...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

February 25, 2007

I Was Totally Right!

I totally picked Alan Arkin. I should have put money on it! He was 4:3, but the favorite was Eddie Murphy at 1:2. I was in Reno this weekend and I told people I was going to bet and then I chickened out, damn.

My theory was that Arkin would win because Little Miss Sunshine was the only nominated movie out on DVD until just a few weeks ago. Therefore a lot of the voters were probably too lazy to go out and see the other movies, but I'm sure they had Netflix.

Posted by annika at 08:12 PM | Comments (28) | TrackBack

February 24, 2007

Annika's Journal Film Festival: Elizabeth Taylor, Part 2

Today we take a look at the slutty movies: BUtterfield 8 and The Sandpiper.


The Sandpiper, 1965

This movie is set in the beautiful Central Coast of California, from San Simeon to Big Sur. The restaurant Nepenthe even makes an appearance. You may remember I wrote a poem about Nepenthe. In case you don't remember, this is a good excuse for me to re-post it.

At Nepenthe

At the edge of a deep
Verdant crevasse
The hissing ocean so far below
Barely seen this morning
Through the fog

Cool gentle breeze, and
Green strands among blue waves
Of the pacific, sea of forgetfulness
Calming spirit and mind
As you sit waiting

Pale rays of gold
The sun from your left
Warms your arm and lights
This contented respite
On your journey south

Sailing through the mist
Wings teetering, acute dihedrals
Vultures float like seraphim
Two hundred feet beneath
Your outdoor table, where

You eat your nine dollar hamburger
And quaff o’ quaff this diet coke

The Nepenthe of 1965 looks pretty much the same as it did the last time I was there, about ten years ago. I see from their website that they've bumped the price of their hamburger up to $13 since then! In The Sandpiper, it was a hippie hangout too, and the scene of some minor fisticuffs between Charles Bronson and Richard Burton.


Elizabeth Taylor plays Laura Reynolds, a free spirited artist/feminist/atheist who's moved to a cozy shack on the beach in order to raise her son far away from the evil influence of traditional values. She doesn't have a high opinion of men, most especially Richard Burton's character Dr. Hewitt, an Episcopal priest.

Taylor's son gets in trouble with the law for shooting a deer, and the judge orders Taylor to send him to the private religious boarding school run by Burton. Single mom and school principal soon clash over child rearing philosophies, as in this scene.

Dr. Hewitt: It may be hard for you to believe Miss Reynolds, but boys like children of their own age. They also like some order in their lives. Given just a little time, Danny will adjust beautifully.

Laura: Adjust to what?

Dr. Hewitt: To himself, to other people, to society.

Laura: That's just it, I don't want him to adjust to society!

Dr. Hewitt: Well if you want Danny to be a non-conformist, San Simeon is the best place that could happen to him, we'd give him a set of values there that he can rebel against later. Otherwise, he may rebel against yours.

Laura: Oh I see. You mean you teach children evil, so they can rebel against it when they grow and become good.

Despite the parent/teacher friction, Burton quickly becomes smitten by the new MILF, even though he's a priest, and he's already married to another hottie, Eva Marie Saint. It doesn't take long before Burton abandons his scruples and they fuck while a little broken-winged sandpiper looks on.


The Sandpiper
is not a particularly good movie. It's really slow and there's some corny "oh God how I want you" dialogue. The best thing about it is the Oscar winning theme song "The Shadow of Your Smile," and of course the scenery. Check out both in these opening credits.

I expected better from director Vincente Minnelli (An American In Paris, Gigi) and writer Dalton Trumbo (Roman Holiday, Spartacus). I gave it three stars on the Netflix scale, "liked it," but just barely.

BUtterfield 8, 1960

I'll tell you right up front, BUtterfield 8 is one of my favorite Elizabeth Taylor movies. Beautifully shot, amazing performances, great characters, and no Richard Burton! Instead we get Laurence Harvey in the best performance of his career. He plays the same self-important prig that you saw in The Manchurian Candidate and The Alamo, only this time with a lot more depth. He's a playboy who married well, but messes around on his wife out of self-loathing and boredom. He treats his women like whores, until meeting Elizabeth Taylor's character, a nympho by the name of Gloria Wandrous. As in The Sandpipers, Elizabeth Taylor gets cast as the "other woman."

Interestingly, Elizabeth Taylor is at the apex of two love triangles in this one. It's more of a love bowtie, I guess. A subplot involves Taylor's best friend, a writer played by Eddie Fisher, her real life husband at the time. Fisher's girlfriend wants to get married, but he's having trouble getting past his barely concealed crush on Elizabeth Taylor, who toys with his affections mercilessly. Again, she's the "other woman," this time preventing a marriage.

But it's the fiery relationship between Taylor and Harvey that provides all the action in this movie. It opens with Elizabeth Taylor waking up alone in Harvey's bed the morning after their first tryst. She wanders around the mansion, and after brushing her teeth with whiskey, finds a thank you note from Harvey with a wad of cash for her trouble. In retaliation, she scrawls her response in the mirror and steals one of his wife's furs.


The second time they meet is at a bar. I love the dialogue in this scene because they spar like two champions in a draw match. You wonder, has the playboy finally met his match? Has the man-eater finally met hers? At the climax of the scene, Harvey grabs her wrist in a vice-grip, while she crushes his instep with her heel.


Ouch. They both retire to neutral corners after that, but by the end it's Harvey's character who throws in the towel. Can you blame him? It's Elizabeth Taylor! He's so in love he vows to change his life around for her, leave his wife, and get a real job. Taylor cleans up her act too, and it looks like she's become a one man woman at last. But, and there's always a but, in the end their high hopes all come crashing down. Quite literally.

Elizabeth Taylor won the Best Actress Oscar for this role, and she totally deserved it. (She was up against Shirley Maclaine for The Apartment that year. Wow, I'm glad I wasn't voting.) Remember this was 1960 and frank treatment of sexuality was still pretty daring. There's a scene at the end when Taylor breaks down in front of Eddie Fisher, telling him a dark secret. Even by today's standards, that scene still blows me away. That's all I'll say about it.

Hollywood still makes movies about slutty women, but nowadays it's all about shock value and appealing to the sickest impulses of the criminal mind. It's enough to make me turn into a feminist. "Hey let's chain a naked chick to a radiator for the whole movie?" How disgusting. I'll take the classics and Elizabeth Taylor over Christina Ricci and fetish porn anyday.

I gave BUtterfield 8 four stars on the Netflix scale, "really liked it."

Posted by annika at 02:24 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

February 21, 2007

The Top 12 American Idol Women Summarized

Pictures are here, so you can follow along at home.

Stephanie Edwards: Two words: Loved her.

Amy Krebs: Cute girl, big pores, didn't like the dress, loved the shoes, hated the song choice. Maynard had more personality.

Leslie Hunt: I like Leslie. I think her personality is a little quirky, maybe a little bizarre. I love the pirate boots. She should do some sixties hippie material, Michelle Phillips or stuff like that. I think she could be good even though her voice really lacks range.

Sabrina Sloan: Very pretty girl. Great style. Smart song choice. Love love love the black patent stack heels. Nice job with a difficult song. I think I have a crush on her. But on my scorecard, Stephanie was just a notch better, despite what Simon said.

Antonella Barba: Overrated. Safe song choice. She was out of tune. And the red top with the cut-out shoulders was sooo New Jersey.

Jordin Sparks: Impressive. Maybe my favorite so far. With a song that is not vocally challenging, the temptation is to sing it safely, but she made it her own. Very nice. Jordin could win this thing; I wouldn't be surprised. Good personality too, and she managed to kiss up to Simon without making it obvious.

Nicole Tranquillo: Randy said it was "rough," Paula said "she can sing," and Simon thought it was "indulgent." I think they were all right. There's nothing wrong with her instrument, but that performance was odd at best. The words were indecipherable and her facial contortions were completely unnecessary. Honestly, it was painful and embarrassing to watch. Prediction: she may not be here next week.

Haley Scarnato: So many Italian girls representing tonight! That song was so boring I completely forgot to listen. Her outfit was hideous. Black strapless jumpsuit with an Eighties big-belt. Nauseating. She may survive to next week, but it won't be on the strength of that performance.

Melinda Doolittle: Someone is lying to us. This is not a shy girl with no self-confidence. You can't fake that kind of stage presence. I don't believe that whole shtick, but the storyline will probably win fan loyalty. She doesn't need the gimmick though, because she might be the best singer in the competition. She'll make it to the top six, easy. Maybe even final two.

Alaina Alexander: Bye-bye.

Gina Glocksen: I like her, but I hated the song, "All By Myself," what a boring song choice. It's boring in the original version. Who does it even? See, I don't even remember the original artist. I know Celine Dion did it, but someone else did it first, and I can't remember who.

LaKisha Jones: Very nice. She sounded like she'd been in the business for years. Professional. I hesitate to make the comparison to Mandisa from last year, whom I loved. But the judges were obviously thinking the same thing when they picked her. She's better than Mandisa was, which is very good indeed.

Even the worst of tonight's women were better than the men last night. Easy prediction: this year's AI champ will be one of the girls.

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Clinton, Bomber Trade Jabs Early

Presidential politics just might be my favorite spectator sport. And the Democrat league, like the AFL, is inevitably where you'll find the most action. Damn I love the Democrats.

I hope you've heard about the latest Clinton-Bomber skirmish. It's a sure sign of the even worse backbiting to come.

The latest row was sparked by music mogul and former Clinton toady David Geffen, now a Bomber groupie, whose comments were a knife in the back of Mrs. Clinton. He said:

Everybody in politics lies, but they [the Clintons] do it with such ease, it's troubling.
Slate.com cited this theory on why David Geffen might have turned against the Clintons:
The gossip passed around by those who follow Hollywood and politics holds that Geffen fell out with Bill Clinton much later over the then-president's refusal to pardon Leonard Peltier and over Clinton's subsequent allusion to Geffen's thwarted lobbying effort to demonstrate that he didn't dole out pardons as favors to certain friends.
Anyways, Hillary didn't like what Geffen said and her campaign wants Bomber to disavow the statement and return Geffen's money. Bomber, perhaps deciding it was best to draw a line in the sand early against the Clinton machine, said no.

At a candidate forum in Nevada today, Hillary played the "politics of personal destruction" card, which I think Bill invented:

I sure don't want Democrats or supporters of Democrats to be engaging in the politics of personal destruction.
She said, no doubt hiding an ironic smile.

I'm fascinated by Bronco Bomber. If I was a liberal, I'd totally jump on his bandwagon, and not just because I love making fun of his name. He's got a lot of strengths. He's very personable and yes, I hear he's articulate and clean too. I think we all want a candidate who bathes regularly, regardless of our party affiliation.

I'm not yet convinced however, that Bronco Bomber is not this season's Howard Dean. Being a media darling means nothing to the Iowa caucusers. Serious political junkies have to admit that raising a ton of money means nothing if your organization doesn't know how to use it.

People like David Geffen may represent the vocal face of the Democratic party. But they don't represent the majority of voting Democrats, who are more centrist than the press corps realizes. That's why Dean came in third in Iowa last time, even though the media kept treating him like he was the front runner. Rank and file Democrats were rightly suspicious of Dean's electability, and they went for the safer bet, John Kerry. The trouble was, they didn't inspect the goods well enough before switching to Kerry, and they got burned.

Not that I place much stock in the "Hawkeye Cauci," as Rush calls it. I don't. New Hampshire has always been a more reliable indicator of party preference, historically. And Bronco Bomber is no Howard Dean; they don't share the same negatives. That's good for Bronco. Unfortunately his poll numbers are not in a range where he should be getting the kind of press he's getting right now. The latest polls have him losing to Hillary by an average of 18.2 points. That's a lot of ground to make up, even for a media darling.

For now, Bomber's just not a credible challenger, though I love watching him make Hillary sweat.

Posted by annika at 08:13 PM | Comments (13) | TrackBack

Iran Plan

The BBC announced that the U.S. has a plan to attack Iran and they know the details. No shit, so do I. Anybody with a brain knows we have a plan, and that it would be negligence if our military did not have a plan.

The BBC seems overly concerned with this little bit too:

US contingency plans for air strikes on Iran extend beyond nuclear sites and include most of the country's military infrastructure, the BBC has learned.

It is understood that any such attack - if ordered - would target Iranian air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres.

Well, duh. One of the arguments against attacking Iran's nuclear research sites is that they might retaliate against our ships in the Gulf, and threaten shipping. Therefore, it makes sense that any attack plan address that threat too, by targeting "air bases, naval bases, missile facilities and command-and-control centres."

Calm down Beeb.

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February 20, 2007

The Top 12 American Idol Men Summarized

Rudy: Two words: utterly sucked.

Brandon: Not a note in tune. Perhaps he'll get it right eventually.

Sundance Head: WTF? "Like Dad at a wedding" was spot on. He's unusual enough that he'll last into the final six, but tonight was not good.

Paul Kim: Kevin, tell your bro to put some shoes on. Sucked.

Does anybody belong this season? What the hell is going on? And please, someone tell the contestants that the whole holding your hand up like a phone and mouthing the words "call me" has been done to death.

Boy Band Wannabe #1, Chris: Check out his dad in the audience. Now we know where he got his moves. Baaaaad.

Nick "Vote For" Pedro: Dude, instead of slouching, try moving the mike up. It might also help if you found at least one note too.

Everybody sucks tonight. I don't remember a season that has started out this bad. But I had a feeling after getting a taste of these losers last week.

Boy Band Wannabe #2, Blake: His dad is the disastrous byproduct of a cloning experiment using Bill Cowher and Victor French's DNA.

Sam Jaya: I didn't think he was that bad. The judges all beat up on him. But a little vocal coaching and he could be good to go.

Paula looks like she's either had a cervical fusion recently and is unable to move her neck, or someone injected botox directly into her carotid artery.

Chris "The Funny Gigh" Sligh: With that hairstyle, he's gotta do at least one Weird Al song before he gets kicked off. He was okay. I expected more. Like Sundance, his personality might carry him probably into the final six.

Jared "Welcome Back" Cotter: Best so far, and he wasn't that good. I'll pick him to make it to the final six though.

Boy Band Wannabe #3, A.J.: Luther Vandross? What's going on here? Doc, you gotta help me! I came here in a time machine you invented, and I need your help to get out of the year 1985!

Phil The Navy Guy: Gollum can sing.

Tonight's show was the worst AI ever. I hope the girls will be better tomorrow, but about half of them are Barbies who don't belong up there either.

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February 14, 2007

Valentine's Day is Poetry Day: Shakespeare

A simple and beautiful sonnet, expressing love using some of the simplest words in the English language. Only Shakespeare could have written this poem.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Posted by Victor at 01:40 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

February 12, 2007

Lego London

The vikings are gone, but Denmark is still invading Britain, via Lego.

h/t Londonist, by way of LAist.

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February 11, 2007

Chill Wind Update

Whatever happened to Tim Robbins's "chill wind?"

It must be yet another sign of global warming, because that "chill wind" is getting downright balmy.

Posted by annika at 11:21 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

For 24 & ATHF Fans Only

If you are a member of the set (24 fans) ∩ (ATHF fans), this hilarious spoof is for you.

Posted by annika at 11:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Social Science As The Answer

Back in August I asked this rhetorical question:

I'm sure there's lots of guys working in thinktanks and war colleges whose job it is to figure these things out, but so far I haven't seen nor heard of any effective way to fight guerrillas other than by total unrestricted warfare — which we won't do. How do you counter the weighty advantage they've claimed for themselves by co-opting the machinery of world public opinion? How do you beat an enemy that has perfected the use of civilian deaths both offensively and defensively, if your one achilles heel is the fear of civilian deaths?
By researching the bio of Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, whom I quoted in my last post, I found this essential article by George Packer in the December 2006 issue of The New Yorker. It may contain the answer to my question, namely "is there another way?"

The article is New Yorker length, unfortunately. But it's Sunday Morning, so why not print it out and read it with your coffee instead of the funnies.

Lt. Col. Kilcullen and Dr. Montgomery McFate* are two people who may provide the "new way" I've been talking about. I have read about the social sciences approach to counter-insurgency before and I was very skeptical. The New Yorker article is detailed enough to be persuasive. The anthropological approach is more than just "hearts and minds" b.s. Properly implemented, it's an integrated and adaptable strategy that includes force, coersion, propaganda, and all those other fun things I've said we need to be doing. But it also recognizes that we're in a new "information age" and we need to understand and adapt to the advantage this gives our enemy.

Another very important concept, which I've not considered before, but which makes perfect sense to me, is this:

“I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in East Timor,” [Kilcullen] said. “After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate.” In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency—a local separatist movement with mystical leanings—had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, “What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that it’s not about theology.” He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.
I think it's really more complicated than just saying "kill the enemy." As a spectator, I've been as guilty as anyone in believing that our problem was an insufficiency of ass-kicking. Kilcullen sees radical Islam as just a template that the terrorist assholes plug into when they decide to dedicate themselves to their particular brand of assholery. But it's social networks, i.e. their friends, family and local communities, that are the avenue towards jihad. I think about gang members here in the U.S. These are "military age males" who would probably be joining al Qaeda if they were in Pakistan. Why, because they're assholes, and gangs or al Qaeda are what their particular social networks would drive them towards.

We need a strategy that understands and targets those social networks with a flexible and multi-faceted approach. The correct strategy should work not only in Iraq but also in the "long war," which includes Afghanistan, Africa, Europe, Southeast Asia and wherever else radical Islam is making inroads. But as the article points out, not many in government understand the problem or have the expertise to tackle it. Another obstacle is the decades long antipathy of social science academics to any endeavor that might be considered patriotic.

That needs to change.

* A fellow Cal Bear.

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February 10, 2007

Surge Strategy

There's a reason why I haven't written whether I think the Surge Strategy will work or whether it's a good idea. I'm not an expert in any of the disciplines necessary for my opinion to have any value. In fact, most of my knowledge regarding the Iraq War comes from secondary sources, written by other people who are similarly ignorant, i.e. the press.

The vast majority of reporters and columnists who write about Iraq and pretend to know what they're talking about are completely incompetent to do so. Not only is their journalism degree inadequate for the task (it's a glorified general ed degree) but their undisguised bias robs their output of any credibility. Yet, from my desk chair, I'm forced to rely on these people almost exclusively for my information. So, as a result, my opinions are just about as worthless.

That's why I'm taking a wait and see approach. I do consider myself an expert on another thing, though: I'm an expert on the domestic battlefield. This is why I have said over and over again that we must achieve success in Iraq quickly, because if Americans don't see progress soon, our next president will pull the plug on the whole noble enterprise.

So I was very encouraged when the President yanked the most recent generals in charge, good men though they might be, and replaced them with guys who understand the need for a change in strategy. Today is General Petraeus's first day on the job. His resume is impressive.* He's had success before.** I wish him and his new strategy well.

Australian Lt. Col. David Kilcullen is an advisor to Gen. Petraeus and an expert on counter-insurgency strategy. He's also a Duntroon grad and a veteran of East Timor. In this post at Small Wars Journal, Kilcullen outlines the two schools of thought regarding counter-insurgency.***

An illustrative anecdote:

In Timor in 1999 I worked closely with village elders in the border districts. I sat down with several of them one afternoon to discuss their perception of how the campaign was progressing, and they complained that the Australians weren't securing them in the fields and villages, that they felt unsafe because of the militia (the local term for cross-border guerrillas) and that we needed to do more to protect them. In actual fact, we were out in large numbers, securing the border against infiltration, patrolling by night, conducting 14 to 21-day patrols in the jungle to deny the militias a chance to build sanctuaries, and working in close in the villages to maintain popular support. There had not been a single successful attack by the insurgents on the population for more than two months. So, "objectively", they were secure. But -- and this is the critical point -- because our troops were sneaking around in the jungle and at night, staying out of the villagers' way and focusing on defeating enemy attempts to target the population, they did not see us about, and hence did not feel “subjectively” secure. This was exacerbated by the fact that they had just experienced a major psychological trauma (occupation, insurgency, mass destruction and international intervention) and as a society they needed time and support for a degree of "mental reconstruction". Based on their feedback (and that of lots of other meetings and observations) we changed our operational approach, became a bit more visible to the population and focused on giving them the feeling, as well as the reality, of safety. Once we did that, it was fine.

In other words, we had to shift from a more enemy-centric approach to a more population-centric approach to adjust to the developing situation. My personal lesson from this experience was that the correct approach is situation-dependent, and the situation changes over time. Therefore the key is to develop mechanisms that allow you to read the environment, to be agile and to adapt . . .

Adaptation is the key, and I'm glad to see that we're trying something new. I hope it works.

You can see how the above example illustrates the need for more troops and contact with the population. It's more than just switching to a zone defense from man-to-man. At least in the short run, our new strategy will provide the enemy with more opportunities to kill Americans. We're not going to like that here at home, and I have no illusions that the media will understand what's happening or that a different strategy is at work. The commanders in theater, and the President must realize that the home front will not cut them any slack and they have to get it right this time.

* But so was McClellan's.

** But so did Hooker.

*** The comments are especially interesting.

Posted by annika at 11:41 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

February 09, 2007

Peter Pumpkin The Spectacular Pumpkin, Episode 71


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February 08, 2007

Apple Spoof

Have you seen those commercials for Apple lately? This spoof is pretty dang funny.

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Peter Pumpkin The Spectacular Pumpkin, Episode 70


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February 07, 2007

You Heard It Here First

I'm telling you, the secret's getting out. The latest Gallup poll reveals:

In a head-to-head matchup against McCain in a Gallup poll of Republicans and Republican "leaners" taken Jan. 25-28, Giuliani beat the Arizona senator handily in most categories: better public speaker, more likable, better chance of beating the Democratic nominee, would run a more positive campaign, would perform better in debates, would do more to unite the country, would manage the country more effectively, would be better in a crisis, better understands the problems faced by ordinary Americans, and strength of leadership.
What did I just say?

The Monitor article from which I pulled that quote also says that Giuliani's approval ratings are at 62%. Sixty-two percent! That will change as the attack machine heats up. But I ask you, can anyone name another public figure with numbers over 60%? I can't think of one. That's unheard of in this age of hyper-negativity.

On the other hand, some analysts say that McCain's recent dip in polling is due to his more vocal support of the President's Surge plan. It's possible that not a lot of poll respondents knew Giuliani's position on the Iraq War is identical to McCain's. Or maybe they do, but they just trust Giuliani more.

That's my take. Even if I liked McCain, I would always favor a guy with executive experience over legislative experience. Theoretically, executives must work in the real world where results are expected. Therefore, they should be more results oriented. Legislators on the other hand, work in a world of theoretical projections, possibilities and imaginary outcomes. When they fuck up, they're rarely held to account because they simply blame the other party, the executive, or both.

[How can I quit blogging this summer when Campaign '08 is already so interesting?]

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Breaking News And Commentary



The judge released the Astronut chick on bail because he didn't consider her a flight risk! In what universe is she not a flight risk?!?! Hellooooo!?!? She's a pilot. She can fly! By definition that makes her a flight risk.

And not only that, she's an astronaut. What's to stop her from getting into her spaceship and flying off to another planet tomorrow? Then the only way we could catch her is by sending a team of astronauts after her. And I doubt we have many astronauts trained in law enforcement.

This is a bad situation just waiting to happen. What if, for instance, she escapes to the moon? Would the cops/astronauts have jurisdiction there? Maybe at Tranquility Base, since that's U.S. territory. But what if she hides out in some other crater with a jug of water, some Tang and a box of Depends? We might never find her. I don't think her GPS bracelet is going to be much help on the moon.

Or what if she made it all the way to Mars? I'm sure there's no extradition treaty with the Martians, and they hate us anyway. Oh those Martians would jump at the chance to grant asylum for an ex-astronaut simply to embarrass us, like the French do with Roman Polanski. Those Martians think they're so superior, just because their orbit is bigger than ours.

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Wednesday is Poetry to Kick Ass By Day: Robert Burns

My beloved Caps are in a slump. Tonight they were listless and slow, and lost in a shootout to a shitty team...again. Clearly, they need some poetry to stir their blood, and who better to do it than Robert Burns?

Besides, annika and I both missed his birthday last month...January 25.

Robert Bruce's March To Bannockburn (1793)

Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome to your gory bed,
Or to Victorie!

Now's the day, and now's the hour;
See the front o' battle lour;
See approach proud Edward's power-
Chains and Slaverie!

Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha can fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a Slave?
Let him turn and flee!

Wha, for Scotland's King and Law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Free-man stand, or Free-man fa',
Let him on wi' me!

By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your Sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

Lay the proud Usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!-
Let us Do or Die!

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February 06, 2007

The Second Annual AJFF: Elizabeth Taylor, Part One

As promised, we begin our tour of Elizabeth Taylor in the 60s. I might just as easily have called it Elizabeth Taylor, the Richard Burton years. She and Richard were the Brangelina of their day, and they made nine movies together during that decade.


Taylor and Burton began their affair during the filming of Cleopatra, while they were both married to someone else. Today we'll take a look at their second movie together, released the same year as Cleopatra.

The V.I.P.s, 1963

A movie poster for The V.I.P.s promises:

ELIZABETH TAYLOR... and RICHARD BURTON... in a story about... that exciting chemistry: man and woman! The emotions... are measured... in megatons!
The copy is deceptive, because V.I.Ps is really an ensemble film. If you count up all the Academy Awards owned by members of the cast, the total comes to six. Taylor won two, Maggie Smith won two, Margaret Rutherford won one (for The V.I.P.s) and Orson Welles won an honorary Oscar. That's not to mention Richard Burton's seven Oscar nominations (he never won).

Despite its dream-team cast, the movie is not another Ishtar. There are some really good performances, most notably Louis Jourdan's as Elizabeth Taylor's paramour.


Taylor does what she can with a script that assigned her the least interesting character. Her performance is subtle, and as usual she conveys as much with her eyes and a tilt of the head as she does with her lines. But Jourdan's character is the one we get to know best. It's a love triangle story. Jourdan is the playboy gambler who has stolen Elizabeth Taylor away from her rich husband, Richard Burton. Interestingly, at that time, Burton was in the process of stealing Taylor away from Eddie Fisher.

The other plot lines involve Rod Taylor as a charming but unlucky Australian businessman and Maggie Smith plays his girl Friday, who's secretly in love with him. Orson Welles plays a characature of a film director, who tries various schemes in order to dodge the onerous British tax system. Welles's storyline is intended to be comic relief, but ends up being totally forgettable. Welles was in the middle of his second European exile, and perhaps he needed the money.

Since the movie centers loosely around a transatlantic airline flight, it's fun to see a romanticized version of passenger air service, Fifties style. In the movie, BOAC assigns a special guy just to take care of the first class passengers. When the flight is delayed, they all get luxury suites in the BOAC hotel, and a car to pick them up in the morning. Nice.


But even back then, there were nasty flight attendants. Here's how Margaret Rutherford as a disheveled, pill popping duchess dealt with one impudent stewardess:

Duchess: Conductress... Conductress!

Stewardess: (coolly) Did someone call something?

Duchess: Yes dear, I did. Will you please put this thing in the hold.

Stewardess: In the hold?

Duchess: Well, wherever you do put luggage that isn't wanted on the voyage.

Stewardess: If you had wanted this with your other luggage, you should've thought of that earlier, shouldn't you've?

Duchess: (regally) If that is a question to me personally, yes. If it is a general comment on human behaviour, it is an extremely unoriginal one, and hardly worth making. Kindly dispose of this hatbox.

Stewardess: But I have no room.

Duchess: Well then, you must make room, mustn't you dear.

Rutherford's character has some really funny lines, but giving her an Academy Award for that tiny part reminds me of Jack Palance's Oscar.

Maggie Smith, whom I love, and whom you probably know best as Professor McGonagall of Gryffindor House, is wasted in The V.I.P.s. If you want to see how wonderful an actress she is, do rent The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie right away.

I gave The V.I.P.s a 3 out of 5 on the Neflix scale: "liked it." Put it on your movie watching queue only if you're a serious ET/RB fan, which I hope you will be by the end of this film festival. But before I leave you, I want you to look at the chair in this next screencap closely.


Strawman is probably the only one who may recognize it as a Poul Kjærholm design (at least a knockoff). When I was in Denmark last summer, I had the pleasure of seeing a Kjærholm exhibit at the Louisiana museum on the east coast of Sjælland. I totally want that chair.

Posted by annika at 11:23 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Ronald Reagan Day

Don't forget today is the birthday of my great hero, Ronald Reagan.

He was also Maggie's hero.

via Good Lt at Jawa

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February 05, 2007

Did You Hear About The Crazy Astronaut?


This is some pretty wild shit.

An astronaut drove 900 miles and donned a disguise to confront a woman she believed was her rival for the affections of a space shuttle pilot, police said. She was arrested Monday and charged with attempted kidnapping and other counts.

U.S. Navy Capt. Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew last July on a shuttle mission to the international space station, was also charged with attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery. She was denied bail.

. . .

Police said Nowak drove from her home in Houston to the Orlando International Airport to confront Colleen Shipman.

Nowak believed Shipman was romantically involved with Navy Cmdr. William Oefelein, a pilot during space shuttle Discovery's trip to the space station last December, police said.

Nowak told police that her relationship with Oefelein was "more than a working relationship but less than a romantic relationship," according to an arrest affidavit. Police officers recovered a love letter to Oefelein in her car.

. . .

When she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she wouldn't have to stop to urinate, authorities said.

Astronauts wear diapers during launch and re-entry.

Dressed in a wig and a trench coat, Nowak boarded an airport bus that Shipman took to her car in an airport parking lot. Shipman told police she noticed someone following her, hurried inside the car and locked the doors, according to the arrest affidavit.

Nowak rapped on the window, tried to open the car door and asked for a ride. Shipman refused but rolled down the car window a few inches when Nowak started crying. Nowak then sprayed a chemical into Shipman's car, the affidavit said.

Shipman drove to the parking lot booth, and the police were called.

During a check of the parking lot, an officer followed Nowak and watched her throw away a bag containing the wig and BB gun. They also found a steel mallet, a 4-inch folding knife, rubber tubing, $600 and garbage bags inside a bag Nowak was carrying when she was arrested, authorities said.

Inside Nowak's vehicle, which was parked at a nearby motel, authorities uncovered a pepper spray package, an unused BB-gun cartridge, latex gloves and e-mails between Shipman and Oefelein. They also found a letter "that indicated how much Mrs. Nowak loved Mr. Oefelein," an opened package for a buck knife, Shipman's home address and hand written directions to the address, the arrest affidavit said.

Police said Nowak told them that she only wanted to scare Shipman into talking to her about her relationship with Oefelein and didn't want to harm her physically.

"If you were just going to talk to someone, I don't know that you would need a wig, a trench coat, an air cartridge BB gun and pepper spray," said Sgt. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department. "It's just really a very sad case. ... Now she ends up finding herself on the other side of the law with some very serious charges."

If convicted of attempted kidnapping, Nowak could face a maximum of life in prison.

Her first mistake was going to Nick Nolte's stylist before the arrest.

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Rudy Is In

You may have sensed that I am a fan of Rudy Giuliani. While I haven't yet decided who I'm going to support, Rudy definitely makes the short list. And it's a very short list. I've already done the math on him, and nobody has yet debunked my theory. In fact, I'm the only one I've ever heard talking about the New York factor.

In a nutshell, my theory is this: People say Rudy is vulnerable on social issues, meaning he won't win the Red States. But people forget that he has a serious shot at winning New York, even against Hillary. And if Rudy wins NY's 31 electoral votes, he can pretty much thumb his nose at the South and still win the presidency. And I say, if he wins NY, he'll probably get NJ, and possibly PA and CT, too. Let me tell you, that's a scenario that scares the hell out of a lot of people. That's why no one's talking about it.

Now that Rudy's all but announced, you're going to hear a lot of people repeating the same mantra: "He's too liberal to win the nomination." Don't you believe it. The media wants you to believe it, because they know how formidable he really is. They've seen the polling. The "three-G"* conservatives want you to believe it too, because Rudy gives them nightmares.

But before you give in to the anti-hype, read this article in City Journal, entitled "Yes, Rudy Giuliani Is a Conservative". You may not come away completely convinced, but at least you'll know he's not the antichrist, as some want you to believe.

He cleaned up New York when the rest of the world had written it off. Ask any New Yorker. Pre-Giuliani, you took your life into your hands walking in the park after dark, or just riding the subway. Broadway was a shithole. There used to be certain neighborhoods where nobody wanted to live, that are now impossible to afford. New York had a genuine Renaissance in the 1990's and it was thanks to Rudy Giuliani. New Yorkers won't forget this.

Of course Rudy led that Renaissance in the face of withering criticism from the left. He made enemies, and as his tenure was winding down, his enemies seemed to have gotten to him. The Diallo shooting didn't help, either. But then came 9/11, and people saw again that this man was a courageous, principled and born leader. Flawed yes, but that's only a reminder that he's human like all of us. Rudy's personal problems are not going to dissuade New Yorkers from supporting him. They voted overwhelmingly for Clinton too.

Don't forget also that Giuliani is an amazing speaker. He gave the best speech at the 2004 Republican Convention. His style is spontaneous, populist, and deceptively effective. While Zell Miller fired up the base and Schwarzenegger won over the pundits, Rudy's speech was the most articulate defense of the War on Terror that has ever been given to a national audience.

Giuliani has also positioned himself well, by staying out of the administration. To move forward, he will need to come up with an approach to the Iraq mess that navigates the gulf between his unequivocal support for the War and the subsequent truth that Bush and Company have fucked it all up. On that issue he may lose ground to McCain, who has also been unwavering in his belief the Iraq was the right thing to do, while at the same time he's never thought we were doing it right.

In a sense, all Republican candidates except for Hagel are hamstrung by the success or failure of the President's Surge plan. No pro-war Republican will be elected on a victory platform if victory isn't within sight. Mark my words, if the Surge fails to show progress within the next 12 months, we will have a Democratic president in 2009. I think McCain and Giuliani have the best chance of convincing independent voters to stay the course in Iraq, but ultimately I think they'd lose to a cut-and-run Democrat if we don't start winning soon.

Finally, back to Giuliani's social liberal weaknesses. To those who don't like Rudy because he's pro gay marriage, I say where have you been? Gay marriage is here. It's a reality. The only way to put that genie back in the bottle is by a Constitutional Amendment, and good luck with that one. Same goes for abortion, and I'm about as far to the right on the abortion issue as it is possible to be. Rudy does worry me about gun rights, but he made a good first step at winning my confidence two days ago when he said:

I think those are the kinds of justices I would appoint - Scalia, Alito and Roberts. If you can find anybody as good as that, you are very, very fortunate.
I'll keep watching. But as it stands now, Rudy should be the front-runner and I'm skeptical of any polls that don't have him at or near the top. His opponents in both parties will be gunning for him now. Rudy's never been shy about fighting back, so it should be a very interesting campaign whatever happens.

* Guns, gays and God.

Posted by annika at 08:11 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack

Cold Blast Pushes Global Warming Off The Front Page

The words "Global" and "Warming" were conspicuously absent from tonight's NBC Nightly News, I'm here to tell you.

The good news, if there is any, about what's being called the Midwest Cold Blast, or alternately, the Cold Snap, is that we won't be lectured about Global Warming again for at least another week.

Posted by annika at 07:48 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 02, 2007

Ground Hog Day Haiku

phil says early spring
biden says obama's clean
long live barbaro

Posted by annika at 08:40 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack