>> Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Cultural overhead" is the term anthropologists use. It's a fancy way of defining how many nonproductive people there are in a society. for every priest, king, prince, warrior, middle manager, or CEO--non of whom directly produces food or shelter--the average person must work that much harder to provide food and shelter for all. In some of our "developed" cultures, as little as 2 to 5 percent of us provide all the food for everybody. And the farmers among us work damn hard and use enormous numbers of calories (mostly from oil: tractors, fertilizer, transport) to do so.
--Thom Hartmann, Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture, p. 9


Good News & Bad News

>> Tuesday, February 16, 2010

(Steven Chu, US Secretary of Energy) was my boss. He knows all about peak oil, but he can't talk about it. If the government announced that peak oil was threatening our economy, Wall Street would crash. He just can't say anything about it.
--David Fridley, scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, quoted in an article by Lionel Badal (Peak Oil News, 10/28, item #23: "Have we reached Peak Oil?" [pdf])


Utah's education problem

It's just beginning to make the news now, but this idea popped up last December before Christmas.

That's the front page of the Standard-Examiner on Dec 18, 2009, courtesy of a friend. Basically kids would either not be able to make it to school or just won't have school.
Two state legislators painted a dire financial outlook for school funding at a recent meeting of the Morgan School Board.

"It is a bleak, bleak picture," said Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden.

"We have the perfect storm, financially."

Although he refused to name his source, Christensen warned board members that the governor's upcoming budget proposal may call for an elimination of all busing for Wasatch Front high schools and even the elimination of 12th grade from schools statewide.

"The argument is, the year is wasted anyway," said Christensen, who said he heard eliminating high schoolers' senior year could save the state $250 million....

But the Utah State Office of Education has heard some rumblings.

"We've heard they're going to propose some busing changes," said Carol Lear, director of law and legislation with the USOE.

"We will have a lot of concerns about it.

"They will have to define Wasatch Front. It doesn't sound equitable."

For example, Lear said, St. George includes many students in urban areas.

"It's equally as expendable (in St. George) as it is in Salt Lake," said Lear, who had not heard about proposals to eliminate 12th grade.

Eliminating high school busing could take away valuable incentives for students to attend school, she said. Also, many schools lack adequate parking for their student body.

But Lear said the issue could extend well past such immediate concerns.

"It becomes a rich/poor issue," she said.

If school bus transportation is denied students who also do not have access to cars, more students may find it necessary to walk or bike to school on busy roads. That could have unintended outcomes.

"Statistics provided by the Transportation Research Board indicate that teens driving themselves to school and children riding with a teenage driver are 44 times more likely to be fatally injured than if they were on a school bus," said Murrell J. Martin, a pupil transportation specialist with the Utah State Office of Education.

"We are working with every school district in Utah to assist them in their efforts to run their school bus transportation services as efficiently as possible. School districts in Utah transport their students to and from school at an average of $200 less per student than the national average cost per student," Martin said.

"Each district has been asked to continue to look at every possible way to increase efficiency while still providing the great safety they have in the past."

Eliminating the 12th grade is a move that could overload the state's colleges, Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, told the Morgan School Board.

"People can't find jobs, so they go to college," Brown said. "There's 26,000 new college students this year alone because of the economy. What would we really gain by it?"

Brown said that public and higher education combined represents more than 70 percent of the state's entire budget.
When things like this happen, I have to wonder what legislators have against raising taxes on the rich, you know, the people who could afford to do with less.

Here's Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars explaining why kids some kids don't need 12th grade.

Yes, it's THAT Chris Buttars.


It's recognized everywhere

Meanwhile, a steady stream of nominees had their pictures taken with the five big Oscar statues onstage, and another statue that stood at the centerpiece of the “class photo.” “Everybody is doing the picture thing,” laughed “Up” composer Michael Giacchino – who then admitted that yes, he’d done it too.

As the event wound down, a figure in orange robes made his way through the thinning crowd, heading for the stage.

It was one of the monks depicted in the documentary “Burma VJ,” which details how that country’s monks led an heroic stand against their country’s military repression.

When the got to the foot of the stage, the monk reached into his robes, pulled out a small camera, and began taking photos of Oscar.
-- Steve Pond, on the annual Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon.


Excellent "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" cartoons

>> Monday, February 15, 2010

Artist: Matt Bors


George W. Bush believes in the Shock Doctrine

>> Sunday, February 14, 2010

Later in the day I opted for Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border,” rather than Atom Egoyan’s “Chloe,” and I couldn’t have been happier about that. The film is a superb look at the heads of state throughout the South American nations, those deemed dictators and enemies because they don’t consider the financial interests of the U.S. a priority. It’s a great piece concerning, among other things, the influence of the International Monetary Fund and the culture of ignorance in this country that has allowed the public perception of leaders like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, NĂ©stor Kirchner (formerly presiding over Peru) and the Castro brothers.

There’s an incredible moment when Kirchner relates a conversation he had with President George W. Bush during which the then Commander-in-Chief stated, rather bluntly, that the best way to economic stability for the Peruvian government was war.
--Kristopher Tapley, writing on the Santa Barbara Film Festival for


2010 Oscar nominations

I was curious to see the video this year with the ten Best Picture nominees. I wondered how they were going to do the screen thing where they listed all ten since last time I watched it many years ago, before YouTube existed, they just used five television sets.

I suppose it's not much of a problem now with such large, high definition screens. But I forget about all that sometimes.

I generally like the ten selected as Best Picture nominees. I think it's a decent crop. I would have preferred The Cove to be in there over The Blind Side, but I don't think it's such a terrible selection as one of ten. (In retrospect, after seeing The Blind Side, I don't like the dumbing down of Michael Oher in the film. I wouldn't call that move racist, but I think it reeks of the lowest common denominator. The guy had played football before he met the Tuohys, and the depiction of him in the film learning football with Leann's kindergarten-like explanations make him seem extraordinarily deficient. I realize the screenwriter or director may have just wanted to explain football moves in a simple way to the audience, but they should have found a better way to do it.) If it had been one of five, then I know I and a whole lot of other people would have lost their shit. At this point, I've seen all but three of the Best Picture nominees. I still have yet to see An Education, Precious, and Inglorious Basterds. Basterds I'll be able to watch on dvd. Precious and An Education I might be able to catch if they hit the discount theater before Oscar night.

I certainly am not looking forward to seeing Precious given what I've heard regarding its subject matter, which is that it is a tough, tough film to watch yet (allegedly) rewarding once you make it to the end. As for An Education, I'm not sure I understand what the appeal of that movie is. I saw the trailer, and I was not intrigued. Young girl gets it on with an older man and has to decide between higher education and a life as a kept woman. That's how I see it anyway. There better be something really phenomenal in that movie. Because if I ever see it, I can't imagine how great it is to watch yet another girl wrestle with a May-December romance in a coming of age story. The trailer just evoked a giant yawn from me.

I really like The Secret of Kells sneaking in the Best Animated Feature category. (Dude, it's an Irish film!) I had no idea that film existed until it was nominated. It definitely speaks well of the animators branch that they were able to think outside the box and choose a film that most people have not seen. It just played for one week in Los Angeles to qualify and will be released in March. Just looking at the artwork in the trailer intrigues me. I'll probably just catch it on dvd, like Coraline.

I've been able to catch all five Animated Shorts online, even Wallace & Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death thanks to someone who uploaded it onto MySpace. The design of Logorama is witty, I love the AOL logo "people" walking around, but I'm not sure what to think of its story. Yes, Ronald McDonald as a Joker-like criminal is a great gag, but I saw that movie last year when I watched The Dark Knight.

I think The Lady and the Reaper will probably win. It has design, story and a character that many older Academy members can relate to, particularly when you realize that the older members have the time to attend the special screenings for the shorts and documentaries.

I thought most of tech categories had decent nominations. I particularly liked that Harry Potter squeaked in a cinematography nomination. Currently, I'm hoping that it'll win the category. I don't think Avatar deserves to win. A few weeks after seeing it, the only thing I think is truly remarkable about it is the visual effects. I would pick The Hurt Locker, but then I also haven't seen Inglorious Basterds. The Harry Potter films have maintained such a high level of quality that I think they deserve a little something before the final two films are released.

The one area I am truly disappointed in is the Best Supporting Actor category. Anthony Mackie from The Hurt Locker should be in there. I would take Matt Damon out of this category in a heartbeat. As far as I can tell, he just got nominated on sheer star power. I would even put in Alfred Molina in there from An Education, even though I haven't seen the film, just because he's such a great actor and the few critics I trust to read thought he was a good choice. It just seems that the nominations in this category made it a cakewalk to the podium for Christoph Waltz. Not that it's a bad thing, just makes for a boring ceremony. Woody Harrelson has the clearly best chance to upset, but I doubt it's going to happen.

Now, who the media is saying will win Best Actress is the one thing that currently vexes me. Sandra Bullock, Best Actress? For The Blind Side? Oh, hell no. Generally, I like Sandy. As a person, I like her far more than Julia Roberts. But even Julia Roberts has mixed up her film career with a wider variety of roles far more than Bullock ever has. Some people tout that it's "her year" when it comes to Bullock, like it was for Witherspoon, Kidman and Winslet.

I'm sorry, but I'm just not buying it. Reese Witherspoon had demonstrated a more varied acting range by the time she was nominated for Walk the Line. Yeah, it wasn't the greatest role, but her biggest competition was a tv actress playing a transsexual in a film that I don't know how many in the Academy saw. And in the hierarchy of Hollywood where being known in film trumps being known in tv, Felicity Huffman never stood a chance. Nicole Kidman had been nominated previously for Moulin Rouge before she won for The Hours. On top of that, she demonstrated a wide range as an actress and considerable respect before she botoxed the shit out of her face. And Winslet? Do we really have to go there? We're talking about one of the greatest film actors of her generation. The chick who will eventually fill Meryl Streep's shoes and possibly garner more nominations than her thirty years from now.

And those folks, such as Kristopher Tapley, who are bemoaning people picking on Sandra Bullock for being declared the front-runner and likely winner, well boo fucking hoo. If you can't stand the uproar when she hasn't won, then what do you think it will be like if she wins? Golf claps? For what other reason did Bullock have People magazine release an article stating that she's "so not winning an Oscar!" That's not just a campaign tactic. It's damage control.
...Bullock—who, for the first time, tops Streep in a head-to-head contest. Who’da Thunk It?!, as an Oscar narrative, appears to be working out well for her. But, this time, she isn’t quite as beguilingly shocked. And a few days later, when The Blind Side scores an unexpected (to put it kindly) Best Picture nomination, the first stirrings of the enough-already backlash are felt. Her road to the Oscars now becomes trickier, since holding onto your status as an appealing underdog is hard once you actually start to win.
I expect Meryl to win. She is the easy alternative to Bullock. Mirren just won recently. Sidibe and Mulligan are new. Bullock doesn't scream deserving regardless of her star power. People like to say, "But, oh, she's so charming and hard-working and nice." Yeah, and so was Cary Grant. What kind of Oscar did he get? The honorary kind. The fact that the knives have come out for Bullock when the media declared her to be the winner should tell you everything. She's not going to win.

And I doubt Avatar will win Best Picture. There's the thing where people believe what Cameron accomplished was such a directorial achievement. But look at it this way: Cameron winning a second Best Director Award in the past twenty years would put him in league with Clint Eastwood and Steven Spielberg. Those two directors each have directed multiple films in the past twelve years. Cameron? He's only put out Avatar since Titanic. The man isn't exactly viewed as Stanley Kubrick. And his achievement has more to do with accomplishments made by special effects houses than anything else. The actors' branch, which is the largest branch, is likely to view Avatar with a bit of disdain. Yes, there are Cameron's own words that come back to bite his ass. But I believe the actors are more likely to disdain Avatar because they don't want it to be their future. Why would they want to encourage things they dislike?


  © Blogger template Webnolia by 2009

Back to TOP