Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Wish," by Nine Inch Nails

This one comes with a birthday dedication. To Dan ... 29 years, on your way to Hell.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Rocks: "This Is Not For You," by Pearl Jam

My favorite Pearl Jam song, in all its angry and shambling rock glory.

That Damned 'Mosque' Issue Won't Go Away

It feels like an eternity since I posted a "Debate of the Week" item on the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque." (It's not on Ground Zero, and it's more of a community center with a mosque component.) Yet, as the midterm congressional elections approach, the issue has re-emerged as THE political hot button of the season.

So, again, I'm going to ask you: what are your thoughts on this? Do you think the planners should build Cordoba House, or Park51, at its proposed site, a former Burlington Coat Factory two blocks away from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan?  Please weigh in below in the comments section. Also, please avoid ad hominem attacks on people you may disagree with. If you disagree with their reasoning, however, point out why and please cite facts that support your case.

Before the commenting begins, I want to point out two opinions on the topic that haven't really been addressed in the media:

First, here's leading atheist thinker Sam Harris (The Daily Beast via The Daily Dish):
The claim that the events of September 11, 2001, had “nothing to do with Islam” is an abject and destabilizing lie. This murder of 3,000 innocents was viewed as a victory for the One True Faith by millions of Muslims throughout the world (even, idiotically, by those who think it was perpetrated by the Mossad). And the erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory—and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice. This may not be reason enough for the supporters of this mosque to reconsider their project. And perhaps they shouldn’t. Perhaps there is some form of Islam that could issue from this site that would be better, all things considered, than simply not building another mosque in the first place. But this leads me to a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: American Muslims should be absolutely free to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero; but the ones who should do it probably wouldn’t want to.
Now, here's former Bush administration solicitor general Ted Olson*, whose wife died in the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon (Talking Points Memo):
Well it may not make me hap- popular with some people, but I think probably the president was right about this. I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices, or structures, or places of religious worship or study, where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing, and that we don't want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don't think it should be a political issue. It shouldn't be a Republican or Democratic issue, either. 
*Interesting, sad note: Olson's birthday is Sept. 11.

It's been a while.

But, hey, I have a couple of posts planned today!

So bust out that champagne. I'm back, baby!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Taxi," by Harry Chapin

Not exactly rockin', but it'll do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inception: What's the meaning of this?

Predictably, there's been a lot of debate over the meaning of "Inception." I'm curious to read what you think. I'll include some pertinent links and quotes after the jump, in case you want to discuss the movie.


Movie Review: Inception

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine

"Inception" is quite simply a great time at the movies. It's as fun to watch its intricately designed and thrilling set pieces as it is to try to make sense of  the convoluted rules and logic of the simulated dream worlds it depicts.  Like director Christopher Nolan's previous works, particularly "Memento" and "The Prestige," it's a cleverly designed puzzle with lots of moving parts. A game, a magic trick, a mind-bending word problem. It can even be seen as a successful metaphor for film-making itself, but I'm just not sure it succeeds completely as art, though.

And you know what? That's not such a bad thing here. It's about time we got a somewhat original, intelligently made blockbuster action movie out of today's Hollywood. Nolan can continue to lazily fudge plot twists in Batman movies if it means more money for him to take on big, ambitious projects like this. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Road

Director: John Hillcoat

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce, Garret Dillahunt, Michael K. Williams, Molly Parker

"The Road" is a hopeful movie. Sure, it's set in a barren and scorched post-apocalyptic wasteland that used to be America, and, yes, it seems like most of the survivors of an unnamed catastrophe have teamed up to become roving bands of cannibals. But there is a fire that burns in the heart of this nightmarish vision. It's the fire of a father's love for his son and for the belief that there are still "good guys" out there who'll want to carry on in the face of seemingly unending horror.

Don't expect a sappy, overly sentimental two hours, though, and fans of Cormac McCarthy's novel should be satisfied, although the movie just misses the complete emotional devastation the book provides. Director John Hillcoat is exceptionally faithful to the brutal, uncompromising vision in the source material. Ash and soot cover everything. Water is gray and undrinkable without some very crude purification. Highways and bridges are shattered and abandoned. Every town's a ghost town, and the rare house that may still be occupied might just have a storeroom full of maimed people being kept alive for food.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Movie Review: The Killer Inside Me

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Ned Beatty, Simon Baker, Elias Koteas, Bill Pullman

Just a warning. I recommend "The Killer Inside Me" enthusiastically, but it's not for everyone. It features some pretty frank depictions of violence against women. It's not glorified or glamorous. It's detestable and disgusting, which is entirely the point. This movie, which is incredibly faithful to its Jim Thompson-penned source novel, tells its story from the perspective of a deeply disturbed man, and while it seeks to understand the killer, it doesn't sympathize with him.

Thankfully, Casey Affleck, who plays the killer, gets this. He's one of the finest actors working today, and his performance here is another great one. That's no small task, since he already set such a high standard for himself in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" and "Gone Baby Gone." His ability to switch from awkward weirdness to keen intensity to terrifying blankness reminds me of a younger Robert DeNiro or Christopher Walken when they were establishing themselves as Hollywood's go-to psychologically interesting leading men in the 1970s.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Rocks: "Light Me Up," by Ween

"I'm a friggin' man of steel, 
I got lots of sex appeal,
Do you want to make a deal?"

Too hot to blog.

Jesus. This heat.

It is downright oppressive out there. Summer in the northeast sucks the energy out of me. The sun is blazing, the pollution is thick, and the humidity is saturating. Why even bother to move? I'm glad I've been on vacation during this heat wave. I couldn't imagine dragging myself to Midtown every day, sweating my face off at train platforms and bus stops.

Unfortunately, the heat has also sapped my inspiration to blog. Sorry about that. I promise I have stuff coming, including reviews of "The Killer Inside Me" and "The Road," a movie I had been looking forward to seeing but had put off for a while. I liked both a bit, although one more than the other. I'll get it up here soon.

Also, I have a Friday Rocks coming in just a few minutes. Here's hoping you're still out there!

Oh, and go fuck yourself, LeBron James. It takes a real asshole to celebrate the Heat with weather like this.