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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Thoughts: Under the Tuscan Sun, Outing Joseph Wilson's Wife As CIA Agent, Tigers Lose Only 119!, Focus on Bush's Competence, and Bill O'Reilly's scouting report on Democratic candidates.

The Jets looked absolutely pathetic against the Dallas Cowboys; the Chicago Bears were just overmatched against the (had to win, 1-2, Packers), but if you want sad, Jets/Dallas was it. It might be true that Chad Pennington could have given life to the team, but he would have to be practically a miracle worker to have them more than 2-2 (better than 0-4, surely), if that. The team lost too many people in the off season ... it almost felt like the 2001 Mets ... everything had to fall in place, and one major problem, the team would fall like a house of cards.

Books: She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan was a very enjoyable read, though at times I wanted a few more details about the switch. Details are important when you are reading about the development of a married transsexual college professor who decides to fully become her true self when s/he is around forty. Lucky for him, he had a depth of optimism and strength (and a fun life ... professor and musician with a great wife) ... in a way, it seemed a bit too easy. Surely, others without his advantages would have had a tougher time of it, especially if they lived in a less liberal environment.

The story as well as the concept is amazing and again the reason the book was so good was her ability to write an autobiographical account with such style. She is an author of around eight books after all (some are books for teenagers which were written under an assumed name that she apparently wants to keep secret ... have yet to find out what it is) as well as being an co-chair of the English department at Colby College. It is also interesting to note how many feminine traits are really biological, such as emotions (she felt more emotional when ruining dinner or watching certain movies). She also noted how women seem to have questioning tones, even when saying their names ("My name is Jennifer?"). So far, the women I asked about this didn't really agree. What do you think?

Definitely worth adding to your reading list. On the other hand, Gentleman Revolutionary: Governeur Morris - The Rake Who Wrote the Constitution by Richard Brookhiser was a disappointment. This was especially the case because Brookhiser was so great and amusing in interviews, including suggesting Morris (who is an interesting character that is underappreciated) would be the person who'd call if you were in trouble and/or jail. Unfortunately, the book, a relatively brief one, doesn't really do the man justice. I didn't quite understand why he had certain beliefs (e.g. why was someone who had a slave as a child and lived in slave heavy NY so anti-slavery?) and more than once the guy was made out to be an unpleasant spoiled rich kid ... I don't think that was his intention.

It was quick reading, and for those interested in the subject, of some benefit to get a thumbnail sketch of his life. I just didn't get much pleasure from reading it ... it's one of those books you just read to finish it, but are annoyed for having to waste your time to do so. The good part is that you learn something, and it is relatively painless. A quick pan of a recent book on Thomas Paine's Common Sense (forty two pages, or something or other) ... not bad, I guess, but overall trivial. I got as much from reading the original itself (it was one of those with an elongated introduction telling the life and times of the author, etc.). On the other hand, I wasn't that impressed with the author's presentation of the book either.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

TGIF TV: ABC has its own lesser form of "Must See TV," namely TGIF (Thank God/Goodness It's Friday) that consists of light, often family friendly (or predictable) comedies, which ones included "Family Matters" and "Full House." The 9 o'clock hour is of some interest to me ... Hope & Faith (co-starring Faith Ford of "Murphy Brown) starts the hour. It is a formulaic comedy involving a self-centered soap star who goes to live with her more prim and proper (but still deep down a bit wild) married with children sister, after she loses her role. The television buff would be intrigued since Ted McGinley actually is in the show from its beginning. Many know of the "McGinley Effect," which involves Ted coming into a series late in its run, a sure sign it is going downhill (Happy Days, The Love Boat, and Married ... with Children). The show was mildly amusing and Kelly Ripa and Faith Ford are quite likeable, so maybe his presence won't taint things.

First, there was the 8 o'clock hour. I took NBC and watched Miss Match, which is sort of like Clueless: 10 Years Later ... Alicia Silverstone is a young divorce lawyer (she works at her father's firm) who has this gift of match making, but is a bit less lucky in love herself. It got mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it as light entertainment with a great lead and some pleasing supporting characters. The other show to watch is Joan of Arcadia (CBS), which I caught a taste of during a commercial (usually, it seems like every show, including professional sports, have commercials at the exact same time) as well as at the very end. It seems promising, but with the potential to be a bit heavyhanded (struggling family, teen who meets God, older brother paralyzed in an accident, younger smarty pants brother ... how couldn't it be??)

Life with Bonnie is a good fit in the TGIF lineup, moving in at 9:30 ... typical light comedy that is carried by Bonnie Hunt's own individual comic vision. I don't always care for the result, which seems a bit too precious (especially the annoyingly cute son), but I respect the effort. Along with The Handler at 10, Fridays have more to offer than one might think. On the hand, more people are home than one might think.

Do Not Call Registry: Congress and the FTC seemed to have a good idea on its hands: a registry that allows people to block telemarketers from calling your house. Congress rushed to pass legislation directly giving the FTC a right to do this, after a federal judge questioned if previously law could be read so broadly. Then, another judge held that singling out telemarketers was a violation of the First Amendment, since commercial speech was wrongly targeted. These rulings had their share of ridicule, though some lawyer types argued the judge had a point. I think so too ... okay, so you think the law is great because it protects your privacy. How many equally are ignored when charities, poll takers, or politicians call you up? It is like being annoyed on subways ... begger or homeless organization ... either way it bothers my attempt to read or sleep.

True privacy protection would be across the board, right? Of course, this would affect the people who write the laws, even though legislation that allows you to pick who you want to block would be the most honest and/or fully inclusive protection of privacy they can offer. Is not privacy what we are aiming for here? Some ridicule the concern for telemarketing jobs (surely not a trivial concern, methinks) ... if we are going to ignore that, let's at least be consistent. Selling things (heck, sometimes, like for bank services or whatever, you actually buy it) are as much a part of our society than donating to charities and hearing pitches to vote for someone you either was going to vote for already, don't care about, or will vote against. And if they interrupt your supper, will you be that much less annoyed?

Friday, September 26, 2003

Thoughts: Anti-war voters against Clark?, 9th Circuit Recall (Non)Decision, More Ashcroft Follies, Bill O'Reilly, and Bush Hatred.

The Mets did a good job honoring Bob Murphy on his last day; he also gave a great speech, sounding full of energy (his physical problems compelled him to retire). Glavine started, but could go only five (no decision, 9-14 for the year ... his worst in a LONG time), and an error (ironically after a Piazza throw that should have caught someone stealing) helped the Mets lose again ... Cerda coming into the game with runners on First and Third and one out made it pretty clear that would be the outcome. Anyway, I switched over to Coupling a few times ... it was basically a direct remake of the British first episode, done with less finesse and an annoying laugh track. Meanwhile, BBC re-aired the superior original.

The NYT today (9/25) suggested it was partly a cultural thing ... the Brits are more polite, proper about sex, and so forth, so the show just doesn't translate as well ... this is just some sitcom. Also, though the British accents help (and they aren't that strong nor are the references too foreign), the original had an interesting extra bit of flavor to it. As the article notes, this new gang often seemed like bland sorts, and the Chicago location of little note (the bar had some sign with "Chicago" in it, like we wouldn't know it was there, if we weren't told. Compare this to various Bonnie Hunt shows in which you often get a flavor of the town). My cynicism was not helped by this first viewing.

"Must See TV" Thursday leaves a lot to be desired these days.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

New Season (Part I): There promises to be some new life in television land this season ... so far, so good. There are many shows lingering on that I have grown tired of some time ago, including The Simpsons, NYPD Blue, ER, and (mostly) Friends. Perhaps, the last one still has something left. Anyway, season premieres of other shows suggest they too have life as well. The new season for me basically started on Tuesday with Gilmore Girls. It was basically a prologue to the major changes (Rory has not gone to Yale yet, Sookie is still pregnant, etc.), but it was still a good welcome back. Nothing too major, though there was some serious moments, but it was fun. Also fun was Less Than Perfect, and the addition of Will Grasso as a full time member of the cast is a good idea ... he was fun in his guest roles.

The major premiere was West Wing, which did not deserve "Best Drama" in last weekend's Emmys, given it's subpar year. As one might recall, the cliffhanger involved Zoey being kidnapped and the Republican Speaker of The House (played well by John Goodman, who has proved his serious acting chops in the past) became acting President when President Bartlett stepped down. It looks like this will be the start of a story arc, and again, the premiere only laid down some groundwork. And, as well, it was promising. The episode was well written and acted ... I was engrossed by the story and the possibilities. And, heck, the Mets actually won their second straight. Looks like Tuesday and Wednesday still has life in their old favorites.

There are various odds and ends still to look into, including the Coupling remake, but the next big day is Friday. I can say that Grounded For Life still looks worthy of my time (lol), though again, it isn't really "Must See TV" or anything. This, plus its time slot (Friday Night at 9 on the WB) makes it something to watch if I'm free. Still, low bar or not, it is one of the best shows on the WB.
Casa de los Babys: I was watching a "making of" sort feature that highlighted something that was somewhat lost as I viewed the film ... there are aspects to the film (surely intentions behind it) that are quite powerful. The long career of John Sayles, who made independent films when he wasn't writing or cleaning up scripts of more mainstream fare in order to have the money to do so, is very impressive. The same applies to his social conscience, though some people feel it overwhelms his storytelling. The messages being sent in this film, including the mothers wanting babies and the poverty/inferior status of the land where they went to get them hits home. And, as a whole, it is hard to find a false note in the acting ... Daryl Hannah is not someone you think of for dramatic work, but she is wonderful here, as are the rest. The movie as a whole is worth watching.

I still didn't really like it. I had mixed feelings about his last film, Sunshine State because I don't think the storytelling was tied together enough; but, I did feel it was a complete movie, and not just a connection of scenes and characters. This film has some powerful scenes (a favorite might be when a teenage maid and one of the potential moms to be each open their hearts, though at least one has no idea what the other one said), but it doesn't really work as a film. The ending especially seemed just to happen ... like they just ran out of film or something, while also feeling a bit of a cheat given an earlier scene.

A woman once told me that she feels that most films offer you something to enjoy, and her opinion fits this film as well. Other films might be more complete, but do not often the little gems that this film does. To speak in a cliche, the whole is not the sum of its parts, but the parts probably are worth the price of admission.

A final note ... John Sayles wrote/directed a film a few years entitled Men With Guns, and did so in Spanish, which was deemed notable at the time. It is not like he showed a big bilingual ability in the past. Now, he is giving interviews partly in Spanish. I don't know, but it's like one day he thought "let me learn Spanish so I can better examine subjects involving Latin America." [ed. In fact, he did write something that required he learn the language, and he went from there. Still, he basically learnt the language in adulthood, becoming more comfortable with it in the last few years.] I wouldn't be suprised if one day he decides to examine Asia or the Native American life, and learns to speak their language, and (like here) write character bios in the native tongue!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Movies and Stuff: After a drought of stuff to watch, television and movie season is starting to come into high gear ... right as baseball and football have their own stories to tell. "Lost in Translation" was the best movie I saw this summer and probably will be around come Oscar Time. "Underworld" was a fun vampire/werewolf flick and other good movies are due to come soon. Now, John Sayles, a director I usually enjoy, did not do a good job with "Casa de Los Babys," which was well acted, but felt like half a movie. The story of Americans going out of the country to try to adopt babies had potential, but was underwritten, and had no true momentum.

On the other hand, there will be many season premieres (and premieres in general) on tv this week, and I'm looking forward to several of them. What will happen on "West Wing" and "Gilmore Girls?" Will "Miss Match," [Cher of "Clueless" apparently did grow up to be a lawyer and her matchmaking ways continued] "Joan of Arcadia," (annoyingly on at the same time) and a few other shows be worth watching? How about "Coupling?" I fear this show ... the advertisements and hype make it sound too oversexed and overblown, while the British original (often hiliarious, intelligent, and touching) is partly so good because it is more restrained. I will give one example ... the nutty Jane (one article said she was less nutty here -- why?) says she is a bisexual, but thus far it seems it is just hype. The American Jane in one article was labeled bisexual, as if she actually is. Time will tell.

Ah, to have to deal with NY sports teams. The Nets, a NJ team that actually admits to the fact, is the current Knicks of the near past ... good, but not good enough to go all the way. The Yankees are the Yankees. The rest have brought their separate degrees of aggravation the last couple years. The Mets are now 1 out of 16 ... they had to work at it Saturday with bad baserunning decisions (one by the third base coach) key in their 10th inning defeat. Sunday was just another typical example of great pitching nullified by lack of hitting ... Trachsel, Leiter, and now Seo all gave up one or two runs, and all got nil out of it. Seo at least didn't get the indignity of a loss, helped out by the bullpen getting out of an eighth inning mess. Lost in the ninth, helped out by inferior outfielder defense.

The Jets lost again ... mediocrity mixed with missed chances, while the Giants almost blew another one (21-3 at the Half, they hung on to win 24-21 in OT). I saw the previously noted inferior Sayles film instead of biting my fingernails watching that game ... I had my full screaming and agonizing during the first one. I picked up some Chinese on the way ... somewhat inferior General Tao Shrimp. Let it never be said that all Chinese food is alike or fast food joints either. I have my regulars in which I order certain things, even though the one on the corner of my block is underused. Why? Well, when it takes a few minutes of me standing there before they take my order, is this that surprising?

Friday, September 19, 2003

CA Recall Delay: I think the 9th Circuit case delaying the recall has some validity, as suggested by the links supplied below, but it might clearly have certain flaws as well. For instance, is delaying things to March a great idea? Will not the new technology cause its own problems, though if mandated by law, perhaps more effort can be put in dealing with expected problems? It is true, no matter how many want to ignore the fact, that the state did admit that the push card system was especially flawed (and facts back it up), but it might be the best in this special case.

Other safeguards also could be put in place instead of the election being delayed ... safeguards that might actually have a better chance to be upheld on appeal. On the other hand, this would still be a big step for the federal courts to take, and probably would have been criticized (and perhaps overturned, as this might very well be). I think the problems inherent in a rushed election in the midst of voting procedure change is an overall problem that must be faced here, even if the Court's decision regarding the push card system in certain districts is held to be a bad idea.

Also, relying on Bush v. Gore, even if we try to give it precedential value the Supreme Court said it did not have, has its problems. Putting aside the issues discussed in the linked story, should we respect an opinion not worthy of our respect, even if the Court did so to rub their noses in it? One problem suggested is that we knew the election was real close last time, but this time it is but a possibility. I think it perhaps best to deal with problems before they happen, but even if it isn't close, miscounting skewers the vote count. For instance, if one candidate gets 5% of the vote, maybe it won't matter, but if only 1% is counted, there is a harm. Finally, in a time when partisanship is high and races often close, a honest and fair election process is that much more important. Why not face this beforehand?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Football Woes II: I couldn't watch the Giants after more after they dropped 20-7 at the Half ... good thing. I would have cheered as they came back 32-29 with :13 left on the clock, and watch them still blow it. In less than 1/4 of the time, the Dallas Cowboys did what the Giants could not do in the playoffs ... get an essential field goal. How? They didn't f-up. The Giants last year would have been much closer without an unsportmanlike conduct call ... Dallas also managed to get a long field goal off. And, they won in OT ... but given the Giants penchant for not finishing what they started and blowing the second chances they are given, that was almost mandatory.

Thoughts: Wesley Clark, CA Recall stopped using Bush v. Gore Reasoning (here and here), and In Praise of Older Women.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Football Woes: Oh, I did a lot of screaming today ... the Jets looked pathetic against the Dolphins in the First Half, and couldn't just hold them in place in the Second Half, but that is what they did ... losing 21-10. Last week was aggravating, but close ... this week, aggravating (Miami was given break, opportunity, after break, opportunity to go up 21-3), but not close. Meanwhile, after winning once in nine games, the Mets lost again ... badly (7-3, after being up 3-0 early). I find it hard just to watch as a fan, especially when teams don't just do bad, but do so bad that it is sad. This week, the early defense was made me so mad ... and they might of still lost with it, even with Chad. Ok ... I had my fun.

Buffalo did great again. My sentiment always was that the Bills are really the "NY" team in that they actually play in the state, even if the Jets are considered the NY team. Anyway, they are surely my AFC backup ... the losses the last couple weeks were especially annoying in that I really don't see Miami or the Redskins going that far; I surely don't care for either one of them. Oh, the Yanks have about clinched the East ... shocker, huh?

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Thoughts: 911 (see also), Prop 12 (Texas), and Lost in Translation. Just a quick thing on the last item ... excellent movie ... perhaps the best movie of the summer thus far.

This year many popular members of the entertainment industry died; the latest were John Ritter and Johnny Cash, though with Cash's lifestyle, it is amazing he lasted this long. In a bit of black humor, the daily horoscope feature in my local paper featured Ritter, whose birthday was coming up ... it's words on his future was a bit mistaken. There is some talk of Ritter's tv show being continued with another actor, but I find this distressing. The show is built around him and is only moderately successful as it is; why force the issue by trying to replace Ritter? For instance, "NewsRadio" went downhill after Phil Hartman was replaced. I would also like to say that Ritter had shown more talent than some might think, especially in dramatic roles such as "Slingblade" and certain guest shots.

Losing 3-0 vs. Detroit ("hey, we need to win sometime") the day when both of its competitors also lost might just be seen as the final nail in the coffin of KC's season ... bad as they played of late, over the last week or two, they had a few chances to keep within spitting distance ... 3.5 games at this point isn't quite there. On the other hand, if they would lose, losing against 20 game loser Mike Maroth (still arguably the ace of the staff, and not as bad as his record suggests) is in some sense forgivable ... in the sense, that one feels sorry for the guy. Then again, that 20 game losing record wasn't matched for years, why not set a new record in futility? Well, he has a few games to do it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

More Thoughts: Alabama Governor Move For Tax Reform, strong man idea, humorous look at CA Recall, Bush's speech on Iraq, and campaign finance orals.

Mets Futility: The Mets are in the midst of a seven game losing streak, which basically helped the Phillies a bit more than the Marlins in their Wild Card Race because the former played four, to the Marlins three. The starting pitching was actually pretty good with several games tied (or one run difference) in the eighth or ninth, but the Mets kept on blowing it. Today's game was a true exercise in futility. The Mets brought up eight men in the first inning ... and got two runs, which is some feat. The Mets soon enough gave up the lead via two errors, so it was 4-2 (three unearned), giving Seo another game where he lasted only five. A rookie (the regs aren't doing much these days either, including Piazza, who is stuck on needing about four home runs to break the record as a catcher) got his first home run, and it was 4-3 in the eighth. The Mets lost 7-3.

A post linked above discusses it in more detail, but I want to underline my support of the fact that the audio of the oral arguments in the campaign finance law case were release by the Supreme Court, and immediately aired by C-SPAN. Why this is not done more often, at least for important cases, is unclear to me. Audio alone retains the "dignity" of the Court, and it is quite helpful that the questioners from the bench were labelled, unlike it is done in transcripts found on the SC website. I hope the use twice this year (the other being the college affirmative action case) points to a slight trend. It was educational and informative.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Football: The Mets/Phillies matchup as usual saw the Mets show life, but lose in the end ... this happened when the Mets were in contention, and it's happening now. As that played on, the Jets/Redskins game started things off for the NFL season ... other than the surely newsworthy story of Vinny Testaverde starting again, the game was surely not the ideal one for that purpose. If Chad was there, I do think the Jets would have won against an at best middle of the road team; this was the projected result when the game was scheduled. Likewise, the Jets had a busy pre-season with an extra game (Japan). So why were they chosen for a Thursday game? I guess they had their reasons as did those behind the conservative Jets offensive plan that did result in a close game, but unfortunately the wrong way ... 16-13, the difference being another key long field goal by John Hall, but again, unfortunately he's planning for the other side. The defense had their moments, including two turnovers, but also didn't stop the Redskins at key moments. The offense was a tad bit creaky. It was not a pleasant game.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Thoughts: GAO and O'Reilly and Natural Law. The first post is a bit tongue in cheek, but actually, I do somewhat respect O'Reilly ... people (including my mom) like him because he seems to care and attacks those who deserve to be attacked. His anti-government sentiment does overall seem to fall more on Democrats, but one can take his demand for accountability at face value. On the other hand, his has the tendency to be a hypocritical blowhard, and Al Franken's attack on him at a book event and elsewhere is classic. Franken is clearly a bit of a jerk himself, but (of course my political leanings help) he can be a hilarious sort of jerk as well. His anger is real and often well placed. And, as always, humor is a great way to send a message.

Another Democratic Debate is on right now. A couple things that annoy me is about these things ... well at times more, but two come to mind. First, how even long shots like Gephardt talk about "when I'm President ...." One smuck actually talked about his second term! Second, when these morons talk about how the President f-ed up Iraq, and how they warned him about it earlier, and so forth. These same guys gave the guy a blank check, did little to stop him when they saw where he was going (which was no great shock to most people), and now self-righteously speak in superior tones. The best shot they have is to say that the President lied or misled them about WMDs ... but the material supplied was dubious, and people knew that in early March, if not earlier. The fact that it is clearer now is relevant, but only to a degree. Oh, and yes, the debate was sponsored by a Spanish station or something, but the Spanish one-liners were stupid. Cringe!

Kansas City is not making it easy. They started yet another nobody v. Randy Johnson, and was up 4-1 in the 6th. All the same, they couldn't hang on for more than an inning or so, and soon it was tied 4-4 and 5-5 ... they lost in extra innings. The light hitting Diamondbacks vs. the leaky Kansas bullpen, and the former won again. A win would have put KC only 1/2 back, now it's 1 1/2 games, with another extra game to play. Poor competition, good hitting, and more than one deserves from a bunch of retread starters got them this far. A light schedule as well as some more games v. Chicago actually gives them a shot ... and one still hopes they have something left. It is time for them to go on one more run, like they did at least two times this year. They are due to fall short, but they surely are the Bad News Bears of the MLB (surely the AL), and lovable for that reason.