Everyone’s a Critic

How hypnotic are this year’s holiday flicks?

Is Anthony Minghella coloring by numbers? Is George Bush numbering by color? Fraysters were unusually quiet over the weekend, though Movies Fray is popping with some solid reader reviews of holiday Oscar bait.

Subject: “Aggressive Use of Force Against — What?”
Re:     “Whopper: Tom DeLay
From:  BeverlyMann
Date:  Sun Dec 28 1642hIf, as now seems likely, Musharraf is assassinated and Pakistan explodes into civil war, Bush’s notable yet barely noted lack of aggressive use of force against terrorism will be the subject of daily news headlines.

As will this probable truth: That Bush is concertedly provoking hatred of America and sympathy and support for al Qaeda, because there appears to be a close correlation between his aggressive and abrasive persona toward the rest of the world and his political popularity among white American men.

Or, more to the point, there appears to be a close correlation between Bush’s aggressive and abrasive persona toward the rest of the world and his political popularity among white American men who themselves are not in the military or national guard and who don’t have a child or other close relative who is.[Find this post here.]Subject: “The English Patient Redux”
Re:     “The Blue. The Gray. The Gold” Cold Mountain has the Civil War (and Oscars) in its sights
From:  Splendid_IREny
Date:  Fri Dec 26 2043h…let’s recap on the obvious similarities between The English Patient and ColdMountain:

1. Both sets of lovers are impossibly beautiful and sadly bland, inspiring more lust than they do empathy.
2. The love story in neither film really holds a candle to stories of the supernumeraries. In The English Patient, you care more about Juliet Binoche’s nurse; in ColdMountain, you’re rooting for Ruby to get her Georgia (a cute mutton-chopped Jack White).
3. Both villains are used more as narrative devices and have no real impact on the characters (fate and chance are the real villains in both films).
4. Both films have one really languorously shot sex scene in which the characters get a long and deep exploration into each others’, hm, souls. However, with Cold Mountain, I really must reiterate that there were moves made that just simply would not have occurred to those two characters. Remember the Ken Burns documentary, The Civil War and the eloquent letters written by soldiers and their wives? None of those epistles read by esteemed actors, to my memory, referred to that last night of lovemaking “where we took turns biting each others’ asses.”
5. Both films are ridiculous in terms of story, but are, nonetheless, gorgeously shot.
6. Though this year’s Oscars have not been announced yet, it’s likely Cold Mountain will get dozens of nominations, which will mean that it will be seen by many more people, who may or may not realize that they are seeing The English Patient again, just set in a different place and in a different time period.

Let’s all wait for the nominations and then call our bookies.[Find this post here.]Subject: “Ignernt, Ignernt, Ignernt”
Re:     “Got Me Hypnotized: I begin to cure my night-owl problem by going into a trance
From:  kahuna
Date:  Sun Dec 28 1810hHypnosis is much more common, and simple, than most people think. You probably didn’t realize that you have been hypnotized at least 39 times in the past 24 hour period. If you have ever really been engaged: watching a good movie, or reading a book, or playing a video game, or listening to an interesting speaker (including at church), focusing on a craft or similar project, daydreaming etc., etc., etc.,

Hypnotherapy is a means of processing old, unwanted, programming, and replacing it with more productive beliefs. Not using hypnotherapy is more harmful than using it.[Find this post here.]
Fray Notes: Small questions abound in BOTF, most prominently this weekend from Geoff who asks, “So, here’s a question… music that stops your heart… or at least everything you’re consciously in control of, the moment you hear it…” Submit your heartstopper hereKA9:10 a.m.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Joyeux Noel!AdamMorgan brings into Today’s Papers Fray this New York Times piece on Arab isolation in France. In light of the recent debate over the banning of head scarves in French schools — a measure that many expect President Jacques Chirac to endorse — AM writes (in his not-really-ironically titled post, “Those savages called the French”) that the Times piece chronicles, “the deep, seemingly uniform and savage racism against Arabs in France.”  AM goes on to contrast the more dynamic path immigrants are afforded in the States:

The U.S., in contrast, has affirmative action and political correctness, which are good will gestures by the majority to benefit minorities. Non-European immigrants, as in Europe, could be relegated to rot in ghettos and forever be labeled as foreigners, as they are all over peaceful, progressive Europe. But they aren’t. They’re Americans.…To understand this process, I think, you have to visit a country such as France, where moral and intellectual corruption is accepted as foreign ideas and people are rejected.
This, from a self-proclaimed “pathetic liberal.” Gotta love the new political alignments of the 21st Century. Monster Thread o’ the Day:  A cut-and-paste job courtesy of Jack_Dallas from the Boston Globe. Jack titles his post “Dean plays the ‘Jesus’ card,” referring to Dean’s increasing “references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South.” New Republic contributor Franklin Foer took up the issue of Dean’s faith — or alleged lack thereof — in last week’s TNR. In response to the Globe piece, Jack writes that “Dean is a lying hypocrite” who “could not care less about Christianity,” as evidenced by his positions on the socio-political donnybrooks of the day. Here, RTev writes:
I wish Dean (or anyone, for that matter) could get through an entire campaign without being asked what I regard as silly questions like these…I guess my perspective is skewed because I live in another region where religion and politics tend to be distinct worlds. For instance, I’ve voted a few times for our current state governor for that office and others and yet I have no idea what his religious affiliations might be. I think he might be some kind of Baptist, but it’s also possible he’s Buddhist. I dunno. I don’t care. And I don’t know and don’t care if he’s raising his young children in some faith or none.
Here, Jack replies, suggesting that the issue isn’t whether Dean is religious, but the perception that the good doctor is willing to pander to those who are and fashion himself as devout when he, in fact, is not … KA4:55 p.m.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Why did Muammar Qaddafi throw in the towel on his weapons program? Was it the specter of American military intervention, or rather a methodical strategy of economic sanctions coupled with multilateral diplomatic pressure?

Subject: “A Hitch in Libya’s Nefarious Plans?”
Re:     “Qaddafi Does a Deal: Handle things right, and this could be just the start of welcome fallout from Operation Iraqi Freedom
From:  IOZ
Date:  Mon Dec 22 1402hOnly by observing the last ten years of history through the murky bottom of a bottle of Victory Gin (Hitchens should recognize this reference) would one presume that Libyas “recent” turnaround had much at all to do with the current war in the former cradle–of late quicksand–of civilization. Quite the opposite is true: that all international observers know Libya’s slow opening has been a decades-long process which proves conclusively the benefits and windfalls of studied sanctions, international political pressures, and patience. (This last is anathema to the world-changers of late, who believe, as do so many of their new age foes, that we must all live forever and ever in the now.)[Find this post here.]Subject: “clark flips dean judo style”
Re:     Running in Place
From:  HiroProtagonist
Date:  Mon Dec 22 2146hdean’s camp pointed out as clark moved to enter the race that their candidate and clark had had a talk at a place of dean’s choosing and that clark was offered v.p.. for someone running for the top job, an admission that clark went to dean and that the v.p. was discussed signaled that clark was not to be taken seriously. clark as president? they’re already talking v.p.. that clark came to dean and dean felt strong enough that he could be working on picking his v.p. also signaled dean’s top dog status.

clark and company have now flipped dean’s cute play against him. they are using the clark as v.p. issue, which is a red herring, to attack dean on the war. clark is leveraging the factual debate about “did he or didn’t he” (have dean offer him the v.p. spot) to go on to the next step and argue that dean would do so to cover his national security butt. which leads to the obvious question of why dean’s campaign needs their buns covered. dean’s war stance is of course the implied reason dean needs clark cover, and the timing of clark’s play, after saddam’s capture, places the perceived weakness of dean’s war stance in stark relief, and also offers the opening for criticism of said position.[Find this post here.]Subject: “Tolkien and Rowling”
Re:     “To Mordor and Back: Peter Jackson’s wondrous Return of the King
From:  Kurt64
Date:  Fri Dec 19 1124hFor all the enthusiasm shown here for ROTK, would it be ungenerous to suggest a relation between the appeal of the Tolkien Trilogy and the Rowling Harry Potter books? And further, that the core struggles in these books are, largely, inert? In subject matter, it could be suggested they are similarly detached from the finite condition of man alive, and if the Ring tales are taken as a form of Christian allegory, is it not obvious that the religious tenor of these works has been thoroughly stripped from the movies? I suspect this is due to our persisting inability to discuss matters of faith and religious commitment with any clarity. Finally, if the Star Wars movies can retrospectively be seen as a symptom of the prevailing political and cultural ethos of the ‘80’s, what might the appreciation of these movies suggest about our times?[Find this post here.]Subject: “A Problem With The Terror Alerts”
Re:     Orange
From:  Adam_Masin
Date:  Mon Dec 22 1347hSo we raised the color coded terrorist threat level indicator again because of lots of supposed terror chatter. Question: Wouldn’t the terrorist chatter include the following exchange?

“Hey fellow evil-doer, when they lower the terror level thingy again, thus publicly telling us they aren’t paying as much attention to our potential evil-doing, wouldn’t that be the very best time to strike?”

“Good point, supreme evil-doer! Though won’t this very chatter that we are now engaged in raise the terror thingy?”

“Yes it will. But the brilliance of our plan is that this non-specific chatter will not relate to the time period of the raised terror level thingy, but just be good planning for when those stupid DHS infidels relax.”

“Wow. Can the Bushies really be so stupid as to let us know when they aren’t paying as much attention to us?”

“Did you see the crap intelligence they relied on to support the notion that Saddam was going to launch a biochem attack at any moment??”

[Find this post here.]
Department of Astral Affairs: Schadenfreude and appolonious enter the galaxy this week … KA9:05 a.m.

Friday, December 19, 2003

The power of incumbency lies not only in name recognition and the ability to raise campaign dollars in fistfuls, but in the luxury to embrace good news. Challengers must measure their viability by the potency of the question, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” As such, Michael Kinsley “can’t blame” challengers for the mixed emotions when it comes to a boon in national morale. Where do readers stand?

Subject: “I can blame them”
Re:     “When Good News is Bad News: The politics of mixed emotions
From:  Mike_Murray
Date:  Thu Dec 18 1404hHow did they get into a position in which good news for the Nation was bad news for their candidacy? How many Republicans do you think had mixed feelings about Midway or the successful outcome of the Cuban missile crisis?

Lieberman did not appear to have mixed feelings. Opposition does not have to imply that all of life is zero sum. The point at which good news brings mixed feelings is the point at which they have gone down the wrong road in trying to become an American leader.

Some things are still pretty simple. If you are not happy at my success or saddened by my losses you are not my friend.[Find this post here.]Subject: “Mixed emotions need not be selfish”
Re:     “When Good News is Bad News: The politics of mixed emotions
From:  Sissyfuss1
Date:  Thu Dec 18 1508hIs it selfish or narrowly partisan for me to wish that an economic recovery be delayed? Not necessarily. Voters won’t see much of the harmful long term effects before they vote in 2004, and may approve of Bush policies in the ballot, taking the recovery as an indication of the policy’s overall success. Given the constraint of voter perceptions and timing, it is perfectly logical for even a benevolent and public spirited challenger to have mixed emotions when the indicators turn good before the elections. From the public interest viewpoint, it may seem like the gain of a penny at the cost of a pound.

Of course greedy office seekers will have the same negative feelings for somewhat different reasons. The reverse schadenfreude cannot be a basis for distinguishing pure office seekers and idealistic challengers.[Find this post here.]Subject: “The Literalist School of Tolkien”
Re:     “To Mordor and Back: Peter Jackson’s wondrous Return of the King
From:  DeanWormer
Date:  Thu Dec 18 1459hIt’s become abundantly clear with the release of each of these movies that there exists a certain subset of those that have loved the books that insist on letting their expectations of a LITERAL translation of the books to film ruin or dampen their experience of Jackson’s movies. I find these people’s P.O.V. distressing and not the least bit logical.

Is it that they expect Jackson to break completely with the Hollywood style narrative, translate every line of dialog and smallest bit of exposition from the text directly to the screen in fun, six-hour segments? Is it that they’ve focused so completely on the minutiae of Tolkein’s world that they can’t bring themselves past the absence of a Tom Bombadil or a Voice of Sauron? Along these lines has their micro focus on The Lord of the Rings gradually eroded their ability to focus on the macro? Are they unable to see the forest for the Ents so to speak?[Find this post here.]Subject: “no child left behind in really poor taste”
Re:     “No Child Left Behind: Strom Thurmond’s illegitimate daughter
From:  coffeegrrl2003
Date:  Fri Dec 19 0723hThe last line of the “Recycled” comment on Strom Thurmond’s daughter Essie Mae Washington Williams was in such poor taste it left me stunned:

“Or that—dude!—he wasn’t such a racist bastard after all?”

No, the “bastard” in question is Ms. Washington Williams, and the stigma & other personal burdens she obviously felt as an illegitimate child – remember, before Murphy Brown, the social stigma of illegitimacy was huge, even after the 60s; heavens, think what it was like earlier in the century! – is the reason she proclaimed that she was “finally completely free.”

While you at Slate clearly felt this use of the word bastard was a witty irony, I found it a questionable editorial decision.[Find this post here.]
Fray notes: Metrophobia is a fear of poetry, as we learn from Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “Dinner with the Metrophobe.” MaryAnn, nobody’s metrophobe, initiates an active thread here with an “alternate reading” of the poem. Rob_said_that wishes for an alternate poem altogether here. Over in BOTF, FreitagsPyramid offers up the rhyme, “I do not like you, Doctor Dean.” … KA10:45 a.m.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Hawks continue to flex their partisan muscles in the Fray, though critics of the administration are hardly eating humble pie. Meanwhile, video gamers crowd into Gizmos Fray to wax nostalgic about Intellivision.

Subject: “Thus, Saletan”
Re:        “Howard the Hawk: Dean’s foreign policy message — I’m no sissy
From:     bmcburney1
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1037hThe list of knowledgeable people who believed, prior to the war, that Iraq possessed WMD includes every major politician in America and Europe, Democrat, Republican, Labor, Socialist, Social Democrat, Christian Democrat and Communist. It includes the UN and every security and intelligence service of every nation which has a security or intelligence service. Reasons given for supporting this view include the actual discovery of such weapons by UN inspectors after the first Gulf War and the dead bodies of various Iranian soldiers and Kurdish civilians. I could go on. …

How did W. convince the UN, NSA, CIA, Defense Department, State Department, Congress and virtually every member of the Clinton Administration to adopt this “ideologically distorted” intelligence before actually becoming President? Isn’t it possible that Saddam actually had the weapons but hid them or destroyed them before the war?[Find this post here.]Subject: “Compared to Whom is Bush a ‘Bumbler’?”
Re:        “Bush the Bumbler: The real trouble with the president’s foreign policy
From:     LegalCodger
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1245h…the military history of Lincoln’s presidency is of one major blunder after another until finally Lincoln in the third year of the war selected Grant, whose crucial quality was being implacable in the conduct of battle regardless of setbacks or casualties.

FDR’s presidency was marked by endless controversy within his administration, which Roosevelt clearly enjoyed. Although Roosevelt tried in many ways to pull us out of the Great Depression, he never did learn what we now know about business cycles and as a result the Great Depression really began to lift only with the advent of wartime economic activity.

Microscopic examination of every presidency will disclose many examples of what in hindsight are seen to be blunders. The same is true, for example, in the case of Churchill and Britain during World War II. In all these cases, the test of greatness is not absence of mistakes, it is unwavering adherence to a great goal through thick, thin, and critical, including academic, non-acclaim.[Find this post here.]Subject: “Game design”
Re:        “Blasts From the Past: What today’s game designers can learn from Space Invaders
From:     eLocke
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1356hGames today are designed with the idea in mind that the game should have the pacing and flow of a movie. That a story must be told. That’s fine in itself, but they have completely neglected the concept of gameplay.

The industry standard is that a game bought today should take about 60 hours to go through. After that the consumer should go and buy another game to play, ideally a sequel or expansion of the last game. This is sort of planned obsolescence, so the game companies can keep on cranking out titles, and the manufacturers can keep on cranking out media to packaged and put retailers shelves in time for Christmas. They have lost the art of making the game itself fun to play.[Find this post here.]Subject: “Why I’m a fanatic”
Re:        “To What Are They Most Loyal?” — The_Bell
From:     Arlington
Date:     Wed Dec 17 1151hThe Bell points out that most Dean supporters are fanatics. Yes, but our fanaticism falls into two categories—those who are fanatic IN their support of the candidate, and those who are fanatic BY their support of the candidate.I don’t belong in the first category and I’ve never really understood people who do belong to this group. … These are the people who think one man, their man, will save the world. He has the answer to every problem. In fact, if he’s elected, there won’t even be problems, so we won’t need answers. … I am definitely in the second category, made up of those who support candidates who are different or interesting. I supported McCain in the 2000 primaries, just because he represented a different, perhaps more honest, way of running for office. I support Dean now because it appears he approaches campaigning and the concept of politics similar to the way McCain did, although the two men are very far apart in terms of left-right.[Find this post here.]
Fray o’ the Day: Faith-Based Fray, where readers open the good book and unfurl their prayer rugs to contemplate Steven Waldman’s “Commandment the First: Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?IOZ won’t “ever presume that Abraham in fact existed or ever had his little Eureka moment out there in the suburbs of Ur,” but has some commentary nonetheless here, as does doodahman here, and Picoluomini here, who finds the National Association of Evangelical president’s characterization of God as encouraging of freedom, love, forgiveness, et al, to be akin to a divine “Surgeon General.” … KA1:50 a.m.