Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
If the first Mission Impossible was Brian De Palma’s Mission Impossible and MI-2 was John Woo’s Mission Impossible, Quantum of Solace is unquestionably Marc Forster’s James Bond movie. In fact, with its international cast of corporate, military and intelligence operatives, ogres, trolls and troglodytes, Quantum could be easily subtitled Ian Fleming’s Monster's Ball. Mathieu Amalric, award winning French actor and film director - perhaps best known in America for his lead role in the 2007 film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - plays the chief monster, gimlet-eyed Dominic Greene, an effete megalomaniac masquerading as a deep pocketed green warrior while Joaquin Cosio and Fernando Guillen Cuervo play cruel and sadistic as would-be tin-pot dictators and Jesper Christensen reprises his role as a chief cog in the sub secret evil cabal which shall not be named (Quantum).
Filmed in Panama, Chile, Italy and Austria, the movie begins where Casino Royale left off with Bond hurtling toward Sienna, Italy, the captured Mr. White (Christensen) in the boot of his car, and gun wielding henchmen in hot pursuit. Weaving in and out of heavy traffic on tight thoroughfares while his sleek Astin Martin is perforated with machine gun fire, Bond dispenses his pursuers in typical Bondian fashion and delivers Mr. White to his boss “M” (Judi Dench) and her interlocutors. The wily and unrepentant Mr. White escapes and this sends Bond careening around the world in hot pursuit.
Quantum of Solace is also co-screenwriter Paul Haggis’ James Bond movie. Quantum explores a Crash of competing world interests intersecting where Daniel Craig’s emotionally wounded
government agent seeks mortal revenge for the death of his lost love. It is not coincidence that linchpins of the story take place in such hot spots as Haiti and Bolivia, poor bereft countries with little to recommend them besides their utter defenselessness in the face of further exploitation.
While Casino Royale was full of surprises, ripe with rebirth and reinvention Quantum, for all its gorgeous vistas, dazzling car chases, roof top gamboling, explosive denouements and Bourne-like close quarter hand-to-hand combat, feels derivative – as if cobbled together from twenty other action-adventure movies. The movie is blunt and ruthless and there is much precision and artistry in its execution. Yet, you don’t feel exhilarated by Craig’s remorseless reckoning as much as you
feel pummeled by it.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
tunity to not only see movies you have never seen but to see
movies you have never heard of.
I was not familiar with the film BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE which took
based on the eponymous young-adult novel of the same name by
As I understand it, Vivian is a member of a supernatural race called
loup-garoux, werewolves, who hide their identity in the general
Because I was simultaneously engaged in several telephone
conversations, I watched the movie with the sound off. Wow. It was
like watching one of those V-inspired dream tableaus essayed on
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
I have been amazed and amused by the rapid ascent of Joe the
Plumber from anonymity to prominence and prosperity as the
poster boy for the Republican Party. The story is so improbable
it had to be a work of fiction.
Then, I realized it was and I had read it before - back when Joe
the Plumber was named Chance the Gardener in a book called
Being There, written by Jerzy Kosinski and published in 1971.
Chance, a simple-minded man "with rice pudding between his
ears," is catapulted from his simple life as an estate gardener
to national prominence through a chance meeting with Ben Rand,
a dying business leader and political king-maker. Rand sees
Chance as a failed though totally decent businessman down on
his luck. He also sees Chance's reference to seasons
in gardening as an insightful comment about the national
economy. Chance's personal style and seemingly conservative
and insightful ways embody many qualities which Ben admires.
His simplistic, very serious and indeliberate utterances, which
mostly concern the garden of which he stewarded, are
interpreted as allegorical statements of deep wisdom and
knowledge regarding business matters and the current state
of politics in America.
Rand introduces Chance to the President who finds the gardener's
advice so inspiring he quotes and names him on national TV. The
General Public, as evidenced by opinion polls, thinks that Chance
is simply "brilliant." The financial and political elite believe Chance
the Gardener may be their man for the next presidential election
instead of a second term for the current President.
It is Louise the maid, who has known Chance since he was a boy,
who announces that he only has "rice pudding between the ears."
She declares, "It's for sure a white man's world in America. I raised
that boy since he was the size of a 'pissant' and I'll tell you he never
learned to read nor write. No sir. Has no brains at all. Stuffed with
rice pudding between the ears. Short-changed by the Lord and
dumb as a jackass. Yes sir, all you got to be is white in America to
get whatever you want."
Fortunately some historical fiction is not prologue and some simple
verities can change.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
It will sort of be like when sports apparel manufacturers send the gear of the losing Super Bowl team to third world countries - leading to the incongruous sight of normadic tribesmen and women transversing the desert in New England Patriots 2008 Super Bowl Champions t-shirts and hats.
Which conjures up the thought of homeless women pushing grocery carts full of all their worldly possessions while wearing pencil skirts and hooker heels.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Oh, say can you see how a skinny bi-racial kid with a funny name came out of nowhere to vie for the most powerful office in the world? Do you ponder how improbable it is that a girl born in rural Mississippi to a poor teen-aged single mother, and later raised in an inner city Milwaukee neighborhood, would blossom into a television host, media mogul, and billionaire philanthropist? Ain't nothing but the power of O, baby.
So on election day don't exclaim "Oh!" when the young man with the last name that begins with an O is elected President of these here United States cause it's all in the O (doncha know).
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
best author readings/talks I have ever attended. Mr. Diaz was as
funny, profane and erudite as his novel. He was also gracious
With the cocky chi of a bantam rooster, Dias exhorted a reticent
audience into a lively question and answer session, posed for
pictures, gave hugs, and signed copies of his books for over an
hour. He stood the whole time, making eye contact and thrusting
his hand forward to shake the hands with everyone who stopped
"What do you do for a living?" he asked eyeballing me through
owlish black oval glasses after shaking my hand, asking my name
and thanking me for coming.
I had resolved years ago to always answer that question in the
affirmative: "I am a writer."
But, standing before this self-proclaimed "artist," I
chickened out and stated my day job.
"Oh, so you work for a living?" he commented with a sly arch of his
Saturday, September 27, 2008
In a stunning decision, the United States Electoral Commission has awarded the Presidency of the United States to Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Citing an obscure provision in the Electoral Count Act of 1877, the Commission disqualified Senator John McCain for “failing to rejoin his campaign” after suspending it on the 25th of September.
The McCain Campaign vehemently objected to the Commission awarding Senator Obama the Presidency. While admitting they were unaware of the provision, the McCain campaign declared Senator McCain’s failure to restart his campaign after suspending it was “a very big misunderstanding.”
“There was a mistake, an inadvertent mistake," McCain spokesperson said. “and it should not disqualify a patriot and war hero from the highest office in the land.”
The Obama Campaign stated that the rules stating a candidate must rejoin his campaign after suspending it were unequivocal. “The rules are clear, direct, obvious, unmistakable and were fully understood by our candidate.”
“I am vigorously going to fight this," Senator McCain vowed. "I will not let down the people of America who want real change. I believe the people want to elect me [and] want me to do a good job and I am going to do a good job for them by finishing this race. This is an ugly and unpleasant situation that has been thrust upon me and my family. This situation is not fair, it is inaccurate and therefore [it] must not be allowed to stand."
Commission officials, while sympathetic, said the rejoin rule is at the heart of the honor system that underpins the United States electoral process.
"Bottom line, running for President of the United States is a gentleman’s contest and candidates for that office are held accountable for sustaining their campaigns,” a Commission spokesperson said.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
My sixteen year-old daughter is reading 1984 in her AP Reading class. When I read 1984 in high school the premise and promise of George Orwell’s novel was still out there, somewhere, near but still unseen. Now the year 1984 has come and gone and is quickly receding in the rear view mirror. Yet, even as the title of the novel becomes more and more passé, a relic of the last millennium, the literary warning Orwell sounded is resounding loud and clear.
NEWSPEAK new•speak ('nü-"spEk, 'nyü-), noun, Usage: often capitalized. : propagandistic language marked by euphemism, circumlocution, and the inversion of customary meanings. Etymology: Newspeak, a language "designed to diminish the range of thought," in the novel 1984 (1949) by George Orwell.
Newspeak is the language of the McCain campaign. When Obama uses the metaphor “putting lipstick on a pig” to describe McCain’s justification of failed Republican policies, McCain calls Obama “sexist” because he has insulted McCain’s running mate, a self-proclaimed lipstick wearing pit bull.
Ergo, Barack Obama, the son of a single mother, raised on food stamps, is the “elitist” while John McCain, the ultimate legacy kid who got into Annapolis not on his merits but because his father and his grandfather went there and who owes his current career to the political clout of his rich father-in-law, is the “populist.”
DOUBLESPEAK double•speak language constructed to disguise or distort its actual meaning, often resulting in a communication bypass. Doublespeak may take the form of bald euphemisms (e.g., "downsizing" for layoffs) or deliberate ambiguity. Doublespeak is a disparaging label for any euphemistic term perceived to be uttered in bad faith.
McCain employs doublespeak at a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin where he gives his cheering supporters a simple choice: AMERICA FIRST or OBAMA FIRST. Hmmm. Either you are for America and against Obama (the black guy for those of you scoring at home) or if you are for Obama (the black guy) you are against America.
Yet, this very morning, in response to Obama questioning his economic IQ, the McCain campaign charges the Obama campaign is “trying to scare voters into voting for him (Obama).” Really? The Obama campaign is trying to scare voters. Right.
Winston Smith, the nominal hero of 1984, is a bureaucrat in the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, revising historical records to match The Party's contemporaneous, official version of the past. The revisionism is required so that the past reflect the shifts of the day in the Party's orthodoxy.
So, caught in the headlights of Hurricane Gustav, the Republican convention reinvents George W. Bush as the Hero of Katrina.
Smith's job is perpetual; he re-writes the official record, re-touches official photographs, deleting people officially rendered as unpersons.
So McCain is running as if the last eight years of Republican administration did not happen. George Bush and Dick Cheney were officially deleted unpersons at the Republican Convention.
At the Ministry of Truth, the original or older document is dropped into a "memory hole" chute leading to an incinerator.
So McCain’s past as a carouser and womanizer has been removed from his biography, conveniently dropped down a memory hole with the ex-wife he dumped and the number of houses he owns.
From the low, dank trenches of his own “Ministry of Truth,” John McCain, the current standard bearer of the Inner Party, has proven willing and able to use all the Orwellian tools at his disposal to retain power.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
If you deconstruct the "Circus Club" commercial, though, you discover interesting things. For instance, the Conquistidor shoes fit tight. This is repeated in English and Spanish and is obviously a reference to the Vista operating system. It is subliminal mea culpa - "sure the Vista system has problems but it a quality product and it will get better if you keep using it!" ("It fits tight, but it will loosen up.")
Further subliminal theater - "Bill Gates is a 10."
The loopy lull of the commercials are obviously intentional (stuff like this does not happen by accident). And, as allegedly bad as the commercials are, they are effective. Are people not talking about them?
And, more importantly, don't we all know what Bill and Jerry are selling (even though it is not mentioned once in the commercial).
A lot of really funny and clever commercials are ineffective because when all is said and done the viewer doesn't recall - specifically - what was being sold. The Apple vs. Mac commercials are a welcome exception to this rule - which is why Uncle Billy is lauching this 300 million dollar campaign.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I like White Trash Theater as much as the next guy: Paris Hilton, Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, Lauren and Heidi from The Hills, et al. But the white trash drama of Sarah Palin's 17 year-old unmarried daughter being five months pregnant is not must see TV.
The Republican spin doctors want to couch this as a personal matter for the Palin family but it speaks directly to Palin's judgment - or her lack thereof. She rails against the teaching of sex education and contraception in schools (even though studies show children who receive sex education are sixty percent less likely to become teen parents) and reaps the bitter fruit of such wrong-headed policy based on antiquated religious beliefs.
It is just this sort of religious knuckleheadism that has us embroiled in the fiasco in Iraq. I am sure Bush prayed before he made one of the more disastrous decisions in American history. And, to channel Dr. Phil, how did that work out for us?
I am further alarmed by Palin’s sacrificing her seventeen year-old daughter to political expedience. The family's knee-jerk reaction to force the child into a shotgun wedding will just make a bad situation worse. Simply stated, how is Governor Palin fit to run the country when she can’t even run her own home?
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
Hey babies, this is your good buddy, rave. I am chiming in on the never ending discussion about the "N" word. Unlike many, I don't think the "N" word should be retired. Like the late, great George Carlin, I believe words are just words and they only have the power we give them. In the interest of racial harmony and because I believe the "N" word is more often implied than stated, I suggest we substitute the word "suffix" for the "N" word.
"This will not be tolerated, suffix."
"We're trying to run a business here, suffix."
"I hate suffixes and I hate flies. The more I meet suffixes, the more I like flies."
And, of course, there's that old caucasian spiritual, "Too busy thinking about my suffixes, ain't got time for nothing else." (Sing along if you know the words).
But, again in the interest of racial harmony, we can agree to disagree. Ya'll still my suffixes.
Monday, August 25, 2008
I am heartened by the Obama campaign. I truly did not believe a black man could be nominated for President of the United States let alone run for the highest office in the land. In fact, I held out faint hope that my unborn grandson, the future junior Senator from the great state of Wisconsin, would one day become President of the United States.
Whether Obama wins the White House or not, I have been given hope by his historic campaign. His campaign suggests that America may be closer to achieving racial equality than I would have ever believed in my wildest dreams. This campaign gives me hope for my children and my grandchildren.
Regarding workplace inequities, they are widespread and savage. They are systemic and bred to the bone of American enterprise. My like-minded friends and I refer to this as the "white welfare system." People discuss black joblessness as a cultural dysfunction but when door after door is slammed in your face and opportunity is denied you time after time, opting out and copping out is not an unreasonable response. If doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a cogent definition of psychosis, wouldn't it be crazy to continue to play the game when you know in your heart of hearts that the game is rigged?
Yet, I continue to play and I continue to fight.
One thing I have learned in my 24 years working in the division of the company I work for - when black men, regardless of their upbringing, are paid a living wage, they support their families. Married men do it. Single men do it. Divorced men do it.
Giving black men jobs with a living wage is the only sure fire way to end poverty and economic dysfunction in the black community.
The first scene of the first episode of the first season of HBO’s great urban drama, “The Wire”: Detective Jimmy McNulty is sitting on a stoop interviewing a witness. The victim, one Snot Boogie, was shot and killed while playing alley craps. McNulty, perplexed, says "let me get this straight: every week Snot waited until the pot got big, and then snatched it and took off. Y'all would catch him, beat him down, and take the money back." The witness nods sullen assent. "I gotta ask this," McNulty says. "If Snot stole the pot every time, why did ya'll let him play." "Got to," the witness said with resignation. "This is America, man."
I LOVE that line! "This is America, man." How we gone tell Snot he can't play? This is AMERICA, man! Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!
Problem is black Americans are the only Americans who believe the underlying ethos of America. All other Americans are part-time Americans, only true red, white and blue when they wave their flags or to pop their lapel pins. When it comes to extending full statehood rights to all Americans, most non-black Americans are absent and unaccounted for. For too many black Americans, life in America is like living on an Orwellian “Animal Farm” where all Americans are created equal – but some Americans are created more equal than others.
Pop Quiz! What is the only difference between poor, uneducated white people and poor, uneducated black people?
Answer: Poor, uneducated white people have JOBS!
In 1984, I became the third black person employed in the division of the company I currently work for. At the time, it was highly unusual for a black person to be hired by this division and even more unusual for a black person to complete the ninety day probation period. Nearly every white hire completed their ninety day probations – and those who didn’t were allowed to do it over.
Because the attrition rate for black hires was so high, the rare black applicant hired in 1984 was employed by the company but then assigned to a temporary service. To add insult in injury, one third of the black hires’ starting salary went to the temporary service. So, when I was hired in 1984, at age 29, with ten years of working experience behind me, I worked six weeks for a temporary service – while the company decided if I was a good fit - THEN began my ninety day probation period. White applicants ten years my junior, with no work experience began their probation periods immediately.
Today, with 24 years, I am the longest tenured black employee at our division. The next highest tenured black person has 19 years of seniority. And this is at “one of the best places in America to work.” I often wonder how awful it must be for black people who work at the “worst places in America to work.”
A Story! A Story! A black man, a 25 year veteran at his company, sat in a conference room filled with management and human resource personnel. At issue was his contention that his workplace injury hadn’t healed properly and that he needed more therapy. After an hour in which everything about him including his work ethic was impugned, the black man was asked if he had anything to say. The man, seething with rage and indignation, composed himself. Eyeballing all those in attendance he stood and proclaimed, “Thank you, America!”