Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Four Powerful Documentary Recommendations

January 18, 2009

Dark Days: “Near Penn Station, next to the Amtrak tracks, squatters have been living for years. Marc Singer goes underground to live with them, and films this “family.” A dozen or so men and one woman talk about their lives: horrors of childhood, jail time, losing children, being coke-heads. They scavenge, they’ve built themselves sturdy one-room shacks; they have pets, cook, chat, argue, give each other haircuts. A bucket is their toilet. Leaky overhead pipes are a source of water for showers. They live in virtual darkness. During the filming, Amtrak gives a 30-day eviction notice. I caught Dark Days in a documentary film class as the last example of the semester, and it’s by far one of the best I’ve ever seen. The first-time filmmaker shot in black & white due to his inexperience, but I can’t imagine this as strong if it were in color.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room: “Enron dives from the seventh largest US company to bankruptcy in less than a year in this tale told chronologically. The emphasis is on human drama, from suicide to 20,000 people sacked: the personalities of Ken Lay (with Falwellesque rectitude), Jeff Skilling (he of big ideas), Lou Pai (gone with $250 M), and Andy Fastow (the dark prince) dominate. Along the way, we watch Enron game California’s deregulated electricity market, get a free pass from Arthur Andersen (which okays the dubious mark-to-market accounting), use greed to manipulate banks and brokerages (Merrill Lynch fires the analyst who questions Enron’s rise), and hear from both Presidents Bush what great guys these are.” To say I was shocked by this film would probably be a slight understatement, moreso by my own naivity about the far reaches of Coporate America. An especially enlightening moment comes when you see a few market analysis controlling the rolling blackouts in California. Unbelievable.

Why We Fight (2005): “He may have been the ultimate icon of 1950s conformity and postwar complacency, but Dwight D. Eisenhower was an iconoclast, visionary, and the Cassandra of the New World Order. Upon departing his presidency, Eisenhower issued a stern, cogent warning about the burgeoning ‘military industrial complex,’ foretelling with ominous clarity the state of the world in 2004 with its incestuous entanglement of political, corporate, and Defense Department interests.” Having studied war as a focus in my history education, it’s no question why I was drawn to this film. The subject matter struck me early on, and by the end, I was a bit upset – mostly due to how much the American people were taken for fools.

Harlan County, USA: “This film documents the coal miners’ strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastover’s refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA.” This is gritty and raw, looking into a world of blue collar America I really didn’t know to much about. I personally was left still conflicted.

[all summaries via the users of IMDb]

Top 10 of 2008 (in no particular order)

December 31, 2008

I arguably saw much fewer movies and listened to much fewer music than most this year. I’ve been both broke and just plain bored. It’s not that any of it is good or bad; it’s just been done. I dunno. Anyway, from what I did see or hear or experience, obviously there were some standouts.

  1. The Dark Knight: It took me forever to see this movie, because everyone saw it opening weekend & I was broke. But, when I finally did (at the IMAX, no less), I was floored. I love how raw the new cycle of Batman movies are, but every bit was just one “woah” after “gasp”, & I have yet to get tired of my dvd. It was dark, brilliant, and yes, Heath Ledger was so perfectly amoral. It took twists I didn’t expect, and I loved it.
  2. WALL-E: adorable, funny, endearing. Best Disney/Pixar yet.
  3. Milk: A very late contender, but one that warrants a place on any list. This film holds such an important story of hope and need for general equality that I honestly had no idea about up until a few months ago. It’s crazy how much the protests to Prop 6 resemble so much what we’ve seen recently against Prop 8, and just how long some fights have gone on.
  4. Cloverfield: This was just a good straight-up sci-fi/action film that utilized the more realistic handheld camera technique AND an eerie web campaign (complete with character myspace profiles!) that was pretty refreshing.
  5. Dear & the Headlights & Drunk Like Bible Times: Any sort of bias aside, you have to give the band so much credit. Great material, skilled musicians, a lot of heart, and genuinely nice guys to boot. It took going back to the first album (which is also rather great) just to see the growth and how clean the second record is. More than anything, the band’s style is so varied that its hard to get tired of the songs.
  6. Girl Talk & Feed the Animals: I’m not incredibly in tune with the mash-up scene, but when a friend “forced” it on me, I couldn’t pass it up (he tends to have good taste). Listening to Girl Talk is like playing a game of how many samples can you name in one song, and its quite possibly the best thing ever. It’s not at all background music – it’ll steal your focus too much for that. And a special note that any cube dancing will earn you comments from co-workers.
  7. We Are Scientists & Brain Thrust Mastery: I was hooked on this immediately with “After Hours” on the Slacker indie station earlier in the year, and when I finally downloaded the album, I felt warped into some weirdly awesome 1986/2008 universe. I’m not sure if that’s just me, but it hit various points of indie-pop goodness that was both original & homage-ish… again, that could be just me. Whatever, it’s damn good.
  8. Boston, MA: I was in Beantown for a solid 5 days, and while it would’ve been nice to NOT be wandering alone, the city has a lot of charm & character, along with an endless supply of Dunkin Donuts coffee. Of course, throw me in the mix with awesome mass transit, and I’m kinda sold.
  9. Washington, DC: Spent a few short days here before Boston, and was just in awe of everything. It’d been years since I’d seen DC, and even though I did a number of touristy things, walking around Capital Hill at night with the streets near empty was easily one of the most peaceful moments I’ve had all year. I also walked away from this city with one of my favorite photographs to date.
  10. Barack Obama: I know I said unranked, but really, this is by far the best thing to come out of 2008. Obama aligns so close with my political ideals, but his centrist rhetoric and ACTIONS are just clamoring to bring this country together in a way it hasn’t seen in so long. And I really have such a great deal of hope in not just what he can do as president, but also what his leadership style can do for our government. I know people with have their disagreements with his philosophies, but in the end, I just know they’ll see… they’ll see. I don’t even want to fight with anyone about it anymore; we’ll all see.

Honorable mention: NPR

Christmas Day Link Post

December 25, 2008

Festivities are over, I’ve received both books I wanted, & tomorrow I return to work (for a short day). Hope the holidays were merry!

News:

The Shoe Heard Round the World (Op-Ed by John Kenney feat. a few other uncommon cultural insults)

Growing up in the world of “The Wire” (“Sometimes, it’s not enough to give kids who come from a world like ‘The Wire’ the chance to get out. They also have to be convinced that they deserve it.”)

A Healthy Addiction (944 Magazine features Yogurtini, the Valley’s first self-serve frozen yogurt shop)

White House Memo & The Right to Dissolve the Constitution (So… Cheney=bad. Got it.)

Arianna Huffington’s Scuzzy Copying Pisses Off Chicagoans (This sad excuse for laziness would’ve never passed the common university plagiarism scanner. Academic Dishonesty FTW.)

Photo:

Snow around Vancouver (from the photovancouver LJ community; I can die happy, kthx.)

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Health:

Skip the Sleeping Pills (Alternatives to possibly addictive OTC medications, via Lifehacker)

9 Strong Reasons to Eat Slowly (via Lifehacker)

Frugal Living:

How to Live Easily Without that Satellite Package (I did something similiar in cancelling my digital cable, and my only void? Soccer. le sigh. via Consumerist)

Misc Web Finds:

14 Ways to use Twitter politely

11 Words that Sound Offensive, but Aren’t (Assagai! Prickmadam!)

20 Amazing & Essential Non-fiction Books to Enrich Your Library (& I’m not just linking this because he included Fever Pitch! Really!)

Walking the Line

December 12, 2008

The way I “practice” my faith is very different from Megapreacher Joel Osteen, but I was pleasantly surprised when I passed this excerpt on CNN’s Larry King Live where Mr. Osteen is discussing preaching politics from the pulpit:

““You know, people have different views, and they’re just as passionate. They love God just as much. And so, I would just encourage … just get out there and vote. But we don’t feel like it’s our place to tell people how to vote. Just search their own heart”

A little over a month prior to the election, a number of evangelical churches decided to defy federal non-profit tax laws and formally endorse John McCain, even though the IRS has been cracking such acts. With help from the Alliance Defense Fund, these pastors risked losing their non-profit tax-exempt status to endorse (what they believed to be) their political candidate for office. However, as lawyers are quick to correctly point out (both in this NPR article and on various talk news programs), this is inherently illegal: “…if a church can endorse a candidate, it is using tax-free dollars — taxpayer money — to subsidize a political campaign.”

Where is the line drawn? Where is it appropriate to use your power of position to engage in politics? In doing so, do members of a church congregation feel that awkward pressure if they should disagree with their leaders?

I’ll admit that when I first heard the original story on NPR, I was angry. Angry with those organizations that preach virtues clearly breaking tax laws, and angry because I know the environment & just how susceptible those ears can be. But, I’m not an agent of the law, and perhaps those ears have developed a buffer after a number of years of Executive lies. Mostly, it just doesn’t surprise me anymore.

Sunday Link Post

November 23, 2008
  • Here’s a short interview with lovely friend Jannese Davidson as she prepares to star in this season’s of Childplay‘s The Velvateen Rabbit. Running now through Dec 21st at Tempe Center for the Arts.
  • Friends Tom & Malora Mulhern discuss with the Calgary Herald their year-long (almost up!) quest to lead a compact life.
  • From David W. Dunlap of the New York Times; New York City 1978 vs. New York City 2008. My personal favorites are staple landmarks Grand Central Station & the now-missing Twin Towers (via kottke.)
  • While entering the Oval Office means Obama must give up his Blackberry (& email altogether!), for Bush, it means getting to send again. I’ll be honest: the latter be a tough transition for me, even if I’d still be connected to the world otherwise.
  • Don’t miss this unbelievable insight into the 2008 Presidential campaigns from Newsweek. I warn you – its long (7 “chapters”), but well worth the read.
  • Macworld’s 18 ways to protect your Mac – I’d emphasize using both built-in firewalls, ALWAYS installing Apple software/security updates, & not clicking links from email re: bank/sensitive accounts or even Facebook. (It’s just as easy to open another tab and go to the page directly on your own, and it can save you from phishing.)
  • If you are a fan of the insanely awesome “Caves” episode of Planet Earth, check out this from National Geographic: Crystal Palace. I think :O!!!!! sums it up quite nicely.