November 16, 2002

It's too bad that the Justice Department's new-found interest in enforcing the Sherman Act is only limited to alt-weekly newspapers, but this comes a few weeks too late to save NewTimes, an oft-interesting fishwrap that was in direct competition with the Weekly, but was shut down when their respective publishers made a pact not to compete in the LA and Cleveland markets.
The War on Terra (cont.): While W. plots a war against an imaginary foe (albeit one who did try to kill his dad), our real enemies meet somewhere in South America, as Adam Felber reports.

November 15, 2002

Principal Rooney Gets Busted !! I suppose there's good reason to be sceptical of these allegations, in light of the exaggerated charges the same DA's office leveled against Wynona Ryder and Paula Poundstone, as well as the fact that the search where all this evidence was supposedly found took place exactly a year ago; not exactly fresh evidence to base a charge. Still, I'll never view Ferris Bueller's Day Off the same way again.
Well, thank kobe Congress is back in session. Today, it passed a law outlawing the "unauthorized placing of pornographic materials in packaged food items". Whether this will also encompass such items as edible lingerie remains to be seen. Coming as it does on the heels of the recent defeat of the "Bankruptcy Reform Act", on account that it risks burdening anti-abortion wackos with a lifetime of debt should they get get sued for violating someone's civil rights (as opposed to imposing a lifetime of debt on anti-abortion wackos who incur high medical costs just after they lose their jobs), and the noble effort to use the Homeland Security Bill to sneak through a liability waiver for pharmeceutical companies, it is evident that the next two years are going to be a blast.

November 13, 2002

From the creator of Condredge's Acolyte's, America's Greatest Collaborative College Football weblog, comes a to-be-determined blog devoted to college hoops. Details later, but any and all who are interested should contact me ASAP.
The funny thing about political primaries is you sometimes see signs of moderation in even the most extreme politicians. Now that he has to battle with someone even more reactionary than he, Sharon is now sounding almost statesmanlike when it comes to Palestinian statehood, saying things that would have been almost unthinkable for a Likudnik fifteen to twenty years ago.
It's now official: the Lakers suck !! Without Shaq, L.A. is as imposing as Tom Daschle.

November 12, 2002

Mr. Samgrass has now joined the Sonny Liston Brigade, making the same disingenuous argument about "chickenhawks" that every other warblogger has proferred in the last month. Note to Snitch: 1984 is supposed to be a dystopian tale....
And of course, the Onion has its take on last Tuesday's election...btw, on an unrelated point, whatever happened to Don Meredith?
Bay Area residents should be alerted to the fact that the greatest character actress you've never heard of, Phoebe Nicholls, makes a rare TV appearance Friday on your PBS station at 10:00 p.m. The woman behind the world's most perfect English accent plays a greedy sister who goes out of her mind in "May and June". For everyone else, you'll just have to rent Persuasion for a glimpse of the only thespian besides John Malkovich (and maybe Crispin Glover as well) who can singlehandedly change the complexion of a film by just appearing in a few scenes.

UPDATE [11/16/2007]: "May and June" has recently been released on DVD, as part of a package of British TV films based on the short stories of Ruth Rendell. Although the set is worth buying just for "May and June," you can, thanks to the technological breakthrough that is Netflix, simply rent the appropriate disc (ie., Disc 3) and watch it at your leisure. Think of it as a combination of All About Eve and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, if those films had been written and directed by Rod Serling or Alfred Hitchcock.

It's very difficult to figure out after seeing "May and June" why Phoebe Nicholls never made it to the next level, why her name hasn't become as ubiquitous in reference to "great acting" as Helen Mirren or Meryl Streep. She shows here that she can carry a film by herself, and her performance is a master class of acting, turning what could have been a campy rehash of sibling rivalry cliches into something mythic. Nevertheless, her roles thereafter have all been of the supporting nature, and have pretty much been confined to British TV. She deserves better luck.
In "May & June", Nicholls portrays a woman who has always played second fiddle to her prettier, younger sister, but who collapses emotionally when she loses her fiance to her sibling. Twenty years later, having never married or achieved much in her life other than surviving, she attends the funeral of her ex-fiance, and meets her sister, now unbelievably wealthy but alone, and she is invited to move in with her as an act of reconciliation.

But it's clear that she has never gotten over the loss of her true love or the betrayal years before, which she has chosen to blame entirely on her sister. When she finds out that her sister's marriage had, in fact, been rocky, and that she had taken a lover during the final days of her husband's life, she follows a course of action that ultimately leads to a devastating finale.

Without spoiling the ending, which you probably won't see coming, let's just say that it wouldn't work unless you completely empathized with the character played by Ms. Nicholls. Her final descent into madness is especially poignant, because we know that the character had been a decent, generous person at one point (she met her fiance, a solicitor, while she was working for a children's foster home), and that her capacity to love, and even forgive, her sister, existed. But her soul is already well on the way to being poisoned by jealousy, greed and remorse. The decision she makes is understandable, if no less appalling, and her "triumph" is an empty one.

In the hands of a lesser actress, we would have only seen the madness behind the eyes, rather than have that quality only hinted at. Even our greatest actresses (ie., Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, Glenn Close in Fatal Atraction, Faye Dunnaway in anything since Network) have succumbed to the temptation of camping it up when portraying mentally-troubled women. Such films can be fun to watch, but the viewer will not be impacted in the slightest when the credits roll.

To pull it off correctly requires a tremendous emotional sensitivity, a self-awareness that is quite rare, and often very difficult to manage, as the biography of Billie Holiday might attest. In fact, one of Ms. Nicholls' co-stars from an earlier movie once compared her to a "soul singer," a person of "great warmth" but for whom it was painful to work at her livelihood. A woman like that will probably never become a "star," since to have such qualities necessarily means not having the narcissism and egocentricism that are required to willingly allow one to settle for less, if it means getting a well-paying role in a Hollywood star-vehicle. But having that sort of sensitivity has meant she's been one hell of an actress over the years, and I'm one fan who has never been disappointed.
I didn't have an opinion one way or the other when the battle for House Demo Leader was between Nancy Pelosi and Martin Frost, b/c I don't think it's all that necessary to have a person in that position with the right ideology; as long as Frost can crack some heads and take the fight to George Bush, Tom DeLay, et al., he would be just as good as anyone else. Harold Ford Jr. is altogether different. I think there is a real question as to whether or not he has a pair. Twice he has backed away from running for Senate seats in Tennessee, including this last election, when he would have been a frontrunner for an open seat. Any doubts I may have had as to his lack of fortitude were resolved when I saw him get his ass kicked by Mr. Samgrass several months ago on Hard Ball. Future of the Party? Hah !! He's our version of Dan Quayle.
Dept. of Corrections: Last week I noted that if everyone who had voted for Dan Lundgren in 1998 had voted for Bill Simon this time around, Simon would have been elected governor. As it turns out, that was based on a count which didn't include some absentee and provisional ballots, so according to the revised total, Davis is now ahead of the '98 Lundgren vote by some 50,000 ballots, or just over 7/10ths of a percentage point.

UPDATE: As of Wednesday evening, '02 Davis now leads '98 Lundgren by over 170,000 votes, which is just over two percent. It just goes to show that sometimes it pays to await all the evidence before pronouncing a verdict. Still, the implication is basically the same; this election could have easily been much closer had Simon run anything resembling a competent campaign.

November 11, 2002

Is there any doubt that the Bush Administration is the most dishonest to hold power since 1974? This article presents an unbiased yet devastating case on that point. Again, it's the difference between lying about sex and lying about policy. Lies about sex, whether under oath or not, only hurt the family of the liar, but they sell newspapers; lies about policy corrupt the body politic, and make democratic choice impossible. If there is one enduring legacy of the conservative resurgence that began in this country following the 1968 election, it has been the not-so-subtle manner in which the Right has used falsehoods and mendacity to sell their agenda, smear their opponents, and taint the language: from the bombing of Cambodia to Watergate to the fraudulent investigation of Whitewater to the coming invasion of Iraq, conservatives have chosen the path of lies as the first option, even in cases, such as with Iraq, where an honest case for their position can be made. Nor is this a problem simply with politicians: it comes up every time a right wing pundit pretends that all supporters of affirmative action are the "real racists", or that those who disagree with the domestic policy of the Likud Party are "anti-semitic", or that people critical of the hypocrisy of gay bigots in the blogosphere are "homophobic".

But of course, Clinton lied about blow jobs, and he lied about, eh, mmm, errrr, blow jobs, and I'm sure he lied about something else as well, although history does not note what else he lied about. And some obscure academic got into trouble for fabricating some evidence about gun ownership in the early 19th century. In the meantime, Fraulein Goebbels has a bestseller in which there are lies on almost every single page (but they are "footnoted" lies!!), and Rush Limbaugh has one of the top radio shows pushing a political agenda of hate and bigotry somewhere to the right of Father Coughlin, and the President has a new line almost every day about why we should go to war with Iraq.

But I will never lie to you, my sweet....

November 10, 2002

Provocative piece by Matt Welch about a possible Gray Davis presidential run. Why couldn't Nader have been the spoiler in that election? I need a drink....