The South African Queen Mood:
I haven't seen too many movies this past year, but I knew when I saw Charlize Theron in Monster that she was a shoo-in. Nice to see her take the Oscar for Best Actress. What a stunning woman!
"Playin' Poker on a Winnin' Night" Mood:
vegas lucky Now Playing: "Saturday Night Special" by Lynyrd Skynyrd
I hadn't played a game of poker since I was a kid until last night when I met up at an old high school buddy's house for a surprise party. I pretty much always dismiss cards as the work of the Devil, but it was for a rare social event and I'm not such a stick in the mud that I can't make exceptions. So, anyway, I had a lot of fun at it, much to my surprise.
I was extremely annoying to the group of guys there because it was clear to all that I didn't know jack shit about anything. They, on the other hand, had all of the talk and mind-gaming down cold, spewing the jargon like old sea captains. But, they were very patient with me, perhaps, in part, because they may have figured my abject ignorance made me an easy mark.
By the end of the night, though, I had gotten a lot of the etiquette down and hung around long enough to split a rather large pot, which is much needed these days. Of course, now that my "beginner's luck" has been played out, I'm sure to go in the hole if I ever try for it again.
Austin Music Network
AMN has been on Austin's local cable systems for about a decade now and it has never been suckier. I can't really recall watching it too much in those first few years, but it did have a nice run there for a while in the late '90s when they actually bore a very positive resemblance to early MTV (i.e., regularized programming with decent VJs and interesting videos and club peformances). My day was pretty much made when I could tune in to check out this one VJ named Leanna Holmquist. She is absolutely the hottest babe to ever pixilate my televizzision.
But, in the past few years, AMN has been almost unwatchable. I have no idea what the fuck they're doing ---and neither do they. They've got a lot of unlikeable and amateuish nonsense going on over there. Yeah, yeah: their budget's been cut and they've had to move into Kenneth Threadgill's garage, but that's only because they suck.
The problem with AMN is the same as the city's: they bought into the nauseating myth that the Austin music scene was some sort of paradise of rarefied wonderfulness. Now, not being a musician, and only an infrequent patron of the clubs here, I don't have too much of a right to make any qualitative criticisms, but I'll suffice it to say that a lot of people in the music community have been reading their own press. That is to say, there's a lot of lame shit out there. There's also no question that this town is blessed with some world-class musicians and songwriters but, most of the time, they're either here for SXSW or for an Austin City Limits concert.
My point, if I have one, is that Austin is real proud of its self-proclaimed status as the live music capital of the world, but that it hasn't done nearly as much as it could to promote that. They've only recently gotten around to accomodating musicians who have to move their equipment into and out of downtown clubs by designating loading zones for that purpose. (The cops will give you a whole 20 minutes before they ticket your car.)
Theoretically, AMN should have been a money-maker. It could have been financed and marketed in such a way that it could have increased our exposure on at least a regional scale, bringing in more tourist dollars and sweetening the pot for our local musicians. But, that's not going to happen now. They've frittered away a lot of good will and now it's all but certain that they're going to go off the air.
Maybe Time-Warner could take it over and revive it, even if it means supplanting a lot of the local flavor with more popular stuff. I don't know. But, it would be nice to have an alternative to MTV, which doesn't even play music videos anymore.
Psy-Ops, Agitprop, Bee-Bop-a-Lula
The Voice of America is saying that we are just about to capture Osama bin Laden. Iranian radio thinks we've already got him, but that Bush is just waiting for the right moment to reveal it. Whatever the truth is, it's going to be the event of the season. But, until I see that towelhead getting his head lice inspection, I'll still believe he's dead.
"Who Needs Action When You Got Words?" Now Playing: "Plateau" by Nirvana
You ought to check out the latest NRO piece by Victor Davis Hanson on the meaninglessness of the buzzwords used by the Left in its politically-motivated opposition to the war. Here's the money quote:
The Left's problem is not our embrace of the concept of "unilateralism" per se -- or it would have attacked Clinton's U.N.-be-damned use of force in Iraq, Kosovo, and Haiti. No, the rub is something altogether different. A Christian, southern-accented, conservative Republican president, coming off a disputed election, has chosen to preempt. And when you hit first in a therapeutic America, you are at least supposed to bite your lip and squeeze Hillary's hand on national television. You do not dare say, "Bring 'em on" and "Smoke 'em out" -- much less fly a jet out to an aircraft carrier.
Posted by Toby Petzold
at 2:33 AM CST
Post Comment |
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 5:19 PM CST
Friday, 27 February 2004
It's a shame what's happening in Haiti, a country with an interesting and proud history. But, for many years now, it's been a desperately poor and hopeless basketcase.
No worries, though: France and Canada are on the case. They're said to be making plans to send in troops.
Guess the Band-Aid's come off of yet another Clinton foreign policy [success].
Nader's Been Hanging Around Mood:
Ralph Nader has been making the rounds here in Texas the past few days, kicking off his campaign for the Presidency. He says he's in the race to give people a real choice, which is great. But, in order to get on the ballot here, he's going to need something like 60,000 signatures (I can't remember the exact requirement, but it's major) of those who have not yet voted. SO, before you go and cast your vote for the scintillatingly adequate Senator from Hanoi-as-sport, Massachusetts, go find that petition and give some power to the people, beeatch!
Paying Protection Money
A friend writes to chastise me for my remarks on the whole outsourcing problem, but he doesn't acknowledge the fact that our economy is becoming more and more dynamic. Nobody's getting gold watches anymore for putting in 35 years with the tool and die shop downtown, you know. Our generation (i.e., 30-somethings) are going to go through more and different kinds of jobs than our grandfathers did. That may suck, but it also presents us with the promise of better pay if we make the effort to become more marketable. Or, if we move out to where the jobs are.
The guy with the master's who lost his job to an IT worker in India is going to go through a crisis for a while, but he is free to ply his skills elsewhere. For less pay? Maybe for now, but it isn't necessarily going to be that way forever. And he and we are going to ride that rollercoaster until the end because we live in a free-market system (by and large).
Now, consider the alternative: a system where jobs are guaranteed and prices are artifically controlled and payroll taxes are far larger. That's a socialist system and nobody wants it. Maybe they do, theoretically, but, in practice? Who wants to double his taxes just to prop up people who won't work? Who wants to go through school to become a highly-skilled professional just to see his earning power stunted by the all-powerful state?
The idea, Helios, is to have babies so that, when you and your wife are old, the kids can take care of you. There. That's a responsible solution.
Fiddling While Rome Burns Mood:
It is an abuse of the United States Constitution to amend it for the purpose of restricting a civil right. Those who are actively promoting the ratification of an Amendment to make marriage between gay people un-Constitutional are ignorant and bigoted obstructors to the progress of human liberty. Those who hide their beliefs in political euphemisms to avoid the risk of giving their support to gay marriage are complicitous cowards.
That is to say, it doesn't matter if John Kerry is opposed to any such Amendment; the truth is that he won't come out for gay marriage, making it all the easier for the President and his crowd to push for making it un-Constitutional. Get it? Kerry and Bush are both assholes on this issue.
If you know anything at all about the Constitution, just meditate for a moment on the idea of making gay marriage illegal. But, no ---it's more than that! They wish to make gay marriage against the Constitution! Is that not a fucking abomination? Is that not an enshrinement of the merest ideological bias? The whole thing is wrong.
Some genius has written me to suggest that I am a "Jew hater" because I have defended Mel Gibson's movie on Jesus of Nazareth. Hmmm. Well, for a couple of things, I am very proud of my own Jewish ancestry and am a stark raving Zionist in my sympathies. Other than those two minor facts...
Look, no one's going to come away from The Passion with any animus towards Jews that they don't already harbor. The only thing anyone is going to take from this is the cinematic memory of seeing a man's flesh shredded and punctured for the better part of two hours. That is the focus ---the obsessive focus--- of Gibson's movie and not what part the Jews played in that crime.
Anyway, I have already passed the final judgement on the whole issue of the Jews or the Romans or God himself as the final culprit some weeks ago when I pointed out that Jesus' execution is an indispensible fact of his importance to those who worship him. Get it? He had to die in order to be resurrected. Weren't Caiaphas and Pilate and the other guys just playing the roles that God had assigned to them? Weren't they merely means to an end?
It's enormously fucking stupid of anti-Semites (especially Christian ones) to accuse the perfidious Jews of anything having to do with the mistreatment of their Lord and Savior when, after all, he was a Jew who was simply trying to realize the final purpose of his Jewish religion, which was to manifest the Messiah. There would be no Christianity without the Jews. There'd be no Jesus or Mary or Peter or Paul or any Apostle or Passover or The Holy Bible itself without the Jews.
Like (Sir) Mick Jagger said a long time ago, everybody wants to step on their Creator. Before there was God, there was Yahweh, you anonymous dumbass. Isn't that proof enough of Christianity's debt to Judaism? Do you imagine that Mel Gibson or his Holocaust-denying father have the power to detract from that?
My Review of The Passion of the Christ
I just saw Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ a few hours ago, courtesy of a friend of my little brother. He and I, along with one of our older brothers and my little brother's friend, saw it in the company of a very full theater of apparently devoted Christians. The screening was arranged by a church here in Austin and it was preceded and followed by the witness of a minister of that church. Although I am not a Christian, I (usually) find it very easy to be respectful of those who are, so I did not mind (and, indeed, I had expected) the proselytizing and prayer, which I accepted as the price of admission.
Having said all that, I will begin my review by noting how aptly named this movie is. It is almost ALL about the passion (i.e., the suffering) of Jesus of Nazareth. That is, it is an extraordinarily violent and gory work of art. Gibson fixates on the bodily destruction of Jesus to such an extreme extent that the pace of the movie suffers for it. It is altogether too much. Perhaps the repeated acts of sadism are accurate, but it is a negative quality in what should aspire to be great cinema.
Visually, in other respects, the movie is sound. The cast are convincing in their various parts and signal what they are physiognomically, which I like. The settings are what one would expect, especially Golgotha. There is the occasional use of special effects that contribute hallucinatorily to certain revelations throughout and these are especially effective. Of course, there is also Monica Bellucci, who is a divine presence wherever she is.
The score is also very nice.
But, here's the stuff that matters: no one is going to go beat up Jews over this movie. If anyone were to use this movie as a pretext for that purpose, he would deserve to be shot on sight as the unreasoning animal he is. Does Gibson try to inculpate the Jews in Jesus' death? Yes. Does he also incuplate the Romans? Usually, although he occasionally shows us Romans or Jews who have The Look in their eye, signifying a foreknowledge of Jesus' ultimate power and the realization of the mistake they are making in his brutal treatment. The characterization I found the least acceptable was that of Pontius Pilate. He is portrayed as a man of greater conscience than I would have given him credit for. I'll just say that, if he washed his hands, Mel Gibson lovingly dried them with a fresh towel.
The audience I saw The Passion with were extremely quiet, except for the occasional sobbing and sniffling. It was obvious that the great majority of them were utterly stunned at the unrelenting brutality. I know I was.
This is a movie that will hit you hard in the gut, Christian or not. But, if you are a Christian, as I once was, there will be many moments in it that will resonate with you most especially and take you back to times and places where you knew those words and symbols and episodes ---and you will not be unmoved. They are so ubiquitous and influential in Western Civilization that you must, if you have true charity of understanding, be deeply impressed with what Christianity has wrought.
Finally, let's be clear about this movie as a religio-political matter. It is a work of art for Christians first and foremost. If it were not, the decision to make it in two dead languages would have been far more difficult (because the story, as it is, doesn't even need the subtitles, it is so well known). I can't see that it has any value outside of that sphere (I except myself for reasons I have already suggested). It is not, contrary to the wishes of those like the kindly minister who introduced and closed the film for us tonight, a tool to proselytize by. It's just not. And why is that? Because, again, Gibson's greatest error in this movie is the obsessive and intolerable degree of bodily violence done to Jesus of Nazareth. If he had, as my little brother told me afterwards, done more to focus on the teachings of Jesus, it would have been a far more appealing movie. You cannot tell me that that is wrong. It cannot be more important to focus on the degradation of the earthly Jesus than the exaltation of the spiritual one. Perhaps ironically, this reminds me of the obsessive attention paid by some to the Holocaust at the expense of glorifying the joyful and valuable contributions that Jews have made to the world. I remember both; don't doubt it. But, just as I prefer to celebrate the triumphs and vitality of the Jews, I would also dispense with the extremeness and single-mindedness of Gibson's message in The Passion and take from the Christ's message what I am able and to practice it.
There's been a lot of talk in the media about outsourcing lately but, as with anything else, it's being used politically. Yes, this country is shipping a lot of its manufacturing jobs overseas, but that's because company owners and stockholders want to maximize their profits and consumers want to be able to buy things more cheaply. So, are both sides of the equation guilty of something? It doesn't seem that either one is to be blamed for wanting the benefits of cheaper labor, so how can Democrats accuse the Administration of sticking a knife in the back of the American worker? Everybody agrees that goods and services produced abroad lessens the burden on consumers. And very few would willingly pay more for a product just to keep its manufacture domestic. Theses shifts are market-driven and inevitable, leaving the American worker with the option of improving his own skills and moving into higher-paying jobs. It's incredibly tough. I know this for myself, being an overqualified guy in a job a bonobo could do. At some point soon, when I get tired of doing what I do for the wages I earn, I will move back into higher-level employment and reap the rewards of my own motivation. The vast majority of Americans can do the same. They can move to where the work is, as I have done before; they can get some schooling that will qualify them for that better job, as I have also done; and they can economize where necessary. Great Societarians and welfare statists have to realize that the genius and potential of our country's economy is in our freedom to move out and upward and do anything else we wish to do to make ends meet. Nobody's guaranteed or entitled to anything, except the right to benefit from the fruits of one's own labors. So, get out there and get your learn on or pack up the house and get to where the gettin's good. If this is a nation of immigrants, then migrate!
Am I Missing Something?
I have now heard two NBC News reports, in the context of his interview with Tim Russert this morning, stating that Nader said that he would consider pulling out of the race if, near Election Day, he believed that his participation would tip the vote towards President Bush.
That is absolutely false. Or, am I missing something? Did Nader say such a thing to someone else at some point today? If so, NBC should have made that much clearer because he did not say that on Meet the Press. Nader did tell Russert that he could invite him back later this year to ask him if he would withdraw in the event that his participation appears likely to sink the Democrats, but he obviously said that rhetorically. Nader's obvious meaning in making such an offer was that he couldn't care less whether Kerry loses.
NBC is just trying to hype the post-game show and I think it's extraordinarily dishonest. After all, why would Nader go to the very great trouble of trying to qualify for ballots across the country and undertake a grueling campaign on the mere assumption (and the unlikelihood) that the poll numbers were correct and that he should, therefore, pull out in favor of a party he plainly detests for its lack of principles?
If I Say the Sun Will Rise Tomorrow...
...well, then don't necessarily believe it. To be honest, I wasn't really all that confident in the reports (mostly coming from the conservative media) that Nader would, in fact, announce that he's going to run. I figured that it might have just been some agitating on the part of the Republicans, easily retracted. But, I should have had more confidence in Nader's convictions which, no matter what else you might think of him, he has in abundance and with admirable substantiation behind them.
I doubt I would vote for him this time, though, for a couple of major reasons: he is hostile to Israel and he is too enamored of the welfare state. Not that these are new aspects of his political position but, on the first reason, I refuse to ever negotiate again and, on the second, I think it's economically regressive.
However, I loved Nader's remarks to Russert on the "liberal intelligentsia." They are a bunch of sell-outs. When a magazine like The Nation has the temerity to try to intimidate him out of running, you have to wonder where their writers' and readers' principles have gone. As Nader correctly pointed out, Gore's loss of Florida could have just as easily been attributed to other independent voters in that state who didn't vote for him or Gore or Bush. That's how small the official vote margin was ---a fact that the Democrats still can't deal with.
Tomorrow morning's Washington Post is running the first of a two-part article by Steve Coll on the failure of Clinton's White House and the CIA to take bin Laden when they had the chance. It's essential reading.
It's also a demonstration of why we absolutely cannot allow someone like John Kerry to be President: adhering to "the process" of "multilateralism" while we are defending ourselves and our allies against asymmetrical Islamofascist force guarantees that we will experience another catastrophic attack on our own soil. You don't stop terrorists with indictments; you stop them with slugs to their heads and daisy-cutters on their doorsteps.
Michael Wood's In Search of Shakespeare series on PBS has been pretty laughable, at least in terms of his story-telling. Beyond the value of seeing the old haunts, there's little to recommend this program.
There is, however, the potential for some very interesting mischief-making among the orthodoxy with this whole Shakespeare-as-Catholic issue. Not many of the professoriat are inclined to buy into it because of Shakespeare's place as a national icon of all things properly English, which doesn't include the thought of a Catholic Bard. After all, what would Elizabeth and James have thought of that?
Much is being said about it on HLAS, so do yourself a favor and drop in on the discussions.
Run, Ralph, Run!!!
It's been reported that Ralph Nader will announce whether or not he will be running for the Presidency this year on this Sunday's Meet the Press. It's just too much up in the air to know for sure, but I suspect he will dramatically announce that he will not run ---and, then, proceed to suck up to the Left like Algore at a MoveOn.org rally by ripping into the President and, thereby, further motivate the Democratic Party.
Still, one of Nader's most important theses is that there is no real difference between the two major parties. He has no regrets about being a spoiler to Gore. He said not long after the 2000 election something to the effect that, if Gore had been such a great candidate, he could have beaten Bush easily, regardless of who else had been running.
Nader's a smart guy and he can see that he has shit for support. He wouldn't come close to his 2000 totals because those on the Left who are actually going to vote are too motivated by their hatred of the President to waste their choice on their ideals. I'm pretty sure that this interview with Russert is nothing more than a high-profile opportunity to make it up to Democratic partisans (which is more important to him than he will admit) by not running and by throwing some red meat out to the anti-Bush crowd.
It should be an excellent interview. Nader's no dumbass and he will be sure to unload. Check it out.
Is it really true that Kerry won't debate Edwards in Los Angeles unless Sharpton and Kucinich are included? What a turd. Even Donna Brazile and the human bedpan Terry McAuliffe are pushing for a one-on-one debate, so what's the deal?
Obviously, Kerry doesn't want to give Edwards a way into this race. Smart politics, you might say, but not much in the way of confidence. Kerry's nomination, in fact, bears a strong resemblance to a coronation, which is basically what the liar McAuliffe pushed for with all of this front-loading of the primaries. Get everyone on board with the first non-crazy candidate to make a strong showing and make it so that his momentum isn't slowed by too much time between primaries to think about any alternatives.
Personally, I think Kucinich's and Sharpton's candidacies are a bunch of crap, but it's still funny to watch Kerry squirm. If Edwards gets him into a one-on-one, he's going to give a lot of people second thoughts and tie this thing up a little bit. Not enough to change the outcome, but enough to make it interesting.