Friday, March 19, 2004

I Do My Part

Just a reminder that I have been a busy guy for John Kerry, and have a page of campaign posters for him. There are two posters up now! I hope y'all appreciate my hard work. Feel free to distribute the images all you want, just please give me credit. And don't steal my bandwidth, either. Download the images to your own server.

Look here.
Question Of The Day

When the French got all uppity and sniffy about America's desire to whomp the shit out of Iraq, they quickly earned the sobriquet "cheese-eating surrender monkeys."

So why is it, when the Spanish Socialists got the upper hand and steered Spain back into the Hidey-hole of Don't Hurt Us Please Sir, they didn't get called "salsa-eating surrender monkeys?"

Seems so obvious to me, but I haven't seen it around. Que?
Two Thoughts And A Quote

A couple of Thoughts For The Day and a quote I really like:

When you're 20 you don't know.
When you're 30 you know you don't know.
When you're 40 you know, but you don't know you know.
When you're 50 you know and you know you know.


Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length.

Thanks to Fark for both of those. And from Jemima Periera comes this 1798 quote from John Adams:

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Mr. Mike's Link Party!

As I noted below, I'm woefully behind in my bookmarks. I've got tons of stuff I meant to blog on that sat fallow while I've been in The Grey Lands. Most of it was time sensitive, where if you don't blog on it right then everyone else already has and you're old news that no one cares about any more. I still haven't found a way to reconcile wanting to blog on the topics of the day and being laid low on a regular basis by depression. I may have to accept it, I guess, and blog on anyway.

Anyway, instead of a whole lot of short posts, I'm just going to do this Insta-style.

* The New York Post (Link works today; you may have to backtrack after that.) has an item, for some reason buried in the Gossip section, on a Details magazine story about "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS." Fascinating stuff, and controversial. Folks who can remember that far back recall the hysteria the media promoted about how AIDS was going to devastate the "straight" community, not just gays and drug users. Never happened. Unfortunately, the Details story isn't online, but I found another site that quotes more from it. Go read.

No surprise to learn that it was all a bunch of hype by folks looking to promote an agenda or get government money. I never believed that the hetero population was as sexually active as the gay male community. Very few het men have the same number of partners that most sexually active gays do. And, as the article points out, het sex just doesn't involve as much potentially porous tissue and unprotected areas as anal sex. I remember an article somewhere that showed few women allowed anal sex, so that plays a part as well. It was all about getting "breeders" to care by scaring them into believing it could happen to them as well. Turns out you're more likely to get hit by lightning, by an order of magnitude, then to catch AIDS. Go read both posts.

* All the gay marriages happening in San Francisco have brought a celebrity couple out of the closet. Very logical.

* Just stumbling arund the Web, I came across this essay, entitled "If Jesus Had Never Been Born." It's a look at the kinds of changes we might have seen in history in a Christianity-free world. Turns out, not so different, unless you jump off from the essay and think about some of his extrapolations. While there, take a gander at some of the other essays by John J. Reilly. Chewy stuff.

* We're already hearing piffle about how this is a "negative" campaign and how it's going to be down and dirty. Pooh. Our modern elections have nothing on 19th century politics. Try reading about the 1884 campaign. It started with a Presidential assassination, reached its zenith with revelations that the main candidate had a bastard child, and featured secret meetings, party defections and multiple conventions. Now that's politics!

* Motion-induced blindness! Whee! Try this test to see. All three yellow dots are always there, but your eye and mind lose them every once in a while.

* Fans of Homestar Runner have been waiting for Strong Bad's 100th email. It wasn't here, like most folks thought, but was secretly moved here. Was it worth the wait? Holy crap! YOU BET!

Note to newbies: Like all Homestar Runner Flash animation, wave your cursor around the screen to find the Easter eggs. Lots of them on the last screen, including a special message from Limozeen!

* I hope to post more about the Madrid bombing and the resulting election of the Socialists later, but for now, Oliver Kamm, a disaffected member of the English Liberal Democratic Party says it more eloquently than I. Go and read, especially the comments. Sample quote:
In the circumstances, it is a bizarre misalignment ? more like a category mistake - to suppose that Islamist terror is designed to influence the policy complexion of western states. The restoration of the Caliphate and the destruction of the Jews are not aims of the same type as that of getting 1300 Spanish peacekeepers withdrawn from Iraq. Bin Laden ? supposing he is alive, as I doubt ? doesn?t care whether those troops are in Iraq or elsewhere: he just wants them, and us, dead.

I labour this because some of the commentary today from those like Andrew who supported war in Iraq elides the distinction between these incommensurable goals. That?s a significant error on two grounds. The lesser ground is that those who wish for the defeat of world leaders favourable to President Bush?s strategy thereby have a perfect opportunity to affect umbrage at the notion that to be anti-terror requires one to vote in a particular way, and I?d like to deny them the pleasure of righteous indignation. The more substantial reason is that it implicitly concedes a case to the anti-war campaigners that ought to be withheld. If policies carried out by western governments can be predicted to provoke the murder of our citizens, then there is a seductive and utterly wrongheaded argument that those policies ought to be calibrated so as to minimise such provocation.

* I'm not sure how many of you are Spalding Gray fans, but he was a monologist and actor I enjoyed. His movie Swimming to Cambodia was all about his experiences making the movie The Killing Fields. Swimming was nothing more than Spalding, a table with a glass of water, and a chair, on a stage for ninety minutes, but it was competely enthralling. He painted such pictures with his words that you were transported. Sadly, back in January, he went missing. Suicide was feared. You can read this interview to learn a whole lot about the guy, including some battles with demons. It's worth your time for the view into neurosis and mental illness. Then came the news that his body was found. He will be missed.

* Last one! Got dreams of being a rock and roll star? Think again. Musician and record producer Steve Albini lays out the reality for you. It's not pretty. Basicallly, the record company makes out like a bandit and you get the bill.
Janeane Garofalo Crush

Don't hit me, but yeah, I have a crush on Janeane Garofalo. Her politics are despicable, but she's cute and funny and cute. Her stand up comedy is so-so, but her stints on Larry Sanders and The Ben Stiller Show are great, as have been many of her movie appearances.

I really think she could be the next Eve Arden (pic here) if she wanted; she plays the cynical, smart-mouthed best friend like few others. She's attrative enough to pull it off, but not so good looking as to detract from the star. Look at her chemistry with Uma Thurman in The Truth About Cats And Dogs for an idea of what it would be like.

But Garofalo doesn't particularly care for acting, as she finds the phoniness of the industry off-putting. Whatever. You can read about that in this interview. But, in the couse of the interview, she mentions that her favorite movie of what she's done is The Matchmaker. So, I rented it to see how it was.

Wow. I really wish she'd rethink her attitudes to movies. I won't do a full review, but if you're looking for a "date night" movie to get all mushy over, this is the one. Pure piffle, with a plot you can guess from the first ten minutes, but well-handled and pretty funny. It only drags, amazingly enough, when Garofalo is off screen!

Garofalo shines, too, especially dressed in regular adult clothes. She reins in her caustic side and ramps up the megawatt smiles to wonderful effect. She plays a fish out of water stuck in a small Irish village during the annual Matchmaker Festival. Of course, she "meets cute" with the local handsome lad and the rest of the movie is all bumbling to love. Nothing you haven't seen, but I can see why Garofalo is proud. She looks great and holds up the film with aplomb.

[Side note: A word on cameos. Actor Robert Mandan makes a two-minute cameo at the end of the movie as a character's father. He played Chester Tate on "Soap" and was a staple of Eighties television. But in his short cameo here, he makes the most of his time and fully realises his character. It's a model of acting and great to watch. He was pretty close to his death by then, but he has polish and charisma to spare. Marvelous work.

My favorite cameo still is John Mahoney in Betrayed, where he plays the white supremacist father of a murdered son. In a ten minute scene with Debra Winger, sitting around a campfire, he takes what had been a cardboard spear-carrier part and breathes full life into it. By the end of the scene, he's become a living person, with emotions, history, family and motivation. You find yourself sympathising with a white supremacist. All in ten minutes. It's still a wonder to behold.

End digression!]

Where was I? Oh yeah, Janeane Garofalo, crushcrushcrush. It's a shame she's backing away from movies. The "Eve Arden character" is an important role in movies and no one is currently filling it. Elizabeth McCormick and Elizabeth Perkins were in the running for a while, but have faded. Arden was famous as the older, wise-cracking, skeptical, world-weary best friend of the movie's lead. She could be counted on to give bad, jaded advice that kept the two leads apart and would then reliably fall for the male lead's best friend at the end, slightly less cynical than before. Arden made a career of playing those roles and was perfectly cast.

C'mon Janeane!
DVD Review: Seven Samurai

Most of you have seen this movie, believe it or not. It was remade in America as The Magnificent Seven. Great movie.

So why should you see The Seven Samurai, the Japanese original? It's over three hours long, in black and white, set in feudal Japan and has subtitles. Is it that good? The short answer is: YES! This movie is an epic adventure about the struggle between good, less-good and evil. It's about how society depends on cops/soldiers, but holds them apart.

A group of bandits are overheard making plans to raid a village when the harvest comes in. The villagers relunctantly decide to hire some samurai (think of them as roaming, authorised, cops for hire) to defend themselves. The rest of the film follows the characters as they approach the climactic battle -- touching on themes of love, respect, deception, community, honor and duty.

Frankly, it's only the subtitle issue that should stop you. Yeah, the movie has some talky parts and the titles fly by thick and fast. Nothing I can do there, sad to say. But the cinematography is spectacular, making use of deep-focus to give tremendous depth to the image and allowing for several planes of action to be on the screen at a time. Akira Kurosawa's direction is always sure, keeping the movie steadily moving along. For such a long movie, I never got bored! One event unfolds into another, and then at the halfway point some deceptions are revealed which re-energises things. By the time the big showdown comes, you realise that you've been expertly wound up with anticipation.

That battle doesn't disappoint. Like all battles fought with swords, sticks and fists, it takes time, ebbing and flowing with the exhaustion and determination of the combatants. Horses run back and forth, villagers run back and forth; the camera sweeps along with them. Not only that, but a massive rainstorm turns the final push into a mudfest, actors running knee-deep sometimes in the water and muck.

Several characters stand out, starting with the dejected, humliated villagers seeking help, only to show how devious and dismissive they can be when things look up. They first hire the magisterial, silent Kambei, who is never less than a well-respected, canny warrior. Throughout the movie, he is the center of the samurai. There's the cold and ruthless samurai, precise and minimal in all he does, even to his emotions. There's the young samurai, eager, well-bred, but still the kid; his journey is that of becoming a man. There are a lot of people to keep track of, and sometimes it's not easy, but by the hour mark, they are all individuals.

I want to focus on the volcanic Toshiro Mifune as the rogue samurai Kikuchiyo. We first meet him and he's a capering, rude, pushy buffoon. Mifune plays him broadly and for comic effect; he is, in fact, much of the movie's comic relief from the building tension. His face is like pliable rubber, his body a puppet he flings around, his physical movements as fluid as a monkey's. Being a bumpkin, he's also coarse and insulting. But he has a canniness and depth that surprise people time and time again. Mifune is a wonder to watch: think of a cross between John Belushi and Jim Carrey. His character's journey lets him play nearly every emotion, and he's superb.

So go, rent. If you can handle the subtitles, you will not be disappointed. Engaging characters, great set-ups and situations, beautiful historic detail, and a narrative that drives you inexorably to its end. Highly recommended!
My Contribution To The Kerry Campaign

Ol' John Kerry is out there asking folks to "Bring it on," so I did. You can go here to see the Kerry campaign poster I designed! Feel free to pass it on, but make sure to give credit where it's due, OK? It took me all of a half-hour to make that! That's a lot of work.

BTW, I pulled the "Welcome to Kerrymerica" link, as I think it still needs work. I keep wanting to pull it more in the direction of Monty Python animations for some reason....

BTWBTW: Why hasn't "Kerrymerica" caught on yet? I think it's so instantly intuitive, it rolls so trippingly off the tongue, that it should be all over. Spread the meme, y'all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Fun With Photodeluxe

I'm not dead yet, as the man once said. Been playing with some graphics lately and set up a page on the site to share them with y'all. If you like 'em, please feel free to use 'em, just be nice enough to give me credit. Don't "hot link," as I'm on the most basic hosting plan and you'll hose my bandwidth! Go to this page.

Speaking of hosting, what's up with Hosting Matters? I sent them money a month ago, wanting to upgrade to a plan that will let me set up an SQL database so I can move to a MovableType blog over at my domain. I wanted to start at the beginning of this month, even though it meant paying for a few weeks I wouldn't use, but they seem intent on waiting until the actual renewal date or the first of next month to make the change! Hey, I'm ready now. I got the spare time (I quit my job this week. Anyone hiring fat, bald guys?), I think I can handle the MT setup (har, har, har, he says not knowing) and wanted to just GET IT DONE. Instead I'm cooling my heels. Sigh....

Been on the edge of coming back. I've got so many things bookmarked that it takes a while for the bookmarks to load when I click the button. I've got the time, for the time being. I want Jon to mention my blog in the Commercial Appeal, so I need some content. But, I'm still not quite there. Maybe soon, though.

Being me sucks bad sometimes. So, how y'all been doing?