Archive for December, 2009

My top 10 movies from 2000-2009

Everyone else has a list, why not me?

1. Little Children

2. Man on Wire

3. Notes on a Scandal

4. Persepolis

5. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

6. Man on the Train

7. The Lives of Others

8. No Country for Old Men

9. Children of Men

10. Touching the Void

Honorable mention:  Synecdoche, New York; Turtles Can Fly; Zodiac; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Mean Girls; The King of Kong; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind;  Y Tu Mama Tambien;  The Son; Frida; Man Push Cart

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The great author

From Fante’s Ask the Dust:

I stood before the mirror once more, shaking my fist defiantly.  Here I am, folks.  Take a look at a great writer!  Notice my eyes, folks. The eyes of a great writer.  Notice my jaw, folks. The jaw of a great writer. Look at my hands, folks.  The hands that created The Little Dog Laughed and The Long Lost Hills.  I pointed my index finger savagely.  And as for you, Camilla Lopez, I want to see you tonight.  I want to talk to you, Camilla Lopez.  And I warn you, Camilla Lopez, remember that you stand before none other than Arturo Bandini, the writer.

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Fight Club

I saw a preview for Fight Club just before it was released.  The preview focused on the fights.  To me, it looked like a pretty standard action movie with a lot of violence and explosions. This was confirmed by Roger Ebert’s 2 star review (I usually agree with Ebert)  in which he said “It’s macho porn — the sex movie Hollywood has been moving toward for years, in which eroticism between the sexes is replaced by all-guy locker-room fights.”  Not my kind of movie.  So I passed on it.  I passed on it, that is, until I read Jim Emerson’s fantastic essay on the movie last year:

One of the (many) reasons I probably connect so strongly with David Fincher’s “Fight Club” (1999) is that, by capturing clinical depression more accurately than any other movie I’ve ever seen…, it helped shake me out of the grips of a depression that was sucking me down at the time. I was the only person in the theater convulsed with laughter from beginning to end, because it was liberating, exhilarating, to see the truth of my own inner experience reflected back at me in its funhouse mirror. I recognized myself in the movie, relished the psychological acuteness of what I was seeing, felt its black absurdity resonate in my poor, chemically imbalanced noggin. From the very first images deep inside the human brain, I felt it could not be about anything else, even though I didn’t know where it was going to go from there.

Since then, he has written more about this love story.

Anyway, I saw the movie and liked it a lot.  However, sometimes I don’t know how much I like a movie until months later.  It’s the same way with photos, paintings, music… I generally don’t know if I like a particular work of art until it’s had time to sit on my mind for a while.  Fight Club is one of those movies that I still think about.  Thus, it had an impact on me.  I now consider it a great film.  Kim Morgan recently called it the movie of the 1990s:

It’s not a dumb jock statement of  being a “man.” Rather, it shows how through the alienation of social institutions, and the de-masculination of culture, the rugged individualist is rare …

Fight Club is a multifaceted satire. It attacks not only the dehumanizing, corporate Starbucks/Ikea world we inhabit (and still inhabit — even more), but also self-help philosophies, men’s movements, commercials, TV and, interestingly, movies, but oh-so cleverly. The way cinema is blamed for contributing to real-life violence is not only woven into the picture, but it became a reality lobbed at the movie upon release.

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Why? times two

Why are some so passionate in their belief that global warming isn’t anything to be concerned about?

Can someone explain to me why these people hate this climate science so much? I mean, I get that they don’t like gays and think women should stay barefoot and pregnant. I understand that they hate taxes that pay for things that help people they don’t like. Evolution — yeah, that’s obvious.

But global warming? Why? Is it all about their trucks or what? I just don’t get where the passion comes from on this one.

I don’t know if global warming is happening, if it’s caused by human activities or if it’s something we should be worried about.  The evidence seems to indicate that it is.  But if the planet isn’t getting warmer that would be great.  I just want to know the truth. Why isn’t everyone like that?  Why are some people so convinced that there is nothing to worry about and so passionately against the scientists who have a different opinion?

My other question  for today is why won’t politicians or newspaper columnists publicly acknowledge that Israel is a nuclear power?  Given all of the conflicts in that region, and given our heavy involvement, it seems like a relevant fact that the public should be aware of.  But here is Feingold dodging the issue:

Question:  “Senator,  do you know of any country in the Mideast that has nuclear weapons?”

Feingold: “I’m not free to comment on that.”

Question: “Why can you not say that Israel is a nuclear power, Senator?”

Feingold: “I basically think it is, but I’m not somebody who is privy to all the details on that. Pakistan clearly is, Pakistan concedes it, admits it.”

Question: “Do you have an estimate as to how many nuclear weapons Israel would have?”

Feingold: “I do not.”

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Hi Kids!  I’m TV’s Kirk Cameron!  I’m here to talk to you today about creation.  Now, you might have heard some crazy stories from your friends who try to convince you that God doesn’t exist.  But did you know the existence of God can be proven, 100 percent, absolutely, without the use of faith?  It’s really cool.  Check this out.

Look at the computer in front of you.  How did it get there?  Did it just appear?  Of course not.  Someone had to have created it. I don’t think any scientist would argue against that.   Now, use that same common sense to think about how life began.  Did life just appear out of nowhere?  Of course not.  We’re all here, which means there had to be a designer. It’s really pretty simple.


Uh, Kirk, using your ‘common sense,’  isn’t the existence of God proof that someone designed him?


Kirk:  Good question Lisa!  That’s what’s so cool!  You see, God is eternal.  He transcends time.  So ‘who made God?’ is a question that doesn’t really make sense.  No one could have created him.

Lisa:  But I could just say that this computer wasn’t designed because it is eternal and transcends time.

Kirk:  First of all, that would be  a pretty silly thing to say.  We know computers didn’t just appear out of thin air.  Not to mention the fact that we could find out where your computer was made and visit the factory.

Lisa:  Let me get this straight.  Your 100% proof that God exists is that all things had to have a designer, but you also say that God exists and didn’t have a designer.  And your proof that God exists and didn’t have a designer is that someone must have designed everything?

Tune in for Part II, when Kirk explains flaws in the theory of evolution.

Related links here and here.

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Too many passwords

I can’t keep track.  I need passwords to unlock my computers, to get into email, etc.  But… they make me change the passwords on a regular basis, and don’t let me repeat old ones.  I have a list of about 10 that I rotate.  However, if I guess wrong too often they lock me out.  I hate when I get locked out.  I need a better system.

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Every once in a while I read Thomas Friedman.  Usually I regret it.  But his Dec 1 column… wow!  He sounds delusional, even for him.  Check this out.  Here’s the first good quote:

If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world.

A stabilizing role?  America?  Really?

A then there’s this:

The reason there are so many frustrated and angry people in the Arab-Muslim world [sic], lashing out first at their own governments and secondarily at us — and volunteering for “martyrdom” — is because of the context within which they live their lives. That was best summarized by the U.N.’s Arab Human Development reports as a context dominated by three deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education and a deficit of women’s empowerment. The reason India, with the world’s second-largest population of Muslims, has a thriving Muslim minority (albeit with grievances but with no prisoners in Guantánamo Bay) is because of the context of pluralism and democracy it has built at home.

Hm.  Maybe the reason India doesn’t have prisoners in Guantanamo is because we didn’t invade India and throw a bunch of their citizens, many of whom committed no crime, into that prison.  Besides, that’s a pretty weak argument.  Isn’t there also deficits of freedom, education and women’s empowerment in other countries, including countries that we support, but for some mysterious reason they don’t want to lash out at us?  Perhaps something else is going on… Hm…  It couldn’t be that we support Israel, even when they are committing war crimes (link).

As you might have guessed, I saved the best quote for last.  Friedman, on why we invaded Iraq

To me, the most important reason for the Iraq war was never W.M.D. It was to see if we could partner with Iraqis to help them build something that does not exist in the modern Arab world: a state, a context, where the constituent communities — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — write their own social contract for how to live together without an iron fist from above.

Yes, a good way to ‘partner’ with a country to help them write a ‘social contract’ on ‘how to live together’ is to invade that country and kill 100,000 civilians.  And of course, it was a great plan for getting Shiites, Sunnies and Kurds to live in harmony.

But, awwww, isn’t Tom Friedman a nice guy?  He supported the invasion because he wanted everyone to live in peace.  At least, that’s what he says now.  But in 2003, he said this in an interview with Charlie Rose:

We needed to go over there basically, and take out a very big stick…  What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying “which part of this sentence don’t you understand?  You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy [terrorism bubble], we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this, ok.” That Charlie, is what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could. That’s the real truth.

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