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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
BEATING A DEAD ELEPHANT
I know this whole Patriot Act thing has been dragged around the bloggyblock a few too many times, but I would just like to ask for a clarification, in the spirit of wide-eyed innocent wonder.
In September, Captain Lawyer John Ashcrofto chastized hysterical librarians and other namby-pamby Freedom of Infomation Act Fairies for demanding to know how Section 215 of the Patriot Act had been used by the Justice Dept. The answer? "It hasn't been." But we're jerks for wanting to know. Okay, whatever. Fine. I guess if it's so important to you to feel like you need to protect Americans from other Amiercans by having unprescedented access to protected, private data, then that's just your sick thing. I look forward to the end of your term of appointed office.
But, no, it isn't fine. Isn't there something eery about their investment in keeping this power now that so much attention has been drawn to the, shall we say, unconstitutionality of it all? In his State of the Union address, Bush said "Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the Patriot Act." Really? Which provisions? And can you show us how they've been used to keep America safe so far? Please? 'Cause I'm still not buying into it, and you sure haven't made a good argument in favor of it. Can we talk about the soliders dying in Iraq, now, please? No. No, I'm not on steroids. Lay off, willya? Geez.
I should proably keep my dirty liberal mouth shut since I work in a public library, which means I'm probably encouraging children to access information on birth control, practically inviting them to have sex right there on the library floor. America's libraries are rampant with books about STDs, drugs, homosexuality, and global warming. They must be razed! Nuke 'em from satellite. It's the only way to be sure.
Re: Howard Dean. I could use a little anger right now, and I'm sick of internet headlines to the effect that Dean is unpresidential and totally failed. No, he didn't, he generated excitement, which is what he's been doing very well for months now, and which is what wins elections against lying two-faced warmongers like Shrub. Kerry looks like Jay Leno as The Elephant Man and I've hardly seen him smile. Bush will wipe the floor with Kerry, but Dean has a fighting chance. If the freakin' scardey-cat Dems will just give him the opportunity.
Now I'll do a little dance. It's set to "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" by The Human League.
Monday, January 26, 2004
THE BOY WHO BOUGHT TOO MUCH (AND BECAME A TURNIP)
After seeing Big Fish the other day, I was craving some old-timey Tim Burton so much that I was determined to go right out and buy Batman Returns on DVD. Instead, I bought five other movies and spent $90. Wha'ppen? Y'see, a little ol' bookstore that goes by the name of "Borders" has been having a ridiculous "buy 4 DVDs, get the 5th one free" sale all month, and I, sucker that I am, fell for it. They had a bunch of my old faves for only $14.99 (cheaper than Amazon) so I had to bite.
Now, I was going to hold out for the near-mythological Special Edition which Ridley Scott is putting together that should consist of three DVDs. Unfortunately, when I found out about said special edition I got all nostalgiac for this sci-fi/noir classic, read me some trivia on the internet, and had a big ol' hankerin' to see the darn thing again. While the library does have it on DVD, I couldn't help but buy it when I saw it on sale.
The Big Sleep
Also owned by the library, but so complex and fun to watch that I figure it will justify my buying it. I love the flirty book store woman, actress Dorothy Malone. She's billed as "Acme Bookstore proprietress" on IMDb.
Um...yeah, here's another that I can pretty much check out any time I want to, but...$14.99! Buy four, get one free! Besides, this is one of my favorite films, one that gets better every time I watch it, plus now I'll be able to hang onto it long enough to actually listen to Coppala's commentary. I still haven't listened to Wes Anderson's commentary on The Royal Tennenbaums or any of the commentary tracks on The Two Towers. Speaking of favorite films, The Grapes of Wrath is finally coming to DVD in April, and Blow-up should be out any day now. Woo! If only Until The End of The World or THX-1138 would see the laser-light of day...
Since we're already on the subject, I just discovered that the US version of Until the End of the World (aka Bis ans Ende der Welt) was truncated, and the original is 4 hours and 40 minutes long. Woah. It felt long already, but apparently it makes more sense and is generally more satisfying in the Gigantor original cut. I'm hoping to see the original long-ass version of Fanny and Alexander on DVD one of these days, too.
That's the 1991 Martin Scorsese remake, y'all! Aw yeah. We got a tatooed, buff, lecherous Robert DeNiro, a frazzled, grizzly Nick Nolte, a thumb-sucking airhead of a Juliette Lewis, and poor Jessica Lange in the thankless role of "career gal who makes a lousy wife." Yup, all that, plus a cameo by Gregory Peck, too! And Robert Mitchum! And Martin Balsam as "The Judge!" Even you Joe Don Baker and Illeana Douglas fans get a special treat...c'mon, you know you're out there! Featuring one of my most favorite camera moves ever (watch for it in the prisoner line-up scene) and a whole boatload of stupid plot twists (DeNiro in drag, Nolte's stigmata) and hilarious dialogue, some of which I'll post here when I get around to it. Jonathan's wacked-out cure for cabin fever: pour yourself a Manhattan, watch Cape Fear followed by the spot-on "Cape Munster" parody from The Ben Stiller Show.
Traffic (The Criterion Collection)
I've been eyeing this bad boy for awhile now and finally took the plunge. Never you mind that I've got more movies now than I'll ever have time to watch. Soderbergh is one of the few directors who comes through with good commentaries just about every time, plus the Criterion edition sports two other commentaries, 25 deleted/extended scenes, and a bunch of other junk.
Hey, Soderbergh fans! Do yourself a favor (if you haven't already) and check out his book Getting away with it : or, The further adventures of the luckiest bastard you ever saw from your local library. Amusing tales of Hollywood hijinks and writerly procrastination abound within.
Buy more! Buy more now...and be happy.
Saturday, January 24, 2004
THE MIX CD OF THE WEEK
I've been enjoying a lot of funk and soul music lately, so today I bring you "SUPA FUNK," a compilation I made a little over a year ago for a couple friends of mine. Eet's preety gud:
Slave - Watching You
The Whispers - And The Beat Goes On
Instant Funk - I Got My Mind Made Up (You Can Get It Girl)
The Isley Brothers - Live It Up Pts. 1 & 2
The Bar-Kays - Holy Ghost
Zapp & Roger - Dance Floor
Prince - Hide The Bone
The Honeydrippers - Impeach the President
Willie Hutch - Give Me Some Of That Good Old Love
Joe Tex - Ain't Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman)
The JBs - Breakin' Bread
The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It's Just Begun
The Chambers Brothers - All Strung Out Over You
Rahsaan Patterson - So Fine
Revolution Compared To What - Go To Work
Janet Jackson feat. Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell - Got 'Til It's Gone (radio edit)
Sly and The Family Stone - Family Affair
If I did it again I'd resequence this, but all the songs are solid. It needs more ladies, and I really need to get Gil Scott Heron's "The Bottle" on CD, but I like that I snuck a couple of "new" tunes in (Prince, Janet, and Rahsaan).
"Watching You" is one of my all-time favorite songs (or party-starters, anyway), and "Holy Ghost" is 8 1/2 minutes of the deepest funk you'll ever get stuck in. The Chambers Bros. "All Strung Out Over You" was mercilessly ripped off by Bootsy Collins and Fatboy Slim for "Weapon of Choice," and to my knowledge they never got an ounce of credit. Even though "All Strung Out Over You" was written by one "R. Clark," the sound was all Chambers Bros. Eat it, Fatboy! You owe 'em.
I like "Fire" by the Ohio Players, but Burger King ruined that song for me, the bastards. If there's ever a "Return of Supafunk" CD it'll have to have "Get Down On It" by Kool & The Gang, and something from the Nile Rodgers/Bernard Edwards team. And Rufus Thomas. And Chaka Khan. And Funkadelic. And Roy Ayers.
...so much good music!...
Thursday, January 22, 2004
AAARRRGH!!! I'M DYING!
Five below zero with a wind chill of twenty-four below zero. And the sun is shining. Is this Hell? Or the opposite of Hell? If Hell is supposed to be a fiery inferno, does that mean Heaven is an arctic wasteland? Or is it a pretty ice palace like Superman's Fortress of Solitude?
I guess I should consider myself lucky I'm not out hauling ice bricks for the construction of the St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Palace.
The only thing keeping me warm right now is the sweet soul sound of Betty Wright's "Tonight Is The Night." Soothe me, baby. Soothe me.
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
THE STATE OF THE UNION
I'm sorry, Mr. Bush, but how is it that the people of Iraq are free? Is it because "nearly 100,000 Shiites marched in the Iraqi capital to demand early, direct elections, rejecting a U.S. blueprint for handing over power on July 1 to an unelected Iraqi provisional government."? How is it that our foreign military occupation of their state can be considered freedom? Because we're allowing them to march, even if we won't allow them their own free elections? "Liberation," my ass. Two sheets of scribbling on notebook paper do not a WMD program make. Ah, and now we're finally asking for help from the U.N. Because they owe us.
Here's to the New World Empire! Cheers, Mr. Bush.
I had to look up the National Endowment for Democracy since Bush talked about doubling their budget. He actually used the word "dialectic" in a speech to them this Fall. Check it out.
Bonus points to the Dems for interrupting with applause when Bush said that some provisions of the Patriot Act would expire within the year.
Monday, January 19, 2004
Billy Ocean's three number one Billboard singles all have exactly eight words in the title:
1984: Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)
1986: There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)
1988: Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car
Friday, January 16, 2004
Last night I dreamed that I was crowned "King of the Library."
In classic Jonathan style, however, the coronation was less than satisfactory. First of all, the caterers weren't veggie-friendly, so I ended up eating some mashed potatoes with no gravy, and some carrots and cabbage. That was it. Furthermore, I was quite certain that the position was merely a ceremonial one, and that, in fact, I was being set up to take a big fall. See, when the library screwed up, they'd now have a king to take the blame. The press release could read "We're sorry we goofed. But look: we fired the king. That's how committed we are to righting this wrong. So long, Kingy-boy!" In fact, I had an awkward moment with a (in real life, former) member of the library administration where she was hugging me and in tears because she said she was "so proud," but really I knew she was the one who had engineered the whole affair.
And then I had to get a colonic, for some reason.
So there you have it: my lousy empire. It is by far the best work-related dream I've ever had, though. Well..."best" in the sense that it made me laugh the next morning. Maybe it was a subconscious pun on the approaching Martin Luther King Jr. holiday? Long live Dr. King!
Wednesday, January 14, 2004
MY YEAR IN FILM
I found that I had a lot to write/rant about, even though I barely managed to get myself out to the movies this year. I missed Spellbound, Capturing the Friedmans, American Splendor, and more. I did see a lot of horrible movies, including Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which only managed to justify itself by having an incredibly bleak, un-Hollywood ending. I watched a slew of crappy comic book movies on DVD, including Down With Love which seemed like it would be fun but was mostly just tedious and annoying. Same goes for Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. 2003: a whole lot of movies that should've been fun but just weren't.
What makes this year-end movie review especially frustrating are the number of important films that didn't play here until 2004 began, films which are already showing up on the critics' "best of 2003" lists such as Big Fish and 21 Grams. The Pianist was awarded in 2002 but I didn't get to see it until winter 2003, so this is an annual phenomenon.
So, then: Films I saw in 2003 that I liked (or even loved) include:
X2: X-Men United
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
A Mighty Wind
Lost in Translation
Year of the Devil (Rok Dábla)
School of Rock
Standing In The Shadows of Motown
The Italian Job
Dirty Pretty Things
Lost In La Mancha
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Days Like This (Leva Livet)
Of course "Confessions," Lost in La Mancha, The Pianist, and Spider were all from 2002, so they don't technically count. For that matter, so was Year of the Devil, and Jiyan and Days Like This go back to 2001, but distribution on foreign films is almost always sketchy so I feel okay including them here.
Jiyan, Days Like This, and Dirty Pretty Things form an interesting glimpse at the rest of the world. Jiyan tells the sad story of Kurdish survivors of Saddam's chemical attacks, significantly, from their own point of view. Days Like This was a low-key but charming Swedish film about intersecting lives and alienation, and Dirty Pretty Things was another great Stephen Frears film about the immigrant underclass in London. Only in the movies could these beautiful characters have pulled off their emancipating swindle, but a hint of reality persists in the unconsumated love of the two protagonists, and the certain doom that awaits Okwe when he returns to Nigeria. Heartbreaking.
Even though somebody in the movie theater answered her cell phone something like five times during the course of the film, The Italian Job was a suprisingly satisfying mainstream caper flick. Other than the stupid helicopter-in-a-parking-ramp bit, it was the one dumb, fun movie I went and saw that actually was a lot of fun, and not quite as meatheaded as you'd expect.
School of Rock was the Jack Black star vehicle I've been waiting for, and how lucky am I that Joan Cusack and Mike White were along for the ride? This film will hopefully be remembered for inventing the term "raise your goblet of rock."
On the sequel front, X2 was even better than the first, and A Mighty Wind was another winner from Christopher Guest and crew. Return of the King will probably be a lot better in its extended edition DVD incarnation next fall, but I enjoyed this final chapter much more than last year's The Two Towers.
Perhaps 2003 could also be known as "The Year of the Folk Heroes," real or imagined, as best exemplified by Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. While I do take issue with their preposterous claim that the singers (Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross) were inconsequential to the success of those tracks, I am deeply pleased that the so-called Funk Brothers could finally earn their due respect with the release of this film. It's good to know that film can still be educational, on occasion.
I don't know what to say about Lost in Translation except that Bill Murray was incredible and so was the soundtrack. I'm not entirely comfortable with the film, but I can't remember the last time I was so moved by a platonic onscreen relationship. Oh wait, yes I can: it was Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman's in Traffic
Year of the Devil, meanwhile, was the best movie nobody saw this year, and probably won't be seeing for awhile. It was made in 2002, screened here in 2003 as part of the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival, and can only be had on DVD through a Czech website. But in this reality-TV saturated, media-obsessed world, I'm surprised the film hasn't been picked up for wider distribution. Basically it's a film about real events in several musicians' lives, who are played by the actual musicians in documentary footage and staged, magical-realist fantasies. "It involves a fictional storyline based on the actual lives of actual people." The devil could be alcoholism, depression, or fame, but is most certainly embodied by Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman (playing himself, natch) who woos the band with corporate sponsorship and a drug-fueled neo-primitive ritual. Awesome.
Films I saw and was ambivalent toward:
The Matrix: Revolutions
The Singing Detective
28 Days Later
25th Hour was, of course, another 2002 release that didn't get here until it was too late. I might've liked Mystic River better if Eastwood's score hadn't been so pedestrian and heavy-handed. Maybe when it's out on DVD I'll watch it without sound and see if it plays any better. The Singing Detective was a mess of a film that happened to showcase some really good performances. I saw the third Matrix film with such low expectations that I enjoyed it pretty okay, even though Trinity's death was totally stupid, as was most of the dialogue and plot. 28 Days Later came with so much hype attached that it was almost impossible for it to live up to my expectations. On the other hand, it wasn't a total waste of time.
And then the films that were crushing disappointments:
The Matrix: Reloaded
Bringing Down The House
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Kill Bill Vol. One
T3: Rise of the Machines
Love, Liza was atrocious. Ninety minutes of glue-sniffing, with nary a plot or character development to be seen. I heard Owning Mahoney was good but I just couldn't bring myself to see another Philip Seymour Hoffman addiction movie. LXG was nearly unwatchable, even though the vampire chick was awesome and should get her own movie. Revenge was a total snoozefest, and while you'd think Roman Polanski would be entertaining as a cowardly 17th century Polish con-man, you'd be wrong. If there was one thing I learned this year it's that no one makes a good farce anymore, maybe because there's no such thing. Meanwhile, Bringing Down The House set race relations back about ten years, in my estimation. You'd think Americans could handle an interracial kiss by now, but apparently the bigwigs at (Disney subsidiary) Touchstone Pictures disagree.
Special attention must go to Kill Bill: Vol. One. In the City Pages, Matthew Wilder said of Kill Bill: "If you don't like this movie, you just don't like movies!" Well, Matt, you can go *bleep* yourself (and Schumann and Mahler, for that matter). Kill Bill was a steaming pile of crap, and Quentin Tarantino should stick to acting. I jest, of course, but if it will keep him out of the director's chair awhile longer, maybe we'd be better off. Seriously, I loved the first, I dunno...two minutes or so, but I can't believe that (a) this was a film that needed to be made or (b) seen, for that matter, and that (c) it couldn't have been edited down to one coherent film. The monstrously inflated ego of QT needs to be poked with a very long, sharp needle. Just imagine the geysers of blood that would unleash...
Other movies I'm still waiting to see:
The Magdalene Sisters
Girl With A Pearl Earring
The Good Thief
Gerry/Elephant (though I'm not sure I actually want to see either of those)
The Station Agent
Love & Diane
Masked and Anonymous
The Fog of War
(are we there yet? NO!!!)
The Weather Underground
God Is Great, I'm Not (can't get enough of that Audrey Tatou, no sir)
The Spanish Apartment (ditto)
My Life Without Me
In The Cut
Um...yeah. I'd better download this list to some kind of portable electronic device. Let me know if I missed something!
Meanwhile, I fear for 2004, which has no new Lord of the Rings to look forward to, but does have Disney's The Alamo, Torque, and The Amazing Spider-Man, all of which I'm sure will be laughably awful. And did I mention Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights? Oh yeah. Here's hoping Aliens Vs. Predator and Halle Berry's Catwoman (yowza!) will be worth a trip to the megaplex. And I sure hope Terry Gilliam gets The Brothers Grimm finished and released this year. I'm not sure what to think about the Lemony Snicket movie (with Jim Carrey as Count Olaf) and Ocean's Twelve, except maybe "gee, I wish Steven Soderbergh was making a different film. Maybe one without Julia Roberts, even." I'm also thinking I should start catching up on this "Harvey Pawter: Junior Magician" thing I keep hearing about, since Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien) is directing the third installment, due out this Summer. Yes, the secret is out: I work in a public library and have neither read nor seen any of the Harry Potter books or films. I expect to be carried off by an angry mob any day now. Watch for the torches!
Sunday, January 11, 2004
SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR
I had all kinds of upsetting news stories I wanted to post here ("Bush Declares War On The Moon" etc.) but instead I would like to announce that in a fit of self-pity* I have purchased the Monty Python's Flying Circus DVD Megaset. Therefore I am retiring from the world and joining my flightless brethren in eternal Antarctic bliss. Yes, after watching all 24+ hours of Monty Python's Flying Circus, I will transform into an Emperor Penguin and find that I have no further need for the petty squabbles of mankind. I will shed no tears at your passing. Good day.
*On account of my being sick all the freakin' gawddamn time.
Thursday, January 08, 2004
The Shins are going to be on David Letterman next Tuesday (January 13), and then on Conan O'Brien in February. Woo!
Wednesday, January 07, 2004
ANOTHER BAD BLOGGER
Taking all that time off for the holidays has really spoiled me: it's nice to just live life and not have to write about it. There are plenty of wacky library story blogs out there now, so I pretty much just ramble about my little interests and update no-one-in-particular about my latest doings. Work schmerk! -- though I should mention that for the second time in my career one of our patrons made the logical leap that "poems and poetry are the same thing."
So, in lieu of anything that might actually be interesting to your average blog reader, I give you...THE MIX CD OF THE WEEK!!! Today's selection: The Kinks. You'll notice that it leans heavily on their 1968 "Village Green Preservation Society" album. This is no accident. So here you go, our Kinks lineup (slapped together on Sunday with a minimum concern for sequencing):
You Really Got Me
Till the End of the Day
I Need You
I Gotta Move
She's Got Everything
Dedicated Follower of Fashion
All Day and All of the Night
Tired of Waiting For You
A Well Respected Man
The Village Green Preservation Society
Do You Remember Walter?
People Take Pictures of Each Other
Get well soon, Ray!