Wednesday, August 29, 2012

POET (kinda)

My friend Fred, who sang one of his own compositions at the Mind Gravy event held at Drip in Five Points near the University of South Carolina, took this photo with his cell phone of muah getting up for the first time at open mike and reading one of his poems, "Thwarted," which I am sure all my faithful followers (all two of you) have already read. The poem seem to get a hearty laugh from the crowd, which was encouraging, and I got a lot of nice compliments from attendees. It was nice. I thought I gave a good rendition, though Joey said I needed to smile more and make my voice more peppy. My coworkers will not flay me tomorrow when I tell them I finally jumped in the pool.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


On the eve of World War II in Japan four daughters of a recently deceased shipping magnate struggle with family and marriage issues in the beautifully done The Makioka Sisters (1983), a slowly unfolding movie that speaks to culture, class, and conflict. Two olders sisters, one married to a successful banker and the other to a businessman (who is secretly smitten with one of the younger sisters), attempt to find suitable prospects for their two younger siblings, but the eldest spinster is reluctant and repeatedly passes on proposals that do not suit her (some of which are comical), while the headstrong youngest daughter, who makes and sells gorgeous dolls, wants to forge her own path in love and business. Although some of the photography is well done, the outfits (especially the kimonos) are absolutely wonderful. If anyone studies traditional outfits, they should see this movie. I loved the role of the servants too, who while being deferential also managed to be critical and aware of family conflicts. A good insight into the rituals and expected roles of members of a well-to-do Japanese family.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


I thought last night about Taliban prisoners in American custody after seeing a movie and that as bad as that is, they should be thankful they are not under the sway of the British in the 1970s & 1980s. Michael Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, the IRA leader who went on a 66-day hunger strike and gave his life (as did nine others)to protest conditions at the notoriously brutal Maze prison in Steve McQueen's Hunger (2008). Fassbender and the other actors well displayed the anger, resistance, and commitment to their cause while existing in horribly nasty conditions. I wonder if any guards there were indicted for brutality or war crimes. . .no, I suspect not. There are some great scenes, and there seems a particularly dedicated bit of acting by all involved. Definitely not a spirit lifter, but worth seeing when you are able to do so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I am not the greatest lover of Shakespeare's plays (not because they aren't masterpieces, but because I always had trouble understanding them), though I have read and seen many performed, and much to my chagrin I do not remember ever trying Corialanus, but tonight I watched Ralph Fiennes' movie adaptation (2011) and was much impressed by the blending of the bard's words and modern background. I hope they didn't mess with the original words much (but I wouldn't know), and suspect there would have been an outcry had they. It is amazing how well the story translates to our times. I thought the acting was great, especially Fiennes in the lead role of a man bred for war and successful at it, but whose integrity and inflexibility does not bode well within the political arena, and whose banishment leads him to take up arms against his own country in revenge for the slights he suffered. His pride and rigidity undo him. Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave are wonderful as well. You almost sensed that the actors were taking this project with an extra dose of seriousness. I truly enjoyed it.

Monday, August 20, 2012


The Republican Representative and Senate candidate from Missouri stepped in it this week, when he asserted that "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." What an idiot---both because of his sexist attitude toward victims of rape and his ignorant understanding of biology. I know that in part, it is a result of the anti-abortion crowd not wanting to give any ground in their crusade, but I think the comment speaks to many issues the far Christian right (which I call the Tea Party Talibanis) advocates. They generally distrust women (I am waiting for them to call for burgas and stoning). They hate education and science; for them being able to read the Bible is just about all one needs. They are inflexible in their views and often unfeeling and, well, un-Christian, in their treatment of and attitude toward anyone they do not approve of. How ironic that this complete doofus sits on the House Science committee! How could that be? Clearly it appears he wasn't listening in high school; or, perhaps, actual science was not part of the curriculum at his college (although his views probably were formulated later when he attended a ministerial college). Now many Republicans, even those like Paul Ryan, who basically toe the same line as Akin, are scrambling to distance themselves from him. Whether he drops out of the race or not, this too will blow over and be forgotten, but his mentality is actually much more widespread than some believe and must be actively countered. I believe there is room for both religion and science, but not orchestrated ignorance. And. . .rape is rape, no means no, and women should be the only ones to make decisions about their own health.

It also makes me wonder, because Akin is apparently fixated with the thought that rape is too often reported (and also was part of the group who tried to tighten definition of rape as well as shield husbands from being charged with rape), that when someone doth protest too much, there is some reason for it. I wonder if Akin was ever accused of rape?

I later saw this CNN opinion piece by a doctor and professor of pediatrics, and thought he said it much better than myself, so I provide this link:

Also, in an editorial on Slate, by Eliot Spitzer, he summed it up far better than I could do: "We should not be fooled that Akin's statement, merely because it is so offensive and quickly retracted or clarified, is a mere slip. It actually represents the worldview of Akin and many like-minded Republican colleagues. His comments are part and parcel of a view of civil rights, women's rights, and science that should be antithetical to a modern society. It reflects a worldview that has held up progress on too many serious issues, a form of know-nothingism for the modern era, a rejection of the very notion of learning."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Romney Taxes

Headline: "Romney: I paid 13% taxes last 10 years"; You know that he means 1.3%. . . A YEAR! :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012


The difficult part in watching some modern foreign films, especially from Asia, is that while interesting and often wonderfully filmed, they are often surreal and confusing. Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels (1995) is one such film. Surely there are deeper messages here about the culture and (possibly in this case) the urban angst of criminals, but they are clearly beyond my comprehension. The general story follows a hitman and his partner (who plans the hits, but they do not see each other) as he has decided to call it quits and she is obsessed with him and determined to meet him in person. Intersecting this story is one about a mute man (Takeshi Kaneshiro, best known for role in House of Flying Daggers), son of a hotel manager, who breaks into closed shops and acts as if he is working there and harasses potential clients; he falls in love with a woman (played by Charlie Yeung, who has had a good career, probably best known in Western audiences for her role in Bangkok Dangerous) who pines for another man. Almost all the characters are crazy, especially the females. In addition to the killer's partner, who seems put off by men and likes to masterbate with her clothes on, there is a whacky wacked-out woman (played by Karen Mok in one of her early films) who dyed her hair blonde and falls in love with the killer. If she approached me the way she does him, I would be running away in fear. One of the strangest scenes is when the mute invades a butcher shop and gives a massage to a pig carcass. Perhaps one theme is that no matter one's profession or weirdness, everybody need to connect somehow with others. In many ways it was like a typical Chinese meal: you stuff yourself, but after it is over you still do not feel completely fulfilled. Still, I kind of liked the movie, Michelle Reis is gorgeous, and many scenes are beautifully shot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Obama Economics

Quotations from interview of Michael Grunwald, author of The New New Deal (2012) by Slate contributor David Plotz (8-14-12):

"It quickly became obvious that [Obama's] American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the formal name of the stimulus) was also a huge deal for health care, transportation, scientific research, and the safety net as well as the flailing economy."

"Most of the money in the stimulus went to unsexy stuff designed to prevent a depression and ease the pain of the recession: aid to help states avoid drastic cuts in public services and public employees; unemployment benefits, food stamps, and other assistance for victims of the downturn; and tax cuts for 95 percent of American workers. And the money that did flow into public works went more toward fixing stuff that needed fixing—aging pipes, dilapidated train stations, my beloved Everglades—than building new stuff. In its first year, the stimulus financed 22,000 miles of road improvements, and only 230 miles of new roads. There were good reasons for that. Repairs tend to be more shovel-ready than new projects, so they pump money into the economy faster. They also pass the do-no-harm test."

"First, the Obama team’s Recovery Act message was highly nuanced. It was short-term jobs along with long-term investments. It was tax cuts along with spending. It was the biggest domestic spending bill in history, but it was also just a first step toward normalcy. The economy needed fiscal stimulus in the short term but fiscal responsibility in the long term."

"Anyone who received expanded unemployment benefits or food stamps or Cobra subsidies or Pell Grants in 2009 or 2010 benefited from the stimulus. The stimulus saved more than 300,000 education jobs, and preserved over $100 billion worth of health services for the poor. We’re already using more clean energy and less energy overall because of the stimulus; the electric vehicle industry is here because of the stimulus; the domestically manufactured content of U.S. wind turbines has increased from 20 percent to 60 percent because of the stimulus. There are over 100,000 stimulus projects that have upgraded our parks, subways, hospitals, food pantries, and so forth. . . The stimulus helped prevent a depression, and as Romer says in the book, depressions really, really suck. They create horrible human suffering, and horrible deficits, too. The economy is quite lousy, but it really could’ve been a lot lousier. . .By 2015, almost all of us will have an electronic medical record because of the stimulus. The stimulus is also pouring $1 billion into desperately needed “comparative effectiveness research” that will help doctors and patients learn what kind of treatments actually work. There’s billions more for data-driven education reforms—Investments in Innovation and School Improvement Grants as well as Race to the Top—that will seek to scale up promising approaches in public schools. And the most exciting changes will transform the way we generate and consume energy."

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Watched tonight one of the saddest movies, a Japanese anime no less, The Grave of the Fireflies (1988), which amazingly was made twenty-four years ago. Two orphans (Seita and Setsuko), chased from their city by a massive bomber-caused firestorm, struggle to stay alive as Japan faces the reality of losing the war, and as supplies dry up. Starving and soon homeless (after being harrassed from the home of their aunt), the older boy (about 14 or 15 perhaps) does what he can to provide for his innocent younger sister, who is about 4 or maybe up to six, by establishing a home in an abandoned air-raid shelter near a pond, and begs, borrows, and steals to provide food for his gradually sickening sibling. I don't want to spoil anything, but if you are not prepared for a really melancholy movie, I would avoid this one. One of the saddest scenes is when the boy realizes that his sister has understood all along that their mother died (having been told much earlier by a relative), and after holding in the truth to protct her for so long, breaks down and cries. Although there is no overt criticism of U.S. actions, there is the implication that the Americans wreaked unjust havoc on the civilian population in a cruel manner designed particualrly to target innocents (though others would argue that the entire population was trained and prepared to fight to the last person in the even of invasion). In almost a metaphor for the military leadership, the boy is amazed when he discovers that Japan has already lost the war. Despite all the military allusions, there is no acknowledgement of Japanese complicity is starting the war or having engaged in atrocities against foreign populations at all. The strongest message for me however, is the enduring love of an older brother who sacrifices everything to look after his sister, the ability to bear up under repeated disappointments and losses, and the special bond that develops between siblings, and to some extent the strength of very young children to find some joy in a troubled world. I was disappointed me though, in that it seemed to me that someone would have made more of an effort to help these small children, even if they had taken the little girl from the boy. The anime is very good too, especially some of the more magical scenes, and I can see why it is considered a classic. The movie will leave you drained, but at the same time it is a beautiful work of art and I encourage people to try it if they are up to the challenge.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I drew this a little while ago, but it wasn't as artistic as could be, so I shelved it, but I decided to put it up here anyway. If you can't see clearely, the little flag on the pole is from the Cayman Islands. And the button on his chest was my attemtp to recreate the double R campaign button. And he is wearing a tie.

CfA BULL (Damn, there goes Pride Week.)

Monday, August 6, 2012


Watched tonight a truly delightful English romantic/satirical film, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011), about a rather scientific-minded, stiff but decent fisheries official (played wonderfully by Ewan McGregor) who is at a crossroads in his life (largely as he is stuck in a peaceful but apparently boring marriage) when he is unexpectedly tapped by the English assistant (Emily Blunt) in the employ of an Anglophile Yemeni sheik (Amr Waked)---who loves to fish---to undertake the folly of introducing salmon to a dam-driven river in his desert country (which is also hampered by native resistance to modernization). What he discovers as he grudgingly undertakes the daunting task (fueled by the deep pockets of his benefactor) is a renewed personal passion and spark, a sense of daring, and love. Much of the comedic aspect of the film is provided by Kristin Scott Thomas as the smart-mouthed, driven, public-relations official representing the prime minister who seizes on effort to project improved Yemeni-British relations. Especially funny is the too-short interactions with her family. I think she could carry an entire movie based around her character. Her role is wonderful. Many tongue-in-cheek jabs at fishermen, government officials, and the media. Great photography and location shoots, good acting and strong screenplay, and it comes together rather well. I liked that they showed a forward-thinking, tolerant, visionary for his country in the sheik. Perhaps a tad bit of Horatio Alger thrown in for good measure, but it does not ruin the film. I encourage people to try this movie.


Mitt Romeny. How? What are people thinking?

He assures voters he is better suited to restore (?) good relations with Europe, and then proceeds to look not only incompetent and inept, but downright stupid and superior. And a neocon mouthpiece, like a recent Republican president.

His only significant achievement as governor, Romenycare, the basis of Obamacare. Oh my. Of course, now he repudiates it.

And then this today: “As Massachusetts governor in 2004, Romney signed into law an assault weapons ban that was backed by gun owners and gun control advocates. The Massachusetts law banned the AR-15, one of the weapons that police say was used inside the Colorado theater on Friday.” Bet he wants to distance himself from that. Who did the NRA endorse?

Methinks Mitt Romney just wants to be prez, but for the life of me, other than rampaging ego, I can't understand why? I guess just to say he did it.


From 2005 to 2011 one of my favorite television series was MEDIUM. Although I don't normally watch a series until it comes out on dvd, this was one I took in regularly, especially in the early years when it was on NBC. I particularly loved the interplay between psychic/medium/special assistant to city DA Allison Dubois (Patricia Arquette) and engineer/loving husband Joe Dubois (Jake Weber). I loved Joe, who seemed to reposnd to his wife's dreams/sleepless nights and unpredictable behavior with a mix of love/patience/age advice/bemusement/humor. There was never any doubt they had a special love affair, even when his attention strayed. The three daughters sometimes didn't feel as real to me as they should have, but I enjoyed the smart-talking middle child the most (played by Maria Lark). I always liked DA Manuel Devalos (played well by Miguel Sandoval), thought I was less enamored with police detective Lee Scanlon (David Cubitt). Many of the guest dead (ghosts) who inhabitied both her sleeping and awake hours were a hoot. Early stories were better, and the later ones seemed to simplistic, and maybe even too "cutesie". Arquette wasn't the strongest actor I have ever followed in a series, but she was ok, and you kind of felt for her character, as she tended to lean toward the sympathetic, honest side of things. The show kind of spawned (or got out of the gates early) on the paranormal solving of crimes genre. I finally got to see last season, and it was ok. A bit melancholy in the final episode. Decent television for the most part. Not nearly as gory or intense as some of the other criminal procedurals.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


What an enjoyable evening in Columbia. First, a quick thunderstorm cleared the heavier hot and humid air; the resultant breezes helped the temperatures drop to the mid seventies, which was quite comfortable. On the streets of downtown a larger-than-normal crowd turned out for First Thurday, a celebration of art, food, music, and on this evening, classic cars. At Tapps Art Center there were several nice exhibits, but the most interesting for me was that of Melvin Green (died 2007), a lowcountry African American folk-artist painter (who also lived in New York and Mexico) whose work is a mixture of primitivist/expressionist and African Gullah heritage. He liked to employ bright colors and sweeping curves, and reveled in the naked female form. His earlier stuff often incorporated Africanesque blocks along the edges of faces, while later stuff was almost a homage to Picasso's contorted forms. [I hope to have a picture up that you can see a little of his art]. I was lucky to run into his nephew, who told me that Green was self-taught and inspired by the forms his mother used in her quilting (too bad they didn't have one of her quilts to display). I did think it was funny that when we walked outside we came across a painter of sea life, and Chimo said, "Now, this is really art. No nudes." I also liked a few of the pieces by Lyssa Harvey. My only negative about the Tapps venue was that the band playing in the old basement diningroom overpowered its small space and audience. I am sure some people liked it, but I had to check my ears to make sure they weren't bleeding. Tapps is improving every time we go there, and there are far fewer empty spaces and studios. It is really nice to have this venue and I hope more artists and patrons come in, even when there is not a festival going on, to buy some of the work. If I had a few extra thousand, I would have bought a piece by Green. We then walked aound for a bit, looking at the old cars (and, yes, I was looking at the ladies too, who seemed to take advantage of the nice weather to come out in skimpy form-fitting dresses, which was a nice view for an old codger such as myself). After spending about an hour downtown I took the boys to Zaxby's, where the chicken is much better than Chick-fil-A, and they don't discriminate or abuse a segment of our population (at least not yet).