Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Let's Eat Pie Together

When I hear stories about the depression, and I heard many from my old grandma, Nanny, and her sisters, it was rough. After school, their snack would be a little bread, dampened somehow, with a little sugar on top.

But people helped each other. There was a kindness.

With less room for competition (the game pieces were taken away), there is more room for communalism. And so there is.

Frankly, let the swamp be drained. Let Wall Street quake and break. We’ll survive.

I have some ideas:

1)Whatever banks and investment firms are left standing right now, let them take over the other ones. The responsible institutions should be rewarded for staying afloat.

2)Since everyone hates the idea of taxpayers doing this huge bail out of 700 billion big ones, why not get the money from another source? Why not nationalize the oil companies and use their assets to buy these failing institutions?

3)Once the oil companies are destroyed by being nationalized, why not make all future energy exploration (ie: renewables) a utility completely controlled by the government?

What the hell did this country think? That everything was really worth what we thought it was worth? When houses quadruple in value in eight years, doesn’t that sort of smell like speculation? And whenever there has been huge speculation, what has always happened, always?

Capitalism could work if it were highly regulated. But friends, in addition, we need some form of socialism, or at least an amalgam of government and business working very closely together, for education, health, energy and let’s just throw the internet in there, too. At least then, you wouldn’t have to kill yourself, like some slave, in order to be smart, healthy, energetic and able to check your email.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tyranny of the Majority

In free countries, where everyone is more or less called upon to give his opinion on affairs of state, in democratic republics, where public life is incessantly mingled with domestic affairs, where the sovereign authority is accessible on every side, and where its attention can always be attracted by vociferation, more persons are to be met with who speculate upon its weaknesses and live upon ministering to its passions than in absolute monarchies. Not because men are naturally worse in these states than elsewhere, but the temptation is stronger and at the same time of easier access. The result is a more extensive debasement of character. –Alexis De Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1831-32

Full chapter, Unlimited Power of the Majority in the United States and its Consequences—Alexis De Tocqueville

Friday, September 26, 2008

Call Me Franky

Let’s be frank. This election season is stressful, not necessarily enjoyable and full of questionable regressive characters.

And I feel bad for all of them. I don’t know what hit me today—maybe it’s all the meat loaf I’ve been eating or the imminent death of my dog, or something even worse, like the economy collapsing, but I am feeling downright compassionate.

I believe Obama, McCain, Biden and Palin are suffering.

Obama seems to be shutting down. He is not all that decisive. He’s smart. But he seems a bit like a depressed smoker, which I think he might be. He’s mildly suffering.

McCain is just a crazy old coot. He reminds me of the skirt chasing guy in the old age home, flying around the halls in his wheelchair, doing erratic things like throwing pure├ęd orange food at people, for some reason in his failing mind that seems perfectly right to him. He’s a terrier on his last legs. He’s suffering publicly.

S. Palin. I never thought I’d say this, but I feel awful for her. When perfectly neutral Katie Couric asked her again about foreign policy, Sarah Palin just stumbled and stuttered, formed half sentences of gibberish, talked about Russian and Canada in the most silly way, and looked like her feelings were just plain hurt. Everyone is focusing on the facts of her factlessness. I saw a person who was unwisely chosen from a sea of bad candidates and is mercilessly drowning in that choice. She is in pain. She is suffering greatly.

Biden needs a haircut. He is suffering the least.

These are people, people. It does not look like any of them are doing so well. They have to vie for leadership of a country that is going down some sort of drain. Who would want that job?

The person who is not suffering at all? George Bush. Why? Because he’s drinking heavily.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fight With the Boxer


Look, the swamp is being drained. The final act of the Bush Hell Storm is playing before our eyes.

But it all began with Reagan, during the deregulation years. “Trust the big corporate guys. They got your back.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. We all knew how this would end.

It never made sense. Endless growth? How do you do that?

If you want endless growth, then you better grow something. Besides ugly McMansions.

It is ending terribly.

But that does not mean we cannot still be EXTREMELY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE FUTURE! Weeeee!

Obama’s numbers are very far up. McCain and Palin are going to explode.


She wants you to take a minute to tell her what you want to see for the future of transportation in this country. I asked her for subways in Los Angeles, overhead pod cars that run on electricity, and underground conveyer belts for the transport of all freight.

Fight with the Boxer! She wants to hear from you!

And when you are finished telling Barbara, cut and paste your suggestions here, in the comments section!

Travel Clean, friends.

Click Here To Tell Barbara Boxer Your Transportation Ideas

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

An Email Plea to Change the World

I received this today from my good friend, Marian. No one knows better than her that it is TIME.

Hi My name is Marian Fontana and I lost my husband Dave Fontana, a firefighter on September 11th, 2001. On that day, (which coincidentally was my 8th wedding anniversary) I not only watched my husband die on television, but I watched the world, country and city change forever. After my husband died, I worked with political leaders including Hillary Clinton to slow down the clean-up at Ground Zero and advocate for the firefighters and the victims families. What helped me through that difficult time, was the profound shift that took place in our country and our world. For the first time in history, "everyone was an American," united in our humanity, collective grief and effort to fight terrorism in our world. For me personally, it made something positive come from the ashes of Dave's death and I was buoyed by seeing the very best of who we are. Why am I telling you this? Because, it has deeply saddened me that the current administration squandered that once in a lifetime opportunity to unite and fight terrorism globally. Because this administration has used 9-11 as an excuse to go into a country that had nothing to do with that day and start an infinite war that has lost more lives than 9-11. Because more women are becoming widows every day. Because I am tired of seeing our country go from united, to divided in a unprecedented display of partisan politics. More than anything, because now, it is happening again. McCain/Palin are using 9/11 to prey on people's deep rooted fear and once again, it is working. On this 7th anniversary, my sadness and grief were deeper than ever. I not only grieved for Dave, my best friend for seventeen years, or for my son who will grow up fatherless, but I grieved for this country and how far we have fallen from that profound moment of unity. I grieved because for the first time in my life, I am losing hope. I am writing this campaign because I will do whatever it takes to help Obama win. We need change because to me, it feels like humanity itself is at stake. Thank you Marian Fontana

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hooking Up in the Twin Cities (1)

We flew to Minnesota to see some really great friends get married. Marriage is a lovely thing and demands you pay attention. It's emotional, delicious, and if done right, light hearted and breezy. These are the groom's great shoes.

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Hooking Up in the Twin Cities (2)

But really, it was the bride's shoes that made it worth the trip.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

I'm Really Different (Now)!

I’m Really Different (Now)!
A Musical Performance Piece, with comedy by Karen Kilgariff and Music by Don Cummings. And a guest.

Tuesday, September 23, 9PM.

The Little Room at the New Largo

366 N. La Cienega Blvd. Los Angeles 90048

No Reservations. Sixty Seats. Air Conditioned. New Material. Come on.
Like ten bucks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

La Gloire

The French call it La Gloire. The Chinese call it Glory, but in Chinese.

Some Americans call it their Divine Right, a mission from God that feels so correct.

Wherever you live, in many cultures, there is a feeling that your culture should be number one. Like the Denver Broncos or something.

Recent articles about tent cities rising up around major American cities is creating neo-Hoovervilles, or what I like to call, Bushtowns. This is where our rampant spending and glory hunt has brought us.

The overreaction of Neocons to the disaster of 9/11, 2001, which they touted as What-Must-Be-Done-to-Make-Us-Safe, was really nothing more than a veiled excuse to maximize glory. It is the fight of the very right to expand, overtake, plunder and enslave. In this case, they would have been mostly happy to acquire the oil, which they did not. If their motives were not only cynical rapaciousness, that they did desire democracy in Iraq, well, certainly, there are better means to achieve this goal than the ham fisted use of marching into a sovereign nation uninvited, killing innocent people and torturing prisoners without due process all to the tune of Because-we-must for our safety, revenge and necessart ideological expansion.

It was all glory. The glory of oil. The glory of making others live under a system that is the RIGHT system. The glory of smacking people into submission and lording it over them for their own good. The glory of the largest embassy ever built in a capital city. The glory of saying, “We have the might to do this. We are doing this. You cannot stop us.” Feels so good to do whatever the hell you want.

Glory builds triumphant arches, but these structures are only visible to the folks back home in the town square. It might make them feel good, but a monolith is just a big load of stone and eventually, you have to keep cleaning it because of all the soot.

Men love the taste of glory. (Sarah Palin prefers the term Victory.) It is primal monkey motivation, the feeling that one monkey can make the other monkeys in the crowd do all the banana work while the most glorious king monkey smugly decides which banana in the huge pile is to his liking. It is not wrong to aspire to glory. In fact, it is impossible to ignore something which is so biologically based and can feel so good when it is engaged into action. But there are other ways to achieve this. You can’t just do something just because it feels good.

Besides, old glories fade. Enough. Take care of the folks at home. The rest of the world is the rest of the world. And truly, they don’t want you there. We sure don’t want them here telling us what to do. You want glory, glory seekers, find it. But not at the expense of others. And I will not be so presumptuous as to suggest the more positive ways to fulfill your glory hole. That would be vainglorious of me.

Why I'm Voting for Obama

Let’s start with the glaringly obvious:

He’s smart.

He’s young.

He’s thin.

Now, let’s move to some deeper human traits:

He likes to build consensus.

He knows his way around the internet.

He can raise mountains of money, which is a reflection of his ability to rouse the rabble.

He cares about the common good.

Now, let’s focus on a few issues:

He wants to make health care more available and affordable to more people.

He believes in oversight, especially financial oversight.

He is not afraid to use force when necessary.

He wants corporations to pay more taxes.

He is a green economist.

He knows how to choose a solid running mate. Imagine his cabinet.

What more do we need? Let’s just forget about focusing on all that McPain. Whatever you focus on, you get more of. Let’s focus on B. O. (This is the first time I’ve stumbled upon his initials.)

What’s gonna make the WHITE HOUSE smell ever so sweet? :

B.O. and J.B.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Healthy People if Nothing Else

As the money wears out…JUST ONE THING:

Give people Health care.

Sure, you can skim 95% of the money out of the market.
You can burn 95% of the fossil fuels.
You can use 95% of the water.

But, couldn’t you just make sure that all the people who are making it possible for YOU to scam the cash get health care?

Should people die from lack of care while YOU fill your coffers?

Okay, greed is a motivator. We know it. I don’t know why I am happy with not owning a castle or why someone living in a cardboard box isn’t motivated to live in a corrugated metal hut, but there are different levels of physical lust and it seems we are all living together.

However, the desire for a healthy body, 100% healthy, is universally shared. So why not spread enough around so that is possible?

But wait, is the desire to be completely healthy universal? Do people choose to be unhealthy? In fact, do people choose to be poor and unhealthy, together, because they are on a big ol’ victim trip?...I don’t believe it. I am no Calvinist.

So, we must take care of the humans. If you ran a zoo, you wouldn’t let the monkeys get sick. You’d give them antibiotics WHENEVER they needed them. At least do the same for your fellow man.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Deepak's View

From Deepak Chopra's MySpace blog, is his entry about Ms. Palin, hockey mom, unprepared to lead, but well prepared to make us take notice of WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-GOING-ON?

Though you may or may not be a Chopra fan, I always find him thoughtful in a holistic way. Read on.

And then, I swear, that lipsticked pit bull needs to be off our radar.

We need to focus on what Obama is going to do for our future.

Luckily, the full stock market correction is here. That's a bit of truth the Republican do-nothings cannot run away from.

D.C.'s view on the shadow:

"Obama and the Palin Effect"

Sometimes politics has the uncanny effect of mirroring the national psyche even when nobody intended to do that. This is perfectly illustrated by the rousing effect that Gov. Sarah Palin had on the Republican convention in Minneapolis this week. On the surface, she outdoes former Vice President Dan Quayle as an unlikely choice, given her negligent parochial expertise in the complex affairs of governing. Her state of Alaska has less than 700,000 residents, which reduces the job of governor to the scale of running one-tenth of New York City. By comparison, Rudy Giuliani is a towering international figure. Palin's pluck has been admired, and her forthrightness, but her real appeal goes deeper. She is the reverse of Barack Obama, in essence his shadow, deriding his idealism and exhorting people to obey their worst impulses.

In psychological terms the shadow is that part of the psyche that hides out sight, countering our aspirations, virtue, and vision with qualities we are ashamed to face: anger, fear, revenge, violence, selfishness, and suspicion of "the other." For millions of Americans, Obama triggers those feelings, but they don't want to express them. He is calling for us to reach for our higher selves, and frankly, that stirs up hidden reactions of an unsavory kind. (Just to be perfectly clear, I am not making a verbal play out of the fact that Sen. Obama is black. The shadow is a metaphor widely in use before his arrival on the scene.)

I recognize that psychological analysis of politics is usually not welcome by the public, but I believe such a perspective can be helpful here to understand Palin's message. In her acceptance speech Gov. Palin sent a rousing call to those who want to celebrate their resistance to change and a higher vision.

Look at what she stands for:

1. Small town values -- a denial of America's global role, a return to
petty, small-minded parochialism.

2. Ignorance of world affairs -- a repudiation of the need to repair
America's image abroad.

3. Family values -- a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don't need to be heeded.

4. Rigid stands on guns and abortion -- a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.

5. Patriotism -- the usual fallback in a failed war.

6. "Reform" -- an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out
corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn't fit your ideology.

Palin reinforces the overall message of the reactionary right, which has been in play since 1980, that social justice is liberal-radical, that minorities and immigrants, being different from "us" pure American types, can be ignored, that progressivism takes too much effort and globalism is a foreign threat. The radical right marches under the banners of "I'm all right, Jack," and "Why change? Everything's OK as it is."

The irony, of course, is that Gov. Palin is a woman and a reactionary at the same time. She can add mom to apple pie on her resume, while blithely reversing forty years of feminist progress. The irony is superficial; there are millions of women who stand on the side of Conservatism, however obviously they are voting against their own good. The Republicans have won multiple national elections by raising shadow issues based on fear, rejection, hostility to change, and narrow-mindedness. Obama's call for higher ideals in politics can't be seen in a vacuum.

The shadow is real; it was bound to respond. Not just conservatives possess a shadow -- we all do. So what comes next is a contest between the two forces of progress and inertia. Will the shadow win again, or has its furtive appeal become exhausted? No one can predict. The best thing about Gov. Palin is that she brought this conflict to light, which makes the upcoming debate honest. It would be a shame to elect another Reagan, whose smiling persona was a stalking horse for the reactionary forces that have wrought us to the demoralized state we are in. We deserve to see what we are getting, without disguise.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Water Wars

Do click on the picture below to see it in its full horror. Ripped from my New Yorker this morning.

First, the corporations go in. Then, we feel ownership of whatever commodity they are controlling. Then, when things get dicey, we send in the military. Oh yeah--Eisenhower warned us of the industrial-military complex.

Now it's water.

We've all seen Chinatown. Controlling water is nothing new. But as this turns global, watch us go to war with Denmark for Greenland.

Friends, please stop having babies.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Feed the Children: Two More

What happens when two past-their-prime dancers and a mute dressed like Nijinsky duke it out for a solo spot on the teacup stage at the North Hollywood fundraiser, FEED THE CHILDREN?

It involves a seal.

By Don Cummings
Directed by David Narloch
W/ Michael Vincent Carrera, Emma Hawley, J.C. Henning & David Narloch

A one act play, part of The Summer Sizzle One Act Play Festival.
Series A (And you get to vote)


Saturday 9/13 & Friday 9/19 @ 8PM

The Chandler Studio Theatre
12443 Chandler Boulevard
North Hollywood CA 91607

Tickets: The Production Company
or 1-800-838-3006

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Anniversary

Seven years later and it is still the most defining event of our century.

To those who lost their family and friends on this day, I am so sorry.

Also to those who lost their family and friends on this day, seven years ago, I am appalled that our government used it as an excuse to invade Iraq. It is disgusting.

And to those who lost their family and friends on this day, to hear a vice president nominee claim that it was God’s will that we invade Iraq, I am mortified. One should never let the prom queen run for class president. She’s usually an idiot.

An email circulated today which basically stated, “Don’t click on Palin links. It just tells the news websites that you want more Palin links.” Good advice. Ignore her and she will go away.

People get bored quickly. They will be Palined out by this weekend. Then we can get back to the task at hand: Choosing Obama over McCain.

Seven years ago, so many of us lost our innocence and an entire government, save a few of the brave and outspoken, lost its integrity. I want a return of both.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All This Talk

So, Americans are lining up behind McCain and Hockey Momma Palin. Big deal.

There is a dialogue going on between them. It goes something like this:

“I’ll say nothing if you say nothing and then we’ll pretend that everything is okay.”

It’s the denial vote.

When I went to high school, the class president was an awesome, bookish nerd. He was tall, skinny, a track runner and very into how things had to be run. He loved his work. He was reelected every year in a landslide.

He was the right guy for the job.

Of course, when people are afraid, they leave their senses. I believe Americans have lost their minds. And when people lose their minds, they don’t necessarily want the right guy for the job, they want a protector. And Hanoi McCain and Moosedressing Barbie seem to be more the protector types.

I could imagine at the Debates, no matter what is asked of McCain, all he has to answer is, “Hanoi,” and he’ll get a pass. Palin: She’ll just smile and respond, “Hockey Mom,” to every inquiry. And the rumble of millions of heads nodding in agreement will be felt across the land.

Friends, Obama has to want this like Bill Clinton wanted it, like Hillary still wants it. He has a huge job to do. He has to convince people that an old war vet and a moose killer are not going to make them feel safer, that really, they are going to merely fiddle while Wall Street burns.

I don’t mind McCain so much, as a person. Sarah Palin, however, is simply foolish. Together, they add up to almost nothing. When McCain and Obama debate on national television, it will be clear that one man is vital and the other man needs to retire. But if people are terrified, they may not be able to see this reality.

I wish Obama and the Democratic Party would take the huge risk of really saying,
”This is the new world we are going to live in. It will be peaceful, clean and prosperous. And this is exactly how we are going to get there.”

But I believe he is already saying that. I just hope people get out of their turgid state so their ears start functioning. And that they believe him.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Traitor, starring and produced by the intelligent and talented Don Cheadle and also starring the beautiful Guy Pearce, one does get pulled into this caper of world wide FBI searching into a terrorist plot. It’s engaging stuff. The acting is solid. The shooting is good. The story, an idea by Steve Martin, is interesting, though fundamentally structured like stories you’ve seen before.

And Don Cheadle gets a little earnest at the end. Too bad.

But this is the thing about Traitor. I was sitting there watching the movie and it just seemed so normal, now, to have a movie about Jihad. It’s just, I guess I always thought it would be a blip, but it is a world idea that seems to be sticking. And it is sticking in movies. And there I am paying to watch it. The terrorists won’t go away. Our need for an enemy won’t go away. Everyone loves a good fight. And in our culture, everyone loves a good fight where we are definitely much mightier. It adds to our smugness.

Clearly, we are all keeping this alive. Why is it still alive?

We need something else.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I Am Not the Only One on Earth

The season is here. Allergy season in Los Angeles. It’s hot. It’s dry. The leaves are dying on the trees and opportunisitic mold is starting to eat everything up.

Certainly, this is not ideal. But who am I to say that other things shouldn’t live so I can have a more enjoyable earth experience?

My allergy theory: The reason why there are so many allergic people is because nature chose for us. Think about it. All sorts of horrible things must have flown on the backs of specks. Plague on rat dander. Who knows what on pollen, mold and dust mites! So, if your immune system attacked anything that was sort of speck-like, it did its best to remove all kinds of diseases.

At least, that’s what the positive side of me thinks.

In any event, allergies are just allergies, an inconvenient variant. Not as bad as diabetes. But certainly not as innocuous as iris color.

Other things live on earth and allergic people just plain ol’ want to fight them!

I say, let ‘em live! Here’s the clip:


Friday, September 05, 2008

September 5, 1974

I ate lunch today with Chris, Steven, Jimmy, etc. I’m really having fun in the Jr. High. But It’s gonna be tough. Well Nanny came over tonight. So I guess I’ll be a going to bed.

That “a-going to bed” quality of my journal entries is some sort of mock hokum thing. I don’t remember being like that at all. But you know how it is when you’re a kid, trying on hats, making different noises, being a character was more fun than being yourself.

The three guys I ate lunch with were all a year older than me, from my neighborhood. I had spent the summer with them and a whole bunch of other people playing a lot of bumper pool, smoking, and drinking Boone’s Farm Apple Hill and Cherry Orchard Wine. I don’t remember what I ate at that lunch, but I do remember the feeling of belonging. We were all trying to be so cool, well I was. They were already very cool. It was 1974 in the suburbs of New York, which is like 1968 in San Francisco. I remember we ate in the eighth grade lunch room. You didn’t have to be in eighth grade to eat there, but most of the seventh graders didn’t so I felt like I was given an upward social bump. It was mayhem, that lunch room, packed. A cool looking old room with very high ceilings and highly polished old wooden floors. The guys, Chris, Steven and Jimmy, ate as quickly as possible because the deal was, you only had about thirty minutes for lunch. So, you’d woof down some food and then go out to “the shed” which was an aluminum utility shed in this rocky copse of trees behind the school. All around it was wide open playing fields. The shed area was not too big, but the trees gave cover so we could all smoke. Once the vice principal started making regular visits to the shed, we eventually gave it up and started hiding in the row of pine trees along the fence on the north side of the soccer field. Once that was discovered, we’d hop the fence, which was the only thing separating the school grounds from the grassy hill that rolled down to the New York State Thruway, and smoke there. There was so much smoking going on in Junior high of 1974.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


When I sat tonight and watched Sarah Pangolin, seeker of Cheney’s throne, mother of many, with her pinched righteousness in full attack, I could only think of Reese Witherspoon in the brilliant movie Election.


Call me pro-sexist, but I LOVE perky, aggressive women.

You know, Sarah Pangolin is kind of fun. She’s sort of game. She even winks at a crowd.

And though one might cringe thinking, “Oh my goodness, this moose killer is just one melanoma away from becoming our next president,” it seems clear, at least to me, that she is pretty much a lightweight. Not a complete joke. But a joke of some kind.

Alaska? Not really reflective of how the rest of this country works. Though large in land mass and resources, it’s really a small state with very few new ideas. Pangolin is, proudly, a small town mom, a pit bull wearing lipstick, an ambitious Christianist, a don’t-you-tax-me, but give-my-state-tons-of-federal-tax-money schizophrenic. Good for her for grabbing the spotlight! The mentally ill need our attention. But certainly not through any sort of national health care, I imagine.

Of course, I have a big gay beef with the Pangolin. She wanted to put legislation into Alaska law that denies health care coverage for gay partners. So, pretty much, I can only experience her as a great northern Nazi.

With regard to something less baleful, I don’t take much issue with her pregnant daughter. It's not Bristol's fault. Obviously, it’s pretty easy to get pregnant when you’re reading abstinence literature while your hockey boyfriend fills you full of cum. Not much we can do but love and accept the newborn.

And who doesn’t love the Pangolin’s little Down Syndrome baby? What a cutey! A chromosomally flawed but lovable creature. I’d like to say some of my best friends have Down Syndrome, but I have always found their company a bit tedious, always pointing to the overhead lighting as if they have just discovered it for the first time and asking for pretzels.

I’ll admit that life does begin at conception, but if something is growing inside your body and you don’t want it, by all means, kill it. Ideal? No. But people kill their unwanted blastulas, always have. No sense in making something illegal that is as common as swatting flies. I’ve blogged it before: If you have no problem executing fully grown human beings then you should have no problem murdering the unborn. You can’t be Pro-Death and Pro-Life at the same time. It just doesn’t make sense.

In my heart (and we all know how useless that sentiment is: Think of Bush’s heartfelt knowledge of Putin) I think McCain will lose. Maybe not in a landslide, but nevertheless soldiering back to Arizona, non-victorious. I believe his historically strong belief in self-defeat will do him in. The Pangolin will help him get there.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Get on the Train: Transsiberian

See Transsiberian.

It is the rare movie, especially a suspenseful one, that deals with character so well as does Transsiberian. It takes a long time for the story to pull out of the station. You wonder when it’s going to really cross that tundra, and when it does pick up, fast, about midway, you are so glad you had the slow ride to afford you the chance to get to know everyone.

This is really Emily Mortimer’s movie. Everyone else is supporting, but in very big ways.

There is no way to delve into the plot without destroying all surprises, so I will not. But it does start with some sort of drug investigation. At movies’ end, not everyone remains alive.

So let’s talk tone, style, beauty, overall effect.

It’s a sad movie. It feels really Russian. Snow is everywhere. The cinematography is stark and lovely. The story is surprising and pretty horrible all the way around.

Woody Harrelson is not completely believable as a Christy yokel. But he’s appealing, nevertheless. Eduardo Noriega overdoes it as the “Spaniard”. He’s already Spanish. Why overdo it? Kate Mara is spot on as the troubled youth.

Ben Kingsley is, of course, God.

Emily Mortimer is spectacular in all her brightness and shadows. Fine, sharp performance. Every moment. Something about actors who can really stay in reality, without slipping into vanity or showiness, this is what we want, right?

The train is also a star. A big star. And if you are any kind of old world romantic or engine freak, as I am, you must choo-choo down the track and get to the entertainment station.

One of the only great movies this summer. Go, if you can still find it.

I give it 3.8 out of 4 pangolins.

See Transiberian

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hopefully a Sign of Things to Come

There are many ways to sing the National Anthem. Not that I like war songs, but let's think of it as a song of strength and determination. Watch and listen to the National Anthem at the Republican National Convention sung by Miss Minnesota, giving it her best shot.

Then, watch Jennifer Hudson at the Democratic National Convention. Just when the song is about to go high, she modulates into an even higher key. It’s what Democrats are doing now. We see the challenge and we are setting the bar even higher and we are, clearly, reaching it.

Nothing against Miss Minnesota. Hear for yourself.