Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Review: Snakes on a Plane


I really liked the idea of Snakes on a Plane, especially after reading this famous blog post. I loved the idea of Sam Jackson in the movie. I loved the way the title is able to encapsulate everything about the film. The actual experience of the film left me flat. I'm told that many people find dating to be like this.

Maybe it's because I'm old. Maybe it's because I haven't seen enough horror films that I'm desensitized enough to have found some of the scenes funny. Maybe it's because I saw it in a largely empty theater in the company of three fifteen year old boys. Maybe it just wasn't a very good movie - it seemed to me that the movie battled (and lost) the whole three hours (what, it was only 100 minutes long?) to find a consistent tone.

LARS friend Jamesey felt differently, but then he's young enough to have been asked to show ID at the theater. (As further proof, the comments on his post contain Trogdor references). But
I loved this take from the literary site The Valve, "A Pre-Reading of 'Snakes on a Plane'". It begins (just begins!):
Though I myself haven’t seen the film, it is almost impossible not to think that Lacan had watched Snakes on a Plane, because his conception of alterity is so closely aligned with the film's revolutionary mise en scene. Indeed, my reading below is deeply invested in resisting the tired old “grand narrative” of “actually watching the film,” which essentializes “experience,” and delegitimates the kinds of liberatory theoretical praxis I have memorably justified elsewhere.
Go read the whole thing here.

A Word to Firefox Users

It seems that in some versions of the Firefox browser, when one goes to a Blogger based blog, like mine, the latest post is not displayed. One has to click on the refresh/reload button for the latest posts to appear.

Is this one more way one is punished for not using MS products?

Katrina: One Year Later

Three thoughts as we look back.

I did a bit of ranting last year about the people who found Katrina to be an act of divine judgment. I also linked to a series of beautifully written but heartbreaking dispatches from New Orleans writer Blake Bailey who had been displaced by the hurricane. This week, Bailey updates us on his travails with the government and mortgage holders. And it's not pretty.

On a funnier and even sadder note, take a look at this account of the recent appearance of the Yes Men in New Orleans. The Yes Men are a group of political hoaxers, and one of their members showed up at a recent conference in New Orleans claiming to be a H.U.D. official, and promised all kinds of federal and private sector help to New Orleans. It's a very dark and sad joke that posing as a government official who is promising to help is a joke.

And one final thought. I just ordered a bunch of stuff from - new boots for Katie, a Celtic training shirt for Chris and a Celtic match shirt for me. (Still deciding on a Palermo shirt to wear as I coach Katie's team - pink is a bold statement). Here's the thing. I can log on to the UPS website and know exactly where my package is at any given moment. A year ago, scores of people died in the attics and upper floors of their homes because the authorities didn't send enough people to look for them. I am going to make a bold statement and say that the life of a poor elderly black woman is more important a pair of shoes and a couple of shirts. What kind of country are we living in when we can't or won't keep this straight?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Why People Think Christians are Stupid - Part 2,385,278

On the anniversary of hurricane Katrina, the New York Times did a feature on Rep. Mike Pence - an Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group - a subgroup to the right of the majority of Republicans in the House. I'm interested in him because he defines himself as "...a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order".

Last year at this time, Pence gained notoriety for Operation Offset - a proposal to cut $500 million over ten years on federal spending for the poor. It seems that Pence saw the momentum Katrina was generating for a role for the government in taking care of its poor and troubled citizens and wanted to make sure that the net amount of spending wouldn't go up. I'm not sure which aspect of the Gospel is honored by saying, in essence, "OK, if you're gonna spend money getting people out of their attics and rebuilding there homes, you better make sure there's some AIDS patient who is gonna have to pay more for her drugs, or you better cancel the program that gets that isolated old man his meals." But hey, Rep. Pence is sitting in Congress and I'm sitting at my kitchen table, so what do I know.

But that's not what has roused me from my blogging slumber. Further evidence of syncretism between Christianity and the values of white, conservative Americans is not news. This is: lower down in the Times article, Pence gives his support for the massive tax cuts of recent years, which were overwhelmingly targeted at the wealthy:

Mr. Pence argued that tax cuts help the poor by revving the economy. That may eventually prove true, but despite large tax cuts the poverty rate has risen in each of the last four years.

“That’s anecdotal,” Mr. Pence said in an interview last fall. Then he offered an anecdote — a story President Reagan told about a pipe fitter pleased to see the rich prosper, “because I’ve never been hired by a poor man.”

Wow. I mean, wow!

"Anecdotal". I don't that word means what you think it means, Rep. Pence.

And Christians wonder why people think we're stupid.

(HT: Henry at Crooked Timber) And for what's actually happening with poverty, go here.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Worse than Journey

Yesterday, British police and intelligence officials arrested a number of Islamists who had planned to detonate bombs on airliners traveling between Britain and the U.S. The law enforcement officials had been tracking these guys for months, and the wannabe terrorists were never close to actually carrying out their plans. They were being followed every step of the way.

These guys clearly wanted to do what they were caught trying to do. They were all native Britons, yet were part of the alienated class of children of Pakistani immigrants who have become the chief recruits for Islamist in the U.K. And as a by the way, the fact that second generation immigrants in Europe feel more alienated than the first generation - the exact opposite is the case in the U.S. - should give us pause as the Republicans try to make American immigration policy more like Europe's.

That said, something more should give us pause here. It is not news that there are bad people in the world. It is not news that some will use violence and terrorist tactics, but as long as this was only going on among our urban underclass or was being carried out by government officials of former Confederate states, we looked the other way, or even supported it.

No what is unprecedented is the way our current Republican leadership has been willing to wring political advantage from these threats. I'd like to find a way to be light or witty about this but I just cannot. This can not be put down to "something all politicians do". No administration has ever politicized threats like this one.

It was so important that the President was willing to take a break from brush clearing to... smear Democrats. And what is worse is that the Administration officials knew these arrests were coming, and they had spent Wednesday calling the Democrats all kinds of names, ostensibly in response to the Connecticut Senate primary. But it turns out it really wasn't. They knew it was coming and took full political advantage. Read, please:

(The President's) remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.

Vice President Dick Cheney and White House spokesman Tony Snow had argued that Democrats wanted to raise what Snow called "a white flag in the war on terror," citing as evidence the defeat of a three-term Democratic senator who backed the Iraq war in his effort to win renomination.

But Bush aides on Thursday fought the notion that they had exploited their knowledge of the coming British raid to hit Democrats, saying the trigger had been the defeat of Democratic Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut by an anti-war political novice.

"The comments were purely and simply a reaction" to Democratic voters who "removed a pro-defense Senator and sent the message that the party would not tolerate candidates with such views," said Snow.

The public relations offensive "was not done in anticipation. It was not said with the knowledge that this was coming," the spokesman said.

Snow said Bush first learned in detail about the plot on Friday, and received two detailed briefings on it on Saturday and Sunday, as well as had two conversations about it with British Prime Minister.

But a senior White House official said that the British government had not launched its raid until well after Cheney held a highly unusual conference call with reporters to attack the Democrats as weak against terrorism.

An aide to Lieberman, who would have been one of the first Democrats to hear of the plot because he is the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the lawmaker first heard of it late Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Cheney had suggested that Democrats believe "that somehow we can retreat behind our oceans and not be actively engaged in this conflict and be safe here at home, which clearly we know we won't, we can't, be," he said.

While some Democrats have opposed some steps in the war on terrorism, and more and more are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq, no major figures in the party have called for a wholesale retreat in the broader conflict.

But Bush's Republicans hoped the raid would yield political gains.

"I'd rather be talking about this than all of the other things that Congress hasn't done well," one Republican congressional aide told AFP on condition of anonymity because of possible reprisals.

"Weeks before September 11th, this is going to play big," said another White House official, who also spoke on condition of not being named, adding that some Democratic candidates won't "look as appealing" under the circumstances.

It's all there. Cynical calculation. Massively mendacious mischaracterization of your political opponents - or lyin', as they say in Texas. The willingness to subordinated everything, everything, to short term political advantage.

There is no way to spin this. This is bad. It is unprincipled. It is bad for our country. And worst of all, it is a stupidly inept way to address the real threat of Islamist terrorism.

These guys are worse than Journey.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm On Vacation

Right now, I'm sitting in a bagel shop in Tahoe City, CA. I came here because I woke up too early and didn't want to disturb my wife and kids. There are shouting children at the next table. REO Speedwagon is on the sound system, preceded by Styx. The guy at the next table finally gave up trying to engage me on the following premise: the arrests in Britain today are further evidence of President Bush's leadership on the Global War on Terror. He even used the word "resolute". And now as I type, following some kind of malign logic, Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" just came on the system.

I'm not sure what circle of Hell this is, but it's one of 'em.

On the other hand, watching the full moon rise over Lake Tahoe last night wasn't bad.