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Archive for October, 2003

Don’t Know Much About History.

Sorry about the lack of updates since Sunday….As it happens, encroaching November has frightened me into working harder on my US history orals site. My note-taking is still two months or so behind my reading, but – in case you’re interested – I’ve recently put up notes and reviews on the following books:

John Morton Blum, Years of Discord: American Politics and Society, 1961-1974.
William Leach, Land of Desire, Merchants, Power, and the Rise of a New American Culture.
Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right.
Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus.
Ellen Schrecker, Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America.
Robert Schulzinger, A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975.
Robert Weisbrot, Freedom Bound: A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement.

Gary Wills, Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home.

Updates to the orals site should come relatively frequently for the next few months, so expect more to come.

Cry Me a River.

So I caught Mystic River the other night and, with its crisp, no-nonsense direction and a glut of extraordinary performances (I liked everyone but Laura Linney, who — like Jeremy Davies — always comes across as overly mannered to me), it pretty much has to be considered an Oscar contender. Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and especially Tim Robbins all disappear into their meaty roles, while a mousy Marcia Gay Harden and a large-and-in-charge Lawrence Fishburne (Morpheus, dude, lay off the bacon) provide excellent supporting work. Sure, there are elements of the movie that bugged me – For one, I thought the conceit with Kevin Bacon’s silent wife was just plain goofy. (Can you hear me now? Good!) For another, the pieces of the murder mystery are all in place before the wheel of Fate grinds to its inexorable conclusion, so there’s a good ten-twenty minutes there where you’re just waiting for the characters to do what it is they have to do.

All in all, though, I thought Mystic River was a film well-worth seeing, one with well-developed, multifaceted characters and a strong, rooted sense of place. (Naturally, I was reminded of the months I spent in Somerville.) It seems people are running hot and cold on the fifteen minute coda at the end of the film — Linney’s speech aside, I actually liked it, and thought Harden’s last few moments (and the parade echoing the first scene of the film) were kinda chilling. As Sean, Jimmy, and Dave all note, one could easily imagine a Twilight Zone episode where the lives of the three main characters were switched, depending on which of them was forced to become
“the boy who escaped from wolves.” To paraphrase the son of an altogether different neighborhood, sometimes the world is a monster, bad to swallow you whole.

Race enters the Race.

Up to now, he seemed content with making a few zingers at the Dem debates. But now, Reverend Sharpton is fighting mad, calling frontrunner Howard Dean “anti-black” in a recent statement. (The Deanies have issued a reply.) Well, I’m perturbed about Dean’s stance on gun control and the death penalty as well (although most of the candidates are pro-death penalty this time around.) But it seems pretty clear in this case that Sharpton is gunning more at the credibility of Jesse Jackson, Jr. (soon to endorse Dean – his father is keeping mum for now) in the black community. Besides, class-based or no, Dean is more of a friend to affirmative action than Gore was back in the day. And speaking of Gore, Dick Gephardt tries once again to pin a Gore-like Mediscare gambit on Dean. Meanwhile, John Edwards, for his part, continues to pursue the Southern strategy.

Criminal Negligence?

Also in campaign news, General Clark takes a page from Bob Graham and openly faults Dubya for 9/11. Said Clark, “It goes back to what our great president Harry Truman said with the sign on his desk: `The buck stops here.’ And it sure is clear to me that when it comes to our nation’s national security, the buck rests with the commander in chief, right on George W. Bush’s desk.” Well, he has a point…and up to now Dubya has had it relatively easy on this question. Could you imagine the maelstrom of right-wing finger-pointing that would have ensued if 9/11 had happened on Clinton or Gore’s watch?

Power Up.

Get your origin stories ready: a huge geomagnetic storm is engulfing Earth. And here I just happened to be carrying my toaster next to the bathtub…

Isildur’s Heir, Isildur’s Bane.

Coming Soon get their grubby fanboy hands on the RotK Soundtrack cover, giving us our first look at what probably is the final poster for the film. Very nice…I prefer this layout to the final Two Towers one.

It’s the Tipoff.

Finally, the NBA season is here. (The Knicks start tonight against Orlando, but frankly I’ve got no illusions about this squad – it’s clear the Knicks’ idiot management chose them for their “character” rather than for their basketball skills.) I must say, I was hoping the recent Shaq-Kobe feud would mean the beginning of a full-on Lakers collapse this season…but, alas, the Mailman and the Glove looked dominant last night against Dallas. Although I thought one of ’em might end up being a locker room cancer, it looks for now like Payton and Malone will instead be a stabilizing force at the Staples Center, despite whatever develops between the big fella and the possible felon.

Spike’s Gone Wild.

Word is Spike Jonze will be directing Where the Wild Things Are. (So much for the horror movie.) I’m not sure I like this recent trend of turning ten-minute kids’ books into full-fledged feature films, but if you’re going to do it, Jonze’s your man.

In the Cut.

Via a friend of mine in the dept., who enjoyed Kill Bill only slightly more than I did, Quentin Tarantino lists his homages to Japanese cinema in the movie. An intriguing article, both for the film knowledge and massive ego on display.

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