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August 2010
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October 2010

Feeling Better

I hate people who tell you the beginning of the story, and then don't, in Paul Harvey's catchphrase, tell you "the rest of the story." So here's the rest of the story of my bicycle accident. My skinned knee and elbow are healed. My ribs only hurt during a really deep breath now, and I can't tell if my trouble breathing at night is hay fever or my slightly broken nose. It still hurts when I blow it or touch it. But except for my front teeth, I am back to normal. I went walking with my wife and our best friend Saturday morning, and did a half hour on the elliptical machine before church on Sunday.

I am wearing what amounts to a retainer (technically a stay plate or flipper) which covers the hole where my front left tooth used to be. If I eat anything sticky, it gets pulled out. I can't really bite anything with my front teeth yet. If I don't wear the flipper, I gross people out. I am not getting much sympathy from my daughters on this particular point, since they both wore retainers for orthodontic purposes for years. It will be four months before the body fully encompasses my new titanium implant; my dentist will then build a new crown on top of a screw. My streak of remarkable luck (if you overlook the accident itself), continues; no major swelling, no infection, pain minimal (I never needed to Vicodin). So, as I say, luck again.

Political Briefs

  • Petraeus Insubordinately Perpetrates Fraud
  • Who Benefits From Corruption?
  • Barack Obama is an Empty Suit
  • Con Job
    The President of the United States of America, if actually qualified by experience, knowledge, and temperament "to faithfully execute (sic! for the split infinitive) the Office of President of the United States," (which qualification is, in light of the allegations in Bob Woodward's new book "Obama's Wars", an open question with respect to Barack Obama) should not be moaning, whining, and complaining to some reporter (for example, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post) that he could not get at least two four star generals and a secretary of defense (his subordinates in the chain of command) to produce a plan calling for sending less than 30,000 troops to a certain country. The first time the secretary and the generals appeared with something other than what the President ordered, the President's obligation was either to relieve all of them of command then or to tell them to try again for a reasonable time (say a week or two) and to reappear at a stated time and place with the ordered plan and accompanied, in each case, by their second in command. If the secretary and the generals again appeared and defied a direct order to produce the plan, it was Pres. Barack Obama's obligation to relieve the secretary and the generals of their command on the spot and to replace them with their deputies all of whom were ordered by the President to appear for the second meeting.  
  • Clear Insubordination 
    Another reported Woodward allegation in the recently leaked new book ("Obama's Wars") is, if true, a further indication of Obama's woeful unpreparedness and unsuitability for the job of President and lack of situational awareness (i.e., the situation in Washington, D.C. in 2009 and 2010) is his comment to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) about whether he really would begin a withdrawal in July 2011 to the effect that "I have to say that. I can't let this be a war without end, and I can't lose the whole Democratic Party." Obama, if in touch with reality, had absolutely no business saying any such thing to anyone who would make the remark public (and in particular no business saying any such thing to a Senator belonging to a political party which has both announced it is dedicated to destroying Obama and his Presidency and has acted in accord with its announcement (as for example in remarks by Sen. Jim DeMint (R.-S.C.)). 
  • Much more politics here

Taylor Camp (DVD)

4 stars out of 5

A friend of mine passed along Taylor Camp, an independent film. It is a stunning and beautiful evocation of the late 1960s and early 1970s, told through the prism of a short-lived community called Taylor Camp, founded by Elizabeth Taylor's brother Howard in 1969, and burned down by the state of Hawaii in 1977 for a park they never got around to building.

I will confess that, as a rule, I don't like documentaries that have no narrator. This one was an exception. The director, Robert Stone, has marshaled the voices of a  number of the surviving residents, along with vintage film and photos that I found bathed me in an era I had almost forgotten. I don't think it would have killed him to put up cards identifying the subject matter of each section, but that's a quibble, not a criticism. Also, the DVD has not chapters, which, I know, is cheaper, but makes it hard to share sections of the film with others.

I know what they say, if you can remember the 60s you weren't really there, but I was 16 the year Taylor Camp was founded, and I'm a little surprised I never heard of it before.

I asked my parents if I could take the bus from my hometown of Portland to San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, but they declined, so I probably couldn't have gotten to Hawaii the next year, even if I had know about it. Even if I had surfed. Even if I had been comfortable living in a place where clothing was optional (as best I recall myself at that age, I would not have been).

Which brings me to the only warning I would issue about this unrated film. Nudity, and lots of it. Tasteful, necessary to the "plot," organic, not intended to arouse, but it's still there

Taylor Camp is available here. You can also buy the $65 book there, or used from Amazon. If you DO remember the 60s, you'll remember them again, fondly or not, after watching this film.


4 stars out of 5

(note: Neal gave it 5 out of 5 when he saw it)

I was all ready to give Flipped my usual whimpy 3.5 stars out of 5, but my younger daughter, who saw it with me, talked me into upping it to four stars. After some thought, I realized she was right. This is a tender, lovingly told coming of age stories of two 8th graders who met in second grade, and their performance in the adolescent dance of love. Madeline Carroll and Callan McAuliffe are supported by a fine cast of adults, but it is really their film. The "flipped" in the title refers to the alternative point of view in the narration; half the film is narrated by the boy, half by the girl.Director Rob Reiner and writing partner Andrew Scheinman crafted the screenplay from a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. The film is so touching that I am almost tempted to find the novel, except for this five-foot stack of reading next to my bed. In any case, watching it is a wonderful way to while away 90 minutes in a theater. After a summer of disappointing (and in some cases downright dreadful) romantic comedies, it is lovely to see one that is sweet, even if Reiner, in the end, cuts away before the film-ending first kiss.

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (3D)

3 stars out of 5

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole may indeed have been brought to you by the people who brought you Happy Feet, but it is not a happy animated film in any sense except that (I can't imagine this is a spoiler for anyone over the age of 10) the good guys win in the end. It was dark physically, and I honestly don't think you can chalk it up simply to the 3D glasses (I know "dark" is an increasing criticism of 3D, but it hasn't been a problem for me). It was also a dark (and unduly complicated) plot, compounded by a lot of names of characters and places that were so foreign I had trouble sorting them out or keeping them straight. The animation was impressive, as almost all computer animation is these days; watching the water hitting the head of the flying owl is worth the price of admission--almost. See it in a theater if you want the full effect, or save a few bucks and wait to rent it, or save even more and don't rent it. If you loved the book, or are fascinated by 3D or computer animation, take a look. Otherwise, give it a pass.

Marjorie Wolfe, Nilsson on Colbert, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Grobstein File

Always glad to plug a new posting by a regular contributor: Putting Things In Perspective by Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe.

Bob Nilsson writes:
In spite of the generally negative reaction from the “serious” media, Colbert’s congressional testimony was not only funny, but had some serious points to make. And despite statements to the contrary, he did not actually stay in character through-out. (Colbert starts at 56:35 into the video)
A friend who is also a Chuck Klosterman fan sends this very funny Rolling Stone review of the Beatles' reissue a few years back.

Dan Grobstein File

  • It's the Secaucus Junction Railroad station which should have been built 50 years ago. Tracks from several legacy rail lines run parallel at that point and they finally built a station to allow transfers between the lines which importantly lets people transfer to a Manhattan bound train rather than going to Hoboken and taking the PATH. And also Newark Airport service. And the Post Office is basically privatized for that last 25 years. And it has to provide universal service, something that FedEx and UPS do not have to do. Reagan National Airport and George Bush International Airport were named after living people. Double standard?

    also the reason the post office shows a deficit is not because mail volume is down. it is because they account for their pension contributions correctly as opposed to just about everybody else who think that they can make up the shortfall through the stock market.

    also i was glad to see senator d'amato defeated for re-election.

    Alfonse D'Amato calls out racist on Fox News

    Forget about the tired old "let's privatize everything" story and check out D'Amato teeing off on the racist. I never thought of D'Amato as being someone who would take such a hard line so it's surprising. (The response to the racist starts almost five minutes in.) It makes you wonder how far left in the GOP he would be if he was still in the Senate.
  • (Too bad it wasn't invented here. Guess we'll never get something like that. )  The streetcar network in Bordeaux is fantastic. No overhead wires! The third rail is underground and only live when the tram passes over.
  • Good idea. The prison industrial complex is out of control. We have too many low level prisoners cohere isn't enough rehab and treatment programs. (would really save money). And constitutionally we should protect prisoners from attack while in prison (cruel and unusual punishment).

    From The New York Times: Missouri Tells Judges Cost of Sentences Judges in Missouri, in a hotly debated practice, are now told how much each type of sentence costs.
  • Another big week of contributions: see Dan-O-Rama for the rest

A few words about death

I fell down the Google hold the other day and found a few words from Oregon's late Gov. Tom McCall on the subject of death:
You're terminal from the minute you arrive. You've been going to go ever since you got here. Still it is unacceptable when the calendar hints that the prospect has lost its open-endedness. Despair strikes you and what was vaguely inevitable is barely down the road anymore.
That about sums it up for me.

Joaquin Phoenix: I'm Still Here

3.5 stars out of 5

Well, now that director/writer Casey Affleck has let the cat out of the bag, we can view this bizzaro film with a clear conscience; it is, in fact, all an extremely elaborate, time-consuming and expensive (both in dollar terms and it terms of damage to JP's career) hoax. The film features cringe humor, the kind I like the least, where you are so embarrassed for the people on the screen you don't want to look (that's why I don't love Lucy). Frankly, there's a little too much male frontal nudity for my taste as well. But as a portrait of an artist who is willing to live a lie, in public, and gain 30 pounds to boot, this movie cannot be beat.

Thirty years from now, people are going to look at the Letterman interview and the Ben Stiller parody of JP at the Oscars, and assume the footage is faked, ala Spinal Tap. But it was real. And while Spinal Tap marked the birth of the modern mockumentary (of which Christopher Guest is the king), Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix can now claim to be heirs to the throne, having produced the most publicized, straight-faced load of malarkey in movie history.


3.5 stars out of 5

If you live in the SF Bay area, you might have been put off by the Chronicle's pan of this film. Don't let them stop you from seeing it! My older daughter asked me to meet her in the city and see it at the Embarcadero Cinema. I don't know what film the Chron reviewer saw, but it wasn't the one I saw. The one I saw was funny, clever, interesting, unusual, pretty to look at and well-acted, with an unusual premise (albeit a predictable payoff). A man takes money to break up engagements that parents object to. He does this with seduction, but never sex. He has principles; he will not break up a happy relationship. Just add water and you have a script. I was laughing out loud at the Mission Impossible stuff the team did to complete its work.

Why do the French do RomCom better than the Americans? I do not know, but I am glad they do. If you're not allergic to subtitles, go see this delightful romp.