Some thanksgiving orals reading, for you and yours…read with lavish amounts of stuffing and cranberry sauce.
|Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era.
C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow.
Donald Worster, Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s.
Terry McAuliffe take note: Up in Iowa, up in Massachusetts (!), imperturbable in debate, Howard Dean’s starting to look unstoppable. Barring a horrendous gaffe by the good doctor or a resurgent Southern swing by Clark or Edwards, it’s looking to be over sooner rather than later. In fact, isn’t it nigh time for some Dem candidates to follow Bob Graham to the exit…?
Historian David Greenberg and the Washington Post examines Dubya’s stylistic debts to Richard Nixon.
Michael Caine joins the Christopher Nolan Batman as Alfred. That’s an interesting choice, and what with Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne, Nolan’s two-for-two. But who will play the villains? Dark Horizons says Daniel Day-Lewis as Ras Al-Ghul, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
In the trailer bin this morning, a quicktime version of Hellboy (still looks intriguing but possibly LXG-ish) and a first look at Thunderbirds. Farscape is my sci-fi puppet show of choice, so I can’t say this much appeals to me…but then again, the original is way before my time.
Well, while I did pick up the soundtrack this morning. we’re getting to the point in the RotK release cycle where I’m starting to feel ambivalent about seeing this stuff before December 16th. Newsweek prints a very spoiler-filled first review and declares, “It’s an epic. It tells a passionate, elemental story. It takes the principal filmmaking currency of our times, special effects, and makes them matter. Is it a fantasy? It’s a lot of people’s fantasy, yes.” (The article also tells how the movie begins…I won’t put it here, but I’m somewhat proud of myself for having guessed it a year ago.) The Newsweek cover story also has a couple of all-new pictures, and a snippet from Andy Serkis’s forthcoming Gollum book reveals even more about the decisions made in RotK. All of this is very spoilerish stuff, even for those of us who’ve read the trilogy. You have been warned.
“For in the final analysis, our most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this small planet, we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children’s futures, and we are all mortal.”
After stinking it up with The Hulk, Ang Lee hopes to clear the air with his next film, Brokeback Mountain. I presume it’ll be a return to form…since I’m still shocked at how bad the Green Machine turned out.
With Return of the King less than a month away, several all-new spoilerish pics have shown up online, including this shot of Minas Morgul emptying for war and this striking picture of the event that kicks off the third film. If you haven’t read the books, leave that second link alone. I wouldn’t have posted the other pic here if (a) it weren’t so gosh darn pretty and (b) Minas Morgul didn’t feature so prominently in the RotK trailer (and FotR.)
With the forty-year anniversary of JFK’s assassination tomorrow, former White House correspondent Tom Wicker assesses Kennedy’s place in history, Sean Wilentz examines his civil rights record, and David Greenberg refutes the Dallas-Watergate connection.
The trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation of Hellboy, one of the more eagerly awaited fanboy projects out there, is now online. I’m actually not all that familiar with the comic, so to my mind this could go either way. It’s hard to go wrong with John Hurt against souped-up Nazi evil, but some of the effects look mighty CGI. We’ll see.
Slow and steady wins the race, I hope:
|George Chauncey, Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940
T.J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920.
As an hour’s distraction, I’ve created a central clearinghouse for movie reviews on GitM and added it to the sidebar at left. Unfortunately, some of the older ones (written during the hand-coded Geocities days) may be hard to find, but they’re in there…somewhere. I’ll also probably try to reconstruct the 10-point ratings at some point, but that’s an improvement for another day.
Max of Lots of Co. points the way to this intriguing article on the pitfalls that have befallen K Street. I finally saw a few episodes at a friend’s house and, while James and Mary came off well, I thought the show suffered from a few strategic errors. For one, as this story points out, the only people who will recognize (or will care about) all the uncredited cameos are the same ones who’ll realize how ultimately fake the show is. For another, the show’s greatest strength was that it seemed news-dependent, but…if you have no news for a few weeks, trouble ensues. (Hence, the not-very-engaging personal subplots that have taken over.) Still, I think there’s definite potential for a show like K St.…perhaps Soderbergh & co. should try a second run a little closer to election time, if HBO wills it.
In the most recent skirmish against the machine chessmasters, human contender Garry Kasparov tied X3D Fritz in a four-game series. He fights for us.
So I caught Peter Weir’s Master and Commander last night and, if you have little trouble discerning the differences among a gaggle of grubby British salts (One looks like Eric Idle, another talks like Captain McAllister, and who knew Pippen was coxswain material?) and don’t go in expecting the action-fiesta promised in the ads, you should come out satisfied. Like pretty much all of Weir’s other films, Commander is an extremely competent piece of work, in some ways even masterful. And, while Crowe’s Captain “Lucky Jack” Aubrey is yet another variation of the strong, silent type he’s done several times elsewhere, he nevertheless commands attention and seems plausible as the glue that holds the creaky H.M.S. Surprise together.
I’d never read any of the Patrick O’Brian novels, so I can’t attest to the movie’s literary veracity. But the historical details seemed right to my landlubber’s eye, and I thought the languid, episodic pacing of the film — which some may find boring, particularly after Jack Sparrow’s romp earlier in the year — helped to convey the rhythm of life at sea in the Napoleonic era, when it took forever and a day to get from place to place. Speaking of which, there’s not all that much suspense about where the film’s going — like the crew of the Surprise, you can see the destination long before Commander gets there. But most of the detours, from the woeful tale of an accursed Jonah to the pre-Darwinian excursions in the Galapagos, are gripping in their own way. In the end, I left Master and Commander feeling like I’d sat through a longer film, but also feeling that I’d traveled somewhere. And while I doubt Commander will spawn many sea epic sequels, nor do I think I’d want to see this film again anytime in the very near future, kudos go out to Peter Weir & crew for making a picture as engrossing and transporting as this one.
As the Religious Right preps for their coming crusade against sodomites and liberals, the NY Times examines the impact of yesterday’s landmark gay marriage decision in Massachusetts on the 2004 Presidential race. I dunno…I think the potential fallout for the left is being overstated. For one, it’s not as if jackasses like these are going to vote Democratic anyway. For another, if Tom DeLay succeeds in pushing a constitutional amendment on marriage to a vote, it will just redound negatively on Dubya and the GOP (as even the Weekly Standard realizes.) So by all means, let’s see the right-wing crazies get their dander up on this issue…the electorate will know where to stand after seeing ‘em frothing at the mouth and threatening to encode their prejudices into the U.S. Constitution.
TORN.net get the full version of Annie Lennox’s “Into the West,” soon to close a splendid fantasy trilogy at a theater near you. Those of you who found the Soundtrack.net excerpt to be a tad shrill will be happy to discover that that 30 seconds was the loudest part of the song. Also, in LotR news, I missed out on the TTT:EE Grand Central extravangaza yesterday, although it may have been just as well given some of the complaints coming in.
In something of a coup, MLS signs 14-year-old Freddy Adu, widely considered to be a potential soccer superstar, to a six-year deal. (Dallas had the first pick, but he’ll play for DC United, the closest team to his MD home.) Suddenly, LeBron seems like the old guy in the club.
Gollum gets a new preciousss…Naomi Watts. Apparently Andy Serkis will play King Kong for PJ much as he did Smeagol (and half the orcs in TTT.) Sounds good from here.
More grist for the orals mill:
|Nancy Cott, The Grounding of Modern Feminism.
William Gillette, Retreat from Reconstruction: 1869-1879.
Matthew Josephson, The Politicos.
W.J. Rorabaugh, The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition.
Ghost in the Machine is four years old today. We’ve weathered lots of personal, political, and cinematic ups and downs since that badly written entry on 11.15.99 (as the archives new and old will attest), but it’s funny how most of the topics covered here at length (Dem politics, movie reviews, fanboy culture, the Knickerbockers) were foreshadowed in that first rambling preamble. As for the hits, well…I’m not going to talk about the hits, ’cause you won’t stay in this business for four long years if you dwell too heavily on the site stats. So, to paraphrase FDR, “I should like to have it said of GitM‘s first administration that in it the forces of selfishness, lust for power, and lousy film transitions of fanboy properties met their match; I would like to have it said of its second administration that in it these forces met their master.” Here’s to four more years!
For you gamers out there, Day of Defeat 1.1 was released last night (over Steam.) I suspect it will conspire with Civilization 3.2 (Conquests), which I picked up while Christmas shopping today, to tempt me away from my increasingly necessary orals reading. A WWII FPS and a dominate-the-world strategy game counts as time spent historicizing, doesn’t it?
After several notable historians question the case in the NY Times, Tim Noah of Slate revisits the plagiarism allegations surrounding Doris Kearns Goodwin. I must say, it still looks pretty ugly, although I am curious to read her forthcoming Lincoln book.
Are the Moya crew on their way back from oblivion? Rumors abounded yesterday that Farscape had been picked up for a 4-6 episode mini-season to finish the story, but then today’s abruptly-called Henson press conference was cancelled. What the frell is going over there? Update: Crichton lives!
While the Dems continue their 30-hour marathon filibuster of three Dubya judicial nominees (stunt-scheduled by the GOP to draw attention to – gasp – the Dems fulfilling their advise and consent obligation under the Constitution), Nixon counsel John Dean explains the stakes in this fight…and the GOP’s “nuclear option.” Lest anyone forget, the Dems here are filibustering four of 172 Dubya nominations (2%). By contrast, the Republicans blocked over a third of President Clinton’s nominees to the Court of Appeals. As per usual, the hypocrisy of the Right knows no bounds.
As Howard Dean announces his college-friendly education plan (which includes $10,000 a year in financial aid and a quadrupling of Americorps), William Saletan — not one of Dean’s biggest fans — wonders how the Doctor will handle the “postwar” phase of the campaign. Meanwhile, Wesley Clark continues developing the “right-on-terror” strategy (originally articulated by Bob “Osama Bin Forgotten” Graham) by accusing the Bushies of dropping the hunt for Al Qaeda’s leader in their rush to get Saddam. The general’s got a point, particularly when you consider the nightmare rhetoric still emanating from Al Qaeda’s corner. It’s too bad the guy’s so way off on flag burning. (Last link via Value Judgment.)
After a 2-5 start and two dismal games Cleveland (not exactly the powerhouses of the league), the Knicks look for deliverance from Antonio McDyess, who will probably play Friday for the first time in almost two years. If he plays to old form, he could be exactly what the Knicks have needed since LJ retired — a guy who can command double teams and create open shots for Allan Houston and Keith Van Horn. But…three knee surgeries? Still, after Vin Baker’s comeback this year, I’d say anything is possible. If nothing else, McDyess’s return injects some interest in what’s fast turning out to be another mediocre Knicks season.
The trailer for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is now online. Alfonso Cuaron, Gary Oldman, David Thewlis, Tim Spall…this has to be better than the first two, right?
Christopher Lee speaks out about the editing decisions to RotK noted here, and he sounds quite put off. I’m worried too, frankly, but I’ll assume PJ knows what he’s doing. (Via Metafilter. Speaking of which, thanks to Kestrel’s Nest for Mefi’ing my TTT:EE review and effectively doubling my hits today, not that I still check that kinda thing, of course. I also liked the poster who suggested that the GOP is behind the Saruman cut, a la Ronald Reagan.)
Robert Zemeckis launches The Polar Express a full year before it hits theaters. I must say, I’m a bit scared of CGI Tom Hanks…but if he facilitates Bachelor Party 2 then bring him on. Update: Fan minds think alike – Harry’s also creeped out by the gungan-like Tom-Tom Hanks.
Another wave of updates over at the Orals site:
|Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939.
Lizabeth Cohen, A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America.
Alan Dawley, Struggles for Justice: Social Responsibility and the Liberal State.
John Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War.
Jackson Lears, Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America.
Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age.
Robert Wiebe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920.
AICN points the way to the trailer for Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, soon to be re-released at a theater (possibly) near you. Hmm…I wonder if free-market conservatives will try to protect Frederick Winslow Taylor the way they recently did Ronnie Reagan?
By way of Kestrel’s Nest, Aftermath, a remembrance of the end of World War I, which came to a close on this day 85 years ago. Among the millions who died in the Great War was my great-grandfather, Alfred Amory Sullivan — he perished in the Battle of the Somme, on the side of the British.
In celebration of a quarter-century of Science Times, the paper ruminates on the 25 questions currently driving science, while Alan Lightman ponders the motivations that fuel scientists. I’m not sure if the likes of Stephen Hawking are really contemplating Atlantis, but there’s some intriguing stuff here.
Also in science news, CNN examines the cultural divide between the US and Russia over space exploration. My friends who’ve worked for NASA in some capacity have also complained about a risk-aversiveness bordering on the ridiculous within America’s space program, even with regard to unmanned missions. As one put it, for considerably less than the cost it takes to make one probe perfect, we could send up multiple probes — each with a 90% success rate — and just play the odds, which turn out to be roughly equivalent. Obviously, the calculus of safety for manned missions should be more stringent, but still, I’d think many astronauts would be willing to accept a greater degree of risk if it meant a reinvigoration of the space program.