Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Julie and Julia: A Review

We caught a preview of the new film, Julie & Julia, last week.

A combo platter based on two books, one by blogger Julie Powel, the other My Life in France by Alex Proudhomme and Julia Child, the movie is mostly a delight. Meryl does a slightly toned down Julia impersonation, while Amy Adams tries valliantly to make the drab, depressed Julie interesting.

The Julia sequences are excellent, with Stanley Tucci superb as a smart, funny and oh-so supportive Paul Child. He and Streep have scenes that are master classes of understated comedy, and succeed beautifully in suggesting a world of intimacy through gently overlapping dialouge and some subtle (and some quite overt) suggestions of sexual attraction. Watch out for Jane Lynch in a too brief but luminous portrayal of Julia's even taller sister. There's a delicious scene where the two women are reunited after a long time apart over lunch in a Paris restaurant, which is both laugh-out-loud funny and at the same time a touching mini-portrait of two ugly ducklings, finally and utterly comfortable in their own skins.

When the scene shifts to a drab apartment over a pizzeria in Queens where the admitted narcisist Julie Powel labors over her "Julie & Julia" project, cooking her way through the entire battery of recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, inerest and empathy drop like a poorly-tossed omlette onto the kitchen floor. Compared to the luminously photographed sequences of Julia's life in 1950's Paris, the Julie portions are simply a bore. And when Julie dresses up as Julia for her 30th birthday party, you can be forgiven for wondering if our blogger friend is just a little bit nuts, and in a dreary and sad way to boot.

Still, the film manages to come off. It's funny, compelling and, like the wonderful Julia, ultimately utterly loveable. Here's the trailer:

Yeats Speaks!

The animation is a cheesey for sure, but the poem...and the voice!!

You're Still There? We're Still Here!

It came to out attention this weekend that people actually used to read this blog, and that some of them even still have it bookmarked!

We're touhced!

So, we've decided to give it another one of intermitent college tries. A little later we'll consider the etomology of the word "moneytize", but for now we have a couple of fun things to throw up for you.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Blossom Dearie: RIP

None like her.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Creepy Sense of Urgency

Granted, it is the New York Times. Granted, Gail Collins is hard to take seriously, and Tom "Richard Pearle is Right" Friedman is...hard to forgive. But two columnists in as many days call for an immediate end to the Bush Administration (vivid subtext: W is hitting the bottle again.) And they quote Norm Ornstein, the true Man for All Seasons of the interregnum.

It is true that the lack of a man at the helm is palpable. And it is also true that still, still, the public and the media don't really seem to get just how dire is this economic situation.

So, we have hyperbole among the columnists.

Obviously Bush shouldn't go early - the integrity of the constitution is more important than even this economic tsunami -- but Obama does need to keep doing what he started doing today (a little late, by the way). He needs to be specific, compelling and absolutely rhetorically vivid about what he is planning to do to deal with the crisis.

Creating a legislative plan to have it all ready for signature between the inauguration itself and the parade seems beyond the ability of Nancy Pelosi to imagine.

This is not enough, to be sure, but it is his limit at the moment, and it is worlds more than the enfeebled, unimaginative and utterly irresponsible current president can do.

Gone Sailing!

Very very early tomorrow we're heading off to Virgin Gorda for a week of sailing school. Exciting, but more than a little intimidating since we're overweight, uncoordinated and weak. But who knows, maybe a week at the above will make a man of us (a men of us? the limits of the precious first-person-plural-blog-tone are more obvious every day.)

Assuming we can access the internet on the Bounding Main, we'll try to post, but only if we have something funny or sad to say.

It's Just Not Funny Anymore

The Strange Case of Shelby Steele

or "A Boring Man: Why We Are Tired of Shelby Steel and Why He Can't Change."

This interview from the Hoover Institution is very long, but worthwhile. Here the prominent black conservative intellectual twists himself into a variety of ever less attractive knots to avoid internalizing the obvious.

You remember that Steele -- author of many books including the very important "A Dream Deferred" (1999) -- took a very strong and highly visible anti-Obama position throughout the campaign. Amazingly for a previously thoughtful and provocative thinker, his argument in this case took the form of a flimsy polemic that labeled Obama a Louis Armstrong/Bill Cosby like accomodator (or "bargainer" in Steele's vocabulary), who, to put it crudely, would Uncle Tom his way to certain defeat in November.

Despite the abundant evidence undermining his premise -- not the least of which is every single exit poll -- here he is, a couple of week after the election, holding fast to his belief that Obama is nothing more (literally nothing more) that a racial cipher elected exclusively on the basis of race as a mighty assuagement of white guilt.

Among the many weird ideas supporting a manifestly out-of-date thesis are these:

1. We still don't know who Obama is. We don't know the content of his character. (Cue Margot Channing: There's that word again! I don't even know what it means)

2. We only voted for him because he's black. There was no other compelling reason to vote for Barack Obama other than his race (he says this often; I guess he believes it. Is the converse then true -- John McCain lost solely because he is white?).

3. He attended a black nationalist church that his mother couldn't attended and never explained how he reconciled that. (Note to Shelby: the Philadelphia speech on race is easily found on YouTube. You might not agree, but its an explanation.)

4. He grew up in an era of identity politics, which necessitated his needed to reinforce his identity as an African-American in his early days in Chicago politics, only to later abandon that identity to assume another identity as a "black bargainer" so that he could run a campaign free of racial identity. I am not making this up.

And it goes on.

It is sad to see a previously intellectually honest conservative so out of touch with contemporary cultural dynamics that his is blinded to anything that does not support (at least inversely) his ideology.

Did Barack gain traction and capture attention because of his race? Of course. Did he win because of his race in a vast spasm of electoral reverse discrimination? Of course not. I think its safe to say that youth, progressive positions in sync with times, latent anti-dynasticism among Democratic voters, early opposition to the Iraq way (which was very important at the beginning of the primary season -- remember?), solid and clearly explained foreign policy positions, the utter collapse of the opposition party, an economic crisis and The Queen of Alaska (as Gore Vidal calls You Know Who) played a part too.

But Steele can only see the world through the identity-driven lens of his own creation; he assumes the exact position of intransigent racial stasis so articulately decried in his early work.

Friday, November 21, 2008

People are saying...

...that Bill Clinton will make a big push to take over Hillary's senate seat.

More on the Unacceptable Mr. Brennan

Andrew Sullivan says it all, with clarity and force.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ouch! Economist Looks at GOP, Sees "Idiocy"

This analysis of the collapse of the Conservatives -- from the Econmist, no less -- is as trenchant, stinging and spot on as any.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Beat Goes On

Poor Nicole Wallace continues to deny that the Bush Adminstration tortured human beings. Think of the moral stain -- the personal moral stain -- the lower level adminstration people will have to carry with them for the rest of their lives. Do they know that now, one wonders, or will it dawn on them a month or a year after they are out of office?

Uh-oh. Deflation is Rearing It's Spectacularly Scary Head

The Consumer Price Index dropped 1% today, the largest single drop in more than 60 years. That means that the costs of goods and services are getting cheaper fast. Good news? Not at all.

Here's the Times article on today's news. Not the use of the word "deflation" in the headline, and this paragraph:

In a speech Wednesday at a Washington conference, the vice chairman of the Fed, Donald L. Kohn, said the risk of deflation remained slight but was increasing. “Whatever I thought that risk was, four or five months ago, I think it is bigger now even if it is still small,” Mr. Kohn said. The Fed, he added, needs to be aggressive, if necessary, to prevent a drop in prices.

Now this whole thing seems a little counter-intuitive, no? Prices dropping is a good thing for an economy in trouble, right? Well, no. Not if they drop a lot, over a sustained period of time. What happens then is manufactuers keep droping prices, until prices become lower than the costs of goods to make...factories close...more job losses...less money available...prices drop further. The intrinsic value of things begins to erode because there is not enough money to keep an economy going. Everything becomes worth a lot less...gasoline, milk, your house, your job, your education.

Last time this happend in the US in a big way? You got it. The Great Depression.

Getting to Know Mr. Brennan

Glenn Greenwald has a good introductory overview to a very important person: John Brennan.
Who he? He is Barack Obama's transition chief for inteligence policy. His wiki bio is here. He's also widely rumored to be at or near the top of the list for CIA director (I don't quite buy that -- Jane Harman call your office.)

He's also something of an appologist for the "enhanced interogations techniques" used by the bush CIA to torture detainees in the war on terror. In Jane Myer's must read book, The Darkside, he's identified as a "suppoter" of those techniques.

Where will Barack go on the torture question? Too soon to say, but accumulating buzz is that he is less likely to take a hard line against Bush policies than many supporters might have hoped.

Quote of the Day

The Attorney General-apparant on the lawlessness of the Bush Adminstration:

“Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the ‘War on Terror' have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe,” Holder told a packed room at the ACS 2008 Convention on Friday evening. “For the sake of our safety and security, and because it is the right thing to do, the next president must move immediately to reclaim America's standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We're Back. Torture THIS!

So the Life Raft capsized during the election. It turned out being all a little bit too much for us, and who wants to seem like one more amatuer blogger with a Barack crush? Not us!

But now that the whole thing is over -- with a happy ending yet -- we'll be making more posts as we watch the Obama adminstration come together. And our first flag is a red one.

Get this from the AP via Talking Points Memo.

Barack!! You can name all the Clintons you want -- make Chelsea Treasury Secretary if that feels good. But don't, don't get on the wrong side of history on torture.

We'll watch the torture story closely. It matters more than almost anything else.