A PERSONAL NOTE FROM A FALLIBLE BEING: I've been largely quiet about my anti-war stance, largely because I've been afraid that disgust and yes, fear, of the course of history attacking Iraq seems to lock us into has made it difficult for me to think clearly. Or I've been afraid that my seemingly rational arguments against war are based on false premises. That is to say, I've lately been more solicitous of what I didn't know than what I did.
But at the moment, after listening to NPR and reading war coverage these past few days, I have only this to say: What a total fucking mess. It keeps ringing in my head. I want to weep or scream when I think of those kids out there in the desert, being shot at from behind, crashing in helicopters...or Iraqi civilians, their houses and friends blown to bits by a government who's the devil they don't know.
People say, "Oh, we knew it wouldn't actually be easy; all the military cakewalk talk was just to freak out the Iraqis."
Well, fine. I'm keenly aware that my info is infuriatingly limited and manipulated. But what I see in all the media that's available to me is a growing list of military and civilian victims of powerful Executive arrogance.
So go ahead, tell me I'm anti-American. Tell me I'm smug. Tell me I'm an idiot. Tell me I'm craven. Or even use my favorite new rhetorical weapon among war advocates: Tell me that I'm acting out the role of the little woman, as though decrying an unnecessary war were merely a less palatable version of baking brownies while barefoot and pregnant.
Tell me what you want. This is a total fucking mess. And what I am is angry.
Or sad. My thoughts go to the families, friends, and comrades of the dead.
And yes, I know such emoting does not an anti-war argument make. But for what it's worth, surely very little, I'm taking this moment to tell you how I feel.
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The three best movies I've seen in the past year—Sex and Lucia, Y Tu Mama Tambien, and now Talk to Her—have been in Spanish. I'm glad Jose is helping me relearn the language, even if it is overwriting my French.
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UNHAPPY RABBITS: A favorite line in All About Eve: "You're not going to ... [Eve pauses in horror] ... Hollywood?"
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Oh brother. This is hilarious.
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What's all this talk on blogs about people doing their taxes? Isn't that what 7-11:30 p.m. April 14th is for?
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ENVIRONS: A real wind is blowing on the West Side today. And last night. My street this morning was a mess of fallen palm fronds, like there had been a tornado. The intrepid Mobius Cat has been on an exploratory mission throughout.
I get the strangest juxtaposition of soundbites during my 10 minute NPR listens on the car right over. Yesterday, I heard about villagers carrying a jar of brains and a severed hand after their town was bombed, saying, "This is liberation?" Today I heard Tony Blair--really, a quite good orator--announce that our resolve is firmer than ever and that we have every confidence that the Iraqi people want freedom. (Well, yes...)
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TECH UPDATE: OK everybody, my problem is fixed. I went into my ARCHIVE TEMPLATE and discovered...there was no archive template there anymore! Just a weird error message. So I had Jesse send me his, I pasted it in, et voila! All the archives are now easily accessible. I'm sure everyone is as thrilled as I am.
In fact, I am so full of joy to have solved this problem that I'm finally going to dive into links madness. Watch the sea monkeys grow! Jesse gets to be first since his archive template came to my rescue.
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I just noticed that my archives stop back in September! When I try to "republish," I get "Archives error." The Blogger help page won't come up. Does anyone know how to fix this problem?
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My musings on Salam Pax are here...
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I recently received a letter from a Reason reader purporting to be from Weed, California. Because we do get a lot of crackpot letters (though this did not seem to be one), I thought I'd better make sure there was, in fact, a town of Weed in the fair state that is my home.
Indeed, there is, 50 miles from the Oregon border, at the foot of gorgeous, snow-capped Mount Shasta! Go see the gorgeous pics, here and especially here.
But did you check out the Chamber of Commerce's URL? www.weedchamber.com! lol! I started wondering whether these folks might have a sense of humor, or else ambitions to develop a certain kind of agro-tourism. So I decided to e-mail the Chamber of Commerce. Today Karen Heiser, manager, emailed me back with this clip from the web site for the Weed Historic Lumber Town Museum:
"Many families made Weed what it is today, and helped it grow, but the credit for the existence of the town must go to Abner Weed. He gave the town his own name, Weed, because he believed in its possibilities. It is interesting to note that years later, when well-intentioned people wished to change the name to one they considered more poetic, or high sounding, the citizens of the town would have none of it. They honored Abner themselves by keeping his name; Weed.
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MEME OF THE DAY:
You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance and Germany doesn't want to go to war.
UPDATE: Blogger Steve Charak wrote to tell me that Chris Rock is the originator of the rapper/golfer portion of the quote. Thanks Steve!
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At last night's Oscars, Adrien Brody stole the show. Michael Moore tried to. Moore was the Oscar's baseball-cap wearing monkey, smacking his lips, but alas, with the gift of speech. Making some specific statement against war in Iraq would have been one thing, I would have been all for it, but bitching about the 2000 election? I wish someone had thrown the baffoon a banana.
Brody meanwhile gave one of the best speeches I've ever seen. It started by shocking Halle Barry with a dip and a kiss on the mouth (she did NOT handle it gracefully, insert Simpson's bully laugh here), gained momentum when he ordered, ORDERED, Gil Cates and his henchmen to let him talk beyond his alotted time, and ended with a tearful, respectful call for peace. What a guy.
The Pianist did much better than I expected, tho in retrospect it makes total sense. It was the academy's contribution to These Serious Times. I'm not saying it didn't deserve to win on artistic merit alone--I haven't seen it yet, damnit--just that these things affect what kind of movie people want to celebrate.
Richard Gere kept his big mouth shut. Not even a few props for his man in Tibet. I speculate that his publicist told him to can the supercilious political haranging that he's become infamous for, but my Oscar-watching buddy submits that the dapper Steve Martin was waiting in the wings, ready to retailiate with a gerbil joke or two.
I predict that the star of Y Tu Mama Tambien, who gave the sexiest presentation in history, is getting about thirty calls today to star in major Hollywood motion pictures.I was impressed that Almodovar's Talk to Her won...now I'll just have to see it. I'm a fan of the guy, but I would have picked Y Tu Mama instead. I've seen it after all.
Nicole Kidman's speech was a mess, poor girl. Something about art and dead people, I don't know. Maybe she was off-kilter because she forgot to eat...for the past two months. Those arms frightened me. She was calm, cool, and well-spoken when she accepted her Golden Globe. She may just have gotten nervous, trying to pull a Julia Roberts or Halle Barry and give the kind of speech everyone gushes over the next day.
But all in all, people played it safe. Hollywood stars may be insular and self-serving, but they also know who feeds them (or in the case of Nicole et.al., who, I don't know, buys their real estate). Actually, though, since 80 percent of box office takes are international now, not domestic, does American opinion matter so much?
More later, need to go beautify (replay Simpson's ha-ha here) and leave for work....
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I saw footage of a "vomit-in" once. They ate red, white, and blue mashed potatoes and threw them up to protest...well, I don't remember what. But the concept in general is kind of cool, in my opinion. Even admirable.
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I think by now everyone's heard about the Baghdad-based blogger Salam Pax, but I just don't think it's possible to overemphasize the impact and quality of his blog. Dip way back into the archives, too.
I've been getting pretty depressed reading news coverage. Despair and helplessness, helplessness and despair. What really gets me is the various NPR reports with "tales from the front." I almost started crying in the car last night during an interview with a low-level officer about preparing for battle. He said something like: "Now some of these kids are going to panic when the bullets start flying; it's just natural. They've never been in combat. They're kids. So you can't go Twinkie, you've got to be loud to keep them in line." When I hear these stories I never fail to visualize them, filling in plenty of awful details, and inserting my brother (who's a student at Westpoint) into the image. It's horrible.
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"When I first heard about film school, I thought, What's the punchline?"
—screenwriter William Goldman, speaking last night in Hollywood
Tonight I'm hoping to blog more about his talk. Usually "writers on writing" lectures involve a lot of pretensious, portentous musings and I avoid them, but Goldman (who's my hero, anyway, for writing The Princess Bride) was good entertainment.
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I've always been fascinated by the mechanics of a coup, and though I've had plenty of opportunity to read in the paper about how it works--top army people defect, communications and major government buildings are seized--my image of what those crucial hours would look like has been still fuzzy, as it probably is even for those people who awake, turn on the news, and are told they have a new president.
Last night I saw an amazing SXSW movie that changed that. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a spectacular documentation of the Venezuelan coup. A group of Irish filmmakers were inside the presidential palace throughout the event, filming Chavez as he was forcefully removed by generals, cameras still rolling for his victorious return just days later. (A grinning Chavez addresses the filmmakers as he's led back to his palace offices: "Hey, show me the video of when they took me away!)
The most fascinating moments are when Chavez's Cabinet, with the help of soldiers still loyal to Chavez, retake the palace and try desperately to regain power. With Chavez still imprisoned on some island, they lock the new regime's attorney general in the basement and set about retaking the state news Channel 8 and broadcasting their win. The questions of rule become quite specific and yet chaotic. What determines who's in charge? -- Control of a geographic locale like the palace? Control of the media? Backing of military brass? Backing of military underlings? Support of the Bush administration and the CIA?
Ultimately, power in Venezuela was returned to Chavez largely because he had the popular mandate and the Constitution on his side. Whether you like Chavez or not, if you're a supporter of democracy, that's clearly the only possible happy ending.
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Greetings from Austin, Texas. On the highway a billboard ad for Texas-brewed Zeigenbock beer reads, "Kicking around punier states since 18XX." (Can't remember the year.) Damn straight.
The SXSW festival is on here, and the locals are a bit disgruntled by the putsch of their town by outlanders. While it's none too serious, hospitality has diminished slightly as the price of wristbands has rocketed up. When I first got to UT in '95, an all-music pass was around $65; now it's $120. I don't know how much the film pass is this year. Individual shows can be up to $25! It's kind of silly, actually, to come at this time of year and NOT buy a pass; there's always tons of good music in Austin, but this is the one week of the year where it's really expensive. (Although by LA standards, it's pretty decent; shows are usually $10.)
So the big news at the festival is a semi-surprise performance by Blur, which has a new album coming out soon. I sat next to their replacement bassist, a guy with very bright blue eyes, on the plane. Given that the Austin Chronicle says they're also playing without guitarist Graham Coxon, it hardly seems like Blur at all. Maybe it's like the Blue Man Group, and there will soon be alternate Blurs in New York, Chicago, and Vegas.
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I am here today to report to you on an untold brutality of the Drug War: The scores of innocent victims who have to wait insufferable amounts of time in line for club bathrooms because the stall's being used to snort coke. The long lines are not only unpleasant, but can lead to unspeakable violence when the line gets rowdy.
If cocaine were only legal, bathrooms could go back to being bathrooms.
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Friday! Friday! Friday!
I'm about to take off from the office.The first thing I'm going to do is go buy Devil's Knot, Mara Leveritt's book on the West Memphis Three (see post on Paradise Lost below), which is reviewed by the terrific Damon W. Root in the 4.03 Reason. Unless it's too expensive, in which case I'm going to hang out in B&N for a while and "consider" whether I want to purchase it (read: I'm going to read as much as I can before employees start giving me hag eyes). I'm still obsessed with getting all the facts right now, and am finding this difficult online.
Later tonight, barring total exhaustion or some grand new all-consuming obsession that I discover at B&N, I'm going to meet some people downtown to check this out: www.popomatic.com.
Yes, I've had too much coffee. And Diet Coke. And coffee.
If you're looking for a fun link, go read/view Lane McFadden's photo essay on the Nenana Ice Classic, wherein we discover that even (or esp?) deprived of the temptations of decadent civilization, people will still find crazy ways to spend money and entertain themselves. Sweet humanity, how you move me!
Lane's blog is fast becoming one of my favorite sorts of blogs, what I am starting to call the "value-added blog." I think former Reason intern Jeremy Lott once used that term, but I have assigned a radically different meaning to it. By value-added, I mean blogs that give you not only the sense of a person, but the sense of a place. That's what this blog was originally meant to do, but oh my brothers, have I strayed.
The all-time king of this format is probably Tony Pierce's bus blog. And besides Lane and Salam Pax (below), there's also Moxie, who's done some great LA pics and anecdotes, and Stacey Nightmare... Ain't No Bad Dude did a great production blog from Eastern Europe, and I've seen a couple of more. I think when I finally get my blog roll togethere, I'm going to put a special section for such blogs, right at the top.
Eventually, I will develop the capability to post photos, and will hopefully join the ranks of value-added blogs (not that you NEED photos to do that, obviously). But for now, I am repressed by the horrible jackbooted poor man's Blogger, which let's me do nothing, nothing, nothing, but absolutely free of charge (the rat bastards).
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Iraqi blogger Salam Pax writes: "After the oil wells in Kuwait were set on fire and the whole region covered in the blackest and ugliest cloud it rained for days on Baghdad washing everything with black water from the sky, the marks took a year to wash out. I think Salman Rushdie would have found this very amusing, characters in his novels are always haunted by things past in the strangest ways, the shame of your actions following you and then washing you with it’s black water, no ablutions for you Mr. H watch your city covered with the shame of your actions. We have an expression which roughly translates to "face covered with soot" (skham wijih) which is used to describe someone who has done something utterly disgraceful. Getting your city covered with “skham” once has to haunt you for the rest of your life, now we get “skham from the sky II – the return of the evil cloud”. The world is just a re-run of bad movies, but Mr. W. Bush already beat me to that expression."
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I went to bed last night very, very frustrated. No, dear reader, not *that* kind of frustrated. Sheesh!
I was frustrated because I watched the documentary Paradise Lost, about the three Arkansas teenagers who listened to Slayer and were therefore determined by their town to be satanic cultists who gruesomely murdered three little boys. (OK, that's not the whole story, but that's the gyst of it.) This despite lack of physical evidence and any number of holes in the prosecution's case. I wrote an entry on it at home, but my attempt to email to my office was failed so I'll post it later tonight. In short, I couldn't fall asleep because I wanted to skip off to Arkansas immediately and review every document of the case. Or start writing jail correspondence to Damien. For the record, I don't find it impossible to believe they were guilty, but there's NO WAY that there wasn't reasonable doubt. In fact, there was more reasonable doubt than incriminating evidence.
At one point, one of the kids' lawyers strangely tries to convince him not to hang out anymore with Wiccans. How about: Don't hang out with retarded people who are going to tell police that you castrated a little boy and murdered two others, whether it's true or not. (No folks, that's not REALLY the moral of the story.)
Anyway, more later. On another subject, I'm definitely going to go see MacHomer: MacBeth as a one-man show, featuring 50 different voices from the Simpsons. Link via Michael via Shawn.
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Below are the best lyrics of any song any time any day any place any where any one any ANYTHING... they hang on the wall of my house so they should hang somewhere here too:
Drowse, by Roger Taylor of Queen (from the album A Day at the Races, which miserable me doesn't even own...)
It's the sad-eyed, goodbye, yesterday moments I remember
It's the bleak street, weak-kneed partings I recall
It's the mistier mist
The hazier days
The brighter sun
And the easier lays
There's all the more reason for laughing and crying
When you're younger and life isn't too hard at all
It's the fantastic drowse of the afternoon Sundays
That bored you to rages of tears
The unending pleading, to waste all your good times
In thoughts of your middle aged years
It's a vertical hold, all the things that you're told
For the everyday hero it all turns to zero
And there's all the more reason for living or dying
When you're young and your troubles are all very small
Out here on the street
We'd gather and meet
And scuff up the sidewalk with endlessly restless feet
And half of the time
We'd broaden our minds
More in the poolhall than we did in the schoolhall
With the downtown chewing-gum bums
Watching the nightlife, the lights and the fun
Never wanted to be the boy next door
Always thought I'd be something more
But it ain't easy for a smalltown boy
It ain't easy at all
Thinkin' it right, doin' it wrong
It's easier from an armchair
Waves of alternatives wash at my sleepiness
Have my eggs poached for breakfast I guess
I think I'll be Clint Eastwood
Oh no, Jimi Hendrix, he looks good
Let's try William The Conqueror
Now who else do I like?
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Has anyone else noticed that The Life of David Gale (as seen in previews) bears uncanny resemblance to the movie-within-a-movie that Robert Altman relentlessly mocks in The Player? To be fair, though, it looks more like the movie as Altman's smarmy artsy writer duo originally pitch it, and less like the hero-action movie with a Bruce Willis finale that the Hollywood machine ultimately cranks out. Still, I think Altman's equally snide about both versions...
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