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Archive for February, 2005

Oscar 2005.

Hmmm…strange how the T2 score became the new Oscar theme. At any rate, Jamie Foxx and Cate Blanchett notwithstanding, it looks to have been a Million Dollar evening…and Marty went home Oscarless again. (Pickwise, I did rather poorly.) Ah well, at least Chris Rock was funny and Charlie Kaufman won for Eternal Sunshine. In my own personal Oscars, it racked up.

Biden his Time.

Election 2008 Round-Up: While Joe Biden is most concerned about Hillary Clinton as his possible primary competition, several of the nation’s governors aim to prove him wrong, and have started a-schmoozin’ to that effect.

Third Rail Anxiety.

Stand clear of the closing doors, please…Facing an uphill battle in their bid to privatize Social Security, congressional Republicans start contemplating a legislative exit strategy, which would probably include some concessions to a bipartisan plan. But the Dems, sensing the Clinton health care fiasco redux, may not play ball at all, with the exception of the usual “moderate” suspects. For the love of Pete, Senator Lieberman, please don’t give the Bush bill any of your patented Joementum.

Raking over the Muckrakers.

“The reasons for the companies’ actions are not hard to find: They face potentially massive liability claims on the order of the tobacco litigation if cancer is linked to vinyl chloride-based consumer products such as hairspray. The stakes are high also for publishers of controversial books, and for historians who write them, because when authors are charged with ethical violations and manuscript readers are subpoenaed, that has a chilling effect. The stakes are highest for the public, because this dispute centers on access to information about cancer-causing chemicals in consumer products.” Twenty chemical companies, including Dow, Monsanto, Goodrich, Goodyear, and Union Carbide, attempt to deflect a lawsuit landslide by subpoenaing peer reviewers of the recent book Deceit & Denial and by hiring a gunner — Phillip Scranton of Rutgers University — to defame the scholarship of its authors, historians David Rosner and Gerry Markowitz (the former of whom I took a class with several years ago.) The official Markowitz-Rosner response is here.

Scranton’s major allegation? Like every other historian and/or author in the business, Rosner and Markowitz suggested some possible reviewers to their publisher. (It seems they figured it might help to know something about carcinogens.) Otherwise, the pair appear to be guilty of making an argument that flies in the face of corporate profits and of letting their sources speak for themselves — Says AHA Vice-President Roy Rosenzweig of Deceit & Denial: “In my opinion, the book represents the highest standards of the history profession.” For his part, Scranton refused to comment for Jon Wiener‘s article for The Nation above, but if I were him, I’d start talking…because right now he comes off as the lowest of corporate stooges.


Sorry, Ted – You may be The Late Adopter, but now we have an even later adopter in the Columbia History Department — On Friday, ancient historian Jason Governale set sail with his new blog Corsairs United. Happy hunting.

The Lonesome Life of William Zantzinger.

But you who philosophise disgrace and criticise all fears,
Take the rag away from your face. Now ain’t the time for your tears.
Another quality Dylan link sent by way of All About George: Mother Jones‘ Ian Frazier delves into the story behind and after The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.

Let Me Clear My Throat.

As both a path-breaking porno flick and a Nixon-felling secret informant, it may have been surprisingly successful. But, unfortunately, as a documentary, the one-sided Inside Deep Throat is a superfluous and self-congratulatory tale that’s more frustrating than fulfilling. Forgoing any attempt at analytic rigor, the movie seems designed mainly to make the audience feel enlightened and blue-state cosmopolitan just for showing up. The most you can say for it is that it’s Kinsey without the nuance.

In the opening moments, the documentary tries to establish its serious pedigree with a motley crew of left-leaning talking heads remembering their “first time” at Deep Throat: Norman Mailer, Erica Jong, Camille Paglia, Bill Maher, Dick Cavett (looking very well-preserved), Hef, Gore Vidal, John Waters, etc. Ok, so far, so good. But, then the interminably smug Dennis Hopper voiceover kicks in, and the movie begins its slow lurch into irredeemable goofiness.

By the end, that lurch has become a full-on tailspin. The upshot of the film seems to be this: Deep Throat was no mere skin flick. It was about art, freedom, liberating female sexuality, and breaking restrictive social barriers…in short, it was about America.(Conversely, all subsequent porn, particularly in the post-Boogie Nights VHS-era, has been about commerce, exploitation, degradation, and, well, you know.) Moreover, the release of Deep Throat marked an epochal moment in the burgeoning culture wars, and this movie leaves no doubt which side it’s on — various would-be moral arbiters straight out of right-wing central casting are interviewed at times, and naturally they all make Ken Starr look like Larry Flynt. Meanwhile, the admittedly-dubious conviction of Deep Throat-star Harry Reems is treated like the worst threat to constitutional liberty in decades, a cross between the Hollywood Ten and the trial of Sir Thomas More.

While I think Deep Throat‘s artistic merits are vastly overrated here — it’s a ludicrous porno that improbably tapped into the zeitgeist and fell ass-backwards into crossover appeal, no more, no less — I’m generally sympathetic to the case being made in this documentary about First Amendment freedoms and the snickering, adolescent way our culture handles adult sexuality most of the time. But Inside Deep Throat‘s bullheadedly partisan and hyperbolic tone does a disservice to its central arguments. In other words, like the stereotype of the industry it sought to illuminate, Inside Deep Throat turned out to be breathless and brainless…you’d probably be better off watching whatever’s on Skinemax.


Clever, clever…UGO obtains the rumored new Internet-only and Guide-centric Hitchhiker’s trailer. It mostly conforms to the earlier one, but still, it’s nice to finally hear Stephen Fry, as well as Alan Rickman as Marvin.

Dog Force Five.

I know it’s probably bad form to have two dog-pic entries in the same week, but, today is Berkeley‘s 5th birthday, and allowances must be made. Happy b-day, little buddy.

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