Previous month:
January 2010
Next month:
March 2010

Political Briefs

Animated and Live Action Shorts

Once again this year, an independent film maker has put together two packages: all the animated shorts (and a few extras) and all the live action shorts nominated for the Academy Award. If this feature comes to your town, see it! I am thus able to make a few comments about each of the nominees

Live Action

The clear winner in my mind: Instead of Abracadabra, featuring a truly incompetent magician and a great twist ending.

Kavi, about slavery in India is moving and brilliant, but a real downer. You hope the child finds his parents again, but you don't really know.

Miracle Fish, about a school shooting, is also brilliant and also, in the end, a downer. My daughter thinks the protagonist (a child) is actually meeting his future self. That's certainly one way to read it.

The New Tenants is absurd ultra-violence. Cute and amusing in places, but over all, too far over the top.

The Door was about Chernobyl, except the film doesn't actually SAY it is about Chernobyl, so it takes a while to figure that out (at least for my daughter and myself). It's about a man who goes back to the abandoned, irradiated apartment and removes the door--obviously an object of great sentimental value. It also shows the downside of holding onto objects of great sentimental value. The nuclear plans of America certainly aren't going to sponsor this one on cable without commercial interruption. It's the biggest downer of the bunch.


The best (by a nose): A Matter Of Loaf And Death. This new Wallace & Gromit entry from director Nick Park sticks out; it is a full half-hour and stop action. I'm sorry, I can't help it, I am a sucker for British humor and British accents. And I love Wallace Gromit.

A close second place is The Lady And The Reaper, which take a great swipe at arrogant doctors. An old lady keeps trying to pass on to the other side, and a hugely self-involved doctor keeps bringing her back.

French Roast is an amusing 8 minutes spent watching a French businessman avoid the fact that his wallet is missing and he can't pay the bill. Great faces!

Granny O’grimm’s Sleeping Beauty is a lovely piece of Irish blarney, as granny loses her way while telling a bedtime story, and ends up expressing her true feelings about her own life.

The worst: Logorama more or less represents everything I think is wrong with pretentious French cinema. Is is ultra-profane and ultra-violent, and once you've laughed once at the conceit of Ronald McDonald as a murdering psychopath, the rest is just drivel. If this one wins, someone in the academy has an incurable case of Francophilia.

More on Brandeis and Yale, Craig Reynolds Checks In, Dan Grobstein File

My younger daughter had some corrections for her Brandeis entry of last week

I think you should put that the Brandeis video is part of an alumni video contest. The Brandeis Alumni Video Challenge is seeking to raise $30,000 in scholarships for today's Brandeis students. I think the video makes more sense if you know it's part of a competition rather than something these three nostalgic alums made in a vacuum.

Craig Reynolds checks in:

Dan Grobstein File

  • Innovation: less of it in low-tax states
  • What Republicans would do if given carte blanche to run the country. Wait, wasn't that 2001-2009?
  • Teen Age Republican. Why he moved left, and what the right did to Arizona.
  • Where Did All the Jobs Go?
  • GOP Lies, as usual, about using reconciliation to pass major bills. NPR catches them in the lie!
  • Roger Ebert on privatization of Chicago's parking meters

    It seems to me that a lot of privatization by government is done because government is not able to raise enough tax revenue to support things that need to be done so they go for the quick money and sell off the rights to things that should be run by government. And then once a service is privatized the new owners are able to raise fees without going through the political process.

    I do think, however, that there should be congestion pricing for tolls and parking fees. The time spent in traffic is wasted money and the parking fees should be high enough so that if you need a space you can find one, but should discourage you from actually driving into the city.

    At the same time public transportation should be increased and the current trend of longer trains or a bendy bus or double deckers should be changed to smaller, more frequent service. Europe and China know that energy prices are only going to go up and they are building high speed trains and usable public transportation.

    Maybe if we write a bill that would pay for this and call it "More Gasoline for the Red States" we could get it passed. Sort of like the draconian "Mom and Apple Pie" named bills that Dubya and the Republicans passed. And this would actually free up more gas for those areas where public transportation actually doesn't work.
  • Mass Transit

    But here the problem is that merely being located in the United States of America isn’t good enough to pass the inane identity politics litmus tests of the contemporary right—New York City isn’t America (except for purposes of exploiting 9/11 on behalf of torture and aggressive war) nor are Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, etc "really" American. So therefore mass transit is un-American and therefore it’s socialist, so it follows that anyone who wants to build mass transit is doing so out of socialistic hatred for the United States.

  • $108 million and Zero taxes

    I was in business for almost 30 years and the best I ever did to have the business pay for something that I wanted anyway was to buy something that the business needed anyway.

    I used to talk to other small businessmen and they would have the business pay for their dry cleaning or their maid at home or their car. I never had the nerve to do anything like that, but that is small change compared to what this guy is doing.

    A lot of these executives treat the business as their own private piggy bank and have the business pay for their golf club memberships, cars, home security systems, travel on the company plane, flowers, box at the opera etc.

    And when an "investor" buys a business they suck all the cash out and leave it saddled with debt and don't care if the business continues or not. Look at the newspapers (Chicago Tribune), Simmons Mattress.
  • Wallace not Goldwater: a truly superlative piece on how George Wallace is the true god-father of contemporary Republicanism.

Planning Ahead or Borrowing trouble?

I am 57 years old. There are any number of "trains" coming down the "track" of life that will almost certainly make my life less comfortable and settled than it is. I'd rather not list them, because I'd rather no borrow trouble (in part because who knows what they are?), but they involve likely natural disasters in California, and potential health issues for myself and my loved ones. In short, stuff happens. What I try to do each day is really enjoy a quiet, simple life, where I get up under my own steam, eat breakfast, read the paper, and enjoy a warm, quiet day at home. I don't want to look back and say, "I didn't know how good I had it." I do know how good I have it. No hubris here. I'm grateful for a wonderful life and enjoying the heck out of it.

TV Worth Watching--On The Internet

Ever wonder why there was a lot of fraud in the U.S. financial system over the last ten or twenty years?

According to a report on PBS' Frontline (Oct. 22, 2009), it seems that Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from about 1987 to 2006, was opposed to enforcing laws banning fraud in securities and in the markets.

The transcript of "The Warning" on Frontline which aired on PBS on Oct. 20, 2009 indicates at about the 35th statement by the "Narrator" that:

NARRATOR: An experienced financial litigator who'd seen the worst of the markets, Born was a believer in government regulation. Given the political climate in Washington at the time, clashes with Greenspan, Rubin and Summers were inevitable. Almost right away, she had one. It began after she received an invitation to lunch at the Federal Reserve with the chairman himself.

MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA: How could you not have a little bit of butterflies in your stomach when you're going to see Alan Greenspan at that moment in time?

NARRATOR: It didn't take long for Born to learn that she and the chairman were not going to see eye to eye.

JOE NOCERA: He said something to the effect that, "Well, Brooksley, we're never going to agree on fraud." And she said, "Well, what do you mean?" And he said, "`You probably think there should be rules against it." And she said, "Well, yes, I do." He said, you know, "I think the market will figure it out and take care of the fraudsters."

INTERVIEWER: The Alan Greenspan lunch did it actually happen? Where he says

BROOKSLEY BORN: I'm not going to talk about it. I'm not going to talk about it on camera.

NARRATOR: Born is reluctant to speak about her meetings with Greenspan or others in the Clinton administration. Greenspan refused to speak to FRONTLINE at all. But Born's advisers did.

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: Greenspan didn't believe that fraud was something that needed to be enforced, and he assumed she probably did. And of course, she did. I've never met a financial regulator who didn't feel that fraud was part of their mission.

MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA: And this is an absolute stunner for the new head of this tiny agency who is charged with making sure people don't commit fraud.

NANCY DUFF CAMPBELL: Well, I think she was taken aback about how far he would go towards deregulation, that even the notion that we should police fraudulent activity he didn't think was something that was a given.

MICHAEL GREENBERGER: That was her introduction to Alan Greenspan.

The video of the same program is available here. Check about 15:28 on the video for the video corresponding to the transcript portion above.



Neal Vitale Reviews: The Ghost Writer

4 stars out of 5

The Ghost Writer finds director Roman Polanski (Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby) at the top of his game, with a taut, brooding thriller that pulls from today's headlines. A second ghost writer is hired to complete the memoirs of a former British prime minister (a very close approximation of Tony Blair) after the death - accident? suicide? or....? - of the first, and the intriguing fun begins. Beyond too much BMW product placement, there is nary a weak spot in The Ghost Writer - a compelling and well-paced screenplay, a sinister score and somber art direction that add to a continual feeling of unease and imbalance, and an excellent cast (led by Ewan McGregor as the writer, plus Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, and Kim Cattrall, with cameos by Eli Wallach, Tom Wilkinson, Tim Hutton, and Jim Belushi). And the concluding Hitchcockian long shot alone is worth the price of admission.

Neal Vitale Reviews: Top Music of the Decade 2000-09

There have been a number of "Best Of" lists prepared for the top records of the first decade of the 21st century. When I sat down to put mine together, I found it very difficult to decide between different efforts by the same artist, and couldn't see much point in doing so, either. So my "best" is really a compilation of the artists whom I've felt produced the strongest body of work during these ten years, and I've listed their particular works that I feel have endured as time has passed. [Note - For a few artists, I've also listed notable side projects.]

This approach obviously omits single records that were outstanding - Norah Jones' Come Away With Me, MGMT's Oracular Spectacular, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss' Raising Sand, and Bruce Springsteen's The Rising are but a few that come to mind - but, hey, you have to draw the line somewhere. And I think my list highlights longevity and volume of quality product.

Presented alphabetically; not ranked.

Arcade Fire Funeral; Neon Bible
Beck Sea Change; Guero/Guerolito; The Information; Modern Guilt
Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago; Blood Bank
Coldplay Parachutes; A Rush Of Blood To The Head; X&Y; 

Vida La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
Death Cab For Cutie Transatlanticism; Plans; Narrow Stairs; 

The Open Door EP [Also, The Postal Service]
Elbow Asleep In The Back; Cast Of Thousands; Leaders Of The 

Free World; The Seldom Seen Kid
Feist Let It Die; The Reminder
Gomez In Our Gun; Split The Difference; How We Operate; A New Tide
Iron & Wine Our Endless Numbered Days; The Shepherd's Dog
Jenny Lewis Rabbit Fur Coat; Acid Tongue [Also, Rilo Kiley]
Kings Of Leon Youth And Young Manhood; Aha Shake Heartbreak; 

Because Of The Times; Only By The Night
Lucinda Williams West; Little Honey
Modest Mouse Good News For People Who Love Bad News; We Were Dead 

Before The Ship Even Sank; No One's First, And You're Next
Radiohead Kid A; Amnesiac; Hail To The Thief; In Rainbows
Ryan Adams Gold; Love Is Hell; Cold Roses; 29; Easy Tiger; Cardinology
Spoon Girls Can Tell; Kill The Moonlight; Gimme Fiction
The Black Keys The Big Come Up; Thickfreakness; Magic Potion
The Kills No Wow; Midnight Boom
The White Stripes White Blood Cells; Elephant; Get Behind Me Satan; 

Icky Thump [Also - The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, et al]
TV On The Radio Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes; Return To 

Cookie Mountain; Dear Science
U2 All That You Can't Leave Behind; How To Dismantle An 

Atomic Bomb; No Line On The Horizon
Wilco Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; A Ghost Is Born; Sky Blue Sky

Chuck Carroll finds Brown Ad, Daughter Cites Sites, Craig Reynolds Checks In, Dan Grobstein File

Chuck Carroll shared this Scott Brown Commercial. Entertaining & shows who Scott Brown was running against.

My younger daughter checks in with the controversial Yale recruitment video created by students. I think it is cool. She also found a Brandeis video. She also ran across this amazing report from Columbia University in New York about the Psychology of Climate Change Discussions.

Craig Reynolds Checks In:

Dan Grobstein