Monday, January 31, 2011

John Barry 1933-2011

It's Not Rape Unless Republicans Say It Is

Credit ABC News

Rape is only really rape if it involves force, according to the new House Republican majority as it now moves to change abortion law.

For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, with another exemption covering pregnancies that could endanger the life of the mother.

But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to drastically limit the definition of rape and incest in these cases. The bill, with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors, has been dubbed a top priority in the new Congress by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible.

For example, if a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion. Rep. Smith's spokesman did not respond to a call and an email requesting comment.

Continue at

ABC News

Editorial From The Count


Sucks and shouldn't be played.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Nebraska 57 #11 Texas A&M 48

Nebraska runs their record to 15-5 and 3-3 in league

Jorge Brian Diaz scored a team high 16 points

Friday, January 28, 2011

Jeff Fisher Out In Tennessee

Anybody looking for a coach a pretty good one just came on the market.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Thread

The State of the Union has already started, so feel free to make any comments you want to make.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Some More Fun With Fox Comments

Yes because anybody who would use or want to use a bomb must be a Muslim...


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Remembering James Bond. A Parody That Lead To Further Bond Books. Book Review The Liquidator 1964

Reading John Gardner's first foray into fiction one can understand what the Ian Fleming folks saw that made them decide he was the man to handle the job of bring the literary James Bond into the 80's. Gardner's Bond books are a roller coaster affair some are quite good and some simply are not. Gardner himself was never a fan of the Bond novels and his opinion of their silliness led him to write The Liquidator whose hero is ultimate the anti-James Bond Brian (Boysie) Oakes. Years after (mistakenly) saving the life of the man who would become the head of British secret service in World War 2 Oakes is hired to become an assassin for the British Government. Just one problem. Oakes is a coward who can not stand
killing...of any kind even the smallest bug. Not being a man of great talent Oakes hasn't had much financial success since the war so in-spite of his cowardliness and his aversion to killing he takes the job simply for the pay. When Oakes has to carry out a killing he contracts the job to a gangster.

The Book opens with Oakes getting ready to go on holiday with his boss's secretary Iris to the South of France. This is leads to the first problem of Oakes profession he is afraid of flying. While on vacation he gets a call to come back to London and carry out a killing panicking Oakes because he doesnt have the time to get a hold of his hired killer. It turns out that the call was a fake and Oakes himself is being used to kill a member of British royalty. With the help of his boss Oakes figures out the plan in time and again becomes the hero again quite by accident thus making the British Secret Service continue to believe he is a brave killer.

The book is a product of the mid 1960's spy craze even if it's intent was to poke some fun at it's leader James Bond. It does stand as proof that given his own creation and some incentive Gardner could turn out a fine spy novel even if it was a parody. Not that Gardner's Bond books were bad. Several were quite good in fact, but this is better than any of his Bond creations. Garners characterization of Boysie Oakes succeeds for the same reason his characterization of James Bond often did not. Gardner makes Oakes the common man. You or I could be Boysie Oakes. In the subtext of a book who's hero is not invincible this works marvelously in the world of James Bond it does not. One often reads a Gardner Bond novel and says "wow I could have pulled this off" killing the escapism that is essential in a Bond novel. Here knowing that you or I could do what Boysie does only to have others believe he is a super human killing machine only adds to the fun of the book.

As is to be expected the book is outdated and the story isn't exactly fresh. There were a few 1960's British slang terms I needed some schooling on. The book is 46 years old and certainly wouldn't work in 2011 which may say more about 2011 than 1964. It was, as I said earlier, made in the beginning of the spy craze. Between 1964 and 1968 most everything was about spies and the quality was always variable. The Liquidator never pretends to be anything other than a quick comical read and succeeds as such. Gardner himself towards the end of his lfe said at the time he thought they were fun but now considered them rubbish which is more than a little harsh. It may not be War and Peace but at least people who claim to have read and liked The Liquidator have actually read and like it.

There would be 7 more Boysie Oakes novels by John Gardner I have them all and will review them in time. Only one The Liquidator was turned into a movie. It was made in 1965 and starred Rod Taylor and Trevor Howard. The movie is not available on DVD and does not have a quality reputation though some find it amusing for what it is. The film was on youtube and I of course decided not to watch it until I had the book read. Once I finally read the book the film was gone.

Amongst James Bond fans, even ones who aren't crazy about Gardner's Bond output, the Boysie Oakes novels are very highly thought of and considered worth the time to track them down. I finally have one down and I can say the first The Liquidator certainly was.

The Liquidator John Gardner ****/*****

Superbowl XLV Is Set


Sunday Sports Thread

Green Bay 21 Chicago 14. Game got interesting down the stretch but Green Bay really controlled it through out. Horrible play calling by Bear offensive coordinator Mike Martz down the stretch especially on 3 and 3 with a minute left where he ran a slow developing inside reverse that lost a yard and then forced a hurried throw on 4th down.

Bears 3rd String QB Caleb Hanie almost became an overnight hero. Jay Cutler flat out punked out of this game. Of course if he had stayed in Green Bay would have won at least 21-0 Hanie was much better.

An Pittsburgh holds off the New York Jets 24-19. So your Superbowl is the Pittsburgh Steelers Vs The Green Bay Packers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Keith Olbermann Leaves MSNBC.

I am sure Keith will land on his feet. This is not a huge disappointment for me because I haven't watched his show in awhile and when something good happens on his show I catch it on line. Still we need good liberal voices. No comments for now on this thread but Mods of course can edit their thoughts.

RalphyFan adds:

If you ask me this is direct fallout from Comcast's now all-but-sealed acquisition of NBC/Universal. They much prefer the tame, predictable punditry of a Matthews or an O'Donnell (it's no coincidence that Mr. Have-I-Mentioned-My-Senate-Staffing-Days? is getting Keith's old time slot, I daresay) to the forthright views that Keith was not afraid to express even when they bit the corporate hand that fed him.

I've heard CNN mentioned. Why bother with television at all? Cut to the chase, Keith, and become the spotlight podcast someplace like DKos or Huffington Post. Or, better yet, launch your own online content venture so that you're beholden to nobody and can call your own shots. Millions of bookmarks, Day One, I have absolutely no doubt.

Thoughts from Jonathan:
When I was 15, as I had just begun to become politically aware, I turned to MSNBC to watch the news, and watched one person in paticular, on the 5:00 hour every evening, from Monday to Friday: Keith Olbermann. From the nigtly, often funny, "Worst Persons In The World" segment, to the usually brilliant and powerful "Special Comment" and everything in between his nightly hour newscast, I watched, I laughed, felt outrage, and became more politically aware of my political surroundings. It sucks to know that Countdown with Keith Olbermann came to an end tonight.

Good night, and good luck, Keith.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fuckin Brats Don't Need Edumacation

Now you see why family guys like Planet Boob and Mikey Thayer are jerking each other off to pictures of Terry Branstad. He thinks like they do.

If Governor Terry Branstad and many Republicans have their way, state funded preschool for all children could be a thing of the past.

Since the program started in 2007, universal pre-school cost the state $156 million. House Republicans vowed to slash the budget by $500 million. They say an easy cut would be to stop paying for all four-year-olds to go to school. That upsets many parents who say pre-school is making a huge difference in their child's life.

Branstad whom in his former run as governor nearly lost to Gopher from the Love Boat in a Republican primary wants to go to vouchers. You know the old Republican tried and true let's get the poor to pay for our child's education while still not letting them go to our schools scheme. Oh well at least we no longer have the worst governor in America.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nebraska 79 Colorado 67.

Nebraska won it's 2nd conference game of the year defeating Colorado 79-67. CU had been 3-0 in conference. Nebraska is now 2-2 in conference. 14-4 overall. Last year NU won 2 conference games all year.

Toeny McCray

Joe Lieberman Is Not Running For Re-Election

I am sure many of you will miss Benedict Lieberman. Personally I have no respect for any man who tries to cozy up to a group of swine who labeled me "Loserman" but then he made sure in the end that everybody was calling him that.

Battle Hymn of the TEA Party

Over at The Way I See It I I show how the famous patriotic tune, "Battle Hymn of the Republic", gets a makeover by the TEA Party. Check it out, and be prepared to be virtually stunned.

Editing note by Jonathan: As demonstrated by the Count, you are not welcome here, Ralphie, and you sure as hell are not welcome over at The Way I See It, either. Go fap to Palin on your blog, but don't bring your spunk trail to our blogs.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Fox News Viewers Honor Martin Luther King Hate Female Employees.

Thank You so much to Fox News Comments. we love the work that you do!

I am sure our own ET will like this nugget...

Sundays Sports Thread

Seattle Seahawks Vs Chicago Bears

New York Jets Vs New England Patriots

Chicago 35 Seattle 24. Completely missed the game. So I can't say a whole lot about it.
New York 28 New England 21. Oh wow. The Jets cashed the check with their asses that they wrote with their mouths.

So next week
Green Bay Packers At Chicago Bears
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Non Sequiturs on Gun Control

Probably like many Banned and Dangerous readers, I've been a little dismayed when I find that old friends I've reconnected with on Facebook or other social media have, shall we say, in the intervening years, sipped the wingnut kool-aid a little too ardently, with the result that I hardly recognize their current points of view. That was the case with me, tonight, when a friend from my Oregon life - with whom I certainly never talked politics, just artsy-craftsy stuff - re-posted this comment which had been forwarded her way, giving it her stamp of approval:
To everyone who is calling for stricter gun laws in light of the tragedy in Tucson, may I offer this little tidbit: If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons made Oprah fat ! Remember: Hold the PERSON accountable for their actions, not the means they chose to utilize!!!'s where this breaks down for me. I get the reference to any inanimate object being, shall we say, "neutral" until someone chooses to actively employ it. In that sense, she's right. People, not guns, ultimately kill other people.

But the logical element that is missed in this is that every object has an innate intent for its existence. Pencils exist in order that one can write. Cars exist to serve as transportation. Spoons exist so that we may eat.

Why do guns exist?

At this point you could argue the sportsman's perspective: target shooting, general marksmanship, even hunting (though I find that last indefensible in the modern era). But that represents zero justification for the semi-automatic Glock used in those tragic murders and injuries that occurred in my hometown. Because, beyond any defensible point of view, the innate intent for such a weapon is, purely and simply, killing.

And, if you purchase or own or even endorse such a weapon, you're on board with the free and relatively easy availability of a commodity the primary purpose of which is death.

So don't, in the wake of this soul-numbing episode, trot out that lame defense of the gun culture. Not when a 9-year-old child is dead thanks to a nutcase having free and ready access to firearms. "Second Amendment remedies," my ass! The founders never intended to condone modern-day, single-handed Rambo types, one-man arsenals on a personal mission of destruction. They wanted a "well-regulated militia," a sane group of sane people ready to defend sane things. If you're so keen on "original intent," then why not go out and get yourself a musket and call it good? But it is folly to pretend that the patriots of 1776 could have foreseen this 21st century tragedy, and incorporated its nasty weaponry and toxic political dialogue into their original language. Just as it is folly to say that there should be NO regulation in terms of access to firearm ownership. A functioning mental health system and a requirement for background checks might have gone a long way, in the course of this past week, toward lives saved.

Yes, it's wrong to blame the tool before the user. But it still behooves us to examine the tool's purpose in the course of determining whether the tool, as well as the user, may be equally in the wrong.

Saturday Sports Thread.

NFL Playoffs, Nebraska trying for their first win in Lawrence, Kansas since 1999 in basketball...should be a fun day. Post all sports related here.

Kansas 63 Nebraska 60. No question the team is much improved over last year and if they play like this they'll win 7 or 8 conference games on effort alone. They just need to avoid those damn stretches where they get nothing done. If this team had one consistent shooter and some stronger bigs...But as they say if my Aunt had nads...

Pittsburgh beats Baltimore 31-24 in a very tough game this afternoon. Baltimore got up 21-7 at the half inspite of having only 93 yards total offense. Most of the points in the game came from penalties and turnovers. This was a tight defensive game.

Green Bay is ahead of Atlanta 48-21 with less than 2 minutes left. Green Bay, espeically Aaron Rodgers looked incredibly good however Atlanta the team with the fewest turnovers in the regular season shit themselves in the spotlight turning the ball over 4 times. The biggest turnover came at the end of the half with GB up 21-14. Atlanta was going in for a score but Matt Ryan was intercepted and GB ran it back for a TD to make the score 28-14.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Honestly I Am Going To Miss Him

Michael Steele is not running for head of the RNC. Honestly I liked him and thought he was great in the role.

Mrs. Mike Medved Is As Big A Douchebag As Mr. Mike Medved

She doesn't mind homeless she just hates them hanging around upscale stores in Honolulu

I've seen matted-haired scavengers picking through trash bins along the beach, and even right in front of Kalakaua Avenue designer shops, searching for cans to redeem for pennies.

On a drive around the island, we saw a public elementary school lawn food distribution, long tables of comestibles seemingly offered to anyone approaching.

On last night's walk, we saw a guy lying asleep on the Kalakaua thoroughfare sidewalk...His clothes and person were dark with dirt, in contrast to the white sidewalk. What an appealing incentive to spend big bucks in Fendi, Coach, and the other glitzy stores a few feet away.

We've been privileged to come to Honolulu, where my husband works during our stays, many times over the years. I've never seen so many and such conspicuous homeless encampments, just plopped down in the most desirable footage on the planet.

[Hawaiian's] "shaka" attitude of casualness goes a little too far when tourists are forced to step around some pretty disgusting inhabitants, and doesn't serve those individuals or their neighbors at all.

Now In Mrs. Medved's defense it seems she can handle the dirty unwashed masses but what about her Daughter? Her follow up again from World-O-Crap

When I posted my surprise at the number of homeless with tarp-covered mounds of stuff in Waikiki parks, many lying on the sidewalks of touristy Kalakaua Avenue, I got some nasty comments about how heartless I am. I don't want to abandon these people--I want charities or, failing that, even government to help them.

I think the ire comes from my underlying assumption that living on the streets is unacceptable. Should the desires of a few (often) mentally ill or substance-addicted "free spirits" trump the needs of the vast majority to walk on streets unmolested, without insecurity about safety? How comfortable are you about your teen daughter, say, walking down a street at night--one lined with fine stores at that--with less-than-clean people approaching her for money, or lying in her path?

Should she be the one to give way for the homeless, or should keepers of public safety step in to insist the out-of-the-boxers find more suitable sleeping space?

Oh the trials and tribulations of having millions to spend in Hawaii.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A tale of two speeches

You can read my commentary on the two speeches President Obama and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska gave on the tragedy in Tuscon, and what it says about the pair over at The Way I See It. Please read and comment, and the Count is more than welcome to cut and paste my entry over here to Banned and Dangerous.

Jonathan please post the commentary over here. It contains embedded video code.


Last night, as the city of Tuson, Arizona, and a nation mourn the loss of half a dozen innocent civilians as a disturbed lone gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, nearly assassinated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, there were two headlines, two speeches that, in the humble opinion of this 20 year-old blogger, voter, and citizen, speak volumes of their character as public servants.

President Obama spoke just a few hors ago on tragedy that occured at a shopping mall on the morning of January 7. Instead of rehashing what was said and what's being repeated on the cable news networks, allow me to let the words and the man speak for themselves.

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There are some on the left who will say that the President should have called out the people who were throwing red meat to their base, words and rhetoric which crossed over from passionate debate to implying that the other side must be taken out, either by the ballot, or by the bullet, for they pose a grave and dangerous threat to security of our country, and to be perfectly honest, the passionate side of me would want and say that the Palins, the Becks, and the Limbaughs of the world should have to stand trial along with the crazed shooter for the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Giffords and the senseless murder of 6 other victims. As I stated before, the nation is mourning over the loss of life, and at this time, as the President told the nation tonight, cooler heads must prevail, and our spirited debate must not blind a simple truth: that at the end of the day, we are all Americans who want only what is best for our country, so in keeping with Obama's theme of toning down the rhetoric, I won't let my spirited and heated side get the better of the me. If there's one thing that has been constant about the Obama Presidency, and what I admire, it is that the President has always called upon his supporters and his detractors to find the better angels of our nature and find ways to work together and move the debate of how we can drive the nation forward.

The same cannot be said for Sarah Palin.

Also today, the one-time Governor of Alaska and Vice-Presidential candidate in 2008 also touched on the shooting, before she exposed the real reason she took to the camera: to paint herself as a major victim of the heinous event. Again, I am going to let Mrs. Palin, and her words, speak for themselves.

Sarah Palin: "America's Enduring Strength" from Sarah Palin on Vimeo.

If you're a rising star in the GOP, had put crosshairs on the districts of opponents who are up for re-election in the House, and one of those representatives was almost assassinated, what would your choices be?
A. speak briefly; say that this is a terrible tragedy and that our hearts and prayers go out of Rep. Giffords and her family, and take your lumps.
B. see A, abd also announce that although a crazed, apolitical gunmen acted alone in his deranged, twisted mind, you announce that you and everyone must tone down the rhetoric and remember that we may allign ourselves as Republicans and Democrats, we are Americans first, and foremost.
C. take to the camera and not only paint yourself as the victim, but use a term that hold deeply negative connotations against the Jewish people.

Sarah, as you can see by the video, chose C.

Mrs. Palin probably can't understand why she's taking all kinds of shit from the national media, from people on Twitter and Facebook, and Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, so as a public service, I will be the one to help her out: Sarah -- it's not just the fact you used a highly offensive term to describe how the media is going after you (a thesaurus and/or a dictionary are you friends, Sarah!), its the fact that, once again, you chose to make yourself the victim; like it was you who was most affected by the tragedy, like it was you who was neary assassinated, or that you lost someone near and dear to you becasue of the lone gunman. You acted as if it was the media who was burning you at the stake, or nailing you to a piece of wood. None of us on the left or the national media are pointing the finger at you for this tragedy (Note: anyone on the left who seriously beleives she is to blame for this is a damn fool), but the fact that your actions with the crosshairs that were chosen at Democratic incumbents who's seats were up for grabs in the Midterms, and all the red meat you've been throwing to your base, is only heading our nation for more potential grief, and if you still can't see that...then that's you're biggest problem.

The two speeches that were given last night outline two completely different personalities: one took the high road and allowed us to grieve and celebrate those who acted without thought for themselves to save others' lives, and calls on all of us to follow their example. The other showed that even in the face of tragedy, she never misses an opportunity to play politics and make the story all about her.

As If Arizona Didn't Have Enough Problems It Looks Like It's Getting The Count

Under the impression we weren't going to have much a vacation in 2011 (because we spent the farm on 2010) I floated the idea for going to Laramie Wyoming in September to see the Nebraska-Wyoming football game. I should have known something was up when I got an ok with without a fight. Somehow a 4 or 5 day trip to Wyoming has turned into a near two week planned vacation which includes seeing several national parks in Utah and the Grand Canyon. I was initially less than thrilled about the idea however a pretty good argument was put forth. When you live in Nebraska how much can you really figure point at other states for their politics? Anyway now we're going through Laramie on the way back.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

007 returns in 2012

After all the drama about whether or not Bond 23 will get off the ground, the guys at EON Productions and MGM have announced that the man with a Licence to Kill will be back in theaters next year. I'm sure the Count is doing backflips over this.

Monday, January 10, 2011

National Championship Game Thread


Auburn is a 3 to 3 1/2 point favorite and is the popular pick. I like Oregon which if you take in to account my other bowl picks is another good sign for Auburn. One thing is for certain January 10th is a ridiculous date to be playing this game

Late Edit from The Count: Auburn 22 Oregon 19. Crazy exciting finish to what was often a lackluster football game. The promised offensive explosion was blunted by a first half of offensive ineptitude.

The key play of the game came after Oregon scored a TD and 2pt conversion to tie the score at 19 when Auburn;s running back appeared to have been tackled and the play was over. Even he initially thought it was over however he was coaxed into getting up and running. The play was close. Both Jonathan and I were rooting for Oregon. I thought looking at the replay his body never touched and he was on top of an Oregon player. Jonathan thought he did touch the ground. Either way Oregon blew 2 scoring opportunities earlier in the game one on an INT and another on 4th and goal. So I don't believe they can say officials cost them the game.

Great finish but for the most part less than great game.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot At Tucson Safeway

A Lot of People have screened capped the image of cross hairs that Sarah Palin put up and then today took down on her website. Giffords was one of the candidates with a cross-hair. No doubt Sarah Palin is a worthless piece of shit however I think we should wait to hear more before either pointing a finger at Sarah for OR the conservative media in this country that creates so many right-wing nut jobs. All of the people pointing fingers right now will look foolish if somehow this had nothing to do with politics. I admit the chances are good it did but right now we just do not know.

Whether Politically motivated or not we can no say with out doubt the shooter was a nut-job.

Late Edit by Jonathan: Keith Olbermann's Special Comment: "Violence, or the threat of violence, has no place in our Democracy."

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Reposted Fox News Poll On Health Care

Thank You Newshounds. And note to Planet Boob. If you don't know what you are talking about please don't post. And on the slight chance you do know what you are talking about...don't post here anyway.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

True Grit: The 10 Best Films of 2010

2010 nearly became a sea of dreck: from godwaful summer hits (I'm looking at you Sex and the City 2) to overrated Oscar-hopefuls (The Town really bummed me out) it looked like slim pickings. Then came David Fincher's mesmerizing and simmering Greek tragedy in the form of the most powerful social networking site around, Joel and Ethan Coen's new classic re-telling of "The Duke's" only Oscar-winning role, a vampire movie that didn't suck and who name doesn't begin with Twilight, and the the beginning of the end for a beloved boy wizard. Add a lesbian couple's marriage on the rocks, a writer investigating corruption in the life of a public servant, and thieves pulling the perfect crime in our dreams, and we have 10 of the movies that not only didn't suck, but had true grit (forgive the pun) as well.

1. Inception - No other movie this year dared to dream bigger and dug deeper than Christopher Nolan's follow up to the '08 smash The Dark Knight. Leonardo DiCaprio is haunting as Don Cobb, a thief-for-hire who steals ideas from corporate bigshots while their victims are counting sheep, but can't get his deceased wife (played by the excellent Marion Cotillard)out of his head - literally. The ultimate prize is offered to Cobb by Mr. Saito (Ken Wantanbe) so he can go back to America without having to face a trial and jury for his corporate crimes in the past, if he and his team can perform the impossible: planting an idea into Saito's main competitor for energy, instead of extracting one, or inception. From there, we dive down the rabbit hole where laws of physics are bended and broken to one's will, and Cobb's secrets threaten his ticket home. Props to Nolan who's imagination is as vast and uncompromising as when Ariadne (Ellen Page) bends the Louvre on top of itself. To quote Cobb's right-hand man Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), "There's nothing like it."

2. Black Swan - Natalie Portman gives the performance of the year as a rising ballerina in the New York Ballet company who's landed the biggest role the production of Swan Lake. As the opening draws near, she faces a mental breakdown as she begins to explore her darker side as the Swan's alter ego in the recital. What could have been a total melodrama with a memorable steamy girl-girl sex scene between Portman and her co-star, a surprising, sensual performance by Mila Kunis, director Darren Aronofsky, along with longtime collaborators cinematographer Matthew Libatique and composer Clint Mansell take us on a harrowing, dark, and erotic journey into Nina Sayer's head, where her drive to being perfect threatens to destroy her and the production. The last line floors you: "I felt it. Perfect. I was perfect." It's the best way to describe Portman's tour-de-force and Aronofsky's latest, and best, creation.

3. The Social Network - A movie about Facebook? Hollywood has jumped the shark you might say. That guy from N'Sync, a handsome-looking but largely unknown British actor, and the kid in Zombieland? This has to be a fucking disaster, and in lesser hands, you would be correct. Director David Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (TV's The West Wing) don't give a damn about how LOL and OMG became part of our online vocabulary, the pair are hunting bigger game in how gifted genius, ruthless ambition, sex, money and betrayal paved the way for Zuckerberg to become the world's youngest billionaire and how his own shortcommings in social communication brings about the social networking phenomenon. Jesse Eisenberg gives the best performance of his young career as Facebook's founder, genius techie, and all-around brooding prick, while Andrew Garfield laces loyalty and heartbreak as Edwardo Saverin, Mark's best and only friend he eventually screws over for Napster founder Sean Parker (an excellent Justin Timberlake).

4. The Ghost Writer - Roman Polanski may be a sick, deplorable child fucker, but he's never been better as a filmmaker in this Machiavellian and haunting political thriller. Ewan McGregor is shines as a Ghost writer, hired to write the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) who's in self-exile in America as the International Criminal Court moves to convict him for engaging in torturing prisoners of war (all names have been changed in this movie to protect the guilty). A simple assignment becomes a cat-and-mouse hunt for the truth and a fight for his life the deeper the Ghost digs into Lang's rise into politics, and Polanski - along with composer Alexandre Desplat, and cinematographer Pawel Edelman - create a claustrophobic web of intrigue and ruthless power that hooks you until the final frame.

5. The Tillman Story - We all know the story of Cpl. Pat Tillman: how he turned down a lucrative deal to continue playing for the Arizona Cardinals in order to serve his country after 9/11. We all know how the Pentagon and the Bush Administration covered up his death (he died via friendly fire by his own unit) in order to use him as a recruiting tool for the military and to make him an American hero back home. Director Amir Bar-Lev and narrator Josh Brolin go further to uncover how our government tried to block the truth on how he died to a grieving family, and revealed the man behind the propaganda. The result makes the documentary all the more heartbreaking and sickening as Congress and the media looked the other way. The Tillman Story sticks with you long after the credits roll.

6. 127 Hours - A claustrophobic thriller/true story where the hero is incapable of movement? Sounds like another bland, weepy docudrama. Danny Boyle, who won the Oscar for Best Director in 2008 for the masterful Slumdog Millionaire, avoids the cliches and pitfals, and follows up with a brilliant, inspiring and harrowing journey into the six days that defined Aaron Ralston's life as his hand was pinned down to a boulder in a canyon in Utah. James Franco has shown off his acting chops before (see Harvey Milk's first partner in Milk) but he digs deep to show us what's going through Aaron's head as he comes face-to-face with his reckless/lone-wolf behavior, and with certain death. You feel like you're just as trapped as was the real hiker was, with hope fading minute by minute, which makes 127 Hours unforgetttable: Boyle and Franco make you believe.

7. The Kids Are All Right - In a year where comedies range from the painfully unfunny (Grown Ups) to the cliched sitcom antics of two people trying to make it work (Going The Distance), leave it to acting legends Julianne Moore and Annette Benning and first-time director Lisa Cholodenko to show everyone else how its done. For those who are expecting to see girl-on-girl sex from its two lead actresses, snap out of it. Yes, the subject is gay marriage, but if you dig beneath the surface, you'll see something universal: two imperfect people who are trying to make a relationship work when it seems the love has begun to fade.

8. Let Me In - It's a miracle! A vampire movie that doesn't suck, and an American remake (2007's mesmirising Sweedish horror movie Let The Right One In) that improves on the original. Matt Reeves, who wrote and directed the film, doesn't coddle to the fangirl base by plugging a couple of attractive leads and doesn't skimper on blood-sucking and feeling. Abby is played by the fantastic Chloe Crace-Moretz, the vampire who befriends Owen, a young boy who's tormented by bullies at school and his alcoholic, Bible-thumping mother, who is played with tenderness and traces of bubbling menace by Kodi Smit-McPhee. The relationship that forms turns deadly and deeply moving as the body count begins to pile up in the small town of New Mexico, as a local cop (Elias Koteas) tracks Abby and her guardian down (the always reliable Richard Jenkins).

9. True Grit - First the Facebook movie, now Hollywood remade the classic 1969 western staring John Wayne in the only role in which "The Duke" snagged the Best Actor Oscar? Again, this would be a walking disaster in lesser hands, but leave it to Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men) to take a vastly different approach and come away with a new Coen Bros. classic. Much like No Country in 2007, the directing duo don't just understand Charles Portis's novel of the same name, they know how the characters act, think, and breathe. The dialouge is among some of the finest the pair have ever crafted, as each line is laced with ferocity and stinging humor. Cinematographer Roger Deakins captures the open range with both breathtaking beauty and the lurking danger that spring at a moment's notice. As for the man who plays Wayne's Rooster Cogburn? Jeff Bridges dons the eye patch and does the The Duke proud by making Cogburn into a fat, drunkard with quick aim and glimmers of regret. The movie, though, belongs to newcomer Haliee Steinfeld, playing Mattie Ross, the 14 year-old smartmouthed, headstrong girl who hires Cogburn to hunt down Ton Chaney (Josh Brolin), the man who killed her father. She's a live wire.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I - Rounding out my list is probably the most unappreciated movie of the series. The rap is that Part One of the two-part finale of J.K. Rowling's epic fantasy series, is that its a huge tease: it's all buildup, zero release, and no payoff. Yes, it sets the stage to the final battle between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and the sinister Lord Voldemort (Ralph Finnes) and I will agree that the middle does lag in certain areas, but the payoff is in the performances of its three leads. For over a decade, we've seen Radcliffe and pals Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grow and mature from wide-eyed kids who'd let their Macaulay Culkin-esue facial expressions do the acting for them, to young leads with serious acting chops. Grint has usually been reduced to comic relief as Ron, but in Part One, there's a harder, more vulnerable edge to him that we've never seen before. Watching him charge with fury as a piece of jinxed jewelry unleashes his fear of losing Hermione to Harry is heartbreaking. Watson's Hermione has always impressed me for the start, but she takes it to a new level by introducing something we haven't seen in her character: the burden of being the brains of the trio and the conflicting emotions she has for both Harry and Ron. And Radcliffe as Harry shows him losing his faith in the late Dumbledore's request in finding and destroying the remaining Horcruxes (bits of the Dark Lord's soul hidden in various objects) without a clue where to search and how to destroy them.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Huck Finn 2.0

There's been a lot of news lately about one individual's plans to publish a version of Mark Twain's classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with strategic edits throughout to the "n-word" so prevalent in its pages.

I grant you that the n-word is offensive in the extreme in modern usage. I also understand the sensitivity around teaching this work anywhere in the K-12 curriculum as a consequence of that offensiveness.

But, surely, the answer is not to simply remove anything offensive from any work of literature! (And certainly not to make a terminology substitution that turns many passages into gobbledygook.)

Herewith, some of my arguments for the position that doing this is a bad idea:
  • Respect for the literary canon and for the integrity of the author. Works get elevated to the level of "classics" for a reason. They exhibit enduring value for their themes, the splendor of their language, or their status as an accurate portrait/reflection of the times in which they were created. To mess with that is to tamper in a very nonconstructive way with the fabric of global history and culture. Spenser's The Faerie Queene arguably loses much if not all of its value if you rewrite it in modern English and publish it under his name as a valid edition of the original. Would we re-write Faulkner for his use of the n-word? Strip Shakespeare of its iambic pentameter because that's "not how people talk nowadays"? Re-imagine Romeo and Juliet, say, as West Side Story or any number of modern-dress stagings, sure. But don't edit out one of the core themes of the story and still call it by its original name.

  • Respect for the student. Learning is supposed to be about preconceptions being challenged, and new viewpoints explored. Bowdlerize these literary texts and you're basically saying to the reader, I want your horizons restricted, your opportunities to confront important issues sidelined. It's a diet of skim milk and saltines for you: nothing meatier need apply.

  • Latitude for the teacher. As a former English teacher myself, I don't know of any of my colleagues who would approach Twain's use of the n-word as anything but a teachable opportunity; a chance to engage his or her students in the dialogue about what the novel's impact at the time of publication would have been on what was, on the whole, an overtly and prevalently racist society. It's the height of irony to me that when Huck was published, the outcry against it was because it dared depict a black man as, wow, human; and that today's outcry is reduced to a derelict piece of terminology.

  • Artistic honesty. An artist's creation deserves to stand as the artist ultimately left it to us. Changes after the fact are, I think, impertinent and an act of high hubris. Are we going to go and re-erect new monoliths at Stonehenge just because we think we've worked out how it "must" have looked, and some stones have fallen down over the centuries? Paint ancient Greek statues in the colors they were originally adorned with, even though they've come down to us as pristine marble? Give the Sphinx back its nose? Don't second-guess the artist and the verdict of time. Let it stand.

  • Finally...where does it stop? If you re-write Huck - and even though it may seem on the surface an innocuous edit, it truly does amount to a re-write - then where does the march of literary correctness end? Do we eliminate all references in The Merchant of Venice to Shylock's Judaism? The notion of revolution offends some people, so maybe we should excise the guillotine from A Tale of Two Cities, or change the plot of Les Miserables? And don't get me started on what we might do with Lolita, or Fahrenheit 451, or The Handmaid's Tale.
I guess it goes back to one of my core principles, which is that our allowing one another the mutual courtesy of free speech and free expression of our beliefs does not give you - or me - the inherent right never to be confronted with something that might offend. The wonderful, beautiful peril of freedom of speech is that, around every corner, something someone might say will challenge me, make me think, piss me off, or push me out of my comfort zone. Reducing that to the mere forms of political correctness seems to me a sad diminution of the human condition.

I hope that the widespread derision this guy's plan is meeting with comes to cancellation. Because I truly think that publication of this sanitized version of Huck would open the floodgates for a whole host of literary works long in the public domain being excised of all their thematic value, reduced to tidy, "safe" objects of study, for no doubt any number of Texas school districts whose graduates believe that humans once rode dinosaurs. Thinking students, teachers, parents, and societies deserve far better than that. And publishers should be mindful of the responsibility they have to the latter audience, rather than to the profit margin dangled by the former.

Please share your comments. I'm interested to hear what everyone thinks about this issue, which I see through a lens that admittedly views the text as primary and untouchable.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tolerance, Thy Name Plainly Ain't FSTDT

I started this particular dissection during the break but only wound it up tonight. It wouldn't be a New Year without a good old-fashioned fundie rant to debunk!

Among the recent droppings at FSTDT is a doozy. Join me in dissecting the strange rantings of one "DesertFox." (Extra points if we think the Fox part might refer to Fox News? But of course!)
The media discredits anything the Right does. So what if they want a CC in place of a Jew? Isn't that their right? Of course it is! And I for one am sick of Christian Conservative being a dirty pair of words.
As one of the commenters at FSTDT observed, anybody can be sick of any turn of phrase. Recent polling revealed that most people in North America are tired to bits of "Whatever!" as a phrase, for example. Plug in any characterization there in his statement about "dirty phrases": Naked Pagan, Latte-Drinker, Regressive Redneck, or even Congressional Representative. The statement's just as meaningful with any substitution you care to make....which is to say that it expresses someone's individual opinion. That's all. Saying you're sick of Christian Conservative being a dirty pair of words does nothing, in and of itself, to confer legitimacy on the positions such a person would take and espouse.
I want them emblazoned on a 100x100' flag and flown from the top of the capitol in every state, every territory, and every other US jurisdiction (such as DC). We need to make it plain that Christianity's principles made this country great -- not Izzie principles, not Jewish principles, not Hindu or Buddha or Taoist or animist or Kung Fu beliefs.
First...a square flag? OK, if that floats your boat. But the rest of this statement points out clearly that this poster doesn't get the Establishment Clause, making it plain that there is no such thing as a "state religion" in the States. That's part of what the Puritans were running away from, remember? So ix-nay on the ag-flying-flay. As to this list of principles (and what does this guy have against the excellent 70s series with David Carradine as Kwai Chang Kaine?), we'll return to it anon.
Then, after 20 years or so, when everybody "gets it," then we can quit worrying about it, take them banners down and go back to being -- a Christian nation that lets others be so long as they're law abiding and not out to wreck our Christian nation. That is the principle that needs to be appended to the Constitution -- that this is a Christian nation based on Christian principles, and no one will be allowed to try to take the nation down by using its own rules against Christianity, in places public or private.
Boy, he's putting a lot of faith in 20 years of flag-flying imprinting anything on anybody's minds. How many of you, dear readers, can accurately describe your own State flag?

And, also...if the principle he is advocating for has been there all along, then why now does it need to be "appended" to the Constitution? Is he not a strict constructionalist? Does he want lawmakers to overturn the Founders' convictions, or judges to legislate from the bench? Slippery slope, pal, slippery slope...
Free speech is free speech, but you don't get to use it to impugn Christ.
Er...actually, yes, if that's how you're inclined, you do. That's what makes it free speech.
All religions are equal, but Christianity is more equal than any other. Judaism is next more equal.
Oh, look - Judaism gets to take the crown if Miss Christianity is unwilling or unable to fulfill her obligations! I wonder which faith gets Miss Congeniality?
After that they're all the same. You don't like it, phuqq you.
Ah, here we go. Faith is not a personal choice of conscience. It's a hierarchy where two Abrahamic traditions get pride of place and everyone else fights over the scraps. Hindus, you're the same as Wiccans. Buddhists, duke it out with the Muslims. You can't apply unless you follow the teachings of someone who was probably brown but is almost always portrayed as white. Take what you get and like it.

Dude, what about "no test of faith" do you not understand? Ever run into the works of this guy named George Orwell? Because I think you're one of the people he was trying hardest to talk to! Four legs good, two legs better....
The overriding point here is that we were great when we didn't question Christianity or push the laws or customs to the very outermost limit.
Ah - sing your hymns, ante up for the collection, and don't make waves. What Norman Rockwell paintings are you hallucinating as you inhale the burning fumes of Harry Potter books? The great myth by which the USA functions is pushing laws and customs to their limit, striking out afresh, the New Eden! If you want conformity, may I recommend Italy?
Then along came the ACLU, doing just that. The only way I can see to forestall such death-by-a-thousand-cuts is to make it unmistakably clear that Christianity and Judaism are the sources of our greatness, and we won't allow pissants to tear us down.
But...wait...I thought Judaism was only "next more equal"? Are you watering down your vision already? Reconsider, DesertFox. This can't be earning you any Rapture Points(TM).

And the truth of the matter, at day's that this is all irrational screeching about the fact that Everybody Everywhere Doesn't Think The Same As Me. There is NOBODY out there stopping DesertFox from pushing his creed as fervently as his personal whim dictates. He can put his 100' x 100' flag of choice on top of his own home, or those of fellow-travelers, as he likes. He wants a nativity scene in his yard over the holidays, or Bible tracts on his porch on Hallowe'en, he's welcome (well, so long as he hasn't agreed to homeowners' agreements prohibiting such, but HE would never do that, since his belief is so staunch, right?).

His real problem is that he doesn't see mirrors everywhere around him. He sees windows. And windows are disturbing because they lead to Other Points Of View. And we can't have that.

Personally, I think Jesus would be appalled by the draconian, control-freak efforts some of his purported followers are putting forward, supposedly inspired by his example.

Here's hoping that we all had a Merry Christmas, Count and Co. And a Cheery Festivus, Luminous Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah and Blessed Yule. Let's all be tolerant out there going ahead into 2011.

Robin? Oh I've Got It...We'll Kill Him

God I loved this show.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Can Do Nothin For Ya Son

I usually leave the Movie reviews to Jonathan But I'll just say now that I have finally seen True Grit I absolutely loved it. *****/*****

Late Edit: I thought the suits at Paramount Pictures were absolutely nuts when they announced they were going to remake the 1969 movie that won John "The Duke" Wayne's only acting Oscar. When I heard that Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country For Old Men) are behind the director's chair and that Oscar-winner Jeff "The Dude" Bridges is going to play Rooster Cogburn, I thought this just might hit the bullseye, or miss the mark. The Coen Bros. love of dialouge and out-of nowhere gritty violence has never been better than it has in this faithful adaptation of the Charles Portis' novel of the same name, and it boasts the most surprising and best supporting acting work of 2010 in newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross, the smart-mouth, headstrong 14 year-old girl who hires Cogburn to hunt down her father's murderer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) because of all the U.S. Marshalls in the town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, the one-eyed trigger-happy lawman has "grit". So does Steinfeld. She's a live-wire. ***1/2 stars out of ****

New Years Bowl Wrap Up.

Ok it's no big surprise Alabama beat Michigan State and Mississippi State beat Michigan hell I picked both as did most people but what has to be a surprise is that both schools were absolutely destroyed. For Michigan State it only ends a fantastic season on a sour note for Michigan it almost certainly means a coaching change. The Michigan no show duo and an early afternoon loss from Northwestern got the day off to a rough start for the Big 10. It only got worse. Penn State can at least point to the fact that they were competitive and had a chance to win the game until the very end against Florida in their 37-24 loss. Northwestern was also competitive but never really a threat to win against Texas Tech. Wisconsin lost a very close Rose Bowl to Texas Christian 21-19 after their 2pt conversion failed with 2 minutes left. Big win for TCU and tough loss for Wisconsin. TCU can make a claim for a national title but few outside of Fort Worth would take such a claim seriously. Wisconsin can lay claim to taking the #3 team in the country down to the wire the other Big 10 schools can only claim to have taken a beating.

In the night cap Oklahoma beat Connecticut 48-20 giving the Big 12 a little something to be proud of this bowl season though not much. Here's the thing Oklahoma was as Matt Zemek of College Football News said lazy and sloppy and UCONN probably played about well as it could have and yet it was still never really a game. Yeah UCONN was only down by 14 before Oklahoma finished them off late and yes Connecticut made plays to keep the game with in striking distance everytime you thought OU had put the game away but you never felt OU was threatened. So I say to OU fan be happy. if Nebraska would have been sloppy and lazy and still won by 28 Thursday night I damn sure would be much happier about that game than I am tonight. Instead of being sloppy, lazy, complacent, shitty and losing by 12 to a inferior team.

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