Via a friend of mine in the program, Professors Eric Foner (with whom I’ve taken two classes) and Glenda Gilmore offer a rebuttal to Daniel Pipes’ recent list of academics who hate America. An article like this really doesn’t deserve a response but, simply put, Pipes is a moron. Reading any chapter of Foner’s recent Story of American Freedom — or any of his other books for that matter — belies Pipes’ ridiculous and dangerous charge of anti-Americanism. And finding fault with Dubya’s wag-the-dog Freudian fiasco in Iraq, a soon-to-be-military excursion that has already run roughshod over our Constitution, hardly speaks ill of anyone’s patriotism.
If anything, it’s egregiously anti-American for Pipes to earmark academics who should be constrained from the “outside.” A quote the Daniel Pipes of this world ought to consider: In the words of Cornel West, “To understand your country, you must love it. To love it, you must, in a sense, accept it. To accept it as how it is, however is to betray it. To accept your country without betraying it, you must love it for that in it which shows what it might become. America � this monument to the genius of ordinary men and women, this place where hope becomes capacity, this long, halting turn of the no into the yes, needs citizens who love it enough to reimagine and remake it.“
Usually wrong about most things basketball, the Sports Guy gets one right with his apology for underestimating Yao Ming, the Chinese Tower of Power.
The Dubya administration weighs Supreme Court contenders, with White House counsel Alberto Gonzales consistently leading the list.
Newsweek gets spoilerific with the two Matrix sequels. More plot information than you really want to know.
The Washington Post announces in a front-page article that our “compassionate conservative” Prez has accomplished nothing compassionate in his first two years in office. In a related story, trees are green.
So Berk and I are spending the holidays with the family in Norfolk, VA, and all is well. But the trip down here…that’s a different story. I’d be remiss if I didn’t warn you all never, ever to rent a car from Enterprise Rent A Car. My Monday morning went something like this:
THE PLAN: Pick up car from Newark International Airport and get on road by 9:30am.
7:30am: Leave apt., Get on A train to Penn Station.
8:00am: Pay $30. Get on Amtrak to Newark Airport.
8:25am: Train stops in Downtown Newark
8:30am: Train arrives at airport. Get on Newark monorail.
8:55am: Arrive at rental car stop. Wait for Enterprise off-site bus.
9:15am: Bus arrives. I find out from bus driver that, despite my twice-confirmed reservation, I’m not allowed to rent a car from this Enterprise because I didn’t just get off a plane. No boarding pass, no car. But I’m told that the Enterprise in Downtown Newark (where I’d been an hour earlier) will honor the reservation.
9:25am: Get back on Newark monorail.
9:55am: Get back on Amtrak.
10:00am: Arrive in Downtown Newark.
10:10am: Arrive at Downtown Newark Enterprise. I wait while they give the suit in front of me the full customer service treatment (“You want to upgrade? Sure! We’ll just drive an Altima right over.“), etc. etc. When my turn comes, they look at my reservation printout like it’s a dead animal. They tell me they have no cars to give (despite upgrade of aforementioned suit) and that they can’t honor the reservation. I call the Airport Enterprise back to see if the car in my name is still there. They tell me they gave it away and that the only thing to do is try to make a new (read: much-higher-priced) reservation with an Enterprise somewhere else in the Tri-state area.
10:15am: I get very irate.
10:20am: The Kraken is released.
11:00am: To get me out of their hair, they finally ship me to a third Enterprise, in the Newark environs.
11:40am: The third Enterprise honors the first reservation at the first price, and I leave Newark in a Ford Focus, headed back for NYC (to pick up Berk and my friend/co-rider Amanda.)
Of course, getting back into the city is no picnic then, but you get the idea. Suffice to say, I’m never doing business with Enterprise again, despite the friendlier folk at the third franchise.
I know this is a bit late, but Berkeley and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas (and, soon, a very happy new year!) Santa kindly brought us a new Dell Dimension 8250, so I’ve spent the past few days becoming acquainted with XP and marveling at this PC’s speed. Good times.
THRILL to the adventure. MARVEL at the journey. EXPLORE worlds of wonder in (drumroll) Howard Hawks’ Lord of the Rings. Starring Humphrey Bogart as Frodo, the courageous hobbit. Marlene Dietrich as the alluring elf queen. Orson Welles as the wise wizard horribly corrupted. And Peter Lorre as the sinister guide with a secret to tell. (Spoilers for those who haven’t read the trilogy.)
Drudge is trying his damnedest today to get a Lott-size stink brewing around Robert Byrd for his Confederate cameo in Gods and Generals. As I mentioned a few months ago, I do think this is a bit strange, but hardly in the league of Lott openly advocating segregation in his capacity as majority leader.
Via All About George, figure out your alignment. As it happens, I’m true neutral (Law: 3 Chaos: 3, Good: 3, Evil: 3). I guess that makes sense, particularly since back in the day I usually played chaotic neutral characters (often magic-users or thieves…and, yes, I still didn’t like the Elric books.)
Caught the Weinstein edit of Gangs of New York this afternoon, and still not sure how I feel about it. A beautifully shot and often entrancing film, but sadly there’s not much there there. Once you get past Daniel Day-Lewis and Jim Broadbent chewing the scenery (Day-Lewis pretty much has to win Best Actor for this – he almost singlehandedly carries the film), you’re basically left with a rather perfunctory revenge thriller that, despite the carnival of Five Points, drags on in the third act. Plus, not to get all history geek about it, but this take on the Civil War draft riots seems a bit dubious. Scorsese doesn’t flinch in depicting the atrocities committed against African-Americans during the riots, but you still get the sense that (a) the Irish are too busy rising up against Bill the Butcher’s hordes to be involved and (b) the Union troops are firing on innocent civilians in order to protect the Schermerhorns of New York. In fact, despite whatever friendship Leo struck up with Jimmy Spoils, his black companion in the Dead Rabbits, the Irish — much as it pains me to say it — were the prime instigators of both the riots and the grotesque racial violence that accompanied it. And regarding the federal troops, they arrived weary from Gettysburg on Day 4 of the riots, long after this “innocent” crowd had been engaged in an ethnic murder spree. And these soldiers were attacked by the rioters before they fired on anybody. Most annoying, US Navy ships never fired on the city, as they do during the critical mano a mano moment in the film.
Scorsese’s thesis is interesting – that the Draft Riots represent a turning point in American history when the Federal Government proves itself more powerful than the tribal warlords of the city. But I take issue with the idea, made explicit by Scorsese’s intercutting at the climax of the film, that the Union army is just a bigger, badder gang out solely to protect the parochial interests of the wealthy elite. Obviously, America’s military power has been used to serve narrow economic ends, as attested by our imperial engagements at the turn of the century (and note I didn’t specify which century.) But making that argument in this instance severely downplays the racial element of the riots…In sum, Federal troops weren’t slaughtering an innocent coalition of multi-ethnic immigrants in the name of the almighty buck. They were putting an end to a four-day nightmare of racist terror perpetuated primarily by the Irish, the heroes of Scorsese’s film.
All that being said, Gangs is definitely worth seeing, for Daniel Day-Lewis as much as the exotic flavor of Gotham throughout. And I’m curious to see if the longer cut gives a fuller picture of the riots, which seem almost superfluous in this edit.
There was a movie I seen one time, I think I sat through it twice. Fresh off the extremely well-reviewed Far from Heaven (which I haven’t seen yet,) Todd Haynes preps a film about Dylan. Interesting…but, as the talkbacks rage, who will play him?
With a little push out the door from George Allen, Lott goes down, to be replaced by Bill Frist of Tennessee. Smart move by the GOP, even if their Contract on America is temporarily hampered…Frist is a much more congenial and Daschle-esque character than Lott, and it’ll be harder for the Dems to paint him as a right-wing ideologue. (Fortunately, there’s always Tom DeLay.)
So, seen TTT yet? After two showings yesterday, I must say I’m delighted and (still) surprised at how wondrous this second chapter turned out. [As with FOTR, I spent the first showing half-reeling from information overload and half-running aggravating fanboy self-diagnostics the whole time. ("Wow! I like it! Do I like it? Do I really like it? I want to really like it. I think I like it. Wow! Hey, that wasn't in the book! Was it? I'm not sure. Do I like it?") The second time I could just sit back and enjoy it for the glorious epic it is. Be warned - although TTT is seamlessly integrated with the first movie, it's not Fellowship. But then again, it really shouldn't be. Anyway, there is much I love about this second installment, particularly... [The post from now on will feature TTT SPOILERS.]
1) Gollum (“Leave and never come back!“): My biggest concern entering the back-end of the trilogy was that Smeagol would come off cartoony and Jar Jar-ish. He doesn’t…at all. (As one wag put it, the Jar Jar in this film is Gimli.) In fact, I’d say Smeagol’s moonlit and schizophrenic soliloquy stands as the showstopping highlight of a film filled with amazing moments and indelible images. Kudos to Andy Serkis and the WETA gang for what they’ve done here. By the end, I wanted to see more Gollum and less preparation for Helm’s Deep (But to be fair that’s the same problem I have with Tolkien’s book – The events east of the Anduin seem so much more interesting and important due to the presence of the ring.) And, speaking of the eastern theater…
2. Faramir: (“Time for Faramir Captain of Gondor to show his quality.“) The dramatic alteration to Boromir’s bro seems to be the change most bothering the Tolkien fan nation. To be honest, I preferred Faramir this way. In the books, he alway came off to me as an Aragorn clone…in this version, I think he shows more depth, and it keeps the ring interesting. The detour to Osgiliath was jarring at first, but it makes sense…not only in giving Frodo and Sam more to do but also explaining why Sauron might concentrate so heavily on Gondor in ROTK (Y’all know what I mean.) As for Faramir’s change of heart at the end of the film, it seemed a bit too quick to me the first time around, but the second time it made more sense. By then, Faramir has already discovered the ring has (a) possibly killed his brother and (b) driven this creature with “an ill-favored look” thoroughly batty. When he witnesses trance-Frodo trying to give the Ring of Power to a Nazgul rather than trying to wield its vaunted power, I could see how he’d put it all together.
3. Rohan: (“Forth Eorlingas!“) Theoden, Grima, and Eowyn all do very well here, as does the magnificent set design of Edoras. I could look at Grima most of the time and not think Brad Dourif, which is no small achievement (the accent helped.) And Theoden seemed legitimately staggered by the forces arrayed against his kingdom. (“Such reckless hate…how did it come to this?“) I wish they’d kept the scene of Eowyn dispatching some wayward Uruk-Hai in the Glittering Caves, but perhaps it’ll make the extended cut.
4. Gandalf the White: (“I did not brave fire and death to bandy craven words with a witless worm.”) The transition (and dislocation) from grey to white was handled quite well, I thought, and Ian McKellen was superb once again. I’m even more annoyed now with the Academy for passing him over last year in favor of the admittedly good Jim Broadbent (who won for Iris but no doubt got most of his votes for Moulin Rouge), since the Gandalf scenes are too slim here to warrant nomination.
5. Treebeard and the Ents: (“That does not make sense to me. But, you are very small.“) Looked a bit fake, sure. And they fell out of the picture for a good two hours in the middle there. But, the payoff at the end was huge and, as I said before, I’ve never been enough of an Ent fan to feel slighted anyway. And, speaking of ents…
6. Magnificent moments: (“Stupid fat hobbit!“) How ’bout the Ent on fire taking advantage of the flooding Isen? There are so many stand-out scenes in the film that I could never list them all here. I love the wide-angle shot of a flaming ball(rog) descending into the underground sea. The dialogue between the orcs and Uruk-Hai was great fun. (“How ’bout their legs? They don’t need their legs.“) The exorcism of Theoden was a novel take on the healing, and the subsequent mourning of Theodred was well-handled. Arwen at the grave of Elessar was very touching. Much of the battle of Helm’s Deep was not only surprisingly easy to follow but also pure eye candy, from the Olympic-torch-wielding Uruk Hai to Legolas’ dispatching of the mega-siege ladder. Don’t forget the wonderful shot of Frodo confronting the fell beast on the Osgiliath roofs. And, then of course, there’s pretty much everything involving Gollum. Of course, though, they’d take away my fanboy cred if I didn’t have a few…
7. Quibbles: (“So few…Lord Aragorn, where is he?“) I really could have done without the whole Aragorn-falling-off-the-cliff bit, and Brego the Wonder Horse doesn’t help matters. There’s already too many “dead-not dead!” moments in the trilogy (and too many deus ex machinas, while I’m at it), and PJ really shouldn’t have tested the audience’s patience by throwing in one more. Also, while I like seeing what the elves were up to, the Galadriel speech came across like a recap for the plot-impaired. We’ve been watching the movie for two hours now, so if we haven’t figured it out by now…Same goes for the Middle-Earth map brought out right thereafter – It would have been much more useful earlier, I’d think. Other questions…Why is so much footage from the early previews missing? (“Sauron is not yet so mighty that he does not know fear…“) How does Grima just miss the fact that 10,000 Uruk Hai have lined up outside Orthanc? Why isn’t the back of Haldir’s head split open during his death scene? And when the Ents attack, why does Saruman seem like he just lost a contact?
And so on and so on. But I’m nitpicking what I thought was overall a deliciously good second installment in the Tolkien trilogy. And, with the ends of both the Isengard and Cirith Ungol storylines to be packed in with all the multitudinous events of ROTK, I see no way the next one can clock in under 210 minutes. Should be grand!
Where is the horse and the rider?
Where is the horn that was blowing?
They have passed like rain on the mountains, like wind in the meadow.
The days have come down in the West behind the hills…into shadow.
As with a year ago (12/19), consider David Brin’s warning (spoilers for non-readers), then get thee to a cinema!
Update: As spectacular as I hoped, with Gollum a special treat. I’ll say more after a second viewing this afternoon.
Brilliant. The Dubya administration is currently looking for ways to justify raising taxes on the poor. As Tim Noah pointed out in Slate, between this and Trent Lott it seems the GOP is showing their true colors all of a sudden.
The transit strike is off. Now I’ll be able to see TTT tomorrow night at 23rd St. without running across the city Three Hunters-style.
On the other side of the aisle, the GOP starts thinking harder about dumping their own embarrassing baggage, despite Trent Lott’s BET plea. If only Lott had taken a page from his idol and merely pretended to be remorseful from the get-go. Update: With Dubya on the sidelines, pundits are putting it in the fridge: Lott will be removed from the Senate leadership. Who will replace him is still up in the air.
On day one of a Gore-less race, Dems and pundits alike survey the now wide-open field. As I noted in the comments below, I’m pulling for John Kerry at the moment, but would like to hear more from Howard Dean. It’d be great to see Russ Feingold in the hunt too. To be honest, the only Dem contender I’m set against right now, if you can even call him a Dem, is Lieberman. To quote from a two-year-old post (8/9/00), “First, I am pretty much turned off by moral crusading and open religiosity in a politician of any religion (“We in government should look to religion as a partner, as I think the founders of our country did”.) Second, it turns out Lieberman has supported capital gains tax cuts and school vouchers and opposed affirmative action. (“You can’t defend policies that are based on group preferences as opposed to individual opportunity,”.) Third, look at the company he keeps. Rabid cultural conservatives from Bill Bennett to Sam Brownback can’t stop fawning over the guy. Lieberman’s not a centrist – he’s right of center.” Update: Senate Dems are now pressuring Daschle to stay out.
A judge issues an injunction against the Transport Worker’s Union’s planned transit strike, set to paralyze the city on Monday. As you can imagine, Manhattanites are watching this standoff, and Bloomberg’s handling of it, with bated breath.