film itself is quite beautiful, without being too arty about it. The oil fire scenes are amazing, and the scene with the oil-drenched horse, which I don't think is in the book, is pretty unforgettable. The performances are all good, including Peter Sarsgaard (I didn't check the spelling), a strangely androgynous version of Kiefer Sutherland. (And I don't mean that androgyny is strange, but that this guy has a strange vibe about him, which makes him seem, well, kind of crazy.) Gyllenhaal is what you would expect. And who doesn't love Jamie Foxx?

Still, I think that this one might just get passed over at awards time. It might get a nomination for adapted screenplay or direction, but I don't see acting nominations coming out of this one. Not because the acting isn't good to great, but because the performances are not quite what you're expecting.

Worth seeing, even if you're not a fan of war movies, in general. Because it's not much of a "war" movie, really.

Much Ado about Nothing at the Folger

Went to see the Folger's production of Much Ado at the Folger last night. A very solid production, with costumes and sets with a post-WWII feel. The soldiers were U.S. pilots, the women Englishwomen, which worked, although the idea that the U.S. general's name was "Don Pedro" was a bit strange, in context. The actress playing Beatrice was excellent, so Benedick was not quite her equal.

Is This the Analogy You Want?

Sen. Kennedy, on "Meet the Press," was asked by Russert whether the Democrats would filibuster the Alito nomination. Kennedy answered that that would be like the Buffalo Bills giving away their playbook before a game with the New England Patriots.

Egad. No one should ever compare themselves to the Buffalo Bills, the team that lost four straight Super Bowls.

Note to Kennedy: Compare the Democrats to a team with some good history, like the Pittsburgh Steelers. Compare the Republicans to the Dallas Cowboys. (Not the Patriots. Why go there?)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Interesting Column

On the improbability of the Internet. Says mean things about lawyers, the gov'mint, and Disney. Worth a read, if you haven't already followed a link from, ahem, a more popular website.

Friday, November 04, 2005

What's She Doing to the Eagle?

Commemorating What?

This Week

Well, regular readers will have noticed spotty posting over the past week or so. Part of that was due to computer problems, but mostly it has been caused by two factors: (1) when I am busy at work, I post less, and because I don't post about work, as a general rule, being busy at work, while a good thing for my state of mind, is bad for the blog; and (2) I have been very, very tired all week. The latter is probably mostly due to the 20-mile run last Sunday, which was draining. I didn't feel that bad on Monday, but the run Tuesday night (a relatively easy five-mile run) really wiped me out. Plus my back has been sore since Tuesday night, and that must be running related. I felt so tired on Wednesday that I contemplated using a sick day, which for me would have been a pretty big deal. (I went to work anyway.)

I don't mean to complain, just to apologize for the light posting. I hope that lying low this weekend, sleeping in a bit (getting up at 5:30 am to run is hard), and only a 12-mile run on Sunday will do the trick.

The marathon is two weeks from Sunday.

I watched a really dreadful movie last night, which doesn't deserve a review, Identity (2003), starring John Cusack, who is usually quite reliable. This movie always looked pretty good in the commercials, but it has an awful secret--the whole story takes place in a psycho-killer's mind. I'm serious. Stay away, if you haven't already seen this, i.e., wasted your time.

We've also been watching the new "Colbert Report" on Comedy central, after the "Daily Show." So far, it's been pretty funny, although I wonder if it's funny if you don't know he's sending up one person, the insufferable Bill O'Reilly. Also, some of the humor is really edgy, not the sort of thing that will work with many viewers. And a lot of the humor is working at two levels. For example, the segment debating whether Halloween or Ramadan is the better holiday was funny because (1) it's such a laughable comparison, no one would actually make it, but at the same time, (2) it's the kind of comparison that a rightwing moonbat might make, and it's really offensive. Colbert joked Wednesday night that someone had declared a fatwa against him, and I'm not sure if that was a joke or not.

The segment on the "Report" when Colbert made a Ken Burns-style documentary about his interview with Ken Burns, which was narrated by Burns, was possibly the funniest thing I've ever seen. If you've got time, shoot over to the Comedy Central website and see if you can watch it there.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Libby Jury Duty

I was thinking today . . . I'm actually living in the District. So I could get called for jury duty. And I could get called during jury selection for the Libby case.

But, of course, I would never get on the jury. Or, maybe . . . just maybe.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Episode III Thoughts

So I'm watching Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith on DVD. Because I work, and work-out, I haven't got to the climactic light saber battle between Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker. I will note, however, that this was one of the events that excited my imagination from the age of nine or so until . . . May 2005. Well, actually, it still excites my imagination. I think I'll restart the DVD now.

Update: A little too much going on in the climactic scene. My take is that the light saber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin should be enough to hold the viewer's interest. As a young person, I always imagined that this would just be two guys, two light sabers, and the edge of a volcano. That would be enough, with a few lines of dialogue. No need for Hong Kong-style martial arts. No need for hovercraft, lava plumes, etc. I mean, some of that stuff is pretty cool. But a little too much.

There's a DVD extra on Disk Two called "The Chosen One." Lucas has some strange ideas about Darth Vader, which I will post on over the weekend.

But a preview: My major complaint is that the Emperor/Darth Sidious/Chancellor Palpatine is really the main character in Lucas's vision, even though Lucas thinks that it's Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Why Palpatine? Because he is the one who brings all the events in all six films about, and it is his death that restores balance to the Force. In so many ways, Anakin/Vader and Luke are just Palpatine's pawns. (Not to mention Yoda. The Jedi Council never conducts a thorough inquiry/investigation into just who the Sith Lord could be . . . why not? It would seem that there would be a limited number of suspects . . . .)

Computer Problems

Light posting the rest of this week, until I can correct a few problems with the PowerBook. I have to say, OS X was much more stable in the earlier versions. I've had any number of problems with 10.4.

Update: The problems seem to be basically cleared up, with the exception of Gmail, which still seems exceptionally slow. I hope to post a little more regularly tomorrow, because I know that I will lose "eyeballs" if I don't post regularly. (Btw, that "eyeballs" is a shout-out to ninophile. I wonder if he remembers the reference?)