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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Voter turnout

Someone on CNN said that the turnout for the Florida Republican primary was pretty high today, but it was only about 40%.  I find it sad that the turnout was less than half, and I find it sad that 40% is considered good.  People in Syria would love to vote, and the majority of Americans can't be bothered.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Latest movies

One for the Money - I never read any of the Janet Evanovich novels, but I think I might have to check them out, because the movie was quite entertaining.  Katherine Heigl was great in the role of Stephanie Plum, and the other actors were terrific too; it was smart, lively and fun.

Contraband - Larry and I saw this one for his birthday.  It was terrifically entertaining, if cliched and formulaic (in the best possible way). Crammed with appealing performers, which definitely elevated the material, my only complaint was the waste of Kate Beckinsale, who was given nothing to do besides be beaten up by various villains (and there's a couple of plot holes that you could drive a Mac truck through); ironic that Kate's other movie in theaters now is Underworld: Awakening, where she plays the action hero.

Albert Nobbs - Like most of the Oscar bait that I've seen this season, I thought the performances were terrific, but this was not a wholly satisfying film. Sort of an interesting study in the ways people can be kind and altruistic, and the ways they can be selfish and cruel; ultimately sort of a depressing experience (though the movie does end of a basically hopeful note). Good, but not exceptional; could have said more about the roles and choices of women in a certain place and time, instead of focusing on a foolish romantic attachment that went nowhere.

On video:

Bad Teacher (2011) - It's totally fair to call this a Cameron Diaz vehicle because she's in virtually every scene, and the other actors are tragically under-utilized, especially Justin Timberlake and the adorable Jason Segel.  The movie tries to have it both ways - Miss Halsey is terrible, so it's very hard to root for her, but as the movie winds down, she starts to be the hero somehow, and I felt a little uncomfortable that she comes out on top, after all that has gone before.  The movie isn't funny enough to pardon this rather glaring sin, and, overall, the movie is only mildly entertaining - it could have been much better.

Life As We Know It (2010) - Not a bad movie at all, but I can see why it wasn't a big hit - the pacing is off - it sort of grinds to a halt 3/4 of the way through after moving along at a lively clip up until then. Appealing leads (Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel) and not excruciatingly contrived, but not especially memorable.

I would have seen more movies, but I'm completely obsessed with Showtime's series, Shameless, and I've been watching Season 1 On Demand every chance I get. It's funny and very adult, though I would enjoy it more if they didn't cram a lot of dirty sex into every episode - it starts to feel very contrived after awhile, and only some, certainly not all, of it is essential to the plot.  (I blame True Blood for raising the raunch standard in cable shows.) Two bits of trivia - the show is a remake of a British show, and John Wells, the ER wunderkind, is one of the writer/producers.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dismissing climate change

My friend Janet sent me a very depressing article about the tactics being used to curtail the teaching of climate change in schools.  The issue is just so discouraging.  I keep thinking about the terrific movie, Agora, set in Alexandria during the rise of Christianity - the filmmaker is clearly making the point that the rise of Christianity coincided with a suppression of scientific pursuit that lasted over a thousand years.  Religion has its place, but its place in the modern era is not to deter the acquisition of information and understanding. And its place is certainly not to determine what is taught in public schools! Here's a couple of key paragraphs from the article:

Reminiscent of the evolution-vs.-creationism clash, the overwhelming scientific evidence that says humans are causing the warming of the planet has emerged as the new battlefield in middle and high schools in the U.S.
“Lots of teachers I talk to just won’t teach it,” said Manning, a geologist before turning to teaching 16 years ago. “They’ll teach about the historical changes but not current trends. Science teachers already get so much pushback on evolution vs. creation that they’re reluctant to invite more controversy. And some teachers don’t know that much about climate change themselves. They’re not sure how firm the ground is they’re standing on.”

Manning is a member of the National Science Teachers Association. Last year an online poll of its 60,000 members found that 82 percent had faced skepticism about climate change from students and 54 percent had faced skepticism from parents. Some respondents added comments: Students believe whatever it is their parents believe . . . . And administrators roll over when parents object. In a recent survey of about 1,900 current and former teachers by the National Earth Science Teachers Association, 36 percent reported they had been influenced directly or indirectly to teach “both sides” of the issue.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Romney is "stupid rich"

That's Larry's phrase, not mine, but it fits.  His recent release of 2 years of tax forms reveals some eye-opening numbers.  He makes $20 million a year on his investments, which is essentially the INTEREST on his money.  Really a crazy amount of income.  And he hides his money, in the Caymans and Swiss bank accounts.  And this:

Passing Money Down To His Family
Romney’s sons have a trust fund worth $100 million.
Johnston says currently the maximum amount a married couple can pass to their children without paying gift taxes is $10 million. But the Romney’s confirmed through their lawyers that they did not pay any gift tax on the $100 million account. How is this possible?
“They apparently gave the sons some of their carried interest. And because the carried interest is not an ownership, it is a right to receive profits, Congress lets you value that gift at zero,” Johnston said.
“When you get the income you have to pay it at the 15 percent rate. It means that the parents have effectively pushed forward not just the 100 million the sons have, they avoided the $31 million in gift tax, so they’ve really in effect given their sons the equivalent of $130 million without paying any tax and nobody can do that except people who run private equity funds like Bain Capital Management,” Johnston said.


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Oscar oversights

Probably most surprising is Michael Fassbender in Shame, a portrayal that has been widely lauded, as well as Albert Brooks, who got raves for Drive. Charlize Theron really killed it in a very unglamorous role in Young Adult.  And Tilda Swinton wowed, as always, in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

I was sorry that Jodie Foster (in Carnageand Ryan Gosling (in Ides of March) were overlooked.  And somewhat surprised that perennial favorite Keira Knightley got no love for a bravura performance in A Dangerous Method

Less widely noted, but no less deserving: Viggo Mortensen as Freud in A Dangerous Method and Vincent Cassel, who was also great in a smaller role in that film (as he reliably is in everything he appears in).

I alse read a brief article that noted that women are noticeably lacking in the writing and the directing categories, as always.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Traffic ticket

I can't believe I got a speeding ticket on my way to my doctor appointment this morning on 81.  I wasn't even late!  I was just going with the traffic flow, or so it seemed to me, but I did speed up as I moved into the lane for 481, and there was a cop sitting right at the juncture.  I'll bet he catches lots of people there, because the speed limit is still 55, but you've passed the city and I know I just assumed that the limit was back up to 65.

The weird thing is, after he handed me the citation, he started to schmooze me, asking about the SOTU last night, saying he thought it was inspirational (I have an Obama 2012 sticker on my car).  Under normal circumstances, I would have loved to chat (I can't remember any cop who's stopped me in all these years who actually acted friendly), but I was too upset, thinking about the $200+ I just wasted by not paying attention to my speed.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscars nominations

What a great day - nominations announced this morning, SOTU address tonight, and Larry's 49th birthday today.  Here are the top categories:

Motion Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Actor In a Leading Role
Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Actress In a Leading Role
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Actor In a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Actress In a Supporting Role
Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Animated Feature Film
A Cat in Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots
The Artist
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Foreign Language Film
Belgium, Bullhead
Canada, Monsieur Lazhar
Iran, A Separation
Israel, Footnote
Poland, In Darkness
Adapted Screenplay
The Descendants: Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Hugo: Screenplay by John Logan
The Ides of March: Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
Moneyball: Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan
Original Screenplay
The Artist: Written by Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids: Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
Margin Call: Written by J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris: Written by Woody Allen
A Separation: Written by Asghar Farhadi


Monday, January 23, 2012

"Destiny of the Republic"

I really enjoyed this book by Candice Millard.  I actually listened to the audio book (the reader, Paul Michael, was excellent).  It felt a bit padded - Garfield doesn't get shot until past the halfway point, and I got a bit impatient with what felt like excessive detail - for example, tons of details about Garfield's election (during a long convention which began with Grant considered a shoe-in) and the assassin, Guiteau's daily activities (tons of details about the places he lived and things he did up to the time he got fixated on Garfield).  And the detail on events prior to the shooting belied the grandiose title.  But these are relatively minor quibbles. Despite the somewhat labored presentation, it's a fascinating and rather sad story.  Here are some of the things that I've learned:

Just 16 years after Lincoln was shot IN A PUBLIC PLACE, Garfield was shot IN A PUBLIC PLACE, but it wasn't until McKinley was shot IN A PUBLIC PLACE, just 20 years after Garfield, that the Secret Service, previously tasked with pursuing counterfeiters, were put in charge of presidential security. (Seems like the U.S. was pretty slow on the uptake with this issue!)

Garfield spent 80 days (virtually all of them miserable, most of them agonizing; he lost 1/3 of his body weight, over 75 pounds), dying of sepsis (the gunshot was not fatal), despite widespread adoption of Lister's germ theory in Europe, and, even more tragically, 20 years later, McKinley also died of sepsis (his gunshot was also not fatal), though much more quickly (in just 8 days). So medical care did not improve significantly in an entire generation, even though Lister's theory was been much more widely accepted in America by then. 

Two important inventions resulted from his ordeal - an early version of a sonogram machine (feverishly invented by Alexander Graham Bell in an attempt to save the president), and the indoor air conditioner (to battle a brutal D.C. summer).

There was no provision in the Constitution to deal with a president's incapacitation.  Despite the long period of Garfield's incapacity, there was nothing done at that time to deal with the issue.  In 1919, 38 years later, Woodrow Wilson had a stroke in office and spent several days in a coma.  The issue of presidential incapacitation was not dealt with at that time either.  It wasn't until 1967 that the 26th amendment to the Constitution was drafted to provide official procedures.

And maybe my favorite - Garfield spent the time leading up to the election at his farm in Ohio because at that time, it was considered unseemly for the candidate to actively campaign!

Though from humble origins, Garfield was smart and educated, and seemed a genuinely decent man.  He did not have a burning ambition to be president, which may be the best qualification for the job.  If he had not died, he probably would have been an excellent, and maybe even important, president, during a fractious and difficult period in our history.

Sadly, the tragedy of his death probably brought the nation together after the civil war in a way that few other events could have done.  So if there's a silver lining, it's surely that.

Chester Arthur, the vice president, was a political choice, from the "stalwart" wing of the Republicans, and considered a puppet of an ambitious lifelong political figure, Roscoe Conkling (some even suspected that Arthur and Conkling were behind the assassination). But he was so affected by Garfield's death that he rejected further influence by Conkling, and vigorously pursued reform of the patronage system by establishing the civil service, as Garfield no doubt would have done. His dramatic transformation was captured in this famous quote by a journalist of the time: "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired ... more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe."

Other interesting factoids:

Garfield's was the first presidential library, established by his widow, Lucretia, in their family home in Mentor, Ohio.

The case had a profound impact on the insanity defense, which was being widely used at that time. Guiteau probably was insane - he had been erratic for years and he'd been committed more than once.  His behavior throughout his trial was utterly bizarre - among many other things, he insisted on representing himself (he was trained as a lawyer), he frequently called random spectators as witnesses, he regularly insulted and cursed the judge and jury, and his final statement was in the form of an epic poem.  Obviously, the public had no tolerance for the plea in this case. Guiteau has the dubious distinction of living longer than any of the 4 American presidential assassins - 9 months.

* * * * * *
I found this story so involving that I immediately started to read another book from the period, Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising, about John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, but I couldn't get into it.  I'm still convinced that I'll enjoy historical non-fiction more than I originally thought, but maybe spaced out, with other books in between.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

American bratiness

Ever since I read it, I've been thinking about Judith Warner's essay about Pamela Druckerman’s new book, Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, wherein she contemplates Druckerman's suggestion that French kids learn to be polite and to socialize on a level that is completely missing from American kids, very much to our detriment.  I have to admit, I've seen many examples of what she's suggesting - a shocking level of self absorbsion and discourtesy on the part of kids, encouraged by their parents.

Some excerpts:

I don’t happen to believe that French parenting is necessarily superior, overall, to what we do in America. I don’t think French children are, overall, better or happier people — such generalizations are silly. But it is true that French kids can be a whole lot more pleasant to be around than our own. They’re more polite. They’re better socialized. They generally get with the program; they help out when called upon to do so, and they don’t demand special treatment. And that comes directly from being taught, from the earliest age, that they’re not the only ones with feelings and needs.

. . .  Like Druckerman, I’ve often noted wistfully how French children know how to handle themselves in restaurants. I’ve envied how French children eat what’s put in front of them, put themselves to bed when instructed to, and, generally, tend to help keep the wheels of family life moving pretty smoothly. But the difference that struck me the most deeply, when my family moved to Washington, D.C., from Paris, and my older daughter began preschool, was how much more basically respectful French children were of other people. Indeed, how much emphasis French parents put on demanding they behave respectfully toward other people. And how that respect helped make life more enjoyable.
. . . 
was disheartened time and again by the ways parents in the U.S. often did just the opposite. American parents assiduously strove to make sure that their children’s wants and needs came first, no matter what. This sometimes had a name — “advocating for your child” — and was clearly predicated on the belief that if you didn’t yourself do it, didn’t teach your child to “self-advocate,” no one would, and in the great stampede for resources and rewards your child would get left behind in the dust. 

. . . This lack of parental empathy was brought home to me much more recently, when a mom in my then eighth grader’s class complained to me about an incident in which another girl in the class had had a panic attack — a full-blown panic attack — just as the doors closed on the bus that was to take the class on a camping trip. Without a word of sympathy, the mom vented to me, “Like [my daughter] really needed to see that.

This lack of compassion and empathy, I’ve found, is rampant in today’s hypercompetitive parenting culture in which almost every child is eternally being groomed to look out for No. 1, cheered on by parents who view other children more as potential impediments to his or her full flowering than as comrades-in-arms — or friends — united in the difficult task of gracefully growing up. As American parents, we parrot a certain amount of knee-jerk politeness, urging our kids to say “please” and “thank you,” but I don’t necessarily have the sense that all this is aimed at doing anything more profound than making our kids (and ourselves, by extension) look good


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Small talk

Went to 2 parties this weekend, which taxes my ability to make small talk to the absolute max.  The party on Friday was excruciating, until Larry drew me into a conversation about movies with a couple from Philadelphia.  It was fun until the woman in the couple started complaining about how blacks are ruining the city, and it would be so much better if we could just get rid of them, they're "animals."  I was struck dumb, to be sure, but I felt terrible that I couldn't think of a civilized response that would express my outrage at her comments.  I've encountered her brand of casual racism plenty of times in Philly, but I'm a bit out of practice.

The second party was better, because I made a beeline for one of the few people I knew, and sat with them at dinner, so we could talk easily, with no unpleasant surprises.

I hope that's it for the holiday party circuit until next year!!


Friday, January 20, 2012

"My strength is not for hurting"


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Paula Deen's diabetes

I was pretty pissed off when I heard about Paula Deen finally admitting that she has Type 2 diabetes, because of her generally cavalier attitude about it.  I think it's beyond irresponsible for her to encourage people to eat in a way that has given many people, and probably herself, a serious disease which is expensive and unpleasant to treat. She says she waited 3 years to admit to her condition until she could give her fans some "hope" - which apparently takes the form of her shilling for an injectable diabetes control drug. So she makes even more money, but doesn't recant her lifestyle, or in any way suggest that her food choices have impacted on her health (we're not talking about general eating here, we're talking about deep fried cheesecake and hamburgers served on Krispy Kreme donuts as the bun).  Diabetes is not a joke, it's actually fatal, twice so far in my immediate family, and it's treatment is not a walk in the park.  It's making me so angry, I can hardly write this.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The rich are not special"

Just love this essay by James Moore at HuffingtonPost - below are some highlights:

. . . There is something troubling about the collective American consciousness that enables us to elect persons of privilege to a job whose most basic requirement ought to be a first hand understanding of economic struggle. Like the two Republican Bush presidents, Mitt Romney has always had a soft place to fall. In 1975, when he left Harvard, he went straight to Wall Street with a class of business school graduates who became consultants instead of employees. The mortgage his dad told him to deal with first was probably never a big worry and when Mitt landed at Bain Capital in 1977 he was launched on the business career that is somehow supposed to qualify him for the White House. Please explain how being successful at an investment fund trains an individual for dealing with foreign policy, a stubborn congress, and a lagging economy.
We Americans celebrate wealth and business success as if it were a form of religion. Of course, people who work hard and accomplish their goals, financial, material, or even spiritual, ought to be admired because they contribute to the advancement of our culture. But the rich are not necessarily special; they tend to be prepared and lucky. Their money is generally not the consequence of any intellect or insight that can translate to leadership or government. We simply want to believe that is how they earned it.
. . . There isn't any class warfare in America. We are all participants in the same game and some of us have greater advantages and use them to gain wealth but that doesn't mean the rich should be president. I've often thought the difference between the two political parties was that one was rolling down the highway in a nice new car and ignoring all of those who had fallen into the ditch while the other party was slowing down and pulling over to help get the stranded travelers back on the road. Capitalism is imperfect and x amount of effort does not necessarily produce y amount of results. Some of us end up in the ditch. People fail for many reasons. But almost all of them are trying. Our national discourse is over how we provide assistance.
We've had wealthy presidents in the past and some have had greatness. Our greatest president, however, came from a log cabin and understood the common man's struggle, and it is not about corporate tax cuts. Leadership is a product of intimate understanding, which rarely is a consequence of wealth. But America has only two types of citizens: millionaires and those of us who very shortly expect to be millionaires. The result is we admire money and project onto the wealthy characteristics they often do not possess.
And putting those people into the White House tends to be a grave mistake.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Golden Globe fashions

Some of my favorites:

Lots of great color, like Zooey Deschanel:

And Kelly MacDonald:

And Michelle Williams:
Michelle Williams

This type of textured gown was super popular,
not all of them as pretty as Evan Rachel Wood:
Evan Rachel Wood

And Berenice Bejo (from "The Artist"):
"The Artist" actress Bérénice Bejo.

Classic black, always appropriate, like Glenn Close:
Glenn Close

Or with a twist, like Kate Winslet:
Kate Winslet

Or an even bigger twist by Claire Danes:

I was wowed by the bold art deco style of Salma Hayek:
Salma Hayek

And just plain bold style of Lea Michele:
Lea Michele

And the Grecian style (and stunning color) of Emma Stone:
"The Help" and "Crazy, Stupid, Love" actress Emma Stone.

And Viola Davis:
Viola Davis

Some of the neutral colors were boring, but not Kate Beckinsale:
Kate Beckinsale

Or Shailene Woodley (from "The Descendants")
"The Descendants" actress Shailene Woodley.

Or Piper Peraboo (this photo does not do the dress justice):

And certainly not Angelina:
"In the Land of Blood and Honey" producer-director Angelina Jolie and "Tree of Life" actor Brad Pitt.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globe winners

I enjoyed the broadcast a lot. Ricky Gervais was funnier last year, but he was still good. The winners' speeches are always good for this show, and the actors often acknowledge the other nominees, which I love. I thought many of the dresses were spectacular - lots of color. And speaking of color, there was actually a few non-white winners, which is exciting. I actually saw a higher percentage of the (movie) winners than I saw of the nominees, which is interesting.  Note to self: watch Season 1 of Downton Abbey!

Best Motion Picture - Drama
"The Descendants"
"The Help"
"The Ides of March"
"War Horse"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama
Glenn Close, "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis, "The Help"
Rooney Mara, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep, "The Iron Lady"
Tilda Swinton, "We Need to Talk About Kevin"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama
George Clooney, "The Descendants"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "J. Edgar"
Michael Fassbender, "Shame
Ryan Gosling, "The Ides of March"
Brad Pitt, "Moneyball"

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
"The Artist"
"Midnight in Paris"
"My Week With Marilyn"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Jodie Foster, "Carnage
Charlize Theron, "Young Adult"
Kristen Wiig, "Bridesmaids"
Michelle Williams, "My Week With Marilyn"
Kate Winslet, "Carnage"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Jean Dujardin, "The Artist
Brendan Gleeson, "The Guard"
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, "50/50"
Ryan Gosling, "Crazy, Stupid, Love."
Owen Wilson, "Midnight in Paris"

Best Animated Feature Film
"The Adventures of Tintin"
"Arthur Christmas"
"Cars 2"
"Puss in Boots"

Best Foreign Language Film
"The Flowers of War" (China)
"In the Land of Blood and Honey" (USA)
"The Kid With a Bike" (Belgium)
"A Separation" (Iran)
"The Skin I Live In" (Spain)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Berenice Bejo, "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain, "The Help"
Janet McTeer, "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer, "The Help"
Shailene Woodley, "The Descendants"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Kenneth Branagh, "My Week with Marilyn"
Albert Brooks, "Drive"
Jonah Hill, "Moneyball"
Viggo Mortensen, "A Dangerous Method"
Christopher Plummer, "Beginners"

Best Director - Motion Picture
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
George Clooney, "The Ides of March"
Michel Hazanavicius, "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, "The Descendants"
Martin Scorsese, "Hugo"

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture
Woody Allen, "Midnight in Paris"
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon - "The Ides of March"
Michel Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash - "The Descendants"
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin - "Moneyball"

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Ludovic Bource - "The Artist"
Abel Korzeniowski - "W.E."
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross - "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo"
Howard Shore - "Hugo"
John Williams - "War Horse"

Best Original Song - Motion Picture
"Hello Hello" - "Gnomeo & Juliet," music by Elton John, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
"The Keeper"- "Machine Gun Preacher," music and lyrics by Chris Cornell
"Lay Your Head Down" - "Albert Nobbs," music by Brian Byrne, lyrics by Glenn Close
"The Living Proof" - "The Help"; music by Mary J. Blige, Thomas Newman, Harvey Mason Jr.; lyrics by Mary J. Blige, Harvey Mason Jr., Damon Thomas
"Masterpiece" - W.E., music and lyrics by Madonna, Julie Frost, Jimmy Harry

Best Television Series - Drama
"American Horror Story"
"Boardwalk Empire"
"Game of Thrones"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama
Claire Danes, "Homeland"
Mireille Enos, "The Killing"
Julianna Margulies, "The Good Wife"
Madeleine Stowe, "Revenge"
Callie Thorne, "Necessary Roughness"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Drama
Steve Buscemi, "Boardwalk Empire"
Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
Kelsey Grammer, "Boss"
Jeremy Irons, "The Borgias"
Damian Lewis, "Homeland"

Best Television Series - Comedy or Musical
"Modern "Family"
"New Girl"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Laura Dern, "Enlightened"
Zooey Deschanel, "New Girl"
Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Laura Linney, "The Big C"
Amy Poehler, "Parks and Recreation"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series - Comedy or Musical
Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
David Duchovny, "Californication"
Johnny Galecki, "The Big Bang Theory"
Thomas Jane, "Hung"
Matt LeBlanc, "Episodes"

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television Movie
"Cinema Verite"
"Downton Abbey"
"The Hour"
"Mildred Pierce"
"Too Big to Fail"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Romola Garai, "The Hour"
Diane Lane, "Cinema Verite"
Elizabeth McGovern, "Downton Abbey" (Masterpiece)
Emily Watson, "Appropriate Adult"
Kate Winslet, "Mildred Pierce"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Hugh Bonneville, "Downtown Abbey" (Masterpiece)
Idris Elba, "Luther"
William Hurt, "Too Big to Fail"
Bill Nighy, "Page Eight" (Masterpiece)
Dominic West, "The Hour"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story"
Kelly MacDonald, "Boardwalk Empire"
Maggie Smith, "Downtown Abbey" (Masterpiece)
Sofia Vergara, "Modern Family"
Evan Rachel Wood, "Mildred Pierce"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
Peter Dinklage, "Game of Thrones"
Paul Giamatti, "Too Big to Fail"
Guy Pearce, "Mildred Pierce"
Tim Robbins, "Cinema Verite"
Eric Stonestreet, "Modern Family"


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Republicans attack each other

Absolutely surreal to watch Newt Gingrich on CNN this morning, bashing Mitt Romney for being a greedy bastard.  Of course, I agree with him - sucking the value out of companies (30% of the companies that Bain Capital invested in ended up in bankruptcy) is not at all the same kind of glorified capitalism that creating businesses represents.  Mitt *is* a job killer, much more than a job creator.  But to have a Republican making that argument is just another bizarre twist in an election year that gets weirder and weirder all the time.

The only thing that really annoyed me about the segment was the way that the reporter (Soledad O'Brien, who I normally admire and enjoy) didn't say a word to Newt while he ranted about Mitt the job killer - specifically, why didn't she ask Newt how many jobs *he's* created in his life?  He's an extremely wealthy man, and his activities over the last decade have involved nothing other than generating that wealth, through speaking engagements, books sales, and his non-lobbying efforts.  I suppose he's created a few jobs for accountants, but other than that, his efforts have been focused on filling his own pockets.


Monday, January 09, 2012

Weekend movies

Puss in Boots - Alana and I saw this with a friend; it was quite entertaining, with a lively story and some terrific humor; kick ass female character, voiced by Salma Hayek, was bonus

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - a beautifully crafted movie with wonderful performances, but not a perfect film; a bit confusing and a bit slow - it felt not only set in the 1970s, but also produced in the 1970s, with a very different sensibility from movies today; it's not necessary for a period movie to reflect the film making style of that era - I found myself thinking a lot about Munich, a film with some similar themes, but which manages to be a lot more absorbing and involving than this one.


Sunday, January 08, 2012

Stale discussion

We read a fairly interesting section of the Jewish Literacy book for our bnai mitzveh class this week on Life Cycle events, and I was looking forward to discussing conversion and the get and the mikveh, all fascinating aspects of Jewish life, and ones that don't receive enough attention.  But instead we spent the entire hour on the kosher laws.  Not even interesting aspects of it, like how it's defined and distinguished our community, or its role in modern Jewish life.  Instead, we spent the whole time just talking about the actual laws - the definition of meat, and how we can't eat the back half of the cow, only the front half (including an actual list of which cuts are readily edible and which ones aren't).  Holy cow!!!  Super dull and super annoying.  Why would an entire class be devoted to a practice that's not even required, or widely observed, by Reform Jews???  Especially when there's so much more interesting topics to consider.


Saturday, January 07, 2012

"Prosecutors gone wild"

This essay by Conrad Black is just depressing.  Here are a few key paragraphs:

Even casual samplers of the media now come across colossal injustices and failures in the U.S. justice criminal system every two weeks or so. Yet these stories, everyone a heart-breaking recitation of how willful prosecution misconduct has ruined a life or a family, with no consequences at all to whoever has abused his great powers as a prosecutor, seem never to elicit any particular public response or gain any traction for review or reform.

It is an achievement just to pierce the eagerness of most of the media to be a stentorian Hallelujah chorus for law and order paranoia.

. . . Prosecutors have practically untrammeled discretion in deciding what to charge, how many counts to allege, and a very wide latitude in sentences sought. Grand juries are just a rubber stamp for prosecutors, and contrary to the spirit of the Fifth Amendment, provide absolutely no assurance against capricious prosecution. But complicity in or direct causation of the lengthy incarceration of falsely accused and convicted people, not to be confused with honest error and misplaced zeal, is a terribly serious offense and is so treated in every other serious jurisdiction except the U.S.

. . . prosecutors enjoy a stacked evidentiary and procedural deck which gives them a success rate in prosecutions of over 90 per cent. (The corresponding figure in Canada is about 65 per cent, and only about 40 per cent of those receive custodial sentences.)

The United States has just 5 per cent of the world's population, 25 per cent of its incarcerated people, and 50 per cent of its lawyers. The U.S. Supreme Court is unvaryingly proud to try law and not fact, and is thus ostentatiously uninterested in a just result as such, in the unutterably irritating and desiccated way of people who profess indifference to the control they exercise over the fate of real people.


Friday, January 06, 2012


At Larry's annual managers' dinner, the spouses have to say what they're grateful for, giving us all an opportunity to be treacly (and, IMO, insincere) about how much we love our TRH family, and, no surprise, I just don't like to follow the crowd on this one.

I've actually been thinking a lot about the upcoming year - 2012 and the end of the world, and what we're responsible for, and what we owe our community.  And, of course, I love elections, and presidential election years are my all time favorites. I considered saying that I'm grateful this is a presidential election year and all that CNN will talk about all year is the election!  But that would've bee going a bit far, so this is what I said:

I'm grateful to live in the greatest country in the world, where I can talk shit about my government and no one is going to drag me out of my house in the middle of the night, and I can practice my religion and no one cares that it's different from theirs.  And most of all, I'm grateful that it's a presidential election year, and I get to VOTE!

It's not what anyone wanted to hear, but I'm okay with that - it's what I had in my heart. (Larry later said it was just so typical of me, though he didn't strictly mean that as a compliment of course.)


Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Iowa sideshow

I love Matt Taibbi, and this piece on the election is excellent, but also kinda depressing.

Iowa: The Meaningless Sideshow Begins

The 2012 presidential race officially begins today with the caucuses in Iowa, and we all know what that means …
The race for the White House is normally an event suffused with drama, sucking eyeballs to the page all over the globe. Just as even the non-British were at least temporarily engaged by last year’s royal wedding, people all over the world are normally fascinated by the presidential race: both dramas arouse the popular imagination as real-life versions of universal children’s fairy tales.
Instead of a tale about which maiden gets to marry the handsome prince, the campaign is an epic story, complete with a gleaming white castle at the end, about the battle to succeed to the king’s throne. Since the presidency is the most powerful office in the world, the tale has appeal for people all over the planet, from jungles to Siberian villages.
It takes an awful lot to rob the presidential race of this elemental appeal. But this year’s race has lost that buzz. In fact, this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year’s race feels like something else entirely.
In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event – the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.
This caucus, let’s face it, marks the beginning of a long, rigidly-controlled, carefully choreographed process that is really designed to do two things: weed out dangerous minority opinions, and award power to the candidate who least offends the public while he goes about his primary job of energetically representing establishment interests.
If that sounds like a glib take on a free election system that allows the public to choose whichever candidate it likes best without any censorship or overt state interference, so be it. But the ugly reality, as Dylan Ratigan continually points out, is that the candidate who raises the most money wins an astonishing 94% of the time in America.
That damning statistic just confirms what everyone who spends any time on the campaign trail knows, which is that the presidential race is not at all about ideas, but entirely about raising money. The auctioned election process is designed to reduce the field to two candidates who will each receive hundreds of millions of dollars apiece from the same pool of donors.
. . . both parties rely upon the same core of major donors among the top law firms, the Wall Street companies, and business leaders – basically, the 1%. Those one-percenters always give generously to both parties and both presidential candidates, although they sometimes will hedge their bets significantly when they think one side or the other has a lopsided chance at victory. That’s clearly what happened in 2008, when Wall Street correctly called Obama as a 2-1 (or maybe a 7-3) favorite to beat McCain.
. . . The campaign is still a gigantic ritual and it will still be attended by all the usual pomp and spectacle, but it’s empty. In fact, because it’s really a contest between 1%-approved candidates, it’s worse than empty – it’s obnoxious.
It was always annoying when these two parties and the slavish media that follows their champions around for 18 months pretended that this was a colossal clash of opposites. But now, with the economy in the shape that it’s in thanks in large part to the people financing these elections, that pretense is more than annoying, it’s offensive.
And I imagine that the more they try to play up the drama of these familiar-but-empty campaign rituals, the more irritating to the public it will all become. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if, before the season is out, the campaign itself will become a hated symbol of the 1% -- with the conventions and the networks’ broadcast tents outside the inevitable "free speech zones" attracting protests the same way the offices of Chase and Bank of America did this fall.