Friday, June 29, 2007

Carbombs in London and Glasgow

MSNBC (TV) is reporting that a second car packed with explosives has been found in the area. They're showing video of parts of Hyde Park being evacuated as well, but Peter Clarke of Scotland Yard is on now saying the car was found in Cockspur Street near Trafalgar, less than a mile from the first one in Haymarket St, Piccadilly.

MSNBC is now speculating that there are three cars in total (so far). The third one is a SAAB found in Park Lane alongside Hyde Park. The SAAB has yet to be officially linked to all this. The other two cars were Mercedes.

Apparently, Buckingham Palace has been evacuated. I haven't seen this reflected elsewhere--Just on MSNBC TV--but the video makes it seem like the police presence is in that narrow corridor at the bottom of Park Lane, where Hyde Park and Green Park nearly touch (Hyde Park Corner?), which would be unnervingly close to the Palace, indeed.

I know some Ex Islers are planning to attend the London Pride festivities (and Dr Who series finale screening in Hyde Park) tomorrow. Please, guys--be careful.

MSNBC is also reporting three "persons of interest" from the Birmingham area are being sought in London.

Update: Looks like at least one group of these fuckers took their shot. In Glasgow, of all places.

When are we gonna ditch the distractions and focus in on wiping Al Qaeda, and the malignant ideology from which it sprang, off the face of the earth?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Spice Girls Reunite

Britain's long, national nightmare is over. No, sorry: beginning. Again.


Romney: Dog Torturer

Mitt Romney is a fucking animal. And by that, please understand that I mean no disrespect to actual animals, which are quite obviously far, far superior to this piece of shit.
The reporter intended the anecdote that opened part four of the Boston Globe's profile of Mitt Romney to illustrate, as the story said, "emotion-free crisis management": Father deals with minor — but gross — incident during a 1983 family vacation, and saves the day. But the details of the event are more than unseemly — they may, in fact, be illegal.

The incident: dog excrement found on the roof and windows of the Romney station wagon. How it got there: Romney strapped a dog carrier — with the family dog Seamus, an Irish Setter, in it — to the roof of the family station wagon for a twelve hour drive from Boston to Ontario, which the family apparently completed, despite Seamus's rather visceral protest.
Of course, the statute of limitations has long since expired, but there's no doubt he's guilty of aggravated cruelty to animals.

Do we really want someone who would torture his dog in the Oval Office? I think not. (You know what they say about serial killers--They all started out by abusing animals.)

The irony is that Romney's people apparently offered this up as evidence of their guy's skill as a problem solver. It'll be interesting to see how the Repundits try to spin that "emotion free crisis management" bullshit tonight. The "emotion free" part seems to be true, anyway.

A friend of mine at ExIsle (Zwolf) had this to say:
Most people, faced with dog feces on their automobile, would run shrieking about, waving their arms, clueless about what to do. Buy a new car? Fly around the world backwards at high speed to turn back time so the poo-poo never happened? Set fire to the station wagon and start hitchhiking? Pray for an interventionist god? Most people would be helpless in the face of such adversity!

But not Mitt Romney! He quickly deduced that ordinary hose-water is the solution here, and he rolled up his sleeves, and he spritzed off the car, chop-chop! That's the kind of decisive action we need in the White House.

Mitt Romney also opens his umbrella when it starts raining.

And you oughtta see 'im pour piss out of a boot!

Mitt in '08!
BTW, if this story angers you, tell 'em so. This is the central number for Romney for President: (857) 288-6400

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Young Frankenstein: The Musical

The full cast of Young Frankenstein: The Musical, has been announced! Read this while I scoop my jaw up off the floor...
The production stars Roger Bart (Dr. Frederick Frankenstein), Megan Mullally (Elizabeth), Sutton Foster (Inga), Shuler Hensley (The Monster), Andrea Martin (Frau Blucher), Fred Applegate (Kemp) and Christopher Fitzgerald (Igor).
Oh, yeah. Megan Mullally in the Madeline Kahn role? (Perfect.) Sutton Foster in the Teri Garr role? (Practically drooling--Imagine her doing "Roll, roll, roll in ze hay...") Andrea fucking Martin as Frau Blucher?! (Niiiiigh).

Yes, it's sad that Brooks apparently renegged on a promise to let octogenarian legend Cloris Leachman reprise Blucher (Niiiiigh)... but I'm not gonna let myself feel bad about that right now, cause that cast right there? That's theater queen heaven. (Squee!)
...The show's raucous score includes 'The Transylvania Mania,' 'He Vas My Boyfriend' and the unforgettable treatment of Irving Berlin's 'Puttin' On the Ritz.
Previews begin October 11 at the Hilton Theatre on 42nd.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skulls?

The first picture of Harrison Ford as a sixtysomething Indiana Jones has been released by Lucasfilm. I think he looks great.

The plot of the film--which is set in the mid 50s--is still hush-hush, but smart money says the traditional opening sequence pits Indy against Soviet agents at Area 51, and you know what that means: aliens.


Yep. Rumor has it the plot focuses on the "modern legend" of the crystal skulls and takes a Von Daniken-"Chariots of the Gods" approach to the alien element (a theory that was very popular in the 70s... Recall the voice-over that accompanied the opening of every episode of the old Battlestar Galactica).

In brief, the idea is that ancient aliens visited Earth in prehistoric times, built the pyramids, interacted (as gods) with the people, and--basically-- inspired both real ancient civilizations (i.e., Egyptians, Mayans) and legendary ones (i.e., Atlantis, Lemuria, et al) before vanishing whence they came... But (MUA-HA-HA), they will someday return. Apparently, these 13 crystal skulls have something to do with it.

If this sounds new agey, there's a reason: von Daniken's theories are credited with helping to inspire the (blech) New Age Movement.

On another note: word is that Shia LeBouf plays a sexy, greaser/beatnik type rival who gets caught up in this adventure with (or possibly, against?) Indy without either of them realizing (until later) that he's Indy's son.

His mother (again, according to rumor) is Marion Ravenwood.

This character--the son of Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood--has been in numerous previous drafts of the scripts. In the Jeff Boam drafts (which are set in the late, post-war 40s where Indy is now a war hero racing against Stalin to find Noah's Ark), he's a precocious, wisecracking 10 year old called Anakin Abner, after Marion's father & Indy's mentor. (Get it? Lil Abner?)

At least he's all growed up and James Dean-ified now.

Someone should ask LeBouf what his character's first name is. I bet it would trip him up, and then we'd know whether to expect the Karen Allen cameo.

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Sorkin's Farnsworth Invention to Broadway is reporting that Aaron Sorkin's new play, The Farnsworth Invention, will--as expected--transfer to Broadway in October. The play had a successful workshop production at the La Jolla Playhouse last February.

The Farnsworth Invention concerns the battle for the patent for the invention of the television set. The race pitted a young genius, Philo T. Farnsworth, who came up with the idea as a high school student, against David Sarnoff, the head of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA).
Sorkin wrote Farnsworth as a play after he and his TV partner Tommy Schlamme were unable to get the project off the ground as a feature film. Steven Spielberg will co-produce the Broadway produciton (after a *rumored* investment of $20 million). Spielberg's involvement suggests Farnsworth may end up taking the "Few Good Men" route to the silver screen.

Which is fine--Just keep Demi Moore (not to mention, Amanda Peet) away from it!

Meanwhile, Sorkin wrote the screenplay for (my beloved) Mike Nichols' latest film, Charlie Wilson's War. Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julia Roberts star. It bows on Christmas Day. Sorkin will almost certainly receive an Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay.

So, for those lamenting the loss of Studio 60--which, naturally, has been really clicking in the final pod of episodes (currently being burned off by NBC on Thursday nights at 10)--Don't. At least not on his behalf. Sorkin's doing just fine.

Previously... Studio 60 Has Been Cancelled

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bush Approval Rating: How Low Can He Go?

The latest Newsweek poll has the President at 26%, meaning just a hair under 3 out of every 4 people disapprove of the job he's doing. (Which begs the question: what the hell is wrong with one in four of us?!)

Only Nixon has polled lower, and that was at the height of Watergate, just 7 months before he was forced to resign or face certain removal from office.

And here's the kicker: Nixon's nadir was 23%, just 3 points lower than Bush is at now.

How 'bout 20? Who'll give me 20? 19? I said 19, going once...

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Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Spoilers?

The net is all a flutter with the claim that a hacker managed to steal the manuscript of JK Rowling's final HP book.

I'm not gonna post the spoilers -- or, more likely, foilers -- here, because I think Chas (among others) would kill me. Buuut... Here's a link to my post on ExIsle detailing his claims. People should think twice before exposing themselves to this info (whether it's authentic or not).

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who Will Bloomberg Appeal To?

A lot of people seem to be jumping to the conclusion that a Bloomberg run would doom the Dems, and benefit the GOP, in 08, but I question that logic, especially because they all seem to be basing it on what happened with Nader in 2000.

In my view, Nader's appeal had as much to do with the when as it did with the what. His progressive positions appealed to the Democratic base precisely because they were sick to death of being marginalized during 8 years of a centrist-skewing, third-way policies of the Clinton-Gore administration.

Which is not exactly the case now. In fact, many Nader voters came to *regret* their votes once they witnessed first hand the consequences of letting George W. Bush get sworn in.

Now, after our years in the wilderness, the Dems are united, largely satisfied with the slate of potential nominees, and not afraid of a little compromise if it means winning.

So a third-party challenge will not, in my view, be particularly appealing to Dems this cycle; at least, not as appealing as it was after 8 years of Clinton/Gore... even if the challenger is progressive on social issues. (He's quite conservative on other issues, however: fiscal, crime, business... Nader, of course, was unbelievably to the left on all those issues as well.)

On the other hand, the Republican party is now in precisely the same position the Dems were in back in 2000: pissed off because they feel like they've gotten NOTHING they expected to get (and, frankly, were promised) after 8 years of Bush/Cheney. Hell, only 28% of them still support their own president, so it's fair to say that more than two-thirds of Republicans feel like their party has screwed them with their pants on. (Only 'cause it has. Unfortunately, it screwed the rest of us, too.)

Moreover, rank and file Republcians aren't particularly beholden to any one of the their prospective nominees -- even McCain, who for years had been assumed to be the presumptive nominee for 08, has crashed and burned. Most have written him off.

Giuliani is in the process of doing likewise. As the national Republicans get to know him the way we do, they like him less and less -- what a surprise. And they don't even know him that well yet -- Imagine the effect of replaying Donna Hanover's impromptu sidewalk press conference, after she learned by watching TV that her husband planned to divorce her in favor of one of his mistresses.

Rudy's a non-starter.

The field is so weak on their side that retired politicians weighing vanity runs--yep, Fred Tompson, I'm lookin' at you--are being hailed as the great white hope.

To me, it seems like it's not the Dems who are ripe for poaching by a third-party ticket. It's the GOP.

This will be especially true if, as has been widely speculated, Senator Hagel -- a *true* conservative Republican -- ditches his party to join Bloomberg.

In any case, 2008 just got a helluva lot more interesting.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bloomberg Ditches GOP

Run, Mike, run!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Fantastic Four 2

This movie made Spider-Man 3 look like Citizen frickin' Kane. (And, to be clear, I thought Spider-Man 3 was abyssmal.)

I've only seen bits and pieces of the first FF movie, so my strongest reactions were probably to things that everyone else has gotten used to by now... like casting. What were they thinking with Ioan Gruffud and Jessica Alba?! (The first time she did the "I'm about to use my powers" pose -- at her wedding -- I actually burst out laughing. She looked constipated.) Julian McMahon should NEVER be in this kind of movie.

Chris Evans was the only one of the 4 (or 5, if you count Doom) who was actually well cast (and thank god they didn't try to color his hair blonde!) His sexy-cocky-comedy relief routine actually worked most of the time... though the switching powers thing was completely ridiculous, and basically destroyed the Ben Grimm character. How many times were they gonna switch him back and forth without letting him go, "Wait... This is exactly what I wanted. A cure. Johnny, if you touch me again, don't expect to get that arm back."

And, of course, they totally violated the idea that the powers could only be exchanged at the end, when Johnny did his SuperSkrull routine, weilding all of their powers at once... which presumably left the other three powerless. So why couldn't he have returned Reed and Sue's powers (since they actually seem to like theirs) but not Ben's? Couldn't he touch a dying jellyfish or something?

Oh, right, we're not supposed to notice stuff like that. This is one of those movies that's hostile--very hostile--to paying close attention.

Then, there's the list of alien planets rattled off by Reed, who says he's referenced the "astrometric database." Sorry, the what now?

"Everywhere this thing has gone, life has disappeared 8 days later." Yeah, OK, that's ominous and all... but how the hell can he know that? How did he know there was life on those planets in the first place, let alone that it was gone 8 days later? Is this Earth, circa 2007 or Star Trek Voyager?

This was paint-by-numbers moviemaking, down to the incredibly hackneyed delivery of the moral at the end followed by a joke for the denoument so we go out laughing--the same stale format employed by 60s Star Trek episodes. At least the joke was actually funny, and that helped take the edge off the "what we do does matter", bad sitcom-style moralizing, which was frankly nauseating.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Temptations and Falls of the Sopranos Series Finale

Chas--and anyone else who doesn't want to be spoiled for the Sopranos Series Finale--Skip this post.

Gotta say, I think a lot of people who are soooo disappointed in the finale just didn't get the series. They saw a show about a mob boss who happened to have a wife and 2 kids.


This was a show about a family whose patriarch happened to be a mob boss.

Which maybe doesn't sound like that big of a difference, but it's huge -- and it explains why, every season, there have been passionate fan voices raised in anger when Chase chose to tantalize us with the larger-than-life mob details, but ultimately--inevitably--to prioritize the family and character beats.

Because, to him, the mob element was the spoonful of sugar (action, suspense, violence) that helped the medicine (family/ character drama/morality play) go down. He said so many times. This was his way of doing a family/character drama without raising the kinds of criticisms that attached to series like (my beloved) thirtysomething. "Oh, they're such whiners! Get over it!" ("Poor you!") So he gave Tony larger than life problems, and the audience accepted it when this character proved to be prone to the same little foibles and depressions and tempations and corruptions that plague all of us.

He was Everyman. With a gun. And piano wire.

And that's what the finale emphasized: character drama, family, and the little temptations that lead us all (sooner or later) into corruption -- which was the overarching theme of the series. Corruption. Above all else, The Sopranos is a morality play. It's about the Faustian deal.

My favorite bit was the Agent Harris subplot. Tony, with nowhere left to turn, reaches out to his former FBI nemesis (now on counterterrorism) for a location on his mob nemesis Phil Leotardo. It's a ridiculous, desperate move -- and it pays off. Over the course of the series, Soprano has gotten his hooks in a lot of otherwise good people all the way back to his childhood buddy, Robert Patric, in the second season.

Now Tony takes his shot at Agent Harris, and it hits at just the right, vulnerable moment. His new job is killing his marriage. He likes Tony, always has. (One episode, years ago, ended with Tony's crew, and Harris's both hanging out in front of Satriale's, eating pork sandwiches. A bunch of kids from the neighborhood who ended up on two sides of a largely imaginary line.)

Since the transfer, they've been more like buddies. Harris uses him as a contact, Tony casually mentions that the mob protected the Brooklyn Navy Yards during WWII.

Harris is right on the edge, and he knows it -- so he naturally doesn't like it when he finds out this coworker/buddy type is also on the brink.

So Harris uses his FBI resources to trace Phil's phone calls to a phone booth in (my home town of) Oyster Bay, Long Island, and he provides Tony with that information. From a hotel room bed where he's just cheated on his wife (possibly for the first time) with a female coworker (possibly his partner, or an underling).

And so Harris falls, like so many before him. (His reaction to hearing the news of the Leotardo murder is telling: "Damn, we're gonna win this one!" And by "we," he means Jersey.)

But now he will live in dread of the consequences. As we all do.

And wasn't that the point of the brilliant final scene? The Devil always collects his due. We all get whacked in one way or another. But we don't know when. We have to live in fear of that moment. It's probably not now, but at some point, it will be "now."

Meanwhile, onion rings. Capice?

The one character who was never corrupted in the course of the series, as far as I can tell, was Melfi, whose final arc had her realizing that Patient Soprano was unredeemable. A realization helped along, ironically enough, by a bit of corruption in her own world -- Her own shrink, Elliot Kupferberg, revealed at a dinner party that Soprano was her patient, which lead to discussion of a new study that suggests talk therapy doesn't work for sociopaths. It only makes them into better sociopaths. She reads the study (which she had rejected out of hand when Elliot first brought it up), and finds it credible.

So Melfi faces her final temptation. Will she allow her long, close (dr/patient) relationship with Tony to continue despite the very real possibility that she's made him from a good criminal into a great one? Is her obligation to her patient of 7 years greater than her obligation to society?

Melfi has been the moral heart of the show throughout, the only character who steadfastly refuses to give in to the corruptions on offer just by knowing Tony. She even successfully resisted the urge to tell Soprano she'd been raped--after law enforcement failed to convict the perp.

And here, climactically, she resisted the temptation to continue treating him despite this new fear that helping him has hurt the world. Their final session, which focused on--of all things--Tony tearing a recipe out of a magazine in Melfi's waiting room, was triumphant and powerful for Melfi... and utterly damning for Soprano. His own final fall.

(Not that he even noticed. Like a true sociopath, he proceeded without any introspection on why she did it. Instead, he hijacked a meeting with his son's shrink. So we know he'll find a replacement for Melfi because he likes to whine about his mudduh, and needs a sympathetic ear. And also to keep sharpening his teeth.)

Tony may not have thought much about Melfi kicking him to the curb, but I think a lot of people (myself included) started baying for Tony's blood. Melfi had finally pronounced him unredeemable, so therefore he must now be punished. Those are the rules. Of film. Of tragedy. And so we all went through the finale waiting for that gun to creep up on the back of Tony's neck (as it did Phil's).

But Chase--obstinant storyteller that he is--wasn't having that. That was the easy way out. Maybe The Sopranos is a tragedy -- but if so, so are the warts-and-all stories of all of our families.

Yeah, he's a murderer and a rackateer, etc..., and most of us, thankfully, can't say that about our families, but set that aside for the moment. Treat it as the almost-metaphor it was meant to be, and--for the most part--Tony and his family are no more corrupt than the vast majority of us.

That's the message of the finale, and of the show in general. I think it's a powerful, insightful message for all of us to take to heart.

Thank you, Sopranos writers (especially Chase, Winter, Burgess & Green) and actors and crew for seven seasons of absolutely brilliant, absorbing television.

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John from Cincinnati

This is what they cancelled Deadwood for? The best series of the last 15, maybe even 20 years?


I recognized a few of the names on the writing staff -- Ted Mann, for example. Meh. He's done some good work -- mostly cop-show related, obviously, but some magic realism, too (first season of Millennium, which was pretty good stuff).

Bill Clark, from NYPD Blue, is also back on board with Milch (though he wasn't involved with Deadwood).

I'm definitely disappointed not to see more Deadwood names on the staff, both writers and directors.

I hated Rebecca DeMornay--Tough and ornery broads are fine, but where's the charm that induces us to like and root for her despite her leathery, reptillian demeanor?
"Fuck all of you -- I wish I was a tree!" --Trixie, Deadwood.
Actually, It's too bad they couldn't get Paula Malcolmson for this. (Maybe she's too young -- But someone who could do what she did so well, anyway. Instead, they went for a name. Well, sort of a name.)

Deadwood was unusual for Milch because it had so many strong, incredibly interesting female characters (and, btw, female writers, such as Elizabeth Sarnoff, now on Lost). Before Deadwood, the misogynist label followed his shows around (NYPD Blue), and I'm afraid this series will revert to form in that regard.

If that happens, it'll probably drive me off no matter how intriguing the magic realism element gets.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Pardon Watch

WASHINGTONFormer White House aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was sentenced to 2½ years in prison Tuesday for lying and obstructing the CIA leak investigation. ... The White House said that President Bush feels “terrible” for Libby and his family, but does not intend to intervene now.

“The president has not intervened so far in this or any other criminal matter, so he’s going to decline to do so now as well,” Perino said.

Bush has made no secret of his fondness for Libby, who was a presidential aide as well as chief of staff to Cheney.

The president, who leaves office on Jan 20, 2009, has never ruled out a pardon for Libby.
Traditioanlly, they wait til they're packing to leave office to pardon people for this kind of thing, but if Bush waits that long, Libby will presumably have served about half his sentence by the time the pardon comes.

I don't think Bush will be able to bring himself to wait... I think they'll try to throw it out with the trash some late Friday evening, hoping no one will notice (ha ha).

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Doctor Who 3.8 & 3.9 "Human Nature/Family of Blood"

Wow. I'm usually pretty critical of this show, and this two parter is exactly the reason why: because they are capable of so much more than they give us on a regular basis.

I thought this two-parter was the best episode they have *ever* done. It was a sprawling period epic with moments of unexpectedly touching intimacy and character work, high fantasy, impressive historical detail, great acting (especially Jessica Hynes nee Stevenson, but obviously David Tennant, as well)... And it also featured that treatment of the time travel element (fast road/slow road) I always find so compelling on the show.

They will have a hard time ever topping this two parter, but they should always be in the process of trying: this is their new gold standard.