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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

American Idol: April 11

Let’s make this short, shall we?

Queen - Freddie Mercury = Something < Queen

Bucky the Redneck makes "Fat Bottom Girls" into a country tune. Yeah, whatever.

Ace grabs "We Will Rock You" by the balls and castrates the thing. Poor, pathetic attempt to play at being a rock star by the least rock-worthy Idol contestant remaining.

But he just knew that he rocked and he just knew that he was cool.

Idiot.

Kellie the Brain Dead tackles “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Energetic and much harder rocking than anything Ace could pull off. I still didn’t like it, but it wasn’t so bad.

Chris sings “Innuendo.” Yeah, this song sucks and I don’t like pre-fab rock boy all that much, either.

Katherine the Bland sings “Who Wants to Live Forever"--a great song from the wonderful movie Highlander--and it isn’t what I would call good. She killed it, damnit. She killed it. And not in a good way.

The G-Phrase notes that she wasn’t dressed well, either.

Paula continues to suffer a brain deficit.

Elliott makes “Somebody to Love” into a strange show tune. That was sort of odd.

Taylor, with “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, has a chance to redeem himself. The song and the arrangement were good, but the performance was a little forced, but still fun.

Paris sings “The Show Must Go On” and does extremely well. Even the band recognized that “she’s damned good.” The amazing thing is that, for the most part, even outside of her own comfort zone she does exceedingly well. The G-Phrase loves her almost as much as I do.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Heh

Indeed.

H/T Modulator.

Chirac: Spineless to the End

Legendary. That is how we will remember Jacque Chirac’s ability to capitulate when the political waters get a little rough.

France needs political changes to address economic problems that will continue to relegate the nation to a second-rate economic power for the foreseeable future. Perpetual double-digit unemployment, lack of innovation, and the inability to compete on an international scale with the healthier economies are all hallmarks of the restrictive, self-destructive rules placed on French companies by their own government. It’s kind of a lesson in the damage that an unfreemarket can do to an economy.

A small change in labor laws might have made it easier for companies to create jobs for France’s chronically unemployed youth.

[T]he First Employment Contract, known by its French acronym as the CPE, in order to curb youth unemployment, which is at 22 percent. It would have given businesses, who say that the country’s tough labor protections are a disincentive to hiring, the right to fire workers younger than 26 for any reason.

But when Chirac is leading the charge, defeat can never be far behind.

Instead of staying strong on the issue and continuing to explain why the country’s political processes couldn’t be hijacked by rioting students, Chirac has sounded the quick retreat.

French President Jacques Chirac announced today that a contested labor law would be taken off the books, handing a victory to student groups and labor unions who have demonstrated in the millions in recent weeks to have the measure scrapped.

The announcement is a blow for Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the chief architect of the law, who until late last week still categorically ruled out dropping the legislation. It comes only eight days after Mr. Chirac had formally enacted the legislation, albeit with promises of a speedy revision and far-reaching modifications.

To be sure, that portion of the law wouldn’t have solved France’s woes. It was a step in the right direction, though.

Read the story.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Suicide Bomber by Any Other Name Would Still Blow Shit Up

Professor Ron Geaves, if he is noticed widely at all, is going to be (fairly) compared to CU’s Ward Churchill in that strangely-removed from reality portion of the left wing. He is courting the comparison by insisting that the London tube and bus attacks weren’t actually acts of terrorism; they were merely extreme examples of political demonstration.

Prof Ron Geaves has sparked controversy by claiming that the attacks on Tube trains and a bus that killed 52 innocent people in July were part of a long history of protests by British Muslims.

He also said that to refer to the attacks as terrorism risked “demonising” those involved.
[...]
“I have included, rather controversially, the events in London as primarily an extreme form of demonstration and assess what these events actually mean in terms of their significance in the Muslim community,” Prof Geaves said last week.

“Terrorism is a political word which always seems to be used to demonise people.”

Of course, sane people of all stripes are rolling their eyes already. If strapping explosives to yourself and blowing up a bus isn’t an act of terrorism, then most of us will need a new dictionary from which to work. It’s ludicrous to even suggest that the suicide bombings were anything other than an act of terrorism.

But, if we allow his argument to stand and call the terrorist act by another name, why is it that we wouldn’t want to demonize the action? Isn’t a bombing of a bus or a tube station an act worth demonizing? Isn’t it worth a little disgust? Political demonstrations and civil disobedience are, or can be, admirable actions by principled people. Blowing up buses filled with children, old folks, mothers, and business people doesn’t precisely qualify as admirable or principled.

A civilized society should demonize bombings disguised as political protest in the hopes that its citizens realize that the best way to work for change is rarely by blowing up fellow citizens. It doesn’t amaze me that someone in academia would reach to find excuses for the actions of terrorists, but it is shocking to me every time they refuse to condemn those acts in the strongest possible terms.

One of the most colorful responses came from Labour MP Andrew Dismore:

“What happened on July 7, 2005, fits with every international definition of terrorism. If any of the men behind the attacks had survived the incident they would have quite rightly been tried under the anti-terror laws. I don’t think it’s helpful that we have a mealy-mouthed academic trying to justify deaths of innocent people. It is ludicrous.”

It is ludicrous to spend so much time trying to excuse the inexcusable.

Read the story.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Review: Inside Man

I’m not a big fan of Spike Lee as a director. He’s quite an interesting character and his take on politics and race are always compelling (or, at least, controversial); but as a director he’s always used camera tricks and awkward dialog in movies that seem like heavy-handed sermons. Which explains why I was so surprised by Inside Man.

Inside Man is a mostly stock crime flick in which Clive Owen plays the criminal mastermind and Denzel Washington plays the edgy hostage negotiator charged with trying to defuse a tense bank robbery. It’s an almost typical movie, really, without the preaching and with a minimum of the camera tricks that can ruin a film.

I loved it.

Overall it’s well-paced, smart, funny, and involving. The characters are, if not complex, at least reasonably well-drawn. The shots of architectural details are a nice touch that add a sense of place and visual interest, although not in a way that overtly detracts from the rest of the story. Only once—with a strange dolly shot of Washington going down the street like a mannequin—does Lee’s visual styling become an irritant.

By getting himself out of the way, Lee has directed a damned good crime flick. Not great, mind, but damned good.

The touches that he does add—the “We Will Never Forget” poster art that acts as a backdrop to a scene, the firefighter statuette next to an American flag in another scene—just add to that sense of place that Lee builds so well. For a guy like me, it also raises the question of just how much 9/11 still play in the minds of New Yorkers? But more on that in another post.

Both Owen and Washington are wonderful in this, although the bad guy really gets the best scenes and lines. In fact, one of the funniest scenes belongs to Owen and a young boy in the bank’s vault. The boy is playing a game on his PSP when Owen comes in to give him a slice of pizza. Owen takes the PSP and starts playing the game while the two are sitting on bricks of cash.

Now, the interesting part is that the game, which flashes on screen a few times, is far more violent and wanton than any of the violence in the movie. The little boy explains that the point of the game is to get paid, gestures around to the stacks of cash in the vault as if that explains everything. The audience laughs because the game—looking like a first-person clone of Grand Theft Auto—is so obviously morally bankrupt that even the bank robber sees how wrong the game is. How could this kid’s father let him play and let the kid think that the only moral value in life is in getting paid?

It doesn’t hurt that Denzel Washington is still incredibly charismatic, and, if the g-phrase is to be believed, Clive Owen is downright sexy. (As an aside: how is that he isn’t the next James Bond?) The presence that both men bring to the screen helps paper over any faults or difficulties.

Indeed, the entire moral of the movie is imperfectly summed up in that scene (and in the story’s resolution).

The pace does drag a touch during some of the subplot’s moments, and suspension of disbelief is hard to maintain during some of Jody Foster’s scenes as a sort of problem-solving businesswoman/criminal. While these plot developments are necessary to bring the story full-circle, they actually get in the way of the story’s telling.

So, in the end, it’s a damned good movie, but not quite great. Definitely one of Lee’s best, though, and hopefully an example of the kinds of things he’ll make again in the future.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Just a Coincidence

Check out Shawn Macomber’s latest for American Spectator. He’s talking about Mitt Romney’s new health care plan and has a few good quotes and links in the text. It’s a good read.

If you look close enough, you might find a surprise (and I’m not talking about the reference to Lost Boys, one of the best freakin’ vampire movies of all time)…

One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong (The Health Care Edition)

I’ve been thinking about health care recently because with the job change came the health care change came all the options and choices and paperwork that accompanies moving from one bureaucratic system into another. That started me thinking about the percentage of our economy that goes to fund health care expenditures (a percentage that is already higher than most other developed nations and promises to go even higher as the boomers retire and our government expands the social programs to fund old folks’ drug habits) and why our system truly is screwed up.

Consumers demand:

  1. Access to unlimited drug benefits.
  2. Easy access to (and availability of) the latest and most expensive technology.
  3. Portability.
  4. Choice.
  5. Expanding coverage.
  6. All of the above at little or no cost to themselves.

It is understandable that we would demand great health care with a trusted physician of our choosing and coverage for all the ailments at which you can shake a pointed stick. That all makes sense.

Demanding it all for a $5 co pay with no limits on services, though, is ridiculous. We consumers are demanding an awful lot without wanting to shoulder much of the burden for the attendant costs.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Libercontrarian…

...Is no longer a Libertarian.

Which, if I weren’t so damned tired, might lead me to write a post about how I’ve come to believe that none of the political parties are principled, but that their members most certainly can be. In the same way that a self-proclaimed Christian might also be a liar, a cheat, and an all around jerk, a person’s membership in the Republican (or Democrat or Green or Libertarian) party carries no guaranty of upstanding personal values.

Where does that leave me as a voter? Trying to make the best, most informed, and most ethically consistent choices that I can. It means voting for people that I think will take our national security, economic dangers, and personal freedoms seriously. It means that in recognizing that our elected leaders (and party leaders) don’t always act in a principled or intelligent fashion, I might have to do my part to pick up the slack.

Just kidding. Sort of.

I understand my friend’s disillusionment--and, in fact, I sympathize with it. It’s sad that it commonly leads to people who intentionally divorce themselves from our political processes (although I doubt that could ever happen with this gentleman).

Ridiculously Cool

As an Apple fan who would like to run a dual boot system on the new Intel based Macintosh boxes, Christmas came a little early.

More and more people are buying and loving Macs. To make this choice simply irresistible, Apple will include technology in the next major release of Mac OS X, Leopard, that lets you install and run the Windows XP operating system on your Mac. Called Boot Camp (for now), you can download a public beta today.

A dual boot system isn’t quite as good as the upcoming virtualization technology that will let users run a variety of operating systems concurrently (not in emulation, but in their own virtual spaces on the same machine). Still, having a dual boot system would give me the opportunity to make one machine into a much more useful tool for development.

I’m all giddy.

Now I just need to buy a new computer…

Read the story.

Update: Fireant Gazette noticed the cool new tool, too. And the Modulator might be coming back into the fold. I can’t help but think that this was a hell of a smart move on Apple’s part.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It’s a Good Cause

Andy has lost a friend, and he’s asking for donations in a very good cause.

My sympathies go out to my friend.

American Idol: April 4

Country night? So few singers remaining, so much cruelty in my heart. And, sadly, I missed the first couple performance--especially disappointed that I missed Mandisa.

Here comes Elliott singing “If Tomorrow Never Comes”. My best man, Missy, loved this song, so I feel obligated to give this song a thumbs up. Elliott sang it well, it was a lovely arrangement even if a bit bland. Nice but not great.

The real question is what the hell was Paula blathering on about? Has she been hitting the pill bottles again?

Paris--my obvious favorite in the contest--is obviously out of her element tonight. She starts wobbly and a little uncomfortable. Singing “How Do I Live Without You”, one of the sappiest choices she could possibly make, she didn’t have a lot of opportunity to show off what makes her special. Not really that good--although, surprisingly, Simon enjoyed the performance.

She’s lucky that she has built up a store of good will that could carry her through this week.

I hate Ace. His overly-studied mannerisms, his heartful gazes, his irritating habit of singing in public.

Kenny Rogers thinks that people like Ace because he sings with his heart; Kenny Rogers is wrong. The song was as boring a piece of song as you could imagine, not helped by the gratuitous falsetto at the end. Nasty little bit of singing there.

And then the g-phrase came over after a bad day at work and American Idol no longer mattered.

Which, from what I heard, was really for the best.

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