31 August 2006

The Making of a "Non-Fiction Novel"

"Sometimes when I think how good my book can be, I can hardly breathe."
-Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing Truman Capote

Finally (finally!) watched "Capote," a fascinating and extremely well constructed telling of the years in which Truman Capote wrote In Cold Blood. What sits at the core of this picture is Capote’s willingness to sell his soul for a story (the legal trial of two men charged with the murder of an entire family in rural Kansas). In order for his "non-fiction novel" to have a great ending, Capote chooses to manipulate the legal system for his own needs, not considering how this might affect the people involved (not only the two suspects, but himself as well). When he finally realizes what he's done, he experiences a moral crisis which eventually leads to his undoing (Capote never finishes another book).

Hoffman's performance is a fully fleshed-out portrait that brings out the creepiest recesses of the writer's psyche. I still think Heath Ledger's superbly finessed turn as Ennis del Mar in "Brokeback Mountain" deserved the Oscar last February, but I can't fault the Academy for choosing Hoffman.

30 August 2006

The Captain and the Kid

The bitch is back! Elton John's follow up to "Peachtree Road" is called "The Captain and the Kid" and is to be released on 19 September. It's billed as a concept album that bookends 1975's "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy."

"The Bridge," the first single off the new set, is quite breathtaking. It's just Elton and his piano, and is hauntingly brilliant. "Every one of us has to face the day / Do you cross the bridge or do you fade away?" John sings.

Elton's last two albums were superb and I look forward to this new set with much anticipation.

(Side note: That's Bernie Taupin riding the horse on the CD cover.)

29 August 2006

Class of '10

Quote of the Day:
It's like having a bunch of scheming high school freshmen running the country.
-The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum, on the Bush administration's decison to put off all federal spending until after October 1st...the start of the new fiscal year...so as not to seem fiscally irresponsible in the current fiscal year.

You know...right before the mid-term elections.

28 August 2006

The Epitome of Reckless

I have refused to mention the whole John Mark Karr/JonBenet Ramsey thing-a-mabob because it isn't news.

But now that the DNA doesn't match and Karr doesn't look like the guy, I have to comment on the sad state of our news media. Actually, Timothy Sexton says it best:
CNN gave us live updates on what Karr ate and drank on his plane flight home. The plane carrying those dead [soldiers] from Iraq received no updates. Karr should stand as an [example] to CNN, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and every other broadcast news outlet in America to pause and reconsider what is really a story that needs to be told and what isn't.
I saw this fiasco coming from a mile away. I can understand a brief mention of an arrest on the local 6:00 news in Boulder. But saturation coverage on the national networks? In this day and age?

It's irresponsible and the epitome of reckless.

Monday From Hell

Since sitting down at my desk this morning, it's been one of those fucked up kind of Mondays.

27 August 2006

Lazy Summer Sunday

Grab some coffee, the Sunday New York Times, and enjoy a relaxing lazy Sunday...

"Postales" - Frederico Aubele

"Playing for Time" - Acoustic Alchemy

"The Moment" - Vargo

"Undress Me Now" - Morcheeba

"What It Feels Like For a Girl" - Madonna

25 August 2006

You Win Again

After a four-year break from performing in the mid-80's, the Bee Gees returned to the studio in 1987 with veteran producer Arif Mardin; the result being the superb album "E.S.P."

The first single off that record, "You Win Again," was the best-selling and most played single of 1987 in Europe; yet it only managed to peak at #75 here in the States (which says more about the quality of American radio than it does about the Bee Gees' music).

With the brothers' lush harmonization and Mardin's polished production work, the song is definately one of the best of that decade. When I play it for friends, they love it.

And so, your Song of the Day is "You Win Again" by the Bee Gees.

Update: You can take a look at the video for the song here.

24 August 2006

Poseidon, God of the Sea

"Poseidon" was released this week in three different DVD formats. On Tuesday I picked up the two-disc special edition and found that it was well worth the extra three or four bucks. In addition to the film (my original review here), this set offers some additional goodies, including:

-The first theatrical teaser trailer;

-"Ship On a Soundstage," a documentary on the complexities of making a sea adventure movie;

-And, "A Shipmate’s Diary," a rather fun look at a film school intern’s experience on the set.

But the best bonus on this two-disc set is the History Channel special called "Rogue Waves." With striking visuals this documentary presents dramatic tales of rogue wave disasters throughout history, and explores the astonishing scientific discoveries surrounding these deadly monsters. (Unexplained ship disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle are now being attributed to rogue waves.)

As for the movie itself...ok, ok...it tanked at the North American box office. But as an action/disaster flick, "Poseidon" works. From the stunning opening sequence - a 3 minute wrap around of the majestic ocean liner (accompanied by one of the best title scores ever written) - to the mind-blowing capsize sequence, to the claustrophobic escape, this movie delivers the goods. It's great, mindless, summertime fluff.

The special effects and action sequences save "Poseidon" from Mark Protosevich's sub-par screenplay. (Both Heath Ledger and Clive Owen agreed to star but then opted out after seeing the script.) Warner Bros. and Wolfgang Petersen could have produced a classic sea tale this summer - if only they had taken the time to do so. But they didn't and what we're left with is a mindless but visually stunning summertime action movie.

I can't help but feel sorry for author Paul Gallico's original vision - a tour-de-force of survival at sea (my review of the book is here). It SO deserves to be told properly on the big screen; but after two so-so attempts (three, if you include the horrid made for TV version from 2005) it's doubtful this story will be told on film again anytime soon.

But definately put this two-disc set in your rental queue. It's a great 90 minute rollercoaster ride!

Five Points

Senator Joe Biden (Democrat-DE) lays out his five point plan for Iraq in today's Washington Post, and in doing so makes a good point: The President's plan is incompetent and making matters worse by the day, but the support for immediate withrawal is just as bad. Biden's plans are bold and well thought out; the work of a true statesman. And to those who poo-poo it, he asks one question: What is your alternative?

Most progressives can't come up with one. And that's why I'm seriously hoping Biden enters the 2008 presidential contest. We'll need a respected FDR/JFK intelligent tough guy who will draw votes from independents and moderate Republicans who want Iraq solved before we pull out (and again, the President isn't solving things but rather making them worse).

Biden/Richardson, anyone?

23 August 2006

Playing For Dick

The Buckingham Palace Marching Band, announcing the arrival of Dick Cheney. Well, at least that's what Sullivan's Subsitutes seem to think.

22 August 2006


Your Song of the Day is from the Chemical Brothers.

...not so long as he's Prezdint

Ugh! I can't even watch the incompetent goon anymore. He makes my stomach turn.

We have now been in Iraq for 1,248 days...four days longer than the war in Europe during WWII. The war has been mismanagement from the start (actually before the start) and the President insists on staying the course.

Say what you will about John Kerry, at least the man understood "the grey." Not everything is in black and white. A true statesman understands political and international strategy should be altered when he finds his original plans are not working. But not George W. Bush. He would rather drive the nation over a cliff than admit his route needs to be changed.

And we have hold on for dear life for another two-and-a-half years.

Update: During yesterday's news conference, Mr. Bush said
"Nobody's ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the [9/11] attacks."
He lies like a rug. Paul Kiel found Vice-President Cheney doing exactly that on Meet the Press in September, 2002. Read the exchange here.

21 August 2006

"The Poseidon Adventure" by Paul Gallico

"Upside down, in the biggest transatlantic liner ever built, 81,000 tons of metal hanging between heaven and the bottom of the sea."
-Chapter 5 of "The Poseidon Adventure."

During a 1937 North Atlantic crossing aboard the Queen Mary author Paul Gallico had quite the scare when, out of nowhere, a large wave struck the liner, causing her to keel over - almost on her side. Thirty years later this event would serve as the inspiration for his 1969 best-seller, The Poseidon Adventure.

The novel was re-released this past spring - in anticipation of the 2006 movie re-make of the story - and I recently gave it a second read in anticipation of that film's release on DVD this week.

The story concerns the efforts of a small group of passengers attempting to escape a cruise ship after it is capsized by a massive wave. Gallico tells his story with a strong sense of suspense and a richly detailed group of diverse characters.

And those characters are the most fascinating aspect of the novel. Gallico does a masterful of job of building them into people of depth and dimension. With the sea disaster as the underlying premise, he strips them to their very cores, peeling away layer after layer until they are stripped of their security and their dignity. In their fight to survive they find their belief systems tested as never before.

In so far as the actual escape is concerned, the reader gets a strong sense of the imminent danger and claustrophobia encountered by the survivors. Throughout the book one never forgets how close they are to impending doom. Gallico is almost unrelenting in his sense of urgency.

Overall, The Poseidon Adventure makes an excellent and fast read. It is a story of courage and strength of character, of failure and loss, of intense drama and great suspense. It will leave you as stunned and as exhausted as the survivors.

The book was re-released in two paperback versions this past spring and is still available in most bookstores. I highly recommend you add it to your summer reading list!

The President? Stupid?

Joe Scarborough reports. You decide.

20 August 2006

Recently Viewed

"MATCH POINT" - This "A Place In the Sun"-esque thriller is Woody Allen's best film since "Bullets Over Broadway," and the film definately ranks among his best. It's unpredictable and consistently engrossing; an excellent character piece - turned social study - turned suspense thriller, in which Jonathan Rhys-Meyers gives a flawless performance.

Some say there is no such thing as a typical "Woody Allen film." I disagree. While he's played with several genres over the years, there is an underlying element to his movies that is definatley Allen. You can't quite put your finger on it, but it's there.

In "Match Point," however, that element is nowhere to be found. And the film really is all the better for it.

"LITTLE BRITAIN" (Series Two) - David Williams and Matt Lucas are brilliant in this second season of the British sketch comedy. The boys pepper their original cast of characters with a few new quirky ones. Joining original characters such as transvestite Emily Howard, teen delinquent Vicky Pollard, the "only gay in the village" David, and out-of-work actor Dennis Waterman are Carol "Computer Says No" Beer and Harvey "Bitty" Pincher.

The guys are hilarious. You'll be rolling with laughter!

(Side note: The DVD menu page on these discs is way too busy and hard to figure out. But once you get past that, "Little Britain" is classic comedy. You won't be disappointed.)

19 August 2006

"The Night Listener" by Armistead Maupin

In anticipation of the movie from which it is based, I recently re-read Armistead Maupin's 2000 novel, "The Night Listener." It is a complex story filled with twists, turns, and surprises & you will find yourself unable to put the book down.

The novel begins with the main character (Gabriel), author of a radio serial called Noone at Night, facing two disruptions in his life: his longtime partner, Jess, has moved out and Gabe has developed writer's block. While trying to deal with those two things, Gabe's editor asks him to read a manuscript written by an HIV-positive 13-year-old named Pete Lomax that details his escape from years of sexual and physical abuse. Gabe is so moved by Pete's story, he calls the boy and a friendship develops. His relationship with Pete (and Pete's adoptive mother, Donna) helps Gabe put his other troubled relationships into perspective, while at the same time opening up new questions concerning trust, truth and friendship, as the relationship with Pete and Donna takes a Hitchcockian turn. From that point on you won't be able to put the book down.

Maupin presents his tale elegantly. Like his "Tales of the City" series, this novel is a true gem and a joy to read.

Side note: As with the character of Ned in "Maybe the Moon," Armistead Maupin inserts a character from "Tales of the City" into this story. Anna, Gabriel's personal assistant, is none other than little Anna - daughter of Dee Dee and D'orthea from the "Tales" serial.


Quote of the Day:
It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights...There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution.
- U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, smacking down the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.

Congressional Republicans responded with a news release titled "Liberal Judge Backs Dem Agenda To Weaken National Security." Calls for Judge Taylor's impeachment, I am sure, will be next.

18 August 2006

More on Mouse

"Michael Tolliver Lives" will not be book 7 in the "Tales" series, but rather a stand-alone story. As author Armistead Maupin told the Advocate recently:
It's not a continuation of "Tales of the City," but it is told from the standpoint of Michael Tolliver today. He's 55 years old. A surviving HIV-positive man.

I originally said that I would not have any of the other characters from "Tales" in the new book, but some of them have crept in. The book is a smaller, more personal novel than I've written in the past. I've tried to focus on the dailiness of life--which I think is very interesting.
Whatever the case, I am quite interested to find out what Michael Mouse is up to these days.

17 August 2006

"Michael Tolliver Lives"

I've often wondered where the 21st Century would find the beloved characters of Armistead Maupin's "Tales of the City" series. It seems we'll find out next summer when "Michael Tolliver Lives" is to be published.

Maupin tells AfterElton.com:
It involves the central character, Michael "Mouse"...today. He is now a 55-year-old gardener. Like a lot of gay men he thought he was going to be dead 20 years ago. And now he's lived to face the issues of AIDS.




Quote of the Day:
Is there anyone in the country who can say honestly, in their heart of hearts, that when that moment of fear hit them after the recent reports out of London, they said to themselves, "God, I'm glad we're in Iraq"?

–Josh Marshall, blogging yesterday about how unnecessary Iraq really is in the struggle against Islamic radicalism.

16 August 2006

Church House, Gin House...

...school house, out-house!

Your Song of the Day is the solid, superb, rockin' classic, "Nutbush City Limits" by Ike and Tina Turner.


Quote of the Day #1:
Bottom line: Mr Cheney, you're an incompetent wimp who didn't have the will to win in Iraq, or the integrity to uphold American values while fighting a deadly foe. You have thereby made us all less safe, and stained the reputation of America for decades. Your incompetence and brutality have made us both less feared and more despised in the world. Why is that not the rallying cry for the opposition this fall?
-Andrew Sullivan on the incompetencies of the White House.

Quote of the Day #2:
So far, no one has been charged in the alleged terror plot to blow up several airplanes across the Atlantic. No evidence has been produced supporting the contention that such a plot was indeed imminent. Forgive me if my skepticism just ratcheted up a little notch.

...I wish I didn't find these questions popping into my head. But the alternative is to trust the Bush administration. Been there. Done that. Learned my lesson.
-Sullivan, this time on the incompetent way George and Tony have handled the British terror plot.

These guys are beginning to make Carter look good. The next two and a half years make me nervous.

15 August 2006

Feel Safe Yet?

Here is an excellent ad from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. How effective it will be against the Fascist and Swift Boat wings of the Republican Party remains to be seen. But it's good to see the Democrats growing some cajones...finally.

Note: YouTube.com is apparently down. When they're back up the play button and embeded video screen will appear below.

13 August 2006


Feeling a wee bit better and find myself in a groovy R&B/disco mood this Sunday. Four classic tracks for you below:

"More Than A Woman" - Bee Gees
For Gil (and his melons).

"Canned Heat" - Jamiroquai
The space cowboy's 1999 classic.

"You Know How to Love Me" - Phyllis Hyman
Pure perfection. Tightly produced, expertly arranged, and superbly performed.

"Misdemeanor" - Foster Sylvers
Before joining his older siblings in 1975 ("Boogie Fever, baby!"), Foster - joined here by sisters Angela and Pat - scored a solo top 30 pop hit with this 1973 classic.


Down and out with a stomach bug the last couple of days. Sorry for the lack of posts.

10 August 2006

"The Crush of Love"

I'm in the mood for some solid, kick-ass guitar rock. Your song of the day is from uber-guitarist Joe Satriani.

Meanwhile, In Britain...

Just over a year after terrorist attacks on London's bus and underground transit systems, U.K. officials have uncovered a plot to blow up airplanes traveling from Britain to the United States.

Memo to George: This is how you do it. You catch them before they do anything. And should they slip through the cracks and attack, then you go after them. Them of course meaning the masterminds behind the attacks. Not some willy nilly, poorly planned mission to a country that had nothing to do with the attacks or the planning of such attacks.

And that concludes today's "How to be President" presentation.

09 August 2006

08 August 2006

Alan and Joe

I spent a lifetime in Democratic politics, and I spent that lifetime in Democratic politics playing by the rules. . . . And I said in this primary campaign that I would support the winner, that I would endorse the winner, and that I would vote for the winner. . . . I accept that result just as fully as I accepted 29 good results...in the past.
No, no. Not Joe Lieberman. Not tonight. But rather Senator Alan Dixon (Democrat-IL) upon losing re-nomination in 1992 to Carol Moseley-Braun. Gracious in defeat; a true Democrat.

But not Joe. Upon losing re-nomination this evening to Ned Lamont, Lieberman said:
I cannot and will not let that result stand.
He then announced his intention to run for re-election as an Independent.

Where the hell was this fighting spirit back in 2000, when his party's presidential ticket - of which he was the vice-presidential candidate - was fighting for it's life in Florida?

I remained quiet on the Connecticut Senate primary because I was on the fence. Lamont was smarter than most expected, and a very attractive alternative to progressives who were disappointed in Lieberman. BUT, the incumbent stuck to his guns on issues he felt strongly about. I admired that - even when I disagreed with him.

Tonight though, 52% of Connecticut's Democratic voters have decided that Lieberman's stance on important issues did not warrant re-nomination. His refusal to "let the result stand" reeks of Republicanism cira 2000 and 2003.

The Senator should respect the voters of his state and stand down.

Update, 5:27am, 9 August:
Quote of the Morning:
I suppose it may already be too late for this, but when the punditocracy starts chattering about how Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut is a sign that the Democratic Party is diving headlong over some kind of wild-eyed lefty peacenik cliff, I hope they keep in mind that Hank Johnson also won a landslide victory over Cynthia McKinney down in Georgia.

As a result, the Democratic voters in Connecticut, who believe that the war in Iraq is hurting the broader war against radical jihadism, now have a Senate candidate who agrees with them. Likewise, the Democratic voters of DeKalb County, who want a representative who spends more time on district business than on investigating weird conspiracy theories, now have a congressional candidate who promises to do just that.

Seems to me the party acquitted itself pretty well tonight.
-Kevin Drum, reminding us that Lieberman's defeat isn't necessarily a bad thing for the Democrats.


Today's song of the day, by Texas.

The Clinton Factor

A new poll shows Senator Hillary Clinton (Democrat-NY) easily winning re-election in November, but losing her home state to Sen. John McCain or former Mayor Rudy Guliani in the 2008 presidential contest.

It's still too early to take 08 presidential polling seriously (as early as a year before their wins former President Bush was trailing the Democratic ticket by 17 points and Bill Clinton was running third behind the Republican incumbent and Ross Perot), but if her home state is ready to deny her their electoral votes then there's an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.

Personally I think she'd be a superb president. But the Democrats can't afford to put another "un-electable" nominee on the ballot.

Whiskey in the Morning

I haven't yet jumped on the bandwagon that Iraq is becoming another Vietnam. (The U.S. death toll in Iraq, while way too high, is still pretty low when compared to Vietnam.)

But when I read things like this, I begin to wonder if we really do learn from our mistakes.

07 August 2006

Real Withdrawal

Quote of the Day:
The only responsible way out of Iraq involves all the things President Bush refused to consider on the way in. That means enlisting help from some of the same Arab neighbors and European allies whose opinions and suggestions were scornfully ignored before the invasion. Getting their assistance would be a humbling experience. Americans may feel the war is going badly, but they have not been prepared to acknowledge failure.
-The New York Times editorial page, yesterday, laying it out exactly as the Democrats should be but won't.

03 August 2006

Fire Rumsfeld Now

Quote of the Day:
Does that constitute a civil war? I guess you can decide for your yourself. And we can all go to the dictionary and decide what you want to call something.
-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, earlier today when he appeared before a Senate committee.

Well then Mr. Secretary, let's do just that.

According to Merriam-Webster's on-line dictionary, civil war is defined as "a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country."

Hmm. Sounds pretty cut and dry to me. What is it you don't get, Sir?

The Fascist wing of the Republican Party can huff and puff all it wants over Sen. Hillary Clinton's call for Rumsfeld's resignation. The fact of the matter is the President should have demanded it a long time ago. That he hasn't speaks volumes of this administration's incompetence. And history will mark Mr. Bush as the worst president ever.

02 August 2006

Magnitude 4.4

I was sitting at the desk when the computer screen, lamp, and a picture frame began to vibrate. Chloe started barking, then Brent jumped off the sofa, and all of the pictures and knick-knacks around the apartment began to shake.

5 seconds later it was over.

Our first San Francisco earthquake.

It's Only Rock 'n Roll

Song of the Day:

"Honky Tonk Woman" - The Rolling Stones (Definately in the top 10 on my list of favorite summertime jams. A true rock classic.)

Limbaugh: "Kill the Civilians"

Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show yesterday:
Until...innocent little civilians ...start paying a price for propping up these kinds of regimes, it's not going to end, folks.
Man! You know, when the discourse on the right gets so uncivilized that it calls for the killing of innocent children, women, and men - and when that discourse is left to sit and fester without reprisal - then a corner has been turned; a corner that will lead us down a long, dark road.

01 August 2006

The Case For Impeachment

From the TPM Muckracker: Members of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives have done some digging and found that President Bush has broken over two dozen federal laws (some multiple times). According to Rep. John Conyers (Democrat-MI):
The laws implicated by the Administration’s actions include federal laws against making false statements to congress [sic]; federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other government employees; Executive Orders concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence; federal regulations and ethical requirements governing conflicts of interest; the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; communications privacy laws; the National Security Act; and the Fourth Amendment.
Sounds like the strongest argument for removal of a president in our nation's history. (And the vice-president, as well.)

A variation of this U.S. Congress set the bar for impeachment in 1998, and George W. Bush has reached that bar (or exceeded it) at least 26 times. It is time for Speaker Hastert to take the appropriate (and necessary) action.

Impeachment now.

Cat People

Song of the Day: "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" by David Bowie, with one hell of a turn on guitar from Nile Rodgers.

Putting Out Fire with Gasoline

An excellent column from Eugene Robinson, originally published Friday in the Washington Post, where he lays the Israel vs. Hezbollah conflict right at the Secretary of State's door. The entire column is worth a read, but here are a few highlights:
The most significant development from Rice's swing through the region was that she took personal ownership of the bloody, escalating war between Israeli troops and Hezbollah guerrillas with a single breathtaking pronouncement:

"It is time for a new Middle East. It is time to say to those who do not want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail, they will not."

...It's the "new Middle East" part, which she repeated at every opportunity, that makes this Condi's war and that should send shivers down the spine of anyone who has more than a passing knowledge of the region.

What secretary of state hasn't dreamed of a new Middle East where peaceful, democratic nations live in harmony? They all have, I suspect, but any utopian fantasies they might have entertained inevitably ran smack into dystopian realities.

...in her first real test as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice will be judged on more than her impressive résumé, her obvious intelligence, her poise on the world stage and her fashion sense. Now she has her own war to sort out, and all she's done so far is scare people with her talk of somehow making the world's tinderbox into something "new."

She should remember the famous dictum from philosopher Rumsfeld, which I paraphrase: You go to war with the Middle East you have, not the Middle East you might want.

Rice Soul: The Gay Conservative Liberal thinks the Secretary of State has sold her soul to the devil...the result being we're all headed to hell in a handbasket.

Ain't that the truth!