Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Turning a new page" takes an unintended meaning...

I'm not an American citizen, so the outcome of the US midterms only affects me in as much that the Bush administration will either be allowed to continue status quo, or will at least be under a little more scrutiny if the Democrats get enough seats to get power of subponea.

That my my. What. A. Mess. A good old-fashioned, nobody looks good, hard to back away while attempting to look self righteous, dyed in the wool scandal.

See here.

And the original nitty gritty here.

Let's not forget Slate's take on it (by page three, the level of conversation stops being something that can be passed off as "ill-advised", "badly worded" or "easily misinterpreted" and just gets low-grade dirty).

And of course, the "Did I know him? Vaguely. Quiet guy. Kept to himself..." post-mortem begins here.

The primaries leap from dull and depressing to sordid and depressing. The Republicans will discuss Foley (and the actions/lack thereof around him) as little as possible while acting appalled that the Democrats keep bringing it up for - heavens! - the sake of politics (Powerline has that kind of a take on it, while conveniently stressing a few related Democratic scandals over the last few years).

The Democrats will continue to mention that a) they had nothing to do with this, b) Foley was allegedly the kind of person who'd spent years working for causes to prevent this kind of thing (it didn't take long for the term 'predator' to show up), and c) pointing out the conduct of Foley's friends (by now rather former friends), asking if Mr. or Ms. Q. Public wants to retain these losers in office (while trying not to look gleeful about it).

To be fair, the aformentioned losers were only aware of the letters (presumably the same weird but not quite actionable ones that have been released) and not the more explicit IMs. The public will have to figure out whether those emails were some kind of warning sign, if they were worth further investigation (or at least a chat and a handshake) and whether they were discounted, hushed up, or ignored by those in high places.

It's all so fresh that the jokes haven't even started yet. It's a matter of time. Theme and variation on the classics I suppose:

How do you get a GOP lawmaker out of a tree?

Get a dishy 16yr old congressional page to wave and say "Yoo Hoo!"

Heh heh. But seriously folks...this is about as unappealing as is possible for a pre-election. The cycle of this story will probably spin double time over the week. Jon Stewart is going to have a field day. The blog types already are. Check out Unpartisan for their RSS fed listings of stories along with the left/right commentary (here and here for especially interesting takes) And somebody on the National Review's blog page (The Corner) has gone one step further than that:

Nobody just starts being a underage-boy-chaser-seducer past the age of 50. This sordid and disgusting story is far from over, and may end up with Foley in jail. He may avoid jail. Hell is another story.
-John Podhoretz (12:58pm)

I didn't know that the God-fearing National Review loyalists had managed to skip the whole 'Judge not, that ye be not judged' paradigm and had secured franchise rights to judge the quick and the dead. Although given the usual level of ego involved with the National Review, I shouldn't be surprised.

Podhoretz is probably flinging people into hell a bit early. After all, this is still just an issue of optics (at least so far). I don't know what the Florida laws are relating to luring, but exactly how could one be prosecuted for writing dirty stories without actually doing anything about it? Not a bright thing to do when you're in public office, but unless Foley actually met (or arranged a meeting, booked the hotel room), I don't think any law has been broken. If he's distributed what's considered pornographic material to minors (and the page was 16 at the time), that's an offence. We don't know if that's what happened yet.

Bad judgement or incompetence? Political opportunism or a genuine alternative? Florida is going to be a lively place.

Meanwhile, Oh Canada. We've got Tie and Belinda. Really. The less I know, the better.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

And this week's 'No, really it's not about me' award goes to...

Jan Wong has written something that keeps her name in the Google searches, causes a certain low-yield amount of fuss, and which she claims has caused a response she did not anticipate. Poor, poor Jan.

Why is any of this news? Or worse yet...encouraged?

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Monday, September 04, 2006

The Hand Powered Flashlight

The humble hand powered flashlight. Available at most gadget shops, great stocking stuffers. The one above is like the one I carry in my car for some kind of unspecified emergency. It works by some electromagnetic quirk, there's a plug of magnetized metal in the middle which shakes past a solenoid, creating a small charge which is held by a small battery which lights a low-draw but very powerful LED. It's even clear plastic, so it serves as a handy peekaboo-look-over-here kind of beacon.

When one is on the side of a country road in the dark of night, wearing a black t-shirt, with an infant strapped to one's back, standing behind an effectively invisible black Volvo (where the battery has died and the hazard lights are perhaps as bright as a cigarette), waiting for a tow-truck sent out by a helpful agency who does not seem to grasp that there is only ONE road between Arthur, Ontario and Orangeville, Ontario that matches the critera of the road you told them you were on...a little light comes in handy.

Even if you're without an infant or a black Volvo, consider this to be the most sincere endorsement ever written for the hand powered flashlight. You can have it on for hours and not be afraid of your battery dying and losing the only source of light you have to stay visible for the tow truck that is allegedly on its way, or to show any swervy drivers that the shoulder is NOT clear. It do come in handy. More on this particular debacle later, suffice to say that the infant is fine, the car is minus an alternator (easily replaced, relatively cheaply) and the efficacy of CAA is largely in doubt.

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Sunday, September 03, 2006

Noise or Music.

There's an errata at the end of this piece, so take the points with a grain of salt...

Got time to waste? Want to avoid writing short stories or editing a friend's resume or plotting out the next 4 months of finances? That's why You Tube has been brought into existence. To wit: Experiment IV, a one-off video from Kate Bush in '87 or so.

Yes, around 20 years ago. Don't remind me.

Consider Burton, my film critic friend. One of his first acts in film school was to coerce our class to skip some of the more obscure Czech new wave films and go downtown to see the rereleased Manchurian Candidate (at least a different flavour of old), which seemed far more relevant to whatever we wanted to be seeing/doing those days than the Czech new wave. Numerous snippy comments about the professors being stuck 20 years in the past were thrown amongst the popcorn and after-movie Guiness.

Said the man who has chosen to write about a Kate Bush video. From 1987. The irony ain't lost here.

Back to Terry and Kate. I never forgot the video, which at the time I found pretty cool. I was armed with the knowledge that it was directed by Terry Gilliam who was just taking some serious acclaim for Brazil at the time, so, you know, that almost made this particular video art, in italics yet (I was around 17, so I also thought that Red Dawn and Streets of Fire were pretty legitimate cinema as well, let's not get into that). And how has it dated?

How well could it date, really?

It's definately Gilliam, the wide angles and deep focus give it away. He'd directed Bush's video for Cloudbusting and they must have shared taste in weirdness. Anybody who'd (deep breath) base a song and video on a book by Wilhelm Reich's son has what can best be described as a creative mind, and for Gilliam to transplant that decidedly American hysteria into a very British countryside...takes guts. Or at least a dedicated vision. Look up Reich and Orgone and Orgonon (no relation)for yourself, it'd take too long to explain his particular flavour of strange.

Let's get back to Bush and Gilliam. The line between eerie and cheesy is thin at the best of times, Experiment IV leaps over the line more than once (the maquette doesn't play well at all). But the sense of chaos and the fear of something fast and unpleasant still has a kick. Gilliam can turn it back into horror simply by slowing down the film, breaking a few windows and flinging a Pana-glide (if that's the term) down a hallway with inconsistent lighting. Yeah, it's a 20 year old Kate Bush video. But the pedigree has dated better than most.

Dancing with Tears in my Eyes for example. Both cheesy and depressing. Cautionary tale for yesterday's war (although it's a nuclear meltdown that wipes out the locals in this one, rather than a nuclear war). Reeks of bad agitprop. And there is such a thing as good agitprop (by good, let's instead say effective). I finally managed to see The War Game recently, and a 40 year old take on post-Nuclear England still makes you consider the humanity, the futility, the waste, rather than Tears' bad filters and guitar solos.

I cringed at remembering that the Tears video existed and even more so knowing that somebody put it on You Tube. But I actively looked for Experiment IV, proving that I either care for Gilliam more than I admit (love 12 Monkeys and Fear and Loathing, but never liked Munchausen, thought Grimm was a bad idea, and a little Monty Python goes a long LONG way), or I should really do some work and stop procrastinating. Perhaps both.

Errata Sept. 5th: Sheepishly here...while the videos might look like Gilliam's work, they were apparently not directed by him, the anonymous Reza left comments on this post that pointed to two quotes from Kate Bush where she discusses the videos. Proving once and for all that I'm old, I remembered the term Gilliam tossed around with both videos years back and assumed that he directed them. Thanks Reza, sorry Kate, hi Terry.

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