Conjuring Political, Cinematic, Cultural, and Athletic Arcana since Nineteen Ninety-Nine.

1/16/01 - More R.E.M. news: The band played two Reveal tracks at the Rock in Rio festival on Saturday and, according to a friend at work, both "The Lifting" and "She Just Wants to Be" are already available on Napster. Must check when I get home. In other news, the official fan site has been redesigned.

The Ashcroft Confirmation wars begin today on Capitol Hill, and it's looking like the Dems face an uphill battle. (In fact, an ugly confirmation may be exactly what Dubya wants.) I'm of two minds about this whole Ashcroft fiasco. In general, I think the President should be allowed to appoint whomever she wishes to her Cabinet, and rabid ideological partisanship alone should not be enough to disqualify a candidate (although I think a more rigorous standard applies for Supreme Court justices.) The question is, has Attorney-General-designate Ashcroft gone beyond heated political rhetoric to suggest that he absolutely, positively will not uphold the (pro-choice, anti-gun, environment, or civil rights) laws of the country? The job of the Senate is to advise and consent, so if it were up to me, I'd definitely want to give the Ronnie White and Confederate sympathy fiascos a full airing, but I'd be leaning toward confirming him.

Don't get me wrong, I think Ashcroft is a terrible choice for the Attorney General post, one that I believe will further alienate Americans - particularly African-Americans - from the Bush administration. But it's a terrible choice that Dubya has every right to make, so I'd more than likely hold my nose and let him through. Besides, on a purely political level, four years of the theocratic heavy hand of Ashcroft at Justice will go a long way towards keeping the progressive fires burning for 2002 and 2004.

Now, were I to hypothesize that I worked on the other side of the aisle, I'd probably have picked Mayor Rudy for the Attorney-General post, although he's had similar troubles with minority populations and I guess that's more of a McCain choice. Or, I'd have pulled a JFK and appointed brother Jeb to the post, just to tick off the Kennedy crowd.

Good news for starving artistes everywhere: the swooning real estate fever breaks in Manhattan.

In twenty-first century Hollywood, screenwriters want their due, including getting a chance to watch the dailies and removing directors' possessory credits ("A FILM BY Alan Smithee," e.g.) Well, I'd be the first to suggest that writers get more cred, but let's face it - film is a visual medium. Although I did find it strange that nowhere in the opening credits for Thirteen Days, splendid piece of edutainment that it is, did it say "Based on the Book By Robert Kennedy," which it obviously is. Bizarre.

Also caught the Rings trailer (Warning: filmed in Kramervision, so you might do better to check out the frame-by-frame analysis instead) this weekend, and I have to confess I was a tad disappointed. The visuals looked pretty decent, but all in all the teaser was too short and half of it was summer movie marketing filler. I know, it's a teaser, but still. I'm glad I didn't venture into a film I didn't want to see for the sake of this 100 second opus.

Nevertheless, the relaunched Rings site does have all kinds of great hidden pics, which you can view here and here.

American Mule has also captured a second wave of Planet of the Apes pics, in case you're interested.

Private Citizen Bill Clinton will play the President in the new Bond flick? Sheah. I'll believe it when I see it.

Round 2 of the confederate flag controversy in South Carolina begins with an anti-flag march on MLK day. Unfortunately, the Stars and Bars' current location is even more prominent and insulting than it was atop the Capitol. Really, you can't miss it. Here's hoping sanity prevails and the flag gets moved indoors somewhere, out of the way.

In related news, the documents from the Dred Scott case are now online. This is excellent news for financially strapped historians, who now don't have to travel to St. Louis to access these docs...I just wish the Library of Congress had enough resources to put their entire backlog of letters and manuscripts online. Imagine what an amazing tool that would be.

So how do the Knicks celebrate their best two-game stretch in recent memory? Why, by inadvertently punching out Van Gundy. Brilliant, Camby. Frickin' brilliant.

1/12/01 - Like most of the blogging community, I've gone ahead and created Stortrooper Avatars for Elaine and I (at the bottom of the sidebar). I also sent mine along to the blogging Stortrooper gallery at Threadnaught. It's a great way to kill twenty minutes at work. As for the Stor, well, it'll probably never get me in The Black Sun, but I'll settle for seeing him wreak havoc in a game of Sissyfight.

Some old friends of mine from HVL'97 (now at Epinions) put together dotDoomed, a.k.a. Am I Doomed or Not?

Here he comes, watch out bud. He's got radioactive blood. Corona scores a suhweet picture of Tobey Maguire in the full Spidey getup. No bones about it, the costume designers did an amazing job. Gotta see him move in the thing of course, but right now I like it much much more than any previous comic costume transfer.

Will Ice Storm and Crouching Tiger director Ang Lee helm The Incredible Hulk? You know, Will Smith doesn't look half bad as young Cassius Clay either.

More on IT, the "high tech unicycle." Ok, if the thing doesn't tip over, I might be interested.

Hmmm...Well I for one have no desire to hear about Bill Gates' intern liaisons.

The Laker meltdown continues in earnest.

Traffic redux: Attorney-General-designate and Drug Warrior John Ashcroft has a drug-using nephew who benefited greatly from leniency. Ashcroft Sr. did not get involved, but that doesn't take away the fact that one of Ashcroft's relatives received much better treatment than the zero-tolerance policies he invokes.

The trailer is here, and the redesigned Rings site has gone live.

Lots of Co. points the way to info on the new R.E.M. album, Reveal. Which reminds me, in the "Paul is dead" tradition, can any other R.E.M. fan confirm or deny the existence of a hidden R.E.M. countdown? Evidence is sketchy at best, but R.E.M. seems to have been embedding descending numbers in their albums for some time. The first few albums saw 1,000,000 on Chronic Town, 9-9 on Murmur, Driver 8 on Fables of the Reconstruction, and 7 Chinese Brothers on Reckoning (which, unfortunately for the purposes of this theory, predates Fables.) I've forgotten where the 6 is on Life's Rich Pageant, but then you have a big 5 on the spine of Document and a 4 hidden in the R of Green. On Out of Time (3 words), the 3rd song ("Low") has three letters. (I know, it's a stretch, but all the other working titles - Dignity and Aplomb, Return of Mumbles - were also three words long.) After that, it kinda breaks down. You got "Try Not To Breathe" on Automatic, "Star 69" on Monster, How the West Was Won (and where it got us) on New Adventures in Hi-Fi, and, then of course, Up. Anyway, just something I used to look for when I was younger, and word of R.E.M.'s next project reminded me of it.

And now that I've written all that down, further research (Question B4) illustrates that this countdown is an urban legend which the band has denied. Ah well.

Well I'm glad that's over. Between AOL-TW and the Chairman resigning it's been one hell of a week around here. And it has detracted greatly from my job search. But at least we went out with a bang.

1/11/01 - Several different mainstream news outlets cover the Fellowship of the Ring trailer premiering tomorrow, but only the National Post offers several scrumptious pics from the yet-to-be-released 2001 calendar. More where these came from...

Scientists in Australia unearth the world's oldest rock (notwithstanding Keith Richards.)

When are conservatives going to realize that the Confederacy just makes for a lousy, loaded analogy? Reminds me of that principle articulated somewhere that states that the first person to bring up Hitler in an argument is invariably the one losing.

Hyannisport, meet Kennebunkport. Dubya tries to milk the political dynasty connection.

Salon delves into the forgotten sensualism of John Singer Sargent with curator Terry Faircloth. I recommend reviewing the portfolio.

In their report on the presumably paradigm-shifting IT, ABC News provides this possibly-related patent pic of an "Individual Transport." Hmmm...unless IT also makes me a great cup of morning coffee, I'm not sure how a one-wheeled superscooter is going to alter the fabric of existence. And how come this sweatered fellow isn't wearing a helmet? (Via the Artist Formerly Known as Dumbmonkey, now retrofitted and reconfigured for the new millennium as El Lobo Loco.)

The site for the proposed Rendezvous with Rama film goes live, and it's...a Powerpoint presentation? At any rate, the forthcoming film appears to be photorealistic CGI (a la Final Fantasy) and will benefit from the talents of Morgan Freeman and David Fincher.

Minor but interesting Episode 2 speculation over at TheForce.Net [Spoiler]: Are Jedi allowed to marry? And is Anakin's marriage to Padme/Amidala reason for his expulsion from the Jedi Order? Discuss amongst yourselves.

A Globe editorial respectfully suggests that Al Gore consider the example of Richard Nixon in choosing what to do next.

1/10/01 - Minesweeper fan fiction (Via Cluttered and Windowseat.) I have to confess, when I went through my hard-core Minesweeper addict phase (which not coincidentally coincided with my brief post-college, pre-Carville stint in NYC as an equity research temp for Credit Suisse First Boston), I used to daydream up little scenarios whereby some thriving yet endangered peace-loving civilization had contracted yours truly, mysterious badass Minesweeper expert, to remove the deadly items and save the world. And, yes, I did have way too much free time on my hands and no, I didn't write them down.

What is IT? How will IT change the world? And is IT worth $250,000 to write about?

An SUV horror story. As Bill Maher noted once, tire blowouts don't often kill people. Tire blowouts in a fundamentally unstable deathtrap of a vehicle often do.

I second! Continuing her recent and wholly unexpected flirtation with reform-minded common sense, Arianna Huffington nominates New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson to be the new drug czar.

U2 announces their Spring tour dates (MCI Center June 14...) Tickets go on sale on Saturday, and apparently the no-doubt exorbitant price will be used to offset Third World debt. No, not really.

Happy fourth anniversary to Garth at Dark Horizons, the Joe Friday to Harry's Perry Mason (as in terse versus loquacious, but if you have to explain it, it's probably not a very good analogy.) Speaking of Harry, I saw his mug atop a DC taxi the other day in what I presume is an attempt to raise his site profile. Kinda bizarre, though...how does an Austin-based film geek decide to advertise his site on cab banners in Alexandria, Va, and who's footing the bill?

After a strange (and to my jaded mind, somewhat embarrassing) round of testimonials by Ordinary Immigrant Americans Just Like You, Linda Chavez removes her name from the Bush cabinet. Meaning the now-emboldened Dems can now focus like a laser beam on John Ashcroft (although Slate's Robert Wright would prefer a closer look at Donald Rumsfeld, while this study just wants everyone to chill out.)

Dahlia Lithwick profiles the post-election Supreme Court slate, including the case of Montana prisoner cum legal advisor Kevin Murphy (No relation.) Meanwhile, in the interests of equal time, Nader voter Nat Hentoff concludes his defense of the Bush v. Gore decision.

Strange binary planets and a really big fella have astronomers going back to the drawing board.

Forget New York - This enterprising writer thinks Bill Clinton should become President of France.

Mais ou est la chatte? Wherever they end up, it appears Socks is getting kicked to the curb. Two huge new homes, two new offices, and they can't find room for the lousy cat? Well, I guess it's good news for Buddy.

Sorry about the late update today. Exceedingly busy around here right now, as you might expect.

1/9/01 - Ever optimistic, Daily Radar theorizes on Ten Ways to Ruin Lord of the Rings. Lucas, take note: most of these bear on Episode 2 as well...

The screenplay for the long-dormant Watchmen film is now online. I hate to say it, but if this movie hasn't happened by now, it's just not going to happen. The only hope would be that Tom Hanks' and Sam Mendes' Road to Perdition (Fall 2001) starts a graphic novel-to-film craze.

Laker guard Kobe Bryant thinks he should play somewhere else rather than concede offensive primacy to Shaq-diesel. Any wonder why Phil's squad got blown out by the Clips this past weekend?

In other related news, Internet gazillionaire and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban asks sportswriters to stop being playa-haters.

A pre-post-mortem for Salon. And the Industry Standard has a bad day too...two of my best bets for post-FCC freelance options. Thankfully, at least Slate will, however unprofitable, always be propped up by Mr. Gates' largesse.

Speaking of Slate, Chatterbox Timothy Noah skewers Linda Chavez but good. Probably the best, most concise explanation of the problem here, although Bob Reich's NYT editorial rates a close second. Do we really want a Secretary of Labor who thinks getting paid room, board, and "a few thousand dollars" over the course of two years for services rendered isn't labor?

Tom Oliphant sizes up the campaign reform battleground after Sen. Cochran's defection to the good guys, and finds the writing might be on the wall for Dubya, Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell, and the special interest army.

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