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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Troop surge in Iraq

I'm just flabbergasted that this idea seems to be under serious consideration - sending as many as 30,000 additional troops to Iraq in order to, well, kill all the insurgents. It's beyond my comprehension that anyone in a decision-making position could conclude that this approach, which is essentially more of the same, could succeed. It seems perfectly obvious to me that the problems of Iraq cannot be solved militarily. We tried that for over three years and it's been not only an abysmal failure, but an increasingly abysmal failure. What's that old saying? The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam's hanging

I'm not sorry to see the man go, but I think that the Kurds were seriously gypped out of their day in court - Saddam's trial for gassing 10,000 Kurds was just beginning and now the defendant is dead. Sort of like Ken Lay. I'm sure the families of the victims in the trial that just took place are happy that justice was served, but how could there be such a need for speedy execution that the suits of Saddam's many other victims were ignored?


Monday, December 25, 2006

Some movies change you completely

I talked briefly with my brother Leo today, who used to watch a lot of movies and had quite offbeat tastes (Terry Gilliam and such), and he mentioned that he doesn't have time to see movies anymore, so he just reads capsule reviews and watches previews and figures that, since he's seen so many movies in the past, he "gets" all the new movies that way (implying that every movie is derivitive of everything that's come before). Needless to say, my head almost exploded. We didn't get a chance to continue the conversation, but I did send him an email:

I'm a little shocked that someone with your artistic sensibilities
would be so dismissive of what I (and many others) consider to be an art
form. Sure, there's plenty of formulaic crap out there and I try hard not
to spend my time on it (though I must admit that I occasionally just want to see
them live happily ever after). But there's lots of movies that your system
won't work for - you haven't "seen" these movies because they were never made
before, and a capsule review and a 3 minute preview created by the marketing
department isn't going to give you that experience. To me, it's like
saying that you saw a photo of the Sistine Chapel in an art book, so why would
you bother going to Italy?

Now I'm well aware that I'm passionate about movies, certainly more than the average person, and I've thought about why that
is. I think it's a combination of the visual experience and the emotional
experience, and the movies that cater to that (for me) are the ones I try to
see. A movie like Gosford Park cannot be experienced by reading a capsule
review (I've watched it at least a half dozen times and I still cry every time
when she says at the end, "He'll never know me now.") American Beauty was
a film I thought was so gorgeous, it completely transcended it's subject
matter. I recently saw Capote on video, after seeing it in the theater
last year - it was so stunning, so beautiful - it's not just a narrative about
writing In Cold Blood - it's a visual work of art.

And there are performances that grace you with their presence. I know several people who thought The Interpreter was formulaic, but I thought Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn acted the shit out of their roles and they complimented me, as an audience member, by bringing it on. Sure, there are plenty of movies that do the
opposite - that insult you with how little effort they make to say anything
worth saying or performances that obviously can't be bothered. But on the
other hand, Lisa (my sister) told me that she cried for an hour after she saw
Brokeback Mountain -- you can't get that experience from reading a capsule review.
There are movies that you see, when you leave the theater, you're not the same
person you were when you went inside. There are movies and characters that
get inside your head and just won't leave (both Lisa and I dreamed about Ennis and Jack for several days after we saw the movie). There are performers and performances that reach inside your chest and squeeze your heart
in ways you didn't even know were possible. You can't see a movie like
or Igby Goes Down and walk away untouched.

I'm not trying to make you feel bad. I just felt the need to express a bit of outrage
at a glorious medium being trivialized in a way that I think is quite unfair. Sure, there are plenty of movies you can "know" without seeing them, but there are so many, too many to count, that defy neat description and certainly stand up, not only to your full attention, but repeated viewings as well - I'm sure there are people who've been to the Sistine Chapel more than once!


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Top stars revealed in Gallup Poll

Just heard the news that a recent Gallup Poll asking 1000+ respondents which of a list of 13 movie stars they would "make a special effort to see their movies." Tom Hanks topped the list, followed by Robert DeNiro, Julia Roberts, Will Smith, Sandra Bullock and Mel Gibson. I found this especially interesting because both female stars haven't appeared in a major (Julia) or majorly successful (Sandra) movie in several years. And Mel's popularity, despite his recent drunken shenanigans, goes beyond his actual appearance in movies - the Mayan civilization movie that he wrote, produced and directed (though did not appear in) topped the box office this past weekend, despite having subtitles - that is serious cache.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Avoiding (cleverly disguised) right wing propaganda

I take my kids to the library almost weekly and occasionally pick up a book for myself, often just a book that captures my attention, since I have little time to read reviews. This time I took a book called Amanda Bright@ Home about a high-powered PR executive who is struggling with her decision to stay home with her two young children, because it seemed topical and relevant to my personal situation (and the author's name is Danielle!) What I didn't realize until I got the book home is that it's the only fiction book ever serialized by the Wall Street Journal and the author, Danielle Crittenden, is the wife of conservative speechwriter David Frum, best known for (infamously) coining the expression "the axis of evil" in the 2002 State of the Union address, and who served (serves?) as a "special advisor" to GW Bush. Ms Crittenden's previous book is an anti-feminist screed called What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us, wherein she suggests that, unlike her!, modern women should eschew a career and devote themselves to motherhood (a Phyllis Schafley for the new millenium!) She is also one of the founders of the Independent Women's Forum, an anti-feminist, anti-liberal organization, and she is the founder and editor of their magazine, benignly titled, The Women's Quarterly. Upon futher inspection, "Amanada Bright" is blatant anti-feminist propaganda - the book is described thus: "a young, career-minded, feminist liberal learns to appreciate the rewards of traditional motherhood" (this includes a scene where the title character chastises her own career-minded mother for her maternal failings). While it might be edifying, I just don't want to spend my time in the company of this author - there are plenty of other writers whose work deserves my attention . . . even writers who address the issues of balancing work and motherhood without such an obvious agenda.

ADDENDUM December 10, 2006

Before I even absorbed exactly what was contained in this library selection, I had an interesting conversation (at a Christmas party) with a neighbor, Linda, who's about 15 years older than me with grown children. She's not yet a grandmother, and we were discussing the way that many women in "my generation" wait until they are considerably older than their own mothers before starting a family. Of course the author of "Amanda Bright" is suggesting that my generation has been duped into focusing on our careers to the detriment of our happiness and fulfillment (which comes primarily from mothering) and that the women in the generation behind us are eager to be mothers and let their careers take a back seat (as it should be, according to her). We all know that the "Opt-Out Revolution" is a media-created phenomenon, rather than a real demographic trend, and it's only women whose husbands are at the very top of the income scale who can feasibly make the "choice" to give up a second income. (My objection to Ms Crittenden and her ilk is that they object to the "brain-washing" conducted lo these many years by feminists, but then presume to tell me what I prefer in the very way they are complaining about.) Not to make this a sermon; I more wanted to note my comment to Linda (completely outside the context of this book) - which was my assertion that before too much more time goes by (10 years? 20?, certainly by the time my own young daughter is grown), women will have figured out how to balance the competing pleasures and stresses of work and child-rearing and truly be able to make choices that suit their situation and preferences. I believe that. I must.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The death of James Kim

While there are many tragic deaths every day, I am not the only person who was hit hard by news of the recovery of James Kim's body today in Colorado, after a 2-day search, following the rescue of his wife and two young daughters on Monday. This time of year it's especially difficult to contemplate a family's tragic loss. (The Kim family was traveling in the mountains, got lost, and spent 9 days in their car before being discovered; James had left the family to try and find help.) I know I'm not the only one who is hugging my loved ones a little tighter and trying to overlook some of the minor difficulties of life to appreciate our safety and togetherness.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bush Clinton Bush Clinton

There's a lot of talk about Hillary Clinton as the next president. I would love to see a woman president and I have no objection to Hillary (though she's a bit of a cold fish for my taste). However, I heard a commentator mention that a second Clinton president would mean that the last four presidents were either Bushes or Clintons. Both of these are impressive political families, but there are certainly viable political leaders in other families, and it may be time to inject some new blood into the political bloodstream.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Election exhaustion (I'm talking about 2008!)

I rather obsessively listened to the news prior to the election - I was riveted while polls were parsed and prognostications were offered. And after the election, I reveled in who had won and who had lost and what it all meant. But now the commentators and talking heads endlessly speculate about the 2008 presidential election and it's starting to get on my nerves. For one thing, it's boring - it's so far from now and anything could happen. Two years before the 1992 election, Bill Clinton was barely on the radar screen. It's just too soon to take seriously any predictions about the outcome. But more to the point, filling the airwaves with this focused but endless discussion means that a lot of stories that deserve some coverage get ignored, or, at the very least, minimized. This includes Darfur, AIDS in Africa, the healthcare crisis in America, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the very significant activities of all our elected representatives, besides the half dozen that are constantly in the limelight. Of course journalists and the public (the few that pay attention) love a horse race, but the media is doing a disservice by spending so much time and energy on something that matters very little at this time when there are really many pressing issues that we should all be considering.