Tarantino said that Fahrenheit won the Palm d'Or at Cannes because simply
it was the best film. It's easy to scoff when the Hollywood elite praise a liberal documentary screened in a French town--no one would disagree that it was a sympathetic audience. However, Tarantino may very well have been right. Fahrenheit 9/11 was a solid documentary with a strong sense of form and pacing. At almost two hours, it needs a skilled hand to hold it together, and I honestly didn't expect Moore to succeed as well as he did.
(The high marks aren't in any way from disparate expectations but from admiration of his successful execution.)
Moore not only structured the film well but also somehow captured, unearthed, and edited a volume of short scenes that acted as building blocks to the whole. These vignettes--of Marines targeting the poor for recruitment, of a cookie-loving protest group infiltrated by the police, of a mother reading her dead son's indictment of Bush's war--provide an emotional pulse and act as a backdrop to the larger themes: Bush lost the 2000 election, Bush's ties to Bin Laden money and oil allowed him to ignore terrorist threats, government-linked corporate interests benefit from both the military presence and political upheaval of the war. The movie presents a volume of facts and connects them to an insidious conclusion. Is it the correct conclusion? Well, Moore's job was to make the coherent argument, ours as a society is to find any flaws.
A point to think about: this film is being called too biased to be a documentary, and yet it provides more facts and documentation than most documentaries I've seen. The bias is there, but it's backed up and has the transparency that, Moore argues, our government is missing.
Prior to me seeing the film, many people I spoke with, moderates included, had no interest in going to this movie. Even a more liberal friend who saw Fahrenheit 9/11 gushed at first but then quickly became sheepish about the movie as if he felt others would think a charlatan duped him. America often trades in hyperbole and melodrama even if it has no substance. Why the sudden conscience when the hyperbole has a factual basis? There are many arguments to be made, but arguing against style means you're too easily ignoring content.
I'm an extremely sympathetic audience, but I'm also a critical viewer. The only problem I had with the film was a few scenes with Bush acting the dope and Moore editing banjo music in the background. They were few, and at two hours he can have his fun. Often such emotional bubblegum was needed to clear your head. However, I was surprised to enjoy some of his archetypal Michael Moore scenes where he harasses people by putting them in absurd situations. There were only a few, but they too served the overall film well.
Prior to viewing, I had thought that Fahrenheit 9/11 would suffer in comparison to Control Room. Having seen both, I realize that they are two very different films, and neither suffers when compared to the other.
It deserves to continue to pack the theaters.
Why are people defensive with regard to Art criticism? Analyses of books, movies, or songs are often scoffed at as pretentious, and the author of the analysis is dismissed as some opinion thug. Just mention that critics loved or hated a movie and you'll get the standard reply: "what do they know?" Music is particularly off-limits; listeners know-what-they-like and plant the flag of relativism in defense of it.
Is there any justification for Art criticism ('art' with a capital 'a' covering all of the arts)? Do any universal laws of aesthetics exist?Continue reading "Criticism criticism"
Here's an article from Wired that lists several of the best streaming radio sites available. Most are still free but are struggling to stay free because of The Evil Music Industry. I remember listening to Live365 a couple of years back and watching many of its user-broadcasted stations drop out as outrageous fees and restrictions began to be enforced. Groups under the title Save Internet Radio attempted to counter-lobby with some success. And there still are, of course, all of the foreign radio stations available. Cool.
And I was just reminiscing last night about when I started to listen to Internet radio as long ago as 1994. Broadcast.com (pre-yahoo) had a CD Jukebox with a bunch of random music. Some of it was obscure, but they eventually had a David Bowie CD and DJ Shadow's CD.Continue reading "Radio Free Web"
Control Room is a documentary about Al Jazeera right before the beginning of the Iraq war until not long after
the end of major conflict. I have not seen Fahrenheit 9/11, anticipate seeing it very much, and yet now feel that I have seen the definitive expression of this war. In Control Room, the director's assessment of each side of the conflict was not equal, but it felt so honest as to be irrefutable. Both Arabs and Americans were shown at their most dubiously confident and most dishearteningly troubled (though one is more sympathetic than the other). The characters, real characters, were worthy of the best you could hope to see in a drama. You care about all of them and end up wishing the world were simpler and that it didn't involve these honest people caught in the middle of all of the lies and pride and anguish of events that none chose to suffer.
There's humor enough and an even hand that presents the tragedies. But you ultimately succumb to the scenes with the Al Jazeera reporter during his dialogs with the U. S. military's Central Command media representative as they struggle to communicate to the other what they know-in-their-hearts is true.
There were a total of nine people in the audience for Control Room while Fahrenheit 9/11 filled two screens, yet that cannot be considered unjust. As one Al Jazeera reporter commented in the movie:
because of such actions, my soft-spoken voice will no longer be heard above the anger that has been incited. Control Room will ultimately be remembered.
[Two small technical issues: (1) cuts during interviews were slightly noticeable but almost hidden. With such raw honesty, the editorializing should have been more overt. (2) Generous clips from Al Jazeera were included and only designated by the imprimatur at the lower right. Most of the documentary was so similar to the news clips that one was often indistinguishable from the other. A more obvious framing should have been used.]Continue reading "Review: Control Room (5/5)"
Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is getting respectable attention:
Editor & Publisher says that
9 Out of 10 Critics for Daily Papers Back 'Fahrenheit'.
Waxy's got the wonderful pilot of Heat Vision and Jack ripped to three MPGs. Heat vision and Jack is a show created in 1999 and directed by Ben Stiller. In it, Jack Black is an astronaut who develops super-intelligence after being
[e]xposed to inappropriate levels of solar energy. Owen Wilson is the voice of his roommate who's been turned into a motorcycle. Together the travel the back roads and fight crime where they find it! All the time, they must avoid being captured by the evil Ron Silver, played by Ron Silver.
And with uptight abandon, I've re-organized my categories. There were way too many "Misc" entries. I'm obsessive about both organization and standards, and although I'm more organized now I wish there was a more "official" way to categorize entries.Continue reading "100th entry"
Here's an excellent blog entry I found via a /. thread entitled "21 Rules of Thumb – How Microsoft develops its Software." David Gristwood posted it on his current blog (not much content there or on his previous one), but it was originally written by Jim McCarthy. Both work at Microsoft and are apparently project managers. Jim wrote the book Dynamics of Software Development from which the rules were summarized.
The /. discussion gets testy at times (not surprising considering that the article is written by Microsoft employees and purports to tell developers how to develop, we're a testy bunch), but here are some points that resonated with me (both positively and negatively):
In a recent post, This Modern World guest blogger Bob Harris provided links to these two keen Web sites. The first one is an interactive map that lets you calculate the election outcome with different states' results. The second one, both more useful and more fuzzy, displays the current results of an electoral vote.
Well, at 253 to 285 it's keen but depressing.Continue reading "Dynamic electoral college maps"
A recent article in Nature talks about a paper written by an Argentinian physicist named Damian Zanette in which he relates musical compositions to written (or spoken) texts. His theory is that note frequency (the number of occurrences of each note) in music matches the word frequencies found in linguistic expression. Zanette found a relationship between the number of different notes and each note's number of occurrences. He based his research on a linguistic property called Zipf's law.Continue reading "The language of music"
This site just saved me from embarrassing can't-install-the-software-we-own-itis. If you forget to write down your product key and during installation hit the dreaded wizard page with five big empty edit boxes blocking your way, go to that site to get a product key. I'm sure there're a million other places like it, but I'll recommend this site until it fails me.
Did I mention that we own the software?
We've all read the recent news about the border collie who had a 200-word vocabulary and could acquire new words at a rate equal to to that of a three-year-old child.
What's the impact of all of these stories? They bring up interesting points from several domains of knowledge.Continue reading "Animal magic"
Leave it to BoingBoing to make something interesting into something boring by waving the copyright flag. The band Wilco's label was sued by independent label Irdial Discs for a radio transmission of unknown origin included on Wilco's recording Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Irdial had released a recording of broadcasts found in the short-wave band from numbers stations. Wilco's sample is from one of the numbers stations. Numbers stations generally broadcast continuous streams of letters, numbers, the NATO phonetic alphabet, and other miscellany. The strong assumption is that they are used by various countries for espionage.
Here're some samples. NPR has an article with audio clips and links, and Salon had an article back in 1999. Both refer to a four CD recording called The Conet Project (put out by the above-mentioned Irdial Discs). $239.99.
One of today's featured articles at Wikipedia caught my attention. The many stories of embarrassingly passive acquiescence to Hitler is a prejudiced but painful memory to Germans. The White Rose student resistance is an interesting contrast to that.
They rejected the Prussian militarism of Adolf Hitler's Germany and believed in a federated Europe that adhered to Christian principles of tolerance and justice. Quoting extensively from the Bible, Lao Tzu, Aristotle and Novalis, as well as Goethe and Schiller, they appealed to what they considered the German intelligentsia, believing that they would be intrinsically opposed to Nazism.
The Scholls and Probst were the first to stand trial, on February 22, 1943. They were found guilty of treason and executed by guillotine that same day. The other key members of the group were also beheaded later that summer. Friends and colleagues of the White Rose, who helped in the preparation and distribution of leaflets and in collecting money for the widow and young children of Probst, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to ten years.
Apparently, there was a movie about them made in 1982.Continue reading "The White Rose"
SpaceShipOne (crappy name) will have a test flight into space tomorrow morning at 9:30 Eastern time. It's the current leader in the Ansari X PRIZE: a $10 million challenge to have a private company build and launch a spaceship carrying three people to an altitude of 100 kilometers and repeat the journey two weeks later.Continue reading "Space flight tomorrow morning"
Although Roger Ebert gave a thumbs-up to Garfield and defended his decision on Ebert & Roeper by saying he's a fan of Family Circus and Cathy too, I still respect him because of this article about Fahrenheit 9/11.
The pitfall for Moore is not subjectivity, but accuracy. We expect him to hold an opinion and argue it, but we also require his facts to be correct. I was an admirer of his previous doc, the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine," until I discovered that some of his "facts" were wrong, false or fudged.
Because I agree with Moore's politics, his inaccuracies pained me ... I cannot ignore flaws simply because I agree with the filmmaker. In hurting his cause, he wounds mine.
I love the new algorithm that spammers have been using to spoof the spam filters. Well, I guess I love them in concept, not for the end result of me getting 80% of my maibox filled with junk email even though I only go to legitimate Web sites wink wink. At least we have Ad-aware and Zone Alarm to save the day.
So I've been getting spam from some of the most creatively named people. Who are these individuals?Continue reading "Spam names"
O'Reilly has a poster in PDF format showing the geaneology of programming langages. There are only ~50 of the ~2500 total, but it's still pretty cool.
Thanks to /. where you can watch the geeks argue about it.
Continue reading "Choir practice"
My wife had the gall to suggest that I might be going a bit too far. So I put a bag over her head and chained her to the radiator. But I still couldn't persuade my son to tell me where he goes after choir practice.
The March 6 memo, prepared for Mr Rumsfeld explained that what may look like torture is not really torture at all. It states that: if someone "knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith".
What this means in understandable English is that if a parent, in his anxiety to know where his son goes after choir practice, does something that will cause severe pain to his son, it is only "torture" if the causing of that severe pain is his objective. If his objective is something else - such as finding out where his son goes after choir practice - then it is not torture.
Neal Pollack (one helluva good writer), testifies to the congregation about George W. Bush and religion. He always had some good, goofy entries on his blog. I think he's doing more writing for magazines these days.
Here's some choice quotes from Pollack's rant.
(Also, check out the Frontline show he mentions called The Jesus Factor.)Continue reading "Jesus"
Trudging through the recent Joel post and read this little gem:
The biggest advantage of .NET is the fact that it has automatic memory management.
If your programming language allows you to grab a chunk of memory without thinking about how it's going to be released when you're done with it, you're using a managed-memory language, and you are going to be much more efficient than someone using a language in which you have to explicitly manage memory.
People often complain about memory management in C++. Although it's true that you have to consider memory management, a couple of simple, well-known techniques push it in the background. They are sometimes even better than the garbage collection in managed languages.
The Crusades lasted roughly from 1095 to 1272. Here's an abbreviated synopsis from the Wikipedia article:Continue reading "Crusade"
Here's a nice, level-headed assessment of the Pledge of Allegiance case (via Slate). I remember from the earliest reports prior to the case that the biggest obstacle would be for Michael Newdow to prove that he had parental rights to present the charges. Yesterday the court decided that he did not.
When I read the news, I thought that the Monday's reporters were a little quick to label the Supreme Court as diffident, and Dahlia Lithwick in the Slate article says as much. Ms. Lithwick gave a reasonable summary of the oral arguments back in March. Newdow's case could have won--and should have won if he were the legal guardian of his daughter.
I remember when the case first appeared. I feel that "god" should be removed from every aspect of politics, but when I heard that some troublemaker was trying to take it to the Supreme Court I was skeptical ... that he was just a troublemaker. Then I heard his argument and appreciated his logic. Newdow wasn't a crackpot. He was someone who felt the same and had the impetus to follow through.
It's a shame it didn't work out, but it was a nice try.
Here's a painfully geeky but very sincere review of the recent photos from the Cassini probe. It's getting blurry photos of Titan now:
If present-day Titan could be warmed enough to melt its icy exterior, its atmosphere would bear a striking resemblance to that of early Earth, billions of years ago, prior to the emergence of life. Might Titan be a frozen, pre-biotic Earth, telling a tale littered with clues to the origins of terrestrial life long ago?
The past several day it was taking very stunning photos of Phoebe.Continue reading "Saturn's moons"
As disgusted as I am with the torture reports, I'm realizing how much Bush's actions play to the isolationists. The government is focusing more on secrecy than on apology. That will sit well with those who don't believe that
more than sixty per cent of the civilian inmates at Abu Ghraib were deemed not to be a threat to society, and who instead insist that all of those inmates are in fact 100% evil. Or with those who haven't heard or don't care that
[t]he International Red Cross ... reported that 70 to 90 percent of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib have been imprisoned there by mistake, simply rounded up in dragnets. (subscription) And the isolationists are probably a good portion of our population.
No matter how many Justice Department memos declare torture acceptable and no matter how much we recoil at it, Rush Limbaugh will still broadcast on American Forces Radio that this type of
blow[ing] some steam off is acceptable.
I initially felt that the snowballing revelations of this mismanaged war would show everyone what a morally corrupt president really looks like. Now I'm not so sure that it even matters to many people.Continue reading "Torture"
There have been a couple of reports regarding new information on Saddam and WMDs. The stories center around scrap metal found in foreign countries. This is the type of information that supporters of the war read and then pass around as gospel. Why is it not more fully disseminated?
A World Tribune story declares that
The United Nations has determined that Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction components as well as medium-range ballistic missiles before, during and after the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003. No other sites are reporting the story in this manner. SFGate has many of the same facts but suggests that the scrap metal was inefficiently disposed of.
Went to the wife's 20th high school reunion this weekend with Jim D. and her. Shreveport and Bossier (BO-zher) Louisiana apparently have become much more cosmopolitan than they were in 1984--"cosmopolitan" being a relative term--with most of that worldliness coming from the addition of four casinos. I got to see the changes through their eyes as we hit the hot spots and I met more people than I could possibly ever remember. I had a small dose of the understandable sitting-at-the-bar-trying-to-look-interested-as-people-reminisce, and my beloved Sierra Nevada was replaced by the much less beloved Miller Lite, but overall it was a really fun weekend.
Anyone who goes to their high school reunion is much braver than me.Continue reading "Reunion"
DJ Spooky's CD Riddim Warfare is always difficult to listen to. Where DJ Qbert's Wave Twisters is humorous, dense, and wildly virtuosic, and DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... is stylish and generally groovy, Spooky's music is erratic. He has a lot to say, but his aesthetic efforts are too unfocused. He should be the Sonic Youth of the genre. Instead, his music veers too close to the "art school fuck you" that Kim Gordon strives to avoid.Continue reading "DJ Spooky"
The song "Ritual" (15-meg mp3, or this excerpt) is the fourth in the four-song cycle by Yes called Tales from Topographic Oceans. Each song is aproximately 20-minutes long and many of the musical themes are shared throughout each.
"Ritual" opens with an instrumental introduction after which a short section for guitar transitions to the first verse. This is a transcription of that bridge which lasts from 4:01 to 5:24.Continue reading "Transcription: "Ritual" (1st bridge) by Yes"
A coworker pointed out the the cycle of the current Mayan calendar ends during the next transit of Venus. Well, sort of. The transit occurs on 6 June 2012 and the Mayan calendar ends either on 21 December 2012 or 23 December 2012 (depending on two different correlations).
The end of the calendar isn't the end of time, rather the beginning of a new cycle.
Beautiful Horizons (whose author is
a Norteamericano living in New York with my Brazilian wife and a passion for Latin American travel) recently posted a lucid explanation of the legal basis of the US adhering to international law on torture. Thank you for cutting through the haze of our current administration's double-talk.
Q: So the terms of the Convention Against Torture is the law of the land in the United States, right?
A: Yes it is...
The entire Q&A is short and to the point. Go read.Continue reading "Beautiful post on the Constitution"
There are many palette-cleansing essays out there clearing out the sugary taste of the over-ebullient eulogizing of Reagan. I understand that respect for the deceased is more respect for those who were close and who survive the deceased, but there is no excuse for overstating their importance.
Here's a collection and assessment of some criticisms that have appeared:Continue reading "Reagan bad"
Earlier tonight as I was out recyclin' and grocery shoppin', WABE replayed the ASO's April performance of Olivier Messiaen's Turangalīla-symphonie (the one made famous in Futurama). I'm continually stunned by that work.Continue reading "20th Century symphony"
Kabao (the band formerly known as Bao, aka Robert Bao) has a new two song CD out titled Half the way / Devil or another sucker (remixes) available at CDBaby and Tower Records. This was originally available at the infamous 1/23/2004 Vinyl show. Break out the Red Bull & vodka and kick back for two new down-tempo tracks previewed from his upcoming CD. If you can't get enough then check out his first CD Warm As Sweaters also on CDBaby and Tower.Continue reading "Kabao"
I've begun using it to provide links to relevant quotes and have been a little lazy. The links ended up being session dependent and have expired. Here's a quick hack to do it correctly.Continue reading "Amazon hacks"
We live in lofts that used to be state government offices. The walls have metal studs instead of wood ones (nudge nudge), so our condo has a couple of dead spots for the wireless network. Enter the wireless extension point!
The path I must take is clear now. Still, it would be nice to pay only $40 instead of $70...Continue reading "WAP woes"
A blog (or diary or notebook) has been a good way for me to examine my assumptions. I may, and often do, have SUPER BRILLIANT IDEAS. But, just as somehow bugs get diabolically inserted into my perfect code almost at the same time that I'm writing it ("wtf?!?"), my brilliance often falls apart as it hits the typed page. At least some semblance of credible thought gets eventually recorded. It sounds trite, but writing and researching my ideas always clarifies them. Or nullifies them ... but by the time research has proved them crappy, they never get on the page, and I can stop saying "well I think blah-blah-blah" whenever the subject comes up in polite conversation.
A blog is more for the audience that's listening in my head. Whenever I get an idea, I write a < one sentence note about it (in my Pocket PC), and it sits waiting for me to follow through and write about it. Some ideas are simple (
I like the hypertext format better than a written notebook because I can easily search it and I can provide all of the links/footnotes. Although there's a definite tradeoff if you like to draw or doodle. Or if you truly want to use it as a diary--there's a clash of public and private impulses as you attempt to get those credible thoughts on the page.
Today, I'm a geek. I've stayed up to watch the venus transit over a Webcast.
I've got images from:
Saw 1st and 2nd contact, but because of the way they were filming, you couldn't see the halo of Venus's atmosphere in the dark region before it entered the Sun's disk.
It looked like a beautiful day in Athens (+7 hours from EST ... see you there in September) with the Exploratorium people narrating for posterity. Their site's getting beaten to death tonight.
The entire transit should last 6-1/2 hours (until ~8 AM EST).
See the pictures...Continue reading "The transit has begun..."
I was just reading a short comment rant over at the sometimes interesting dive into mark that touches on the prescriptivist/descriptivist debate. The more you understand about linguistics the tougher it is to be a language snob.Continue reading "Grammar"
Man, seeing this film may have finally gotten my recent obsession with ultra-violent cinema out of my system. I had previously watched Ichi director Takashi Miike's film Audition and thought I had enough of it then. This went much further, but had an equal amount of humor. As Tarantino commented recently on Kill Bill: saying it has gratuitous violence is like saying that pornography has gratuitous sex. That's all it is.
(Which I'm sure was an unfair over-generalization, but you-get-the-point.)
Warning: This review contains graphic descriptions of scenes from the film.Continue reading "Review: Ichi the Killer (4/5)"
An arctic ice shelf drops into the ocean, tornadoes decimate Los Angeles, hurricanes the size of Greenland flash-freeze everything in their path, and Manhattan first floods and then ices over. The Day After Tomorrow was quite a spectacle (most of which was shown in previews).Continue reading "Review: The Day After Tomorrow (2/5)"
Fucking DOJ's unlawful fucking imprisonment of people, think they're above the fucking law.Continue reading "DOJ Bastards"
The Venus transit was a major theme throughout Mason & Dixon, and it is a signature trademark of Pynchon's stories. Many of his themes deal with ineffable transition periods (e.g. the parabolic arc of a rocket as it changes from ascending to descending in Gravity's Rainbow).
At the suggestion of Edmond Halley, the transit pair of 1761 and 1769 was used to try to determine the precise value of the astronomical unit using parallax. Numerous expeditions were made to various parts of the world in order to observe these transits; in effect this was the first international scientific collaboration.
Pynchon had Jeremiah Dixon involved in this measurement. I never researched whether Dixon actually did this or not.Continue reading "More on Venus"
On June 8th, we'll get to see the unspectacular but momentous transit of Venus. This event is when Venus passes between the Earth and the sun, and happens every 122 years in pairs eight years apart (so the previous two were in 1882 and 1874, the next two in 2012 and 2134). Oops, I took the 122 years number as gospel. It's apparently a cycle of 122 years -> 8 years -> 105 years -> 8 years -> 122 years, etc. Hope for clear skies or watch here.
(Thomas Pynchon wrote about the previous transit in his novel Mason & Dixon.)Continue reading "Venus"
Got bumped from a Delta plane to a Song plane on my flight to Las Vegas this morning. Song has tiny TVs for every seat.
Cool. Cool. Cool.
So I get to watch that Screensavers show on TechTV (now G4 TechTV). I understand that some subjects need to be dumbed down for more general audiences, but this show is like the Highlights magazine of tech shows. They were pretty weak.
(but it's fun posting this from my Thera Pocket PC Phone...)