Thursday, August 26, 2010

Mixed Bag of Blogging by Numbers

I don't have a movie review for you this week. Not surprising, considering that the offerings at your local theatre this weekend include Piranha in Real 3D and Eat, Pray, Love, a film based on Elizabeth Gilbert's inane quasi-memoir of the same name filled with pages of childish gibberish masquerading as profound insights on life.  I wish they would make a movie based on Azar Nafisi's much more engaging memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I would gladly pay double the price of admission to go see. If you haven't read it, you should. It chronicles the author's life in Iran's Islamic theocracy and follows the lives of seven female University students who joined Nafisi's (their former professor) secret book club where they meet to discuss banned Western literature after her resignation from the University of Allameh Tabatabei.  The book is filled with lots of eating, praying and love, but they are of a deep and profound nature that puts Miss Gilbert's gimmicky book/film to shame.  Hey! Let's do some blogging by numbers!

1 - I may not have a movie review for this week, but I do have a movie recommendation. Vigilante movies are a staple of American cinema, but as iconic as many of them have become - think Taxi Driver and Falling Down, for example - their heroes are usually a tad unstable.

Gran Torino was a satisfying film in many respects, but Eastwood can never divorce himself from his trademark tortured "victim hero", like he played in Unforgiven or Million Dollar Baby - oh yeah, did it ever occur to anyone that once those gang members posted bail, they or their friends were probably going to massacre the entire neighborhood? Kind of a huge plot hole, one would think.

Anyway, I think that up-and-coming director Daniel Barber may have given us the best movie in the genre to date with his first feature length film, Harry Brown.

Harry Brown stars the ever brilliant Michael Caine as a recently widowed ex-marine living in London's south end, an area being terrorized by gangs of violent young thugs. After Brown's friend is murdered trying to fend off local hoods, he finds the police sympathetic but unable to exact any real justice under Britain's bureaucracy-laden justice system. Harry, of course, takes matters into his own hands.

What sets Harry Brown apart from other vigilante films is that Brown is not a wise-cracking Hollywood bad ass. The movie has wonderfully suspenseful moments, but Harry's body count is modest and not sensationalized. What keeps the film grounded is that the young punks who harass and terrorize the neighborhood are frightening and believable. The other well played card is the frustration of the movie's detectives, Hickock and Frampton, whose hands are tied by a PR obsessed upper brass more concerned with public opinion and press conferences than actually tackling crime.

Harry Brown is well acted, well paced, and succeeds were it's predecessors have failed. Go see it.

2 -  The Ground Zero Mosque debate is taking on the same tone I witnessed during theTea Party movement's early days, and as I discussed in the last blog, it's a tone intentionally set by the media.  The MSM has decided to frame the debate as the forces of the crazed, Muslim hating "Christian Right" vs the sober-minded liberal voices of tolerance and understanding.  Unlike the smear campaign the media launched on Tea Partiers, they are having less success painting the Mosque's detractors as crazed lunatics - but they sure are trying.  A recent protest against the Mosque was widely dubbed as an "anti-Muslim rally."  Strange, considering many of the people at the protest were Muslims. Rima Fakih, the first Muslim to wear the Miss USA crown (bestowed upon her by those intolerant Americans!!), has spoken out against the building of the Mosque. Hell, even Howard Dean has come to the defense of the protesters.

Those of us who oppose the building of the Mosque are opposed to it because it is in poor taste. The first amendment issues are utter hog wash and the so-called "Cordoba Center" has no more business being there than a Confederate flag would on a former slave plantation, or a Christian church would on the grounds of Auschwitz (yes, I do recall the "Cross Shadow" incident).

Putting aside the utter and complete disrespect the Mosque represents to the victims of 9/11, one must also question the motives of its supporters.  Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Mosque’s principal backer and an outspoken ally of Iran's brutal theocracy, has previously blamed 9/11 on American foreign policy, claiming "America has blood on it's hands."  How can anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty look at Imam Rauf's history of notoriously anti-American utterings and believe in the purity of his motives?

The Ground Zero Mosque is a mockery to the memory of those who died there almost 10 years ago. We are not anti-Muslim, we are pro-respect. 

3 - Please email any tips on the types of food that helped you with nausea during your first trimester of pregnancy. My editor/incubator the lovely Mrs. Claire is re-enacting the ipecac scene from Family Guy every 2 hours and we welcome any suggestions that might help to ease the stomach of my dear wife. I know most writers wish this sort of thing on their editor, but I can't in good conscience allow this to continue.

4 - Speaking of editors, my precious wife is quite sick, so if you notice that my articles are full of mixed metaphors,  egregious punctuation and split infinitives, it's because she's too ill to edit my pieces at the moment. Any sloppiness is entirely of my own hand and not that of my talented editor.

5 - Oh the joy!! Oh the schadenfreude!! It's rare that an arrogant Hollywood liberal actually gets humiliated in public for his outspoken political beliefs, but James "the bully" Cameron finally shot his mouth off one too many times and got slammed for it. Now, there's nothing wrong with being a Hollywood liberal. Ben Affleck is surprisingly courteous and well informed, and people like Brad Pitt put their money where their mouth is and actually do some good in the world. I don't agree with most of their beliefs, but they're not pompous little dilettantes. James Cameron, on the other hand, has encouraged enviro-terrorism and has called people who question climate change "swine." Cameron decided to "call out the deniers" by challenging them to a debate, and here's what happened;

"... as soon as everything was organized, Cameron began changing the rules. First, he wanted to change his team. Then he wanted the format to be changed from a debate to a roundtable discussion. Then he wanted to ban the opposing side's cameras. Then he wanted to completely get rid of all cameras, stating that audio should only be recorded.

Breitbart, Morano and McElhinney agreed to all the unexpected changes, but Cameron kept going. He next said that he wanted all media to be banned and to make the roundtable open only to those attending the conference. He then decided against streaming the discussion on the internet and then concluded with a rule that no recording of any kind would be allowed.

The three men once again agreed. And finally, on the day before the event, Cameron withdrew, claiming that he no longer wanted to take part. According to Cameron's spokesman, the director did not want to participate because "Morano is not at James Cameron's level to debate. Cameron should be debating someone who is similar to his stature in our society."

Cameron is a coward and a liar and he knows he would have been laughed off the stage. Maybe now you'll shut your gd mouth, James.

6 - Have a good weekend!!



Monday, August 16, 2010

The Pied Pipers of Political Piety

I'm using a new format for blogging, after relenting to a three year campaign by my brother and webmaster to revamp the look of the site. I liked the old site because it was clunky and accessible, with no doodads and flashing thingies to distract you - like that seedy motel room Barney Frank rents every other weekend for what Jefferson might have called "extra-constitutional purposes." I have to admit he did a great job with the overhaul, and the general consensus seems to be "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific", so I guess I'm going to stick with it - not that I have a choice. The treacherous little bastard made certain there was no way to revert back to the old format, so I'm sure he's still cackling in his basement, petting a gray cat and stroking his chin like the bad guy in a James Bond movie. Nah, seriously, he did a wonderful job, and if you bat your lashes over to the right, you can see a live, real time scroll of all my latest tweets which the all knowing, all seeing Ali Velshi has called "neo-con" and "idiotic." How many times a day does that guy google himself?

Lots of readers have been lobbing ideas across the court for me to blog about, and I'll touch on all of them in the next blogging by numbers. What I'm itching to address is that rash I got from...I mean, the coconut shuffle game the Administration and left wing pseudo-intellectual columnists and bloggers have been playing as of late.

The left is acutely aware of two things - If you control the language, you control the debate, and once you control the debate you can set the parameters of that debate in the media. If you're not quite sure where I'm going with this, why is the opposing conservative viewpoint always considered "anti?" We're never "pro-life", we're "anti-abortion." We're never "pro-border enforcement", we're "anti-immigration." We're never "pro-second amendment" we're "anti-gun control." We never think to question these labels because they've become so embedded in the national psyche we take them for granted. A colleague of mine was gently chiding me for being critical of my company's carbon emission reduction program.

"Oh. You're an anti- environmentalist?" she asked.

I grinned and responded, "No. I'm pro-common sense."

As the Democratic party continues to implode and the President's approval ratings dip to all time lows, conservatives are asking some tough questions:

Why did an obscure financial institution called ShoreBank got a 20 million dollar Tarp bailout from the Administration, and why does the President appear in a video on their website talking about overseas micro-management?

How could a judge rule on in favour of the DOJ on a facial case regarding Arizona's immigration law when she opened her judgement by conceding it was impossible for the Administration to meet the standard required? The administration had to prove that the law could never be carried out in accordance with the Constitution. Judge Bolton admitted that standard of proof could never be met, but ruled in favour of the Feds anyway.

If Republicans are the so-called "party of the rich", why are career Democratic politicians like Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters facing numerous ethics violations over tax evasion and financial fraud? Why is big business sharing so much pillow space with the left?

But most troubling of all, why is so little attention being paid to the "Amnesty Memo" which states in no uncertain terms that the Administration will simply skip over the legislative branch altogether if they can't get satisfaction from an activist judiciary? These are all hot button issues, but if you try and engage in a scholarly debate about any of these things in the MSM or the blogosphere, you will either

A - Be accused of calling members of the adminstration communists;


B - Be ridiculed about the tea parties while being peppered with sexual inuendo about tea bagging.

The other day I read a column by some obscure left wing New England blogger who rambled on in pitch perfect 'above the fray' sanctimony about how conservatives were debasing the political discourse by "listening to Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck" and actively accusing members of the administration of clandestine meetings with communists.  He wrote that the right needed to act like adults and talk about issues instead of hurling insults. Funny thing is, about an hour after he had posted his self righteous sermon about maturity, I peeked over at his Facebook wall, and he was posting comment after comment laced with X-rated tea bagging jokes and mocking Sarah Palin's down syndrome child. Class act, this guy.  

I don't know what the tea party has to do with the 13 ethics charges that have effectively put an end to Charlie Rangel's career. I also don't know what tea-bagging has to do with the Harlem Urban Development Corporation, a corporation Rangel set up under the guise of helping the community that turned out to be nothing but a slush fund to line his pockets and evade taxes.

I don't know what communism has to do Judge Bolton's brazen disregard for Federal law when the Justice Department succeeded in mounting a bogus and weak challenge to Arizona's proposed immigration law. I don't watch much Glenn Beck or listen to Rush Limbaugh, but I do read enough National Review and James Bowman to know that Judge Bolton stacked the deck to deliver a predetermined decision.

There's nothing wrong with Glenn Beck or Limbaugh, I find them entertaining and very good at what they do - but why do conservative pundits constantly have to defend something Beck said 3 weeks ago when they were called on a cable news show to talk about Federal preemption?

They have to because the media and the left are engaging in political misdirection.  Ask a conservative like Andy McCarthy about SB 1070 and you'll get an air tight argument about the multiple errors in judge Bolton's decision. If you head over to NRO's "The Corner", you'll see a variety of conservative opinions about immigration law, both pro and con.

The right is not some monolithic, glassy eyed cabal of like-minded people.  It's a vibrant intellectual movement that spends very little time engaging in conspiracy theories about the President's birth certificate, but click on any cable news network and you're led to believe we're all a bunch of yokels with a mouth full of rotting teeth screaming about how "Dem Eemeegrints needs to git back to Mexico!"

Since this morning, conservatives have been talking about reforming rule 501 and the so-called "Stealth Energy Tax". No one is talking about communists or dubious birth certificates - but if you turn on MSNBC or CNN, you would think the only thing we're discussing is building up a network of state militias to overthrow the government.

Again, I hate seeing my conservative colleagues appear on cable news programs only to spend 10 minutes defending talk radio hosts when they were asked on air to discuss different demographics and how they might affect incumbent Senate seats. 
The media doesn't want you to see the real conservative movement, the one William F Buckley started 50 years ago - and the media doesn't get the intellectual conservative movement. They know it's not to their benefit to try to understand it.
Remember that CNN video that went viral showing disgraced reporter Susan Roesgen getting lippy with  peaceful tea party protesters? What struck me the most was not the exchange between Rosengen and the protesters.  It was her smug, condescending attitude, going as far as to openly suggest they didn't undertand the historical impact of the Lincoln adminstration, or the American constitution itself. It's the type of pinched nose, intellectual elitism that's rampant in the media and within the current Adminstration that says "we know what's best for you, you ignorant peasants."  
So the next time someone starts laughing at you about being a stupid tea bagger, just smile right back and ask;
"That's funny, but all jokes asside, don't you feel that a facial challenge in a constitutional case can't be satisfied by using anectdotal evidence?"
You'll quickly find out that their liberal intellectual chest puffing is just a lot of hot air and insults with little substance beyond blaming everything on George Bush.   

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Blog before the Blog

What a week. I know you're all saying "So where's the new blog Joe?" to which I respond, "Oh my God you are the neediest kids!"  No, seriously, you guys are the life blood of this blog and thanks to your dedication and support we will soon be approaching the 10,000 hit mark.

Anyway, a couple of things to touch on before I post the new article.

Ever feel fatigued and stressed? Ever feel like everything aches or find yourself constantly reaching for the Tylenol and you have to pop a couple of Adderall to get that "ready to go" buzz in the morning? Did you ever wish there was some kind of profession that specialized in alleviating pain, the inducement of relaxation and the promotion of good health? Well hey! Turns out there is! It's called massage therapy, and you can't be callin' it a massage unless it's done by a licensed, certified professional with years of experience.

Just like you you wouldn't go anywhere else but TSH for the latest in razor sharp, political commentary, I wouldn't go anywhere else for a massage unless it was done by Amanda at Scroll Tree Massage and Bodyworks. Scroll Tree promotes; "...a holistic approach to health care that's aimed at treating physical ailments and maintaining a pain-free lifestyle."  So click on the link above, check out their website and book an appointment today! For the record, though TSH fully endorses Scroll Tree, neither Amanda or Scroll tree necessarily endorse this blog or the views expressed here.

On to other business....

Since the blog went live again, lots of people have been asking why there hasn't been as many updates as in the past. Well, first off, I'm a notoriously lazy asshole, I mean, things have been very hectic.

I mentioned several months ago that my mother has been battling an aggressive cancer in an advanced stage. This has been a very trying time for my family with lots of oncologist appointments, rounds of chemo, and watching my brave mom battling the unpleasant side effects that come with all of the above.

I'm happy to report that we recently received news that her chemotherapy, against all odds, is working. Mom is getting healthier, and my family thanks all of you for your prayers and kind words and we ask that you continue praying. This is a miracle that would not have been possible without the wonders of modern medicine and the power of so much prayer and love.  Thank you to everyone.

New blog will be up soon! Hang tight!



Saturday, August 07, 2010

Weekend DVD Pick - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

During it's original release date The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford made many movie critics' top ten list and with good reason. The film, adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert Hanson was the first major directorial debut by Aussie filmmaker Andrew Dominik. It is a sweeping epic with a pitch perfect score by Nick Cave, magnificent cinematography, and brilliant performances by Brad Pitt as James and Cassey Affleck as the star struck, and ultimately spurned, Robert Ford.

Those who praised the movie unanimously echoed that it was the best western since "Unforgiven", which, it would seem to me, is setting the bar rather low. What makes the movie so appealing is the absence of a Clint Eastwood, Byron-esque hero running recklessly towards his own damnation. A thematic hero Eastwood has been unable to break with since "Unforgiven" swept the Oscars in 1993.

Conservative critics, most notably James Bowman, praised the film's score and cinematography, but accused it of being little more than a post modernist study in celebrity worship. While it's difficult to dispute that Affleck's Ford is a sycophantic admirer of James, I doubt the film is in any way meant to be allegorical.
The film has many flaws, the most glaring being it's 160 minute running time whittled down from it's original span of well over 3 hours. When a movie, especially a Western, asks it's audience to sit for over 2 hours one would expect a little more red meat than the movie provides. The only heist scene we are let in on, the Blue Cut Train Robbery, serves as the opening sequence of the film. Also, precious little is seen of the supporting cast, most notably the talented Sam Shepard (Frank James) and the always wonderful Sam Rockwell

The movie centers around Jesse as a man living on borrowed time.  James takes into his confidence the star struck Robert Ford, who he misjudges as being too simple minded or spell bound by his own cult of persona that he feels no real threat from him until it is much too late.

Jesse's brutality is slow and methodical, and for the most part unseen as he systematically hunts down the remaining members of the Blue Cut Train Robbery gang. What's brilliant about Pitt's performance is that his obsessive paranoia is always masked behind a facade of cordiality and stoicism. His piercing blue eyes miss nothing as he casually makes house calls to those who have betrayed him. Not to discover where the chess pieces are falling, but to confirm what he already knows by peppering casual conversation with seemingly benign questions.

Pitt allows us brief opportunities to witness the cracks in his veneer, the first being the furious beating of a gang member's young nephews to give up the location of his uncle. James must be forcibly subdued before he risks killing the boy in a frenzy. After leaving the barn, Pitt is seen sobbing uncontrollably, his arms wrapped around the neck of his horse. It is one of many great moments in an imperfect film - Is his grief the product of self-pity or is he weeping in disgust at his own brutality wrought upon a child similar in age to his own children?

The ambiguity of his inner torment and the cause of it are left for the audience to ponder. The only insight into the true motives - or competing motives are given in scattered piecemeal throughout the film. In one scene, as the gang awaits the coming of the train in Blue Cut, Missouri, one of the bandits is heard singing an anti-union hymn about "that bastard Lincoln". Earlier on, the robbers engage in a conversation about the virility of General Lee. There is no doubt James has become a folk hero to buoy the spirits of the South after the humiliation of reconstruction, as is well evidenced by the penny books Ford lovingly collects in a box underneath his bed extolling and exaggerating the exploits of the James gang as redeemers of the South's honor. Is James the avenger of the South, or a common thug with a serpentine charm? The movie seems uninterested in answering this question, though it has close to 3 hours to do so.

Ford eventually becomes little more than an errand boy to James, fueling his rage and ultimately leading him to accept the $10,000 bounty for shooting James dead at the request of Missouri's Governor Crittenden.

James' demise is a classic reworking of the tale that has been retold countless times in movies, books, and oral tradition. It involves being shot in the back while fixing a picture - expect in this case, James is seen dusting the picture on a stool, after leaving his sidearms on the love seat. I had wrestled for some time with whether the scene is meant to show James as being careless, or whether it is an explicit act of resignation. The answer is no doubt the latter; James is clearly aware that Ford is simply biding his time, waiting for the opportune monent to dispatch of him.

The fact that James removes his guns and turns his back to Ford is his way of removing any glory Ford hopes to gain for his treachery. As Jesse watches Ford aim the revolver at him through the reflection of the picture, Ford also sees the condescension on James' face reflected back, as if to say "There will be no parades for a coward who shoots an unarmed man in the back".

There are indeed no parades for Robert Ford. Though the act has brings him wealth, he is ridiculed, beaten, spit on and ultimately assassinated himself.

If you're a fan of Tombstone or The Quick and The Dead, this movie will probably bore you to tears. If you fancy yourself a cinematic intellectual of sorts, you won't find the character's rambling on in any post modern soliloquies either. This movie is a visual feast and as mentioned earlier, Nick Cave's subdued but haunting score is complimented beautifully by the pitch perfect narration of Hugh Ross. Pitt and Affleck are spellbinding, and the supporting cast are flawless.

This movie is far from a masterpiece, but when set beside the endless junk being spit out of Hollywood, I still strongly recommend it to my readers.


The movie was co-produced by Ridley Scott, director of Gladiator. In a salute to his fans, there is a scene in the early moments of the film where Jesse's hand is seen gliding over the top of a field of wheat - an almost identical shot that Ridley used at the beginning of Gladiator.