Saturday, April 12, 2008
As the film's protagonist, Ryan Phillippe (seen here with director and co-writer Kimberly Peirce at the film's premiere) plays a good man and a leader of men who tried to do his duty as it was told to him, and then finds the people controlling the game have changed the rules.
I'd say he does better work than I would previously have imagined him capable of. But come to think of it I know him mainly as a pretty-boy, I don't really think I've seen him act in very much.
I know I've never seen Abbie Cornish act before. She plays a sharp Texas woman--y'know, the kind I love to talk about--so well I was mildly taken aback to learn she's actually Australian.
A childhood friend of Phillippe's character, she tries to help keep him from being forced back into service. The film gracefully acknowledges a sexual tension between the two (which if you believe the tittle was consumated off the set), but is too smart to let the characters sink into its suds.
Channing Tatum, though I feel compelled to mock him for his name, plays a character that's a good argument to those who insist this film is anti-soldier. He's the longtime best friend of Phillippe and fiancée of Cornish who finds good for himself in the service.
I submit that in a really anti-soldier movie Tatum (seen above with Cornish) would have been a cardboard ogre, but he's not. He's an imperfect man trying to balance loyalty to his friend, duty as he sees it to his country, and love of his fiancée.
He does what he thinks is best, even as it brings him into conflict with those he loves. Which is one of the secrets of good drama, the trouble with balancing these things is that there's really no way for it to come out even.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character might have benefited from more screen time. There's depth to his performance, but the character just kind of...slips away. This might be the point. But, I will be curious to see if there's more of him in deleted scenes on the DVD.
It's wrong to assume, as some have, that this movie is antimilitary or anti-soldier. Antiwar? Possibly. But who the hell isn't antiwar at a time when our "commander-in-chief" is so unpopular he's booed at baseball games?
Anti this particular war and the fucks sending men and women back to be maimed or killed (while we choose to care about Obama's "bitter" comments)...absofreakinglutely.
But antimilitary and anti-soldier? No. No, I don't think so. Not unless you choose to see the world in black-and-white; the simplest possible terms.
This movie and its characters are more complex and subtle than that. So are, I have to believe, the men and women fighting this war.
I musn't forget to mention Ciaran Hinds, who was in the last movie I saw in the theatre, too, and gives perhaps the most subtle performance of the lot as Phillippe's father.
He's a man who loves his son and of course doesn't want to see him hurt--but he also believes in the male fraternity of the military.
Again, the three "C's" that make up a good "D": Character, Conflict and Complexity. His thoughts, and what the final judgment of him should be, are open to discussion.
The script is comparable to, and arguably better than, (deep breath) Aaron Sorkin's Charlie Wilson's War, which I've come to believe was compromised by the need to serve star egos. Stop-Loss admirably steers clear of tying up every loose end, or the sucker's happy ending.
So: Why did it lose out at the box office? Theories are flying around. Mean-spirited conservatives like those who got us into this war (at little or no risk to themselves) think it’s because the film, like others recently about the Iraq war, isn't sufficiently toe-the-line patriotic. I think James Rocchi has a better bead on it.
But I'm absolutely sure the film deserved better, and hope it will be rediscovered in time.
We're asking too few to do too much for too little; that's what the real problem is, and that's the lesson which Stop-Loss underlines. And how is that anti-soldier as seen by any but the most knee-jerk of Bush supporters?
This movie loves its soldiers, and feels for them.
It is probably not insignificant that it was co-written and directed by a woman (screenplay with Mark Richard).
Friday, April 11, 2008
... the former president said: "She took a terrible beating in the press for a few days because, she was exhausted at 11 o'clock at night and she started talking about Bosnia and she misstated the circumstances under which she landed in Bosnia," he said. "Did you all see all that?"
The fact is, she didn't talk about it "exhausted at 11 o'clock at night," but at 9 a.m., after a day off, [CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim] Axelrod reportsAxelrod reports.
Bill Clinton might have thought twice about his line of defense.
"And some of them, when they're 60, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11 at night, too," Bill Clinton said.
Hillary Clinton's best-known ad this campaign has been about her ability to think straight in the middle of the night. Remember, "It's 3 a.m….?"
Good one, Bill.
Do you ever get the feeling at this point, Ms. Clinton wishes somebody would start sucking the former president's dick so he could be kept far, far away from microphones and cameras?
Why doesn't she just have him boarded, like a dog...only at the Playboy mansion?
And I guess I can understand them not including the Daily Show or Colbert Report.
But they left out a couple by focusing only the televisual, even if for obvious reasons.
Mel Brooks as the 2000-year old man, with Carl Reiner, the world's greatest living straight man (George Burns and Bud Abbott having passed on).
This is from a cartoon adaptation of their early-'60s comedy album made (I think) in the late '70s.
The jazzy fun of Stan Freberg.
This is a lovely video put together by a YouTuber called cputb1 illustrating a sketch from Freberg's "United States of America" album.
And what's Jack Benny, chopped liver? Here we have convincing proof that Jack had the finest writers in the business: They could make Frank Sinatra seem funny...
Or the Muppets? Here, Milton Berle meets his match...
And all you need to know about this one is that it's Groucho Marx...and some lady called Marilyn Monroe. It was her first major appearance in films; she was 23.
(OK, so this isn't one of the greatest sketches ever filmed. But its Groucho and Marilyn, man.)
President George W. Bush's job approval rating has dropped to 28%, the lowest of his administration. Bush's approval is lower than that of any president since World War II, with the exceptions of Jimmy Carter (who had a low point of 28% in 1979), and Richard Nixon and Harry Truman, who suffered ratings in the low- to mid-20% range in the last years of their administrations.
Really, seriously, could we, for the love of sweet Christ impeach him now?
Carter's low point of 28% was measured in late June and early July 1979, as the country underwent significant gas shortages and amid perceptions of a failing economy.
Nixon had a number of readings below 28% in 1973 and 1974 prior to his leaving office as a result of the Watergate scandal.
Truman recorded a number of readings below 28% in 1951 and 1952 as his administration was beset, similar to the current situation for Bush, with problems relating to the economy and an unpopular war (in Korea).
Of note is the fact that George W. Bush has now descended below the low point of his father's (George H.W. Bush's) administration. The senior Bush had a reading of 29% in July and August 1992. The former president also recorded a high point of 89%, the highest on record until his son's 90% in September 2001. Both Bushes, in short, have undergone radical 60-point drops in job approval in the course of their administrations.
The acoustical future of the Mets is in doubt.
The team is currently running a week-long promotion to determine which song, from a list of six, it will play during the middle of the eighth inning of home games. Inspired by the success that Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" has had in uniting fans at Boston's Fenway Park over recent seasons, the Mets -- who also used Diamond's hit last year -- have decided to let their own fans choose the song they prefer.
There's just one problem. The results of an online poll, revealed earlier this week, showed that Rick Astley's 1988 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up" had won with more than five million votes as a write-in candidate -- the result of fans rigging the vote in favor of Astley,
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Does this make him the first Scotsman to win a contest against an Irishman after he stopped drinking?
For the first time, Craig Ferguson, the CBS late-night host whose program follows David Letterman on weeknights, has won a ratings contest against NBC’s late-night star, Conan O’Brien.
But, I've found myself in another argument lately with some who seem to think you cannot support feminism--which I do--and not support Hillary Clinton, which, as you know, I do not.
This has led me down the path of thinking about how all women don't have to (and don't) think alike. As luck would have it, as I've been thinking about this, I've stumbled across a few articles that illustrate the point. Here are some links.
(I don't often do these "linkfests," but it seemed appropriate in this case)
Some women don't seem terribly conflicted about supporting Obama at all. Even icons of feminism like Alice Walker, for example, who gives her views on Obama here.
And here's an interview with Obama himself.
Many women do find themselves in a bind this election year, however, namely--shhhhhhhhhhhhh!--they support Obama.
And here is the story of his mother.
And finally, a new scientific, bi-partisan poll conducted for Lifetime, "the network for women" finds Clinton is losing appeal among women.
Also, it's a wash as to whether or not they think she's been impacted negatively by sexist coverage in the news. A notable percentage does think that, but it's not even a majority of her supporters.
If "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" had been written in 1963.
(Annabel: I'm not wearing my hair like that.)
I can't take that kind of pressure!
(Besides, I thought everyone knew Jodie Foster was my beard.)
(It seems only fair.)
I simply can't decide. Is this lovely or hideous?
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
On Media Matters:
Scarborough trots out the most-Americans-don't-know-the-difference defense of McCain's Sunni-Shiite "confus[ion]'
Summary: On Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough defended Sen. John McCain's apparent conflation of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, saying: "The thing is, everybody is obsessing over the fact that he keeps confusing Sunni and Shia. The fact is, I -- you know what? I could start peppering people with questions about Sunnis and Shia and Kurds, and the relationships there, and 99 percent of Americans wouldn't know; 99 percent of Americans wouldn't give a damn."
Is the bar so low that a potential president is expected to have no better command of our foreign policy than John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt from Peoria or Columbus?
Never mind boycotting the Chinese, let's just sell to them now.
I hadn't heard that he died, I just felt like watching some Monk and Wednesday is two-for-one day at my video store.
I can't help thinking how sad Adrian Monk would be. I hope this doesn't sound too disrespectful--I certainly mean it as much as a tribute to Kamel's performance as anything else. But of course I didn't know him as a man, only as this character.
He always reminded me of Frank Sinatra, in a way.
I think I'm reasonably informed about Mrs. Clinton. I don't know if I could say I've made a serious study of her but I have read a few books about her and her husband. Plus I've lived with her on the world stage for over 15 years.
You may well be asking yourself, what is all this in aid of? It's in aid of leading into this Politico/CBS News story about how if Clinton's presumed competency in running the country is what her supporters are banking on...
...let's just say the campaign has shot a few holes in that theory.
The day after "bottoms up" night at The Golden Lasso, it always takes Wonder Woman a few hours to remember where she left her plane.
"All together, now! 'we can dress real neat from our hearts to our feet..."
Begging the question, what was wrong with the old beauty, I suppose...
Now that's beautiful...
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
But if nothing else, check out the picture (in the subscription ad) where somebody "morphed" Obama and Clinton's faces into one being. And tell me that's not Kajagoogoo singer Limahl.
In a cable battle of the trilogies, the Star Wars prequels dominated the Lord of the Rings movies, averaging on the whole nearly 1 million more viewers, the latest Nielsen Media Research stats show.
The showdown marked the first time Spike TV's Episode I-III films matched up against TNT's LOTR films in a chapter-for-chapter, night-for-night competition for bragging rights.
Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith, which aired Sunday night, led the way, averaging 4.2 million viewers, tops for a movie in all of cable. TNT's Sunday-night offering of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was nearly as big, averaging 4 million.
Elsewhere, it wasn't even close.
On Saturday, it was Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones (3.4 million) killing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2 million). And on Friday, it was Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace (2.8 million) topping The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (1.9 million).
Little item here about a small town in Texas where all the elected officials are women ('bout time, too).
Peggy Baer was elected mayor in May 2007 and leads a five-woman board of aldermen - yes, aldermen - in this town of about 830 residents.
Postmaster Diane Manuel's somewhat tongue-in-cheek rationale: "We have people skills, and we're a lot better to look at than most guys."
She added, "You know why else women run this town? They're not as cocky."
The mayor and aldermen are all grandmothers, and Baer said their experience has made them "good multitaskers."
"Women can change a diaper, stir a pot of stew, take a phone call and use a leg to drag a toddler out from under the counter," she said. "We don't mind asking questions and saying we don't understand something."
Bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never never let you forget you're a man...
Texas may have the good ol' boy reputation but it has also led the way for women holding elected office, said Ann Lewis, senior adviser for Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"We've known that since the days of Ann Richards," she said of the former Texas governor who died in 2006. "She set an example to women across the country."
This is hardly a scientific survey, obviously, but more of the troops who spoke to ABC had nice things to say about Obama than about either Hillary or McCain [in fact, no one quoted even mentioned McCain-BV]. For some reason they seem to like the fact that Obama is promising to bring them home.Here's a short excerpt of the ABC News story, but read the whole thing:
Spc. Joseph Lindsesdt, who is from Alaska, said he was watching for consistency of the candidates' views. "The steadiness of the candidate, whether they've changed their views, constantly, over time, or with political wind, as I like to put it."
To that end, Lindsesdt's pick is Obama. "The fact that he's followed his views, regardless of what they have been [sic] and whether I've agreed with them or not, sometimes. But he's been steady the entire way."
You Belong in the Baby Boomer Generation
You fit in best with people born between 1943 and 1960.
You are optimistic, rebellious, and even a little self centered.
You still believe that you will change the world.
You detest authority and rules. Deep down, you're a non conformist.
(I guess it's just a feeling - in the city)
What Your City Walk Means
You are thoughtful and contemplative. You enjoy spending time alone with your thoughts.
You are generally confident and friendly with strangers. You are well mannered and sociable.
Money is fairly important to you. You aren't super greedy, but you enjoy spending money on yourself.
You tend to seek comfort, coziness, and stability in your life. For you, feeling at home is the best feeling ever.
Well, this narrows it down...
|What will your Soulmate be like?|
|Your soulmate will be hard-working and honest. You will share everything with each other.|
Your soulmate will be calm and rational and always know how to keep you happy.
Whenever things get tough, your soulmate will encourage you to excel.
In your life together, your soulmate will help you to become more considerate and happy.
Your soulmate will love you because you are a relaxed and happy person who enjoys the simple things in life.
'What will your Soulmate be like?'
Monday, April 07, 2008
Whites who said race was important in picking their candidate have been about twice as likely to back Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as Sen. Barack Obama.
Now, I want to be absolutely clear here: I am not bringing this up to make some kind of smartass, "racists for Clinton" joke/smear. It's true Mr. Obama is my candidate, but the reasons Mrs. Clinton is not are a little more than, heh heh, "skin deep."
(OK, yeah, so that was a smartass joke, what I'm saying here is, I don't think Hillary Clinton's a racist and that's not why I'm not supporting her)
But I'm wondering what, if anything, she'll have to say about this poll. I guess there's a part of me that wishes she would say, in emphatic, no uncertain terms: That any votes she recieves because she is white are not votes she wishes to receive (in my perfect world, she'd also add: "any more than I wish to recieve votes just because I am a woman").
I don't really have much faith that she will say anything of the kind. At this point, I see her as grabbing for every single vote she can get...and that doesn't make her a racist, it makes her a politician (so is McCain, so is Obama). And she's been fairly public about wanting votes for--among other reasons--being a woman, hasn't she?
And I'm not even sure whether I think she should say something like I suggested above, race being such a minefield.
Still, I kinda hope she does.
Tennessee has advanced to play Stanford in the NCAA women's basketball championship game, beating LSU 47-46.
Come on, big tree!
(For those of you who don't know...I'm from Palo Alto.)
Before the start of the Iraq war, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave the Bush administration a "list of horribles" that could go wrong, a former top Pentagon official says.
Douglas Feith - in trying to settle scores in his new book, "War and Decision" - said last night that he was disclosing the list to rebut arguments that President Bush and Rumsfeld went to war without considering the consequences.
I'm suddenly reminded of a memorable quote from the Mystery Science movie...
...[after breaching the hull in an escape attempt]
Crow T. Robot: Well believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds I was doing something incredibly stupid... and I went ahead anyway.
(we sincerely apologize to all Crow enthusiasts out there who are offended by this thoughtless comparison to such vile, lying daydreamers. We at dragon/Buddha respect the comic Mr. T. Robot, and it is not our intention to slight his character in any way. Thank you again and enjoy the rest of this post.)
A former policy chief, Feith said on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night that the list of what could go wrong included weapons of mass destruction, no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and the possibility of ethnic strife spreading.
What they're not telling you (per Lionel Beehner of the HPost):
Feith was especially keen on proving a link existed between Saddam and al-Qaeda while over-hyping Iraqi links with Niger on the sale of yellowcake uranium and a supposed meeting in Prague between Mohammad Atta and an Iraqi spook.
And that list of what could go wrong? As you can see in this Crooks and Liars post...
Literally every single one of these has come to fruition.
The "downsides of the war," Feith said, had to be weighed against a "list of the risks involved in leaving Saddam in power."
"With your help, I won the primary here in Pennsylvania," Kerry said. "With your help, I won the general election here in Pennsylvania. And with your help, we're not going to break this winning streak now."
OK, words John Kerry should never be allowed to use..."winning streak."
Although Kerry has endorsed Obama and spent much of his hour listing reasons why voters should support Obama, he praised the Illinois senator's opponent, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"She has every right to continue to fight," he said. "As long as we all agree that no matter what happens in this, we're going to come together at the end of it. And we are going to guarantee that as Democrats, were going to vote a Democrat into the White House."
Now...leaving out the typo on "we're," which is obviously the fault of the news outlet..."as Democrats, we're going to vote a Democrat into the White House?" As opposed to what? "As Democrats, we're going to vote a communist into the White House?" "As Democrats, we're going to vote a socialist into the White House?"
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Al Franken wrote about this incident in his bestselling Lies & the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, but I first heard of it some 10 years before that. In a speech broadcast on radio, the late and lovely Molly Ivins noted in one of my three favorite of her commentaries:
"On his TV show in 1993, [Limbaugh] put up a picture of Socks, the White House cat, and said: ‘Did you know there's a White House dog?’ And then he put up a picture of Chelsea Clinton. Who was 13 years old and as far as I know had never done any harm to anyone.
How time flies. You may have heard of a more recent incident. As covered by USA Today:
John McCain spent nearly an hour talking about such topics as merit pay for teachers and fielding questions about public service when the town hall meeting Tuesday at his old high school took a slight detour.
Katelyn Halldorson, 16, stood up and said the event at Episcopal High School had been billed as non-political yet some of the ground covered had a decidedly political tone. "What exactly is your purpose in being here, not that I don't appreciate the opportunity," she asked.
"I knew I should have cut this thing off," McCain joked. "This meeting is over!"
Now--video exists of this exchange, and in it, Ms. Halldorson asks her question in--you should pardon the expression--a "ladylike" way. Her syntax is a little convoluted, but she's not a professional speaker used to appearing on camera.
But, according to Jim Acosta of CNN's Ballot Bowl...
"So there you have it. John McCain, who is no stranger to incoming fire, able to handle that heckler there in Alexandria, Virginia."
(I had to adapt some of these to refer to a blog and not an L-Journal)
1. My username is ______ because ______.
My username is BenVarkentine. Dull, huh? When I first came online about 10 years ago it was Saulchurch, which I think is a place in Ireland, but I took it from a character in the Doctor Who novels by Paul Cornell. When I first came online I spent a lot of time on the Doctor Who Usenet group (and was voted "Rookie of the Year," thank you very much).
Some old comic book letter pages still have that name in them, too (as well as this one).
Anyway, it wasn't even a few years in on rec.arts.drwho that I discovered the dark side of online posting, which is that some people posting anonymously feel freer to "flame" than they would if people knew who they were.
Of course, my ego may also have been involved. But anyway, when I left AOL I decided just to make my given name my screen name.
2. My name is _____ because ______.
My name is Ben after a character in Thomas Wolfe's book and play Look Homeward, Angel...
His mind gathered itself out of the wreckage of little things: out of all that the world had shown or taught him he could remember now only the great star above the town, and the light that had swung over the hill, and the fresh sod upon Ben’s grave, and the wind, and far sounds and music . . .
...and also a friend my mom had before I was born (not my father, unless she's been lying to me for 36 years...which is unlikely but not impossible).
3. My blog is titled ____ because ____.
My blog is titled a dragon dancing with the Buddha because I came across the cartoon at top, fell in love with and wanted to feature it and it wouldn't fit anywhere else. Plus dragons have always been my favorite mythological beastie, and I've been investigating Buddhism lately, so it seemed to fall into place.
Previously it was Dictionopolis in Digitopolis, inspired by the movie & book The Phantom Tollbooth.
...and I want this way-cool homemade (by Heidi Kenney) plush version of Tock.
(And my blog before that was The Sound of the Crowd, after the Human League song)
4. My friends page is called ____ because ____.
I don't have one, this being a blog & not an LJ. However, nor do I have a "blogroll." Between you and me, I've never quite seen the point.
5. My default userpic is ____ because ____.
A picture of Butters from South Park to go with the quote from the character. I can't remember now if I found the picture first and put the quote with it or vice versa, but it was one or the other.
As a rule, it changes whenever I come across what seems to me an appropriate picture and/or quote. Once it was even actually a picture of me. They're not all South Park quotes, of course, although they could be, like, y'know, this one, for example.
6. My blog description is:
You can't see it because it's hidden behind the comic strip, but in the past it's tended to be quotes, song lyrics or lines of dialogue that took my fancy. Most recently something Alan Coil said in a comment.
BTW, according to her profile:
Be still my heart. A body and face like that, and likes 1980's pop. Granted that I've never been much of a fan of The Cure, but, there'll be time to worry about that after I wake up...
(Photo found via Via.)
who dosen't (sic-BV) like 5 women running around in their underwear.
And I see by IMDb she was in the Celebrity TV mini-series, which I remember thinking was kind of "fresh" when I was 13, but who knows what I'd think of it now.
Anyway, I tell you all this, because in one of my non-linear image searches, I came across her web site. You owe it to yourself at least to see the "welcome" screen and hear the totally awesome opening theme song.
(by German rock band, Almost Charlie, I believe)
Christina Applegate, Chloe Sevigny, and Heather Graham in the same place at the same time.
...and yes, this is my way of shamelessly reminding you (and myself) that my favorite new comedy series of the year, Samantha Who? with Christina Applegate, returns tomorrow with the first new episodes since the Writers' Strike.
And speaking of the Writer's Strike, let's cast our mind back a few months and watch Miss Applegate giving her assistance to the cause...