Friday, August 12, 2005

Movies In Your Future

Upcoming movies on TCM (all time Central):

13 Saturday
1:00 PM Cimarron (1960) A pioneer couple plays a major role in the settling of Oklahoma. Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter. D: Anthony Mann.

Edna Ferber is a name that comes up with more movies than you'd expect for someone whose work I think few people have read anymore.

I know nothing of Ferber's work except when it comes up in conjunction with a movie made from one of her novels. I probably first read her name in conjunction with Show Boat, published in 1926 (Show Boat for what it did for musical theatre deserves its own discussion at a later time), but Ferber won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925 for So Big, which was made into a movie three times. In 1952, she Giant the novel Giant from which the classic James Dean movie was based. From what I gather, "sprawling" and "generational" are often used to describe her novels. (For the stage, she wrote "The Royal Family" (1927), "Dinner at Eight" (1932), and "Stage Door" (1936) all of which were made into movies.)

Ferber's novel Cimarron was published in 1929. It is a Western and I can attest that, at least, the two film versions based on that work are sprawling and generational. The story moves from the opening of the Oklahoma territory in 1889 to its admission as a state in 1907. During those years we follow Yancey Cravat, one of those people who yearn for what is over the hill, from his staking his claim during the land rush to reconciliation with his family. The first version, released in 1931, was awarded the Oscar for Best Picture. The second version, airing today, is better just because there had been almost thirty years of advancement in moviemaking and audience expectiations, but on a continuum of movies neither, in my opinion, are that good.

However, it is rare that two versions of the same story are airing this close together and by watching both, I think you'll appreciate how far movies had developed. Glenn Ford is actually capable of subtilty, especially when compared to Richard Dix, while Anthony Mann, whose Winchester '73 may be considered the beginning of the maturation of the Western, shows an appreciation for the subject matter that Wesley Ruggles, director of the first doesn't really have. In the end, though, this version of Cimarron, while better constructed than the first, is best viewed on a lazy weekend afternoon.

16 Tuesday
11:00 AM The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) A man remains young and handsome while his portrait shows the ravages of age and sin. Hurd Hatfield, Angela Lansbury, Donna Reed. D: Albert Lewin.

Then there are movies that I like that I really can't explain why. This is one of those movies. It is based on the Oscar Wilde story of the same name and Wilde gets a shout out in the movie when his trial is mentioned. Personally, I've always seen Lord Wotton, the character played by George Sanders, as standing in for Wilde, but that is just me.

Dorian Gray could be considered a psychological horror movie or a retelling of the Faust legend without the overt appearace of Mephistopheles, it depends on what you see when you watch the film. Is there anyone who doesn't know the basics of Dorian Gray's plot? This is one of those movies that draws you in as you find yourself hating and pitying Dorian; you hope for some kind of happy resolution. You start watching it and before you know it an hour has passed. It also makes some of the best use of color ever to create a shock for the audience.

Beyond the story itself, you get to see George Sanders playing another cad, always enjoyable. Dorian Gray was also Angela Lansbury's third movie and her performance would result in her second Oscar nomination. Hurd Hatfield, in his second film, plays Dorian Gray and I get the feeling he spent the rest of his career trying to either find a role as good again or escape the typecasting of this role. Of course, by 1966, it all became moot when Hatfield appeared on The Wild, Wild West in the episode "The Night of the Man-Eating House." His character, in the custody of James West and Artemus Gordon, escapes into a house where his youth is restored.

18 Thursday
5:00 AM Cimarron (1931) A husband and wife fight to survive in the early days of the Oklahoma Territory. Richard Dix, Irene Dunne, Edna May Oliver. D: Wesley Ruggles.

This is one of those movies where the parts are greater than the whole. The scene of the Oklahoma land rush is exciting and may be the reason that the movie did win the Best Picture Oscar. Also good is Edna May Oliver playing the sort of tough character role she is best known; I've looked for a good picture, but could not find one, though you would know her if you saw her. She was called "horse faced," her face was long, and her voice had a kind of quiver to it that I associate with middle-aged New England school marms.

Oliver is an actress that I've learned to appreciate over the years; her role in the 1935 David Copperfield is particularly well played and is where I began watching her in movies differently. However, I admit that for many years her voice and face scared me, probably because those were the attributes that Friz Freleng chose to accentuate in The Hardship of Miles Standish, a 1940 Warner Bros. cartoon that found the caricature of the actress cast in the role of Priscilla.

In the lead role, Richard Dix does not come off as well, though, in fairness, he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role. Dix also started on the stage, but unlike Oliver didn't appear to know how to tone down his acting. In Cimarron it often feels like he is striking a pose and that he is projecting to balcony in movement, if not voice. I'm not saying that Dix couldn't act, but may have had a problem knowing how to control a performance unless given proper direction. Compare Glenn Ford's work in the second version to Dix and I think you'll see what I mean.

21 Sunday
1:15 AM Shenandoah (1965) A Virginia farmer fights to keep his family together during the Civil War. James Stewart, Rosemary Forsyth, Doug McClure. D: Andrew V. McLaglen.

This movie at this time is particularly worth watching. The synopsis provided describes the movie at its most basic, but the reason Charlie Anderson (James Stewart) is fighting to keep his family together is that he believes the Civil War is not his war. At one point Anderson says to his wife,
"There's nothing much I can tell you about this war. It's like all wars, I suppose. The undertakers are winning it. Politicians talk a lot about the glory of it. The soldiers, they just want to go home."
(In the atmosphere today, could as politically conservative an actor as Stewart, who retired from the U.S. Air Forces Reserves as a Brigadier General, his final mission a bombing run over North Vietnam, even dare to say those words?)

His sons get involved, though, and when one is captured by Union soldiers believing him to be in the service of the Confederacy, Anderson finds himself involved as he goes to rescue the boy. Like most of James Stewart's movies after World War II, there are shades of gray in the beliefs of the characters and is not as absolute as John Wayne's The Green Berets, for instance. Unpopular wars are not new to the United States or this century and often the bravest people are those who see a confrontation for what it is and refuse to get involved.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Quick Comic Convention Comments

Compared to previous years, Chicago felt unimpressive this year. There just didn't seem to be any real energy or excitement (though more about that below) among the hardcore fans or the people working the show. I thought maybe I was just seeing my current mood reflected, post-graduation unemployment kind of dampens enthusiasm. However, something I didn't appreciate until I read The Beat this weekend is that Chicago came only three weeks after San Diego. I think that that may have played a part in the overall lack of [i]real[/i] comic or comic-related news this past weekend.

(I guess, for some, Jeph Loeb going exclusive with Marvel is "news," but I am of the generation of comic book readers who put the characters ahead of creators. Not that I wouldn't give a mainstream comic a try because Alan Moore or Robert Kirkman is writing it, but I think for the mainstream comics that feature iconic characters, the character should never be doing service for the creator. In other words, I want to read "Spider-Man by Irving Forbush" rather than "Irving Forbush's Spider-Man." A subtle difference but an important one, I think. Anyway, to quote Peter David, "But I digress . . . .")

To better illustrate the lack of enthusiasm I was talking about, the Wizard didn't post a list of panels until Tuesday, I believe, though I didn't see it for myself. When I looked at the program on Thursday, though, there were lots of blocks labeled "to be determined." It was as if no one had any energy to even put together panels.

I volunteered this year to work the convention (unemployed graduate and all), so I didn't get a chance to go to any panels as it is, using my free time to walk around and shop. I hit the preview night and Friday; Friday felt really empty. I don't know how conventions others go to are organized, but at Chicago, the pre-order ticket window is broken into two parts, the short line to the windows and the longer "corral" where people stand until the next group is allowed over to the short line. I've seen the corral area filled past noon; this last Friday it was cleared by 11:30 A.M.

The floor itself felt less crowded, too. Of course, that may be because the convention center prohibted people from using those wheeled suitcases that people pull and those dolly things the hardcare uses to drag around a short box or two. It is amazing how much more room there is when those things aren't in the way. Again, I digress.

I heard a couple of dealers complaining about the lack of sales, but to me, those fell into one particular group of dealers: Old-school. The dealers who had traffic were those who had their comics pre-priced and had signs declaring their comics were some percentage off (anywhere from thirty to fifty percent). People don't, at least I don't, want to stand around while a dealer removes the comic from the bag, examines it, looks in Overstreet, examines it some more, and then pronounces from the heavens, "Eighty dollars." Who wants to go through that, especially at a large convention while every minute that guy is measuring the degree of whiteness of a page, I'm losing walking around time.

As an aside, the best thing I saw were the little kids wearing things like full Captain America and Wolverine costumes or the little boy wearing the top from his Batman pajamas (complete with the cape), who was all excited coming down the escalator. (Well, actually, the best thing I saw regarding people who were in costume was the woman dressed like Red Sonja who actually had the body for a chainmail bikini, but I'm going in another direction here.) There was one little girl, maybe four, wearing a pink Supergirl "S" shirt with her father at around 10; at the end of the day while I was waiting for my wife to come get me, I saw her with her father looking and she looked a lot less tired than I felt.

Of course, and this is my opinion (I am sure there will be hardcare s who will feel the convention meets their needs and thats all that matters), for all the excitement those kids had for being at a comic convention, it is a damned shamed there really wasn't anything for them to see or do. Sure, there was the kind of flabby woman dressed like Emma Frost; or the guy with a beard and Darth Maul face paint; or the fat TIE-Fighter pilot, i.e. Porkins evil twin (though in fairness, the rest of the Star Wars costumes looked, including the old guy with beard dressed as Obi-Wan, but by the time the kids see four girls who are dressed either like school girls from some manga (or they hit a local Hot Topic just before arriving), they have to be thinking, "Where's Batman?"

God knows, people in the industry play lip service to getting kids into comic books again, but would it hurt someone to have something that would really excite a kid? Maybe an official Spider-Man at the Marvel booth or Batman at the DC booth. The people at the DCD display used to pass out a Pocket Hero to just little kids; I've seen adults turned down when they asked for one and there were no kids in tow; though I didn't see any evidence of the freebie this year. With what it costs to put together and maintain a booth, would it kill the Big 2, at least, to give the kids a little of what they expect to see? Of course kids are more interested in video games these days; if kids were allowed onto the floor at E3, for instance, they'd be bombarded with constant visual and audio stimulation that would just make the event feel exciting even if nothing on the floor was meant for them. I don't expect comic book companies to put together audiovisual displays, that isn't their business, but I think it a kid could shake the "real" Batman's, Superman's, or Captain America's hand, that would be a memory that would stay forever.but where's the things that would make a kid feel the day was exciting at a comic convention (San Diego excluded since movies and video games so dominate that convention).


Thursday, August 04, 2005 / World / US - Bush wants alternatives to Darwinism taught in school / World / US - Bush wants alternatives to Darwinism taught in school: "Intelligent Design "

A couple of days ago, I talked about Born-Again Bush. I'm sorry, but for the president to (a) get involved in a States issue and (b) overtly push an agenda based upon a particular sect of a particular religion is contrary to the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. Why is it that people with beliefs like Bush who call themselves "Republican" insist on trying to involve the federal government into areas it doesn't belong? I thought part of the Republican agenda, apart from hiding the poor, was to decrease government intrusion into the average American's life? Or is government intrusion expected to push forward the particular vision of the world of a particular sect of a particular religion?

Intelligent Design and President G.W. Bush: Oxymoron?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Upcoming movies on TCM

Ok, so it is now, and has been for awhile, known as "Wizard World Chicago," but it will always be referred as the "Chicago Comic Convention" around here. I'm volunteering to work half the day for the first two days, thereby getting free admission. Hopefully, that will give me enough time to get to everything, but if not, I'll go back on Saturday. I'll post pictures if there is anything of interest and/or said pictures are actually postable.

Even though I'll be gone for only a couple of days, I'm posting a list of movies, taken from TCM's schedule that I think are worth watching. (All times are Central.)

4 Thursday
12:15 AM Dead End (1937) A killer returns to his childhood home to
plot his escape from the law. Sylvia Sidney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart. D: William Wyler. BW
92m. CC

Dead End should be watched for a variety of reasons. It is stagy,basically a one set play and it isn't that hard to see how it was done on the stage. Still, I think it is an interesting movie for the staginess. Watch it for Bogart, if nothing else, but also remember that this is the film that gave the world "The Dead-End Kids," back when they were really kids in a rather tragic place in the world, and before they were doughy adults passing themselves off as "The Bowery Boys."

3:00 PM Lawrence of Arabia (1962) A British military officer
enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I. Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness.
D: David Lean. C 227m. LBX CC

The first time I watched this, I felt more a sense of obligation than desire; Lawrence of Arabia is one of the "classic" movies and those aren't always audience pleasers. Well, I was wrong. Even on a small television set, I was blown away by the force of this movie's images (and the story and music aren't bad either). Something will be lost watching it at home on a small screen with distractions, but if you can actually watch it for the full time, it is worth every moment.

5 Friday
9:00 PM The Philadelphia Story (1940) Tabloid reporters crash a
society marriage. Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart. D: George Cukor. BW 112m. CC
11:00 PM Holiday (1938) An unhappy heiress falls in love with her
stodgy sister's freethinking fiancé. Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Edward Everett Horton. D:
George Cukor. BW 96m. CC

I've loved The Philadelphia Story since the first time I saw it and I don't know why. Some of this movie is foreign to me still, but there is something in the interaction between the four leads (add Ruth Hussey to the cast list), that makes me watch and enjoy it every time. Watch the scene between when a drunk Stewart visits Grant at his home. Sitting across from each other, Grant ad libs a line and you can see both men trying not to laugh.

In many ways, Holiday feels like a trial run for The Philadelphia Story. Both were written by Philip Barry and both starred Hepburn in the original stage versions. I think this movie works less well because Barry was writing a fantasy of the wealthy for the wealthy.

6 Saturday
7:00 AM How the West Was Won (1962) Three generations of
pioneers take part in the forging of the American West. James Stewart, Henry Fonda, John
Wayne. D: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall. C 165m. LBX CC DVS

Three directors and it is still a great movie. Filmed in VistaVision or Panavision, no matter how large a screen you have none of will ever be able to appreciate the vision of watching this movie on a screen that required three projectors; if you look closely, you can see where the negatives overlap to create the print being shown. Still, thank God for letterboxing; I've seen this movie cropped for television and it wasn't pretty.

5:00 PM She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) An aging Cavalry officer
tries to prevent an Indian war in the last days before his retirement. John Wayne, Joanne Dru,
Ben Johnson. D: John Ford. C 104m. CC DVS
7:00 PM Fort Apache (1948) An experienced cavalry officer tries to
keep his new, by-the-books commander from triggering an Indian war. John Wayne, Henry Fonda,
Shirley Temple. D: John Ford. BW 128m. CC DVS

Two of John Ford's "calvary trilogy" (Rio Grande (1950) was the third). Henry Fonda may be showing his true character playing the jerk commander in Fort Apache.

10 Wednesday
11:00 PM Words And Music (1948) Songwriters Richard Rodgers and
Lorenz Hart search for love while rising to the top. Mickey Rooney, Janet Leigh, Tom Drake. D:
Norman Taurog. C 121m. CC

Through this movie, I gained an appreciation for the songs created by Rodgers and Hart. A partial list of those songs include "Where or When," "I Wish I Were In Love Again," "My Funny Valentine," "Johnny One-Note," "The Lady is a Tramp" (for Babes in Arms); "Blue Moon"; "Falling In Love with Love," "This Can't Be Love," "Sing for Your Supper" (The Boys from Syracuse); "Thou Swell" (A Connecticut Yankee; "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World" (Jumbo); "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" (Pal Joey); "Mountain Greenery" (the second edition of The Garrick Gaieties). I'd list more, but I wouldn't want to go overboard. The story of the movie is pure Hollywood circa 1948; Hart's homosexuality is played as more an inability to find a woman to really love him, for instance, and his death when it happened has no connection to reality, but I dare you to watch this movie and not like just because of the music.

11 Thursday
9:30 AM The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) An unscrupulous movie
producer uses everyone around him in his climb to the top. Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell.
D: Vincente Minnelli. 78m. CC DVS

I was hooked on this movie during the title music and things only get better. This is actually a very mature movie, considering when it was made, in both character development and story construction. Much like , you watch Douglas's character rise to the top through the eyes of three people who know him at various points in his life. When the movie is over ask yourself if Kirk Douglas's character is really unscrupulous. Gloria Grahame won her Oscar, and a well-deserved one, for her supporting role as Dick Powell's wife. If you can't record this one, stay home from work and watch it.

Odds & Ends

Aint It Cool News provided the first two bits.

1. The trailer for the film version of Rent is online. I saw the trailer this weekend in front of Must Love Dogs and I think that it was well done. The cast stands on a dark stage, each member in his or her own spotlight. While the cast is singing what is arguably the musical's best know song, "Seasons of Love," we see scenes from the film but no dialogue. I think it is a well-done trailer; it may be the first in a long time that doesn't explicitly give away key moments of the story. On the other hand it might, but because I've never seen Rent, I couldn't point to any of the silent moments and say, "Well, now I've no reason to see this." I think it sells the movie: From what we see and hear, we know it is a musical, that guy from Law & Order (Jesse L. Martin) is in it, and it is about relationships. It makes the movie appealing to the core audience that would be attracted to Must Love Dogs, without bringing up the "dreaded" AIDS anacronym that could kill the box office.

There has been some grumbling that Chris Columbus is directing the film version Rent, which, by the way, is still running on Broadway. Of course, people are also complaining that Columbus brought in most of the opening night cast to reprise their roles because they are too old. Personally, I think Columbus should be congratulated because the original cast of a play of musical are a part of why a work is popular enough to be made into a film in the first place; I don't think that Chicago, for instance, would have been any less of a movie had Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton performed the roles they originated in the revival, for which they won Tony Awards, rather than Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.

I can't say for better or worse how Columbus's direction will be one way or the other. He has always been a serviceable director of movies like Adventures in Babysitting, Mrs. Doubtfire, and the first two Harry Potter movies. I am of the mind that directors, maybe even more than actors, should not be pigeonholed. That is the sort of thinking that would lead to Speilberg directing only popcorn movies and Scorsese only gritty movies set in New York. Sometimes a less obtrusive director helps a project; because Columbus isn't a showy director, his "vision" won't supersede the story. The Phantom of the Opera should have done great last Christmas, but I think the exclusion of Michael Crawford, the original Phantom, and the use of Joel Schumacher as director was a one-two punch from which the film couldn't survive.

2. A very brief snippet of the new video game, From Russia with Love, based on the movie of the same name, is up on IGN. There's some excitement about this game because it has Sean Connery reprising his most famous role, albeit in voice only. A similar game featuring Pierce Brosnan, Everything or Nothing, was released a year ago. If Russia is anything like the Brosnan game, it should be great.

Everything or Nothing was a James Bond movie literally brought to the video game. There was a teaser, a Bond-esque title sequence featuring a new song by Mya, and lots of "Bond moments." In addition to Brosnan, Heidi Klum and Shannon Elizabeth provided voice and model as Bond girls, Willem Dafoe was the villain, John Cleese voiced Q, and upholding the British actor philosophy that any job is work, Dame Judi Densch returned to voice, and admonish Bond when screwed up, M. I am more of a first-person shooter player myself, I have problems with perspective with third-person/behind the back games, but I have enjoyed what I have played of the game so. Besides, as I think any guy since the release of Dr. No in 1962, there are few better matches of moment with music than when Bond does something amazing and the "Bond Theme" swells up. There are a thousand moments like that in Everything or Nothing; hopefully the people working on From Russia with Love will be able to include more than a few similar moments for gamers to be Bond through Connery.

3. According to this post, the number of blogs has doubled, from 7.8 million in March 2005 to 14.2 million in July 2005. I apologize for playing a part in that.

4. Last week, TV Guide announced it was basically getting out of the weekly schedule business, moving from its fifty-some-year-old digest format to a magazine that would feature twenty-five percent schedules, seventy-five percent stories. May I join the vast people shrugging their shoulders and saying, "So?"

The article quotes a media analyst who states that the traditional TV Guide
[H]as no relevance. It's an antiquated brand that resonates primarily with an audience of people 50-plus who grew up with the publication. It has virtually no relevance to the general population mainly comprised of adults 18 to 49.

Speaking for myself, I have to admit that I didn't leave TV Guide, it left me. I was one of those kids, rare as we were they still existed, who would get the Fall Preview issue and be excited about the television season to come (though I never has a pennant like the one Homer Simpson was holding when he was celebrating mid-season replacement time). As I got older and free time became scarcer, I actually used TV Guide to plan out my viewing; I've never been a person to sit and watch television, as I always do something else, but television was my entry to old movies and TV Guide used to actually "guide" me, informing me if Them! or Our Man Flint was going to be playing on the channel 18, eight o'clock movie.

As an aside, TV Guide is responsible for my love of movies. It was a Friday night when I was in somewhere between eight and ten years old. My parents and the rest of my family had gone to bed, but I was allowed to stay up to watch a movie on the 10:30 movie about the Blue Angel airplanes that I'd seen in TV Guide. The movie I was actually going to be watching was The Blue Angel (and not even the original version, but the remake). For those who don't know, the movie I watched that night was as far removed from blue jets as humanly possible: A college professor in Germany is brought to destruction by a prostitute. It didn't take me long, short attention span and all, to figure out that it wasn't about airplaines, but I didn't want to turn the television off because that would mean I'd have to go to bed and I was also playing with Captain Action.

My hand to God, I know I didn't understand some of the movie, but I knew I liked it. There was something about the story that made me care, even at that young age. It was at that age, before VCRs, DVRs, and rental, that I vowed to always watch a movie all the way through; if I had just turned it off, I would not have seen how movies could make the most boring story, to a kid at least, interesting to a kid and I have TV Guide to thank.

I had subscribed to TV Guide for years, but last year I just had my fill of its direction. There was a time when a show on the cover of TV Guide was an important statment about the popularity of that show, but for the last few years, current movies usurped the cover or a single issue would have five "collector" covers. The articles were becoming less informative and more outright P.R. pieces. The final straw for me was when the decision was made to eliminate complete day-by-day schedule listing except for prime time. As I said, I used TV Guide to find out what movies would be on the week to come. When TV Guide removed that much of the schedules, there was no reason for me to even bother anymore. Little did I know that I was the vanguard for a mass exodus. Well, we do what we can, so so long to a badly changed periodical that bears as much semblance to the digest known as "TV Guide" as a compost to the original food product.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

More on Iraq (Now with Added Bush)

As long as I'm in this mood, there are a few other things about the Iraq War on the Internet of interest.

1. As it must come to all U.S. Presidents, except Bill Clinton it seems, George W. Bush's popularity has taken a downturn. At fifty-three percent, it appears that Bush has hit the "magic" point where at least half the country admits that they disapprove of the job the president is doing. In and of itself, that's pretty gutsy considering the Patriot Act was renewed. During the last election, I believed Bush was beatable; heck, let's face it and admit that he lost the election to Gore; so it is no surprise to me that things have gone down for the man. Calling on the Lord and demeaning people who actually think really can only get you so far when a person is losing friends and relatives in a war in the wrong country declared for the wrong reasons. However, I'll bet the slow recovery of the economy and his continual push of a revamped Social Security can't be helping. As a wiser person said, "All politics is local."

2. On the same note, according to another CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll from last week, fifty-one percent of the people asked doubt the United States will succeed in Iraq. (Poll: USA doubts Iraq success, but not ready to give up.) As the headline shows, we still seem to have a schizophrenc vision, admitting we succeed, but not ready to admit defeat. Not wanting to bring it up again, I still feel that those too young or too old to remember need to research the mood of the country during Vietnam. We stayed much longer than we should have there, I think, out of pride and we need to avoid doing that again.

Of course, I know that we are stuck there now. You can't do what we did and then leave the country without some sort of stability. Carlin said it years ago, that's what we, we go into a country "and throw a little democracy on them." Unfortunately, this time it looks like it isn't going to stick, so we're stuck.

3. But are we? There was talk last week that we might actually have a plan to withdraw from Iraq in the works, but that has been denied this week. While I would like a withdrawal of troops, I don't think it'll happen until we are closer to the 2008 elections. Am I too cynical.

4. Speaking of cost, common thought has it that a war leads to a booming economy. This article, provides a different view. For this site provides a running total for the war, while this one provides how much it has cost your particular area of the country 6 and if your area isn't specifically listed, a by-state view may be found here. (Thanks to Mark Evanier and his always interesting blog, News From Me, found on his information packed site, POV Online.

5. Speaking of cost, whenever you or someone you know starts talking about "acceptable losses," go to The Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen site. As of this post, 1801 people in the military have died in Iraq, though the Post site only goes through July 19, 2005, so it only records 1770.

6. To see the true character of this administration, I think Bush's behind-the-Senate's-back appointment of John Bolton yesterday sums it up: If it can't get its way openly, it'll do it behind closed doors. I don't think Bush supporters can ever really bring up Clinton's last-minute executive orders anymore. When you point at someone, three point back toward you and all that.

7. Speaking of character, the PBS show Frontline ran an episode dealing with Bush's Christian agenda entitled "The Jesus Factor." If you haven't watched it yet, it is available at the previous link for streaming. In all honesty, I generally have little opinion as to who is president because I believe that whoever is in office is going to bring his own personal harm to the country one way or the other. With Clinton, it was pushing through NAFTA; with Bush . . . well, with Bush, I wish it was only something like NAFTA. However, even without the war and the lying to go to war and the misdirection of blame for the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush's overt born-again ideals would be of concern for me.

Mind you, I don't necessarily believe it when a politician discusses religion he or she believes it; he's playing to the perceived rubes in many cases. Bush, however, really does appear to believe it and this show presents how that is affecting his administration. Worst, I think, are the people in the administration who are playing to the rubes for they are the ones doing the worst damage, gutting programs that help the underprivileged and the enviroment. Playing to the people who believe that the Rapture is so close that Gabriel is tuning his trumpet, and that those people will be "going home," Bush officials allow natural resources to be wasted or protective enviromental measures to be rolled back under a veil of obligation as Christians to leave nothing of use behind for the Anti-Christ and those LEFT BEHIND. That many of those officials are also making money with these policies highlights scripture also: "God helps those who help themselves."

8. Finally, and the think I really hate because so many of the things I enjoy are potentially affected by it, the Congress voted to make permanent much of the Patriot Act. While I understand that in times of war or dangerous conditions this country loves the knee-jerk reaction, from the Sedition Act to the federal interment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II, one still would hope that as this nation becomes more mature, the people and the people in charge would see that it is important to have faith in the Constitution and its principles especially during times of crisis, but I guess the Constitution only comes to play when it supports your position. It is a cliche, but Benjamin Franklin's quote, "Any society that gives up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," stays with me a lot.

By the way, for as long as I live in Wisconsin, Senator Russ Feingold, the only person in the Senate to vote against the Patriot Act the first time, will always have my vote.

Iraq comment

Solo # 5, p. 28
Solo # 5, p. 28,
originally uploaded by gschienke.
When I received Solo #5 last month, I was prepared for an enjoyable comic since it was by Darwyn Cooke, a writer/artist whose work slipped under my radar until I read the recent mini-series, DC: The New Frontier. The comic was everything I thought it was, though I wouldn't necessarily recommend it as someone's first comic since it may be a little continuity heavy. (Actually, it isn't, but because names are dropped without context, I could see some people thinking they are missing something.)

Anyway, on page 28, out of the blue, but not out of bounds, is a replay of many a speech I've heard from healthy people flush with success, safe at home, the new version of the chickenhawks of the Vietnam era. Unless you've been in the military, honestly in with an honest chance of being sent into combat, I don't think you have a leg to stand on regarding "acceptable loses."

Best of all is Slam Bradley's response and it is one that I wish I had thought of when the necessity of this war has come up.