From a few days ago: The Hubble — also the subject of an excellent IMAX-3D movie I saw on Saturday — (probably) finds the oldest, farthest galaxy yet discovered. “Spectroscopic observations with the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope, however, are needed to cement the identification of the smudge as a galaxy…The Webb telescope, which is expected to be launched later this decade once NASA figures out how to pay for it, has been designed to find these primordial galaxies and thus illuminate the dark ages.”
“Suffice to say, I was pleasantly surprised by David O’Russell’s chronicle of the comeback of welterweight “Irish” Micky Ward, the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts. In fact, I had the opposite experience here that I had with The King’s Speech. There was a potentially interesting story told extremely conventionally, while this is a tried and tested sports movie formula — a boxer with one last shot at a title — that still felt fresh and invigorating.
True, the seven Ward sisters were a bit much — They were the only time this boxing movie veered toward the egregious cartoon rednecks of Million Dollar Baby. But otherwise, solid performances by Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo, Amy Adams and especially Christian Bale give this could’ve-been-by-the-numbers film a much-needed heart.”
Meanwhile, over on the DC side of things, Sorry Brandon Routh (and the Legion of Jon Hamm Fans): Zack Snyder’s Superman has found its Man of Steel in Henry Cavill, formerly of The Tudors. (The photoshopped Cavill-El above was found here.) I don’t really know the guy, but I hear good things.
“With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to ‘forcible rape.’ This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.“
On the principle that, as per MLK, “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” I post more often here these days about issues I have with our own, ostensibly-lefty party. But, as Dangerous Meta reminds me: Just in case anyone forgot how crazy the Republicans are these days, the GOP Congress has, for pro-life purposes, actually fashioned a bill that defines rape down. “House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed [it] a top priority in the new Congress.” There are no words.
In the wake of Tunisia‘s “Jasmine Revolution,” and as seen all over the news the past week (once the Village moved past its who-sitting-with-who, SotU-prom obsessions), protests continue to roil Egypt — as well as Yemen, Jordan, and the Sudan — in what amounts to an historic popular uprising across the Middle East. Our response so far (Joe Biden notwithstanding): “Saying that ‘no one is satisfied‘ with the steps Mubarak has taken since the protests for political and economic freedom began, Clinton said a transition process was needed ‘so that no one fills a void..what we don’t want is chaos.‘”
As Slate‘s Kai Bid notes: Nor do we want to alienate the Egyptian people further by seeming to back a cruel and repressive government that has clearly lost the confidence of its people. “Obama still has the relatively clean slate and the rhetorical powers to execute a pivot in American policy. In his June 2009 Cairo speech Obama said, ‘America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.‘”
Hopefully, that worthy standard will encourage us to think twice before backing any play involving Egypt’s newly-appointed vice-president (and thus Mubarak’s suggested successor), former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman — a.k.a. the CIA’s point man for extraordinary renditions. “In a nutshell: this appointment will do nothing to pacify the millions of rioting citizens, and if it stands it will perpetuate the same kinds of policies and US power interests in the region to which the people have said enough.“
“Cosmetic reduction of partisan conflict appears to be displacing substantive effort to make the Senate an institution that operates according to majority rule. You have to wonder whether Democrats, in the hours leading up to their party leader’s State of the Union, had any sincere desire to enact its programs.“
Seem like every time you stop and turn around, something else just hit the ground. Not to be lost in the shuffle, filbuster reform has died anew, and so once again the broken United State Senate has “slipped back into stagnant waters.” Sounds like Two More Years for Presidents Snowe, Collins, Lieberman, and Nelson, then.
I’ve been meaning to blog this for a few days, via Genehack: After the show is harangued by Baltimore’s current police commissioner, the consistently take-no-guff David Simon sticks up for his creation, The Wire. “As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire have dissented.“
Also backlogged for a week or so: After a not-so-great initial photo leak, Matthew Vaughn of Layer Cake, Stardust, and Kick-Ass talks about what to expect from his X-Men: First Class. “It’s got a lot of teenage angst. The Twilight girls will like it.” Hrm.
“America is a nation of Smiths, Johnsons, and Sullivans — but also of Garcias and Nguyens. Zoom in on the map below to see what surnames proliferate in your part of the country.” By way of a friend, National Geographic breaks down America by surname. Good to see the Murphys holding it down in Massachusetts.
“The time to put our most vulnerable and our most needy in space is now. We can’t keep running from this problem, hoping it will go away. They have as much of a right to live in dignity and urinate in a specially designed suit built to withstand incredible heat and cold while protecting the body from violent and sudden changes in air pressure as anyone else.“
Their timing isn’t great, but The Onion strikes comedy gold again: The Money We Waste On NASA’s Space Program Would Be Better Spent On Space Programs For The Poor. “I’m not talking about a handout, I’m talking about a hand up — up 20,000 miles into space, where our nation’s most desperate and destitute can gaze down on this big blue marble ball of clouds and dreams and be inspired to lift themselves out of poverty.” (FWIW, my response to the space-is-wasted-money argument, when made seriously, is here.)
“[W]orking with Peter Jackson is like working with a family. So they’ll have a great time. Saoirse’s family will go too, everyone is very close and very loving on those sorts of jobs.” Saoirse Ronan, late of Adaptation and The Lovely Bones and soon of Hanna, is apparently heading to Middle Earth as part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. (Get well soon, PJ.) Hmm…an elf, perhaps? She has the look.
“A military trial of civilians is an atrocity…” Now isn’t that quaint? Union war hero James McAvoy finds himself reluctantly defending Robin Wright (a.k.a. Mary Surratt), a possible accessory to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, in the trailer for Robert Redford’s The Conspirator, also with Kevin Kline, Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Evan Rachel Wood, Colm Meaney, Danny Huston, and Tom Wilkinson. Here’s hoping the historical setting here can ease the didacticism that marred Lions for Lambs.
“We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.“
On the eve of the State of the Union — Win the Future! — the wags at Pleated Jeans compile a handy map of what each state desperately needs to work on. (By way of Blackpepper and Webgoddess.) “Whether it’s a fat population, high rate of STDs or excessive tax rate, it turns out that every state ranks dead last in at least one unsavory category. Check out the map (click image to enlarge) to see what your state is the worst at, then review additional stats and references after the jump.”
So, apparently, a stammer was the least of King George VI’s worries. As the Oscar field is announced with The King’s Speech at the head of the pack, Martin Filler muckrakes the rest of the King George story in The New York Review of Books, and Christopher Hitchens piles on over at Slate: “The King’s Speech is an extremely well-made film with a seductive human interest plot, very prettily calculated to appeal to the smarter filmgoer and the latent Anglophile. But it perpetrates a gross falsification of history.“
A decade after attempting to secure fifteen minutes of fame, amateur historian Thomas Lowry is caught tampering with original Lincoln documents: He made it seem Lincoln’s last official act was pardoning a Union deserter named Patrick Murphy, actually pardoned in 1864. “Lowry’s purported discovery was hailed by historians when he came forward in 1998. At the time, a Civil War expert with the Archives said Lowry had made ‘a unique and substantial contribution to Lincoln research and to the study of the Civil War.’”
In the Observer, college friend Maika Pollack surveys the Edward Hopper retrospective at the Whitney. “He painted the quality of light with adjectival precision-cool electric light, thin morning light, the lonely light from a cinema screen. (If Hopper loved movies, the movies loved Hopper back: In his House by the Railroad , we see the inspiration for Hitchcock’s Bates Motel in Psycho).”
So, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (still a bad name) has announced its villains: Anne Hathaway as Catwoman and Tom Hardy as Bane. (Not Hugo Strange, as it turns out — wires must’ve gotten crossed somewhere with Arkham City.)
Hathaway and Hardy…that’s not bad. I still might’ve preferred Marion Cotillard or Olivia Wilde for Selina Kyle, but I’ll give Hathaway the benefit of the doubt. And, while I’m not much excited about Bane as a villain, I’ll concede that I haven’t read the definitive take on the character (which is, apparently, Knightfall), and that he might actually be less of a one-note, musclebound oaf than he’s seemed in Batman and Robin and other venues.
“‘Needless to say, none of us expected it was going to be operating for so long,’ said Krimigis, now 72. ‘We were all praying to get to Neptune [in 1989]. But after that? Who thought we could be with this 33 years [after launch]?’“
Though it’s past 11 billion miles, it’s feeling very still (after all, no more solar wind)…
By way of a friend, and as the spacecraft reaches the outer edge of the solar system, the Baltimore Sun checks in on Voyager 1 and its makers. “Voyager was the pinnacle of his career, said Ness, now 77. “There is never going to be a mission in anybody’s lifetime, now living, that is ever going to get these observations in hand. So it’s once in a lifetime.“
“Zoot Shooters run through a course they call a ‘caper,’ which is often based on a scene from a famous gangster movie, like ‘The Godfather’ or ‘Miller’s Crossing.’ The winner is the person who shoots with the most accuracy in the shortest time. Penalties are tacked on for hitting the ‘good guys.’“
Also by way of a friend, the WSJ looks into “Zoot Shooters,” or what happens when fanboys and gun enthusiasts cross-pollinate. “There are two schools of thought,’ says Steve Fowler, a longtime cowboy shooter going by the name Bat Masterson, a famous Old West gunfighter. He recently took up Zoot Shooting, under the alias G-Man. ‘One is that [Zoot Shooting] is another costuming game and it’s a lot of fun…The other is, if it ain’t cowboy, it ain’t nothing.‘”
“The politics of President Kennedy — patriotic service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense — are still my politics,” Lieberman said. “So maybe that means that JFK wouldn’t fit into any of today’s partisan political boxes neatly.“
Um…yeah. Anyway, after four terms in the Senate, Joe Lieberman announces he will not be running again in 2012. [Archive.] (Politically, this was a foregone conclusion — his poll numbers have been in the tank for years.) You know how they say: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all? Well, with that in mind,
“Nearly everybody in their life needs someone to help them. I don’t care whether you’re the greatest self-made man; the fact is, someone has helped you along the way.” Politician and Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, 1915-2011.
Update: Just as I finished posting this, a promo image leaks from Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men First Class. From left to right: “Michael Fassbinder as Magneto, Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, January Jones as Emma Frost, Jason Flemyng as Azazel, Nicholas Hoult as Beast, Lucas Till as Havoc, Zoe Kravitz as Angel Salvadore, Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and James MacAvoy as Charles Xavier.” Looks…crowded.
The NYT tells the tale of Chaser, a border collie with a vocabulary of over 1000 words now. “Dr. Pilley said that most border collies, with special training, ‘could be pretty close to where Chaser is.’…Dr. Horowitz agreed: ‘It is not necessarily Chaser or Rico who is exceptional; it is the attention that is lavished on them,” she said.’” (Sorry, Berk…At least I taught you bacon and tacos — you know, the important stuff.)
“On June 26, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court embraced the National Rifle Association’s contention that the Second Amendment provides individuals with the right to take violent action against our government should it become ‘tyrannical.’ The following timeline catalogues incidents of insurrectionist violence (or the promotion of such violence) that have occurred since that decision was issued.“
An isolated incident in Arizona? Um, not so much. The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence offers a troubling timeline of “insurrectionist” violence over the past several years. (But remember: It’s just a freak coincidence that this recent tragedy, and all the others listed above, happened after several years of the GOP purposefully stoking the crazy. Really, we’re all equally at fault, etc. etc. Also, damn shame about all the guns around.)
“Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, several massive earthquakes wreaked havoc worldwide, Vancouver hosted a successful Winter Olympics, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010.” Boston’s consistently impressive Big Picture gives us the Year That Was in photographs.