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Archive for March, 2011

The Priorities of the Serious People™.

This chart puts the class war in simple, visual terms. On the left you have the ‘shared sacrifices’ and ‘painful cuts’ that the Republicans claim we must make to get our fiscal house in order. On the right, you can plainly see WHY these cuts are ‘necessary.’” Via JackDean and several other sites, This is What Class War Looks Like.

But, hey, Win the Future and all that.

Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

Not that any more egregious timesucks are needed ’round these parts at the moment, but in case you find yourself with a free quarter-hour or three: Kris at Webgoddess recently pointed the way toward a fun movie-hangman game, Famous Objects from Classic Movies. (Most are pretty easy, although I’ll admit to having googled for a swing set.)

And, if that doesn’t do you, their constant begging for a subscription fee can’t kill the crack-like entertainment value of Lumosity’s addictively addictive Word Bubble game, sent to me by a co-worker. (My current high score is 4320, although that is after a lot of playing. When I first started, breaking 2000 was a good game.)

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his..hat?

Another fortnight gone by, and GitM is behind the curve once again: Clearly keeping up to date around here isn’t part of “The Plan” at the moment. At any rate, some quick thoughts on George Nolfi’s Twilight Zone romance, The Adjustment Bureau, which I caught awhile ago.

In brief, I found myself enjoying The Adjustment Bureau, even though many elements of this story really have no business working. For one, its basic conceit — supernatural Organization Men have a Plan for all of humankind, and the meet-cute and subsequent romance of Senate candidate Matt Damon and ballerina Emily Blunt just isn’t in Their Cards — flirts dangerously with both Touched By An Angel and Bagger Vance territory at times. (As Damon’s guardian angel and eventual angel-buddy, The Hurt Locker‘s Anthony Mackie gets stuck with the thankless Will Smith role here.) And, to be sure, all the quasi-religious meanderings here get a bit cloying after awhile. (Every time somebody namedrops “the Chairman” of this spiritual bureaucracy, I half-expected Morgan Freeman to pop up in the final act.)

For another, while I understand Bureau is based loosely on a 1954 Phillip K. Dick story — I haven’t read it, but it sounds quite different — parts of the film seem decidedly retro, and I’m not just talking about the fedoras. At one point, one of the sternest Men With Hats (Terrence Stamp) talks of how giving free will to humankind ultimately led to the Dark Ages — Well, ok, that’s a cautionary tale…if you’re Western European. Meanwhile, as a friend pointed out, Arabs are inventing algebra, and the Chinese are doing just fine, thank you very much.

That’s a passing irritation. But more problematic here is Emily Blunt’s retrograde character, who is passive to a fault: She doesn’t actually do anything in this story but look fetching and wait for Damon to call the shots. (At one point, three lost years go by because Damon loses Blunt’s phone number. Really? She couldn’t call him?) Now, I’m all for a guy going the extra mile to win the girl of his dreams — Say, Sam Lowry chasing down Jill in Brazil, or Luke braving the Death Star to rescue the pre-sororital princess in Star Wars. But, in those cases, Jill basically thinks Sam is a loon, and treats him as much, while Leia realizes pretty quickly that her rescuers haven’t put a lot of thought into their escape plan.

In other words, I find romances more engaging and, well, romantic when there’s more back-and-forth between the pair involved, like, to take just a few examples, Alvy and Annie in Annie Hall, Tom and Verna in Miller’s Crossing, or any of the couples in Stanley Cavell’s “comedies of remarriage” (and their spiritual descendant, Eternal Sunshine.) But Emily Blunt barely participates in this story. She’s less a character than an object of desire to keep the story rolling along. For all intent and purposes, she’s just the Maguffin.

Now, having said all that, why am I still recommending The Adjustment Bureau? Well, chemistry goes a long way, and if nothing else Damon and Blunt have are convincing together. They’re a cute couple, even if they have to slog their way through some seriously terrible plot points at times. (For example, the angels make it clear that this duo’s romance will be irrevocably set in stone if Damon sees Blunt dancing. That in itself is cheesy enough, and it’s not helped by the fact that the herky-jerky Blunt happens to dance like Elaine Benes.)

Plus, while the “Mad Men angels” conceit starts to bog down under its own weight in the second half of the movie, and particularly when Damon’s personal Clarence starts enumerating all kinds of new random rules — angels need their hats, they can’t stand water, doorknobs have to be turned clockwise — just so we can have a big chase scene finale, the first hour or so is still intriguing and sci-fi enough that it held my attention even when the story faltered.

Let me put it this way: About twenty minutes in, The Adjustment Bureau has one of those scenes where, while addressing a large audience at a hugely important moment, Senate-wannabe Matt Damon rips up the remarks he was giving and starts ad-libbing, because, you know, he just can’t give that pre-prepared speech right now — It’s time to keep it real. From Up in the Air to Traffic, this is one of the hoariest and most cornball cliches in the movies, and it takes me out of the flow every time. And, yet, even with groaners like this, I still found myself mostly enjoying The Adjustment Bureau by the end. For all its faults, it’s a low-key, goofy, and amiable time at the movies. Who knows? Perhaps I was just predestined to like it.

This Ain’t No Place for No Hero.

Have you ever considered that all this is your fault? Your presence creates these animals.” Following up on their Hugo Strange teaser of last December, WBGames releases the gameplay trailer for Batman: Arkham City, and it looks like the Joker and Harley Quinn are back for another go-round (along with Two-Face, Catwoman, and the aforementioned doctor.)

My non-Cata gaming time has most recently been spent playing through the scary-impressive Dead Space 2, but this and Portal 2 are on my drop-everything list. Can’t wait. (And FWIW, that catchy song above is “Short Change Hero” by The Heavy.)

The End of the Beginning.

“‘We want to unite, we want to fight, we want to get back workers’ rights…The people united will never be defeated.’ ‘This is not the end. This is the beginning of phase two,’ said Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison).” With Governor Scott Walker and the Republicans having forced their union-busting budget through, the Wisconsin 14 return to Madison to a heroes’ welcome. “‘They won the battle; we’re going to win the war,’ said Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).” The next phase of the battle: the April 5th Supreme Court election. (Pic via Crooked Timber.)

An Apple a Day Isn’t Enough.

In 1970, in New York City, a newly minted teacher at a public school earned about $2,000 less in salary than a starting lawyer at a prominent law firm. These days the lawyer takes home, including bonus, $115,000 more than the teacher, the McKinsey study found.

In related news, Nick Kristof offers a modest proposal for fixing education in America: pay teachers more. “When governors mock teachers as lazy, avaricious incompetents, they demean the profession and make it harder to attract the best and brightest. We should be elevating teachers, not throwing darts at them.


Via a friend, and since the lousy news has been piling up of late, here’s a moment of Zen: A slow loris enjoying some ritualistic tickling. (Don’t try this at home, folks.)

Deep Dark Truthful Mirror.

As the Evil Queen, Olivia Wilde joins Alec Baldwin as the spirit of the magic mirror from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ In the dark depths of her lair, the Queen has summoned the mirror’s spirit through wind and darkness to reveal the identity of a lovelier maid than she. The caption reads, ‘Where magic speaks, even when you’re not the fairest of them all.’

Mental health break #2 via Megg at Quiddity: Disney unveils new Annie Leibowitz photos for the Disney Dream campaign, featuring stars as Disney characters, including Jeff Bridges as the Beast, Queen Latifah as Ursula, and the two folks above.

If it ain’t broke…

You can practically break a search engine if you start looking around the Internet for those words. They’re used repeatedly with reference to our local, state and federal governments, almost always to make a case for slashing programs — and, lately, to go after public-employee unions. The phrase is designed to create a sense of crisis that justifies rapid and radical actions before citizens have a chance to debate the consequences. Just one problem: We’re not broke.

Swimming upstream against a tide of misleading soundbites and outright idiocy — from Republicans and Democrats both — E.J. Dionne tries to explain the obvious: America has plenty of money right now. “A phony metaphor is being used to hijack the nation’s political conversation and skew public policies to benefit better-off Americans and hurt most others.

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