A new film by one of my favorite documentarians, Chris Smith, who’s previously done American Movie, The Yes Men (about these guys), and Home Movie, the last of which is probably my favorite.
A couple of years ago, he made his narrative debut, titled The Pool, from a short story based in Iowa. He flew to India and filmed it in Hindi, a language he doesn’t speak, starring non-actors. I’ve never seen it, and it’s not on DVD. Something tells me this one will be a bit luckier.
Doozy. Why the hell is this not illegal? “Because of the Collapse of 2008 financial reforms, the big investment banks are able to borrow money from the U.S. government at 0 percent interest. Then they can turn around and buy short-term bonds that pay 2 or 3 percent annual interest. Now they’re making 2 percent on whatever they borrowed. They can use leverage to increase this number, by pledging some of the bonds that they’ve already bought as collateral on additional bonds.” (via boing boing)
"A second round of voting now looks probable; it could help calm the country, or it could make things worse. In any event, the election is not yet an utter catastrophe. Two years ago, in Kenya, Mwai Kibaki allegedly stole his reëlection to the Presidency, and the country erupted in mass riots and militia killings. In June, Iran’s fraud-riddled vote ignited a protest movement with revolutionary ambitions. In Afghanistan, despite possibly decisive fraud, the opposition has barely thrown a rock. Abdullah Abdullah, the aggrieved second-place finisher, just holds press conferences in his garden.
It goes without saying that Afghans have had enough of violence. Abdullah’s restraint signals a broader, resilient desire among many political and tribal leaders to avoid having their country descend into chaos again. This is the opening that American policy has repeatedly failed to grasp since the Taliban’s fall in late 2001: an opportunity to reject the false expediency of warlords and indispensable men, in favor of deepening participatory, Afghan-led political reform and national reconciliation.”
The man one row up returns to his seat across the aisle in fresh clothes after an extended hiatus in the bathroom. No more than two minutes after sitting down, however, he starts retching again, this time into a small clear plastic bag, and then into a larger one. I take off my headphones to listen to the sloshing sounds, like someone pouring beef stew onto a cheap umbrella. I put my headphones back on and notice that the woman in front of me is still staring at the puker and, apparently not yet satisfied, eating some yogurt.
I was awoken by the retching sounds of a man, one row up and across the aisle, vomiting all over himself, the seat, the seatback in front of him, and the woman next to him. He turned, his mustache thick with chunky white fluid, and called for an attendant. The woman repeated his request. As the two passengers and an attendant wiped it up with paper towels and spread pink antiseptic powder all over the place and as the unpleasant hangover aroma wafted over us like a fog, the woman in front of me watched it all intently and continued eating her sandwich, appetite unabated.
Saudi Arabia has a novel approach to terrorism: rehabilitation. The program seeks to reform captured terrorists with religious re-education and even art therapy. Once released, extensive government outreach may purchase them a car or even arrange a wife. In short, the goal is to reincorporate extremist militants into society. Officials say over a thousand terrorists have been reformed. It stands to reason that Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s more oppressive regimes, would not be so taken with the program unless it was effective.
The U.S. should apply a similar program in Afghanistan, perhaps jointly with Saudi Arabia. It should appeal to both sides of America’s Afghanistan debate…
My expectations for Where The Wild Things Are have been ratcheted up so high, there’s no place to go but down. The trailers completely entrance me: my hair stands on end and I get the chills. I’m completely and utterly under its spell.
The fact that Maurice Sendak likes the movie makes me happy. And the fact that he’s sitting down with reporters alongside writer/director Spike Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers has done nothing but amplify my interest, especially when they take on the central “controversy” about the film - that it will be inappropriate for children. From Reuters:
Talking to reporters, Jonze said Sendak’s book was initially criticized by librarians and psychologists because it depicted a kid who was wild, who yelled at his mother and who acted out.
"It wasn’t teaching kids a lesson," Jonze said. "But it was true and kids recognized that and it became popular because kids loved it. I think the movie has the same intention (of) not trying to condescend to kids."
Reporter: What do you say to parents who think the Wild Things film may be too scary?
Sendak: I would tell them to go to hell. That’s a question I will not tolerate.
Reporter: Because kids can handle it?
Sendak: If they can’t handle it, go home. Or wet your pants. Do whatever you like. But it’s not a question that can be answered.
Jonze: Dave, you want to field that one?
Eggers: The part about kids wetting their pants? Should kids wear diapers when they go to the movies? I think adults should wear diapers going to it, too. I think everyone should be prepared for any eventuality.
I expect that it will end up kind of like The Nightmare Before Christmas — not really for kids, and not for adults, but somehow wildly appealing to a wide swath of folks young and old who can find some joy in the weird and occasionally creepy. I don’t expect critics to like it either (I can practically hear them now… “not enough of a narrative”… “the characters don’t grow”… “visually stunning but tedious after a while”…), but I expect it will still do gangbusters. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but those it does appeal to will fall in love with it. I hope I’m among them.
In the interviews, the three talk about Wizard of Oz a lot, and how that was a scary film that nonetheless engrossed and enchanted entire generations of viewers. It’s a great model. Can Where The Wild Things Are achieve it?
I will take this time to violate all kinds of blogging rules and post Marc Ambinder’s list in mo-freakin’ full:
10. In a section devoted to “future leaders,” there were none. 9. In the subsequent rush to get up a “future leaders” page, they choose “you.” 8. The last GOP accomplishment cited on the accomplishment page was from 2004. 7. The what’s up page — hip! starts with this sentence: “”the internet has been around for a while now” [Ed: It’s actually the “What Up?” page and is Michael Steele’s hilarous blog] 6. Administrator passwords were accidentally posted. 5. When the RNC hosted a kick-off conference call, the website was down. 4. The website cites Jackie Robinson as a GOP hero. Robinson wasn’t a GOPer, and he criticized the GOP on race. Robinson left the party because of its views on race. He had been, as a reader points out, a Republican for many years. 3. The first question on the conference call was from an Hispanic Republican who asked why the GOP site didn’t have a Spanish-language page and noted that the White House had one. 2. Bragging about web redesigns is so 2004. 1. It’s not timed with the start of any major advocacy campaign — or political campaign. And it portrays itself as something it’s not: diverse and ready to embrace new ideas. That may be what the party leadership aspires to, but, at least when it comes to diversity, a few pictures of Hispanics and African Americans doesn’t make up for … well, the history of the party.
This last point is put way too kindly. This thing is wildly and ridiculously disingenuous about the Republican party, and it would be crassly offensive if it wasn’t so pathetic and absurdly hilarious. Half of the portraits used in the Logo (as the O in GOP if you haven’t seen it) were black men and women, which I thought was strange but understandable; I thought they went too far with the “Now, with 50% more blackness!” popup window, however. Did you know, for example, that the Republican pantheon of “Heroes” is split equally between whites and non-whites? I mean, I never would have guessed that the breakdown of GOP Heroes would be: 8 black or part-black dudes, 1 Puerto Rican dude, 5 white dudes, 4 white chicks. Something seems off about that… I just can’t quite place it.
Death Cab’s Chris Walla and the inimitable J. Robbins of Jawbox and Burning Airlines got together to write and record a song in two days. Direction and documentation was provided by Bob Boilen, who gave them each a series of words and some photo collages to select as source inspirations. NPR has up an 8 minute radio story, a 12 minute video piece (awesome), and a 5 minute video of just the song itself pulled from the larger story. The song sounds pretty much exactly what you’d expect — a floating Death Cab tune with that rollicking, punchy backend that helped make DC famous. Verses read Walla, but the chorus seems like vintage J. to me. Sweet stuff. Now all I need to do is hunt down the mp3.
Cementing his status as No Mere Novelty is my recently acquired copy of Washed Out’s High Times, an originally cassette-only release that leans more on classic R&B and soul than the disco-infused Life Of Leisure EP… Not much more to report from the brink of obsession over here, except: it works.
I started the day, in honor of Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of “America,” with what might be my favorite political song of all time, “Smallpox Champion.” Thus began a three hour Fugazi binge.
After coming up from the depths, however, I returned to the new Washed Out EP. Man, this thing rings my bell. I know, I know, it’s ridiculous. Dude releases a 200 copy cassette tape on the heels of a solid buzz bin record, it leaks online, and the hipsterati collectively cream themselves, sending a tsunami of sticky prose over the internets.
I, for one, am a reluctant surfer on these gooey waves of worship, as I really dig Washed Out, but I’m too cynical about the build-em-up-to-tear-em down economy of music writing to believe it has fuck all to do about the music in the first place. But, really. How can you not love this track?
Maybe it’s just been too long since The Avalanches put out a long-player, because there’s not all that much new here. Not that this EP sounds like Avalanches, per se, but it digs into a similar sweet spot down in my gut somewhere, a little crevice designed for soulful deejay slash mashup slash sample-based-rocktronica, a place, it must be said, that Girl Talk will never find. In any case, it’s not for sale anywhere, so go ahead and just grab it before it disappears.
Oh, in other kinda-sounds-like-Avalanches news, Pretty Lights has a new record out, free for your downloading pleasure. I haven’t grabbed it yet, but it’s anchored by the solid “Sunday School,” so it can’t be all bad.
And now, via Salon.com, comes another heroic tale from the terminal stages of America’s decline:
Oct. 7, 2009 For the first time in a generation, Arlington National Cemetery has marked the burial of an unknown on its storied grounds. Only this time, 25 years since the last interment at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the identity of the body remains a mystery not because the ravages of war made identification impossible, but because in a bureaucratic error the cemetery lost the paperwork showing the identity of the remains.
They lost the paperwork! I dunno, maybe the fax machine got jammed. Maybe that was the afternoon they threw an office party celebrating Iraqi National Liberation Day. Who knows? Now this soldier, whomever he or she is, resides for eternity in plot 449, section 68. But rest assured, they died a hero.
But it gets better. Basically, they went to put someone in what was supposed to be an empty grave and, oops, there was already someone in it. So they just threw some grass over it, removed the marker, and lied to everyone for six years until Salon showed them documentation proving them liars. Then they finally owned up. Amazing. I highly recommend the blog post, which is hilarious in the “That’s what I call American exceptionalism!” kind of way, and the Salon article, which is blistering.
Also, via this same blog I “discovered” today, comes this insane story about that Pennsylvania soccer mom who became famous last year for bringing a loaded Glock to her 5 year old daughters soccer games. Yeah, she’s dead. Shot to death. In a murder-suicide. Her kids were unharmed. Chalk up another win for unfettered liberty. And also, for tragic irony.