Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The weakest nominee for best documentary

Balseros really doesn't come close to My architect, The Weather Underground, Capturing the Friedmans, or the winner The Fog of War. Even documentaries must have a narrative to be a good film. My architect: A Son's Journey was just that - a son's search for his illegitimate father through Kahn's architecture. The weather underground provided an examination of the 60's through a radical group. Capturing the Friedmans was an examination of the guilt of the 2 Friedmans imprisoned for sexual molestation specifically & in general an indictment of the legal system. The Fog of War was an examination of the Vietnam War, which of course resonated in our current time of war.

Balseros had a compelling subject - Cuban refugees in the 90's - but little focus. The most interesting parts are the rickety rafts & inner tubes used to paddle incredibly over the 90 miles to Florida - just incredible that more refugees did not perish in the journey, but the weakness of the film was its the lack of context & compelling narrative. The stories of the refugees mostly blended together and all were repeats at some level - difficulties leaving Cuba followed by difficulties re-settling in America including difficulties keeping ties to remaining family.

Happy that I've finally seen all 5 nominees - believe overall the best batch ever - but sorry to end with the weakest of the nominated films.

Monday, May 30, 2005

What do today's students learn in history class?

Watched Kingdom of Heaven the other night & enjoyed it for the historical context - the anachronisms (modern thought by the characters) didn't bother me. When I was in school in the 60's & 70's we studied the Crusades for such a short period and always in the context of the Crusades giving birth to the Renaissance and ending the dark ages. Cannot recall any mention of Saladin in our history classes & only learned of the first 4 Crusades and probably the Children's Crusade. Will have to ask my nieces & children of friends what they learn in world history now.

I'll be curious if the euro-centric focus of grade school history has changed since my day. One of my biggest complaints against American schooling was the limited focus & repetition of subject matter. Perhaps because I went to different schools for elementary, middle, and high school that I studied the Age of Exploration in 4th, 8th and 10th grade, but can remember even back then thinking "Can we please study a different period of history? Please? There has to be some of period that's interesting."

Obviously we studied that period because it led to the founding of America, , but now there would be no excuse not to study Saladin or Mohammed or the Meiji Restoration or the Tulip Mania or....well you can insert your own favourite period of history not well covered in American classrooms.

Latest Star Wars actually a good movie

Thought that Lucas had completely lost his touch & absolutely hated the incoherence of Attack of the Clones. I was not going to ever give Lucas another ¢ of my money, but the ginger haired yank hated Kingdom of Heaven so relented and paid for the Star Wars finale. Clearly the best of the 4 Star Wars movies that Lucas himself directed and I'd have to re-see Empire to re-assess which film is the best of the series.

Even though I disliked the original Star Wars film, I am a bit curious to re-see it now to see how the plot leads from the current film feed into the original. Outside of a few snippets of my least favourite scene (trapped in the garbage crusher) have not seen the original since its opening back in the late 70's. Remember how disappointed I was with the film as a whole & by the bar scene in particular - totally over rated film & scene.

Watched THX1138 on DVD a few years ago - clearly the most mature movie Lucas ever directed (zetes on IMDB believes that it is the best that Lucas directed) - it still is surprising the intellectual regression of Lucas's first 3 films. He starts with an adult movie, THX1138, then a high school coming of age with American Graffiti, and then regresses to school age entertainment with Star Wars. Don't know if it was the ton of money Lucas made or just that he only had 1 mature idea for a film in him.

European constitution and the referendum

France says no and so will Holland. There are a lot of discussions going around regarding the constitution and there are a lot of no voters.
Reasons for saying no, for the most part, has nothing to do with the European constitution but is more a no against the Dutch government (which is at an historical low of 20% in polls). Personally I am against this government and a no will certainly be a political blow into their face (although not that big a blow now the French got the first hit), so it is very very tempting to vote no. However, I am against misusing the constitution for these kind of activities. Second reason to vote no is the euro. Since the introduction of the euro prices have gone through the roof as a lot of people have misused the introduction for increasing their prices.
For a next round of referenda: Make the constitution readable. Now we are talking about everything except the constitution.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Friday Night Italian Red Wine Blogging

Farnese - 2002 Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Ginger Haired Yank - plum & dark cherry aroma with a hint of oak. The palate starts off with the sweetness of dark cherry, but the finish is dry & peppery. Very full bodied & inky, absolutely opaque in colour.

OCWD - goes well with peanut butter & jelly sandwich

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Too drained by the knee to come up with a blog idea

so will borrow from Kevin Drum who borrows from...not sure who these folks are. Can't say that I'm embarrassed not to have read any given book, but view it as a personal failure that I never finished them. Here are the books & why I failed to finish:

In the never attempted:

Books I never finished & have no desire to finish:

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Fine ending to LOST

Lots of cliffs hanging:

Can't remember where i read some teasers from the show's producer, but saying that we finally got to see the beast was dishonest. What did we see? A bunch of black smoke? Is that all the beast is, a bunch of black smoke held together?

Happy to find out that ambassador Delenn was not really a bad guy, but someone who just wanted her baby back - also happy that she's still alive.

Update to last night's posting on the Shield: guess because of all the season ending shows, I mistakenly thought the shield was at an end, but another fortnight to go. Same comment that picking up Glenn Close was a great choice & in the subplot (sideplot?) about the guy our mayor elect is based on shows how they should have written him out of the show. His beating up a hooker on the side doesn't add anything to the show & really isn't necessary to the main story line. Back to Glenn - I disliked her in Jagged Edge (reminded me of Meryl Streep too much), but she's perfect in this role & has saved the show. I quit watching after the penultimate episode of season 1 - went too far over the top losing the needed realism & heard negative reviews of season 2, but having Glenn become captain has added the needed spark back to the show.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Staying up too late watching the Shield

Thought the first season started well & went over the top for final 2 episodes. Stopped watching until they made the brilliant choice of hiring Glenn Close as our anti-hero's boss. Great decision.

Will give full review tomorrow.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The centre holds

So after all the sturm und drang the moderates make a deal. Guess the full details won't be known for a few days, so can guess (hope?) that Brown will be voted down in the Senate while Owens & Pryor will be approved. Glad that some level of civility was maintained - the end would have been ugly for all. Who won? The Senate in my view, though obviously the upcoming weeks will tell.

The hard cores on both sides will be mad of course, but relieved to see the Senate step back from the brink and happy to see Frist bummed (video on Crooks & Liars) so have to view this compromise as a defeat for him.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

4 down - 44 to go

Continuing in my 48 month series, little has changed since last month's update on Bush including his lost momentum - what stands out is how infrequently Bush is on the front page of the WSJ or NYT these days.

The hot issue of the day is the upcoming Senate "nuclear option", which may prove a reality within a month, but seems driven by Frist & outside groups - Bush seems more of a passenger on this ride. True, he would gain approval for 7 appellate court judges, but he still seems a passive participant in the whole affair instead of the leader.

Back to updating my metrics to judge Bush:

Friday, May 20, 2005

Friday Night White Wine Blogging

Domaine Lalanne - 2002 (Colombard - Ugni Blanc - Gros Manseng)

Don't know these varietals, but went well with greek veggie turkey wrap & minted red pepper and snap pea salad with lemon zest. Monthly 4 down - 44 to go column will have to wait until tomorrow.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Too much pain to blog & really bad Nirvana box set

Knee too inflamed too muster up the energy to blog & still another fortnight before surgery.

Not only does the Nirvana box set content suck, but the used CD store sent 2 copies of disc 3 (in utero) & zero copies of disc 2 (nevermind). Couldn't figure out why 2 different CD's kept starting with "Rape Me". Hopefully no hassles returning box set. 2nd time I've had missing items in a box set - Janis 3-CD set came without the booklet (was looking forward to reading it).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

This is the way Revelations ends - not with a bang, but with a whimper

Can't believe I watched for 6 weeks to end with: the anti-christ is born & the bad guy maybe escapes. What was the point of the entire show to give us such an anti-climactic ending? If they're trying to hook me for a sequel, fugghedaboutit.

On more substantive note, watched Specter & Leahy tonight on CSPAN2 (truly a great civic resource). Very respectably Senators who honor and respect the Senate as an institute & who could come up with some civil resolution if the noise were cut away. Unfortunately that's not the case & we'll see within a fortnight whether the "nuclear option" will unfold. Will be sad to see it happen even if I believe all judges should be given an up-or-down vote. I can hope that this will mean that next time a Dem is president, the GOP will not be able to block nominated judges via "blue slip" or committee or other parliamentary technique. Still it is sad to see the comity possibly destroyed over a handful of judges that no one will remember in 10 or 20 years - how many appellate judges can anyone name outside of Learned Hand?

I predicted that some 11th hour compromise will take place, but I would never actually wager money on such an iffy prognostication. JJ believes the wimpy GOP will fold (that from a conservative), while KK believes no compromise.

1 prediction I will stand by: even if the GOP wins this battle, the rabid right will still not be happy in the end. They now want Reagan appointed Kennedy's head. They were pissed at the GOP appointed judge in the Schiavo case. They are still angry with Nixon appointed Blackmun for his Roe v. Wade majority opinion. They are pissed at Lawrence vs. Texas decision despite the GOP nominated judges voting 5-2 in favour of Lawrence. What they actually want, they can't have: states are not going to outlaw homosexual anal sex again, abortion will not disappear, some other hot button case will appear that they'll lose despite any victories in the short term future. Not sure what their ideal fantasy world will be, but it's just that - a fantasy. Time to accept that the world has changed - you're on the wrong side of history on gay rights & ultimately americans will prefer comity to confrontation on most family & personal matters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

See Under: Love - part II (finished)

Part I review
Part II partial review

Finished part II and this will sound repetitious. A shame that Grossman didn't find a good editor to tell him to cut out his ramblings (75% of what he writes) and he'd have a fine novella. A few good sections with his wife & child and the scars left by the Holocaust on the children of the survivors, but the extended fantasy sequence of Bruno as a fish added little. No wonder the playwrights completely ignored the entire first 180 pages of the novel.

Part III will finally contain portions of the play, so look forward to reading it. Part IV appears to be an extended outline of the story-within-a-story, but also appears to be very non-readable, so not sure if I'll force myself to slog through that section.

Perhaps there's a moral to the story. Could not force myself through The Man Without Qualities or Proust or The Good Soldier Svejk or Tristram Shandy or Stendhal or War and Peace and perhaps they're not worth the effort of trying to read. Either the novels are over rated or they're not my style or they have nothing new to teach me or they just weren't made for the modern reader. Overall I've found classics to be a mixed bag: some superb (antigone, hamlet, anna karenina); some spotty (Canterbury tales & Decameron); some good but over rated (Huck Finn), and others are clearly interesting only as cultural anthropology (Gargantua and Pantagruel).

Final note: see now on Amazon from a reader that "Young Torless" and the short stories "Three Women" are recommended instead of A man without qualities - what a great resource. Will give these recommendations an attempt.

Beethoven was a better composer than Kurt Cobain

Just used my gift certificate to purchase Beethoven's complete string quartets and a Nirvana box set - no comparison who had more talent. Just amazing that Beethoven could not only write great symphonies (#7) & great piano music (moonlight sonata), but also string quartets. While I'll always prefer Shostakovich's quartets for their paranoia, political backdrop & intensity, Beethoven's quartets are still a very nice listen & once again show Ludwig's superior craftsmanship. Have thought sometimes about the corrosive influence of celebrity & thinking again about the longevity of the great classic composers vs. the short talent life span of the better current composers drives home that point. If you have to keep composing to survive, that forces you to concentrate on honing that ability & keeping it sharp vs. the distractions of modern life. Of course back then you did not have the other artistic outlets of movies or videos that today's artists face to distract them from straight music composition.

For the Nirvana box set, guess I should have read the comments a little closer - sort of like listening to what you'd find if some old music collector cleaned out his garage & left a few items behind that he didn't want. Guess i'll have to plead guilty to being a sucker. Last time i ever buy an album without reading the Amazon comments.

Monday, May 16, 2005

In tears watching the rest of Hotel Rwanda

I can remember visiting Anne Frank's house back in 1978 & Bill (friend at the time) wrote in the visitor's book "how can you say 'never again' when...." prescient words.

Last in the film, listening again to "acts of genocide" from Clinton's press secretary made me laugh at the pathetic phrasing. Of course, now that Nicholas D. Kristof has used the term genocide in relation to the Sudan & the genocide treaty has proven to be toothless, everyone at the UN or US administration could have saved themselves the trouble & gone ahead and stated genocide without concern that they would have been forced to intervene.

Friday, May 13, 2005

EEG constitution

Holland is about to vote about the European constitution. In the media a lot of discussion is going on about the pro's and con's of this proposal. Also the government is very articulate and involved. However, when talking to the average guy nobody really cares. The whole thing looks more like a academic discussion and as a page filler for newspaper than the set of basic rules, we Europeans should use and conform to. Reading it confirms that idea. Too political and academic. However, all in all, I will vote for it because anything that will help strengthen and unifying the European union (which is a great idea) gets my vote.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

More surgery coming soon

Received the results from the MRI. Left knee worse than right - this time I'll demand a blocker instead of general anesthetic.

In other news - there is a reason I stop reading some novels - They aren't worth it. Part 2 of See Under: Love is arguably worse than part 1. Some bizarre fantasy about the Bruno Schulz living as a fish? Honestly not sure because it's not worth the effort. Guess I'll quickly skim the rest of this section and see if Part 3 (about his "grandfather" storyteller) is any better. Amazing how much the play left out of the book - absolutely nothing from the first 2 parts.

I've toyed with giving Proust another chance, but after this experience forcing myself through an unsatisfying novel, not sure that Proust deserves another chance. Always found his characters to be incredibly insipid, and while his prose if florid and wonderful, how many pages of paragraph long sentences should I flog myself to read?

Off to Napa. Hopefully the Champagne (or sparkling wine) will bring me out of my knee funk.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Darfur further thoughts

Thinking of what the US could do, I'd propose creating a no-fly zone for Darfur. It worked for the Kurds & could work again. Actually believe setting up a soft border or defensive perimeter would be fairly easy, but the troops aren't there from US or EU or AU or UN or...so guess that just leaves a no-fly zone.

All fantasy of course, no nation or group of nations is going to do much which makes it so frustrating to watch once again a group of helpless souls be slaughtered.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I have fond memories of Rwanda

I spent Christmas 1979 in Kigali staying with another Peace Corps volunteer & having dinner with a Zaïrian friend & his Rwandian friend. A nice break from the Congo. Also enjoyed a number of fine trips to Gisenyi to swim & have a true multi-national experience (locals, us, and some Europeans), so never imagined that the country could fall apart. Zaïre yes - only a kleptomaniac with billions of IMF money could keep it together, but Rwanda always seemed to have its act together better than the Congo, probably because of its small size.

Seeing this powerful film tonight, had me thinking - why didn't we send thousands of mercenaries from Custer Battles. Why don't we use our money wisely & send them to maintain a safe zone in Darfur? Even though we're only ½ way through the film, I'm still left angry at the failing of the world community then & again now. I can't say that I have any solutions for Darfur & Kevin Drum outlines how limited the options are.

too sad & true

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Getting on line and Bush

AT LAST on line. It took my around 5 straight hours talking to help lines (with all their "how to deal with angry clients" instructed persons). I have changed almost all my settings on my computer, and at the end they found out something was switched the wrong way in the central connection centre. After that a service guy had to come by to reset all my changed settings.
Having no internet for a month really makes you understand what impact internet has on your live. A lot of things could not be done very efficiently etc. Glad to be back.

Bush: Bush is in the Netherlands for a whole 24 hours. It takes a few thousand security people, closed off highways, 5 planes and a hermetically sealed off luxury hotel to keep out the enemies of the president of the united states. It is nice of him to honor the fallen, but next time do it in France. It saves us the cost equivalent of the income of a small country (which we are) . Money which could be spent much more wisely.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

See Under: Love - part II (partial)

Truly amazing how much the play adapters skipped from the book. The novel is in 4 parts with parts 1 & 2 being largely auto-biographic, though in very different styles.

As noted below, the first portion is written in stream-of-conscious style (overly influenced by Portrait of the Artist?) about growing up in Israel in the 50's, but the second section is far more readable (influenced by Portrait of the Artist?) describing the authour's visit to Poland for the first time in the 80's. He mentions in passing Solidarity protests, while researching Bruno Schulz's life, an authour I had never heard of. Polish Jewish authour who was...well I'll just paste in the details from Amazon's Alyssa A. Lappen

But in June 1941 when the Nazis occupied eastern Poland, Schulz was forced to live with the Viennese Nazi Felix Landau, who had a taste for art. Landau boasted of keeping a Jewish artist slave alive--on one daily bowl of soup and slice of bread. Schulz survived Landau's "protection" for a year. But, as the introduction notes, the Gestapo went on a rampage on Nov. 19, 1942, killing more than 150. Karl Guenther, a rival to Landau, shot Schulz in the head. A devoted friend buried him at night in a Jewish cemetery which has since disappeared, along with Schulz' grave.

Have to get rid to see Enron, so more details in next posting.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday Night Champagne Blogging

Korbel Brut - 1999

TC: Sweet & compliments the artichoke
GHY: Actually it's dry, but the artichoke makes it taste sweet.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Stupid blogspot

Tried posting & keep getting some error page. Finally I get to the Edit Post page to see my last entry posted 8 times, but can't see the posting once on the page itself. aarrgghh! Can understand why some of the elite bloggers switched to typepad. Too damn frustrating sometimes & yes i know it's free, but still a pain in the ass too often.

Update: posting did show up 4 times & 3 times as draft. Aarrgghh. Time for bed.

See Under: Love - part I

Finished the 84 page intro. Could have been taken 20 pages to tell his coming of age, deciding to be an authour to fight the Nazi Beast, intro to his story-telling Uncle. No wonder the playwright left the entire first section out. Can only hope that sections 2 & 3 are better, since I plan to skip the last section: sort-of encyclopedia of the story-within-a-story's life.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Trying to find videos of released detainees

Was inspired by this post from Jeanne D'arc to see if I could amass a number of links of videos of released detainees telling their story. Alas, I cannot. Have tried searches via Google & Dogpile using "video released detainees (gitmo or baghram)". Have looked at this rummy's diaries. Searched through anti-war.com. Even went to Al-Jazerra and Mother Jones. Have come across a very short transcript from PBS that Jeanne d'arc mentioned in a reply comment to my comment, but no video. They must exist, but obviously not that accessible, which is a bit surprising.

I can remember the first article I read about was in the NYTimes about some fellow sent back to Afghanistan with western clothing and tennis shoes. He immediately switched back to Afghan clothing, but kept the tennis shoes. Said that he had no idea of why he was released, but was happy to be back. Think he had been kept in Gitmo for ~10 months.

Will search more tomorrow, but honestly surprised that interviews are not more accessible. I know that the recent released fellows from Gitmo were told to keep quiet, but can recall released brats telling their story maybe a year ago.

An unsuccessful first effort at something I thought was going to be easy.

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