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Archive for September, 2009

My favorite Roman Polanski films

For someone with a long and prolific career, Polanski has certainly pulled off the difficult feat of consistently creating great movies in many genres. While I have my favorites I can’t think of any Polanski film I didn’t like. My favorite is an easy pick and requires no thought on my part: Tess. It’s a fantastic adaptation of the novel with probably the best casting of any novel put to screen. Alec, Angel, Tess, and the Derbyfields seem to walk straight off the pages of the novel. The photography can’t be beat.

Second favorite is a little more difficult. I have to say that I loved Bitter Moon. What an odd little movie. Usually when directors cast their wives in the lead role it’s a bad thing, but Emmanuelle Seigner is always fantastic. I loved Peter Coyote’s performance. I love how he’s a writer and how he’s not a very good one. The film has a lot of very strange surprises including one that had me rolling on the floor.

Chinatown is a favorite. I enjoyed watching Knife in the Water. Probably my least favorite would be Death and the Maiden. I wasn’t too taken with Sigourney Weaver’s performance although the film is very good. What is your favorite Polanski movie?

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Gigantic Rabbit Feet

Is it just me or does Danton have the largest feet you’ve ever seen on a cat? He kind of reminds me of Bugs Bunny with his white belly and white paws.

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Camping this weekend

You would think that 2 weeks in France would leave me relaxed and ready for at least 6 months of continued labor. Well it wasn’t. I ended up coming back to work at probably the most busy time in my whole career, and if that weren’t enough everyone on my team took vacations after I came back. So I haven’t had much time to post.

This weekend I’m getting some desperately needed R&R in Southern Washington. I may manage a post or two today and tomorrow, but after that I’ll see you Monday.

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In case you’re interested, this is roughly the route we took on our 2 week trip along the Loire river. A very rough estimate is 410 miles all in over a 10 day period.

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Headline of the day

aurora

As long as we’re using a deadly pandemic disease to describe prostitutes, it might behoove us to acknowledge that the headline could also very well be “Aurora ‘plagued with johns'” or “Aurora ‘plagued’ with men wanting to pay for sex.” These women wouldn’t be there without paying customers.

As an aside, I think Seattlepi.com has been mostly a failure in a journalistic sense. I’m not reading anything nearly as interesting in their pages since they went online only. I do noticed that the Seattletimes has gotten a little worse too now that they don’t have any competition. Having said that the Times seems to have made a good choice to hook up with existing neighborhood blogs rather than doing what the PI did which is ask the community for volunteer bloggers.

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Truly bizarre.

Last month, an Azerbaijani man told the BBC he had been accused of being unpatriotic and a “potential security threat”, after he sent a text backing Armenia’s song, Jan Jan.

The country’s authorities said people had merely been invited to explain why they voted for Armenia.

The two states fought over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the 1990s.

Here’s winner Alexander Rybak of Norway.

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The best band name ever

That would be We were promised jet packs. We saw them last night as the opening band for Frightened Rabbit at Neumo’s. They were fun.

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Founder Visas

Here’s another interesting article on Slate talking about a proposal to create an immigration classification for entrepreneurs.

He wants the government to create a new immigration class for founders of new firms. Every year, Graham’s “Founder Visa” program would let in 10,000 immigrants who’ve shown a plan for starting a new company. These people would be barred from working at existing companies—in other words, they wouldn’t be “taking American jobs.” Instead, Graham argues, they’d be creating jobs: “If we assume four people per startup, which is probably an overestimate, that’s 2,500 new companies. Each year,” Graham writes. “They wouldn’t all grow as big as Google, but out of 2,500 some would come close.”

I have to admit that the above proposal sounds good. One of the reasons I’m reluctant to embrace immigration reform in general is that usually the reform is focused on increasing the immigration numbers for desirable high-paying jobs. A lot of people assume talks of reform are focused on the undesirable jobs that Americans don’t want; that isn’t the case. It’s about keeping wages artificially lower than they would be in the tech industry and it’s about an assumption that Americans are not as capable of performing high-tech jobs as foreigners.

I have known many a Computer Science graduate in America who have not been able to find work. Is that a problem with our education system in America? I believe it almost certainly is. Again from the article:

Why do American tech firms need so many immigrant employees? Because there aren’t enough native workers to fill the jobs tech companies need. According to the National Science Foundation, about 60 percent of doctorate degrees in engineering at American universities are awarded to foreign students who are in the country on temporary visas (PDF). And foreign workers are responsible for some of the tech world’s signature innovations.

I think it’s an important question to ask why our American schools can only send students that make up only 40% of the doctorate degrees in engineering at American universities. I’m making the assumption that 60% of the foreigners are more qualified than their American counterparts, and I’m asking why that is. Can we acknowledge that our education system may have flaws.

It justs strikes me that if we give up on Americans ever fulfilling the American dream then we do our country a disservice.

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Here’s an article on Slate to completely depress you. I’m so glad we have our freedoms.

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The worst school ever

I saw If… for the second time. It’s fantastic and has a far better performance from Malcolm MacDowell than A Clockwork Orange. I kept thinking while watching this that the Columbine murderers certainly had nothing to complain about.

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Here are some odd leftovers. To see the whole gallery, click here to go to my flickr set.

1. I’m not sure what this funnel building was in the back or even what town this was, but I thought it looked cool and weird.

2. A gargoyle in Tours.

3. Bicycle and wheat.

4. Goat on a haystack.

5. Cat on a hot tin roof in Tours.

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Drama at the US Open

Here’s the video of the S. Williams Clijsters match. Article here.

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For a small part of the population, pro-life and pro-choice aren’t merely political and social issues. They are excuses to engage in a violent crusade against those who don’t agree with you. I would never wish violence on anyone, but I hope this episode leads both sides to have increased empathy for the other side. Those who celebrated the death of George Tiller, may now see that violence does nothing to further this cause.

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“You lie”

It’s amazing how low the stakes are with the Republicans. Outrage over illegal immigrants getting health care? I might add that the President said it wasn’t true.

I would have paid good money — campaign contribution money — to hear anyone — ANYONE — say “you lie” during one of the George W. Bush speeches in Congress. I mean how many lies did tell? How many people died because of the lies he told?

I wish this were a trend. I propose yelling out “you lie” at all sessions of Congress where a politician blatantly lies.

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Sancerre

This is a great little wine town in France. Look out for it on your next wine list. For some reason the photos of Sancerre turned out great. We climbed the town tower and were able to get the views you see below. I can’t believe we cycled up those hills. I was dog-tired when we finally got to the town.

Sancerre had some of the best food in France, and our best accomodation of the trip came from a wonderfully stylish and friendly Frenchwoman who owned a bed and breakfast called La Belle Epoque. If you ever go, you should stay there.

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Foie Gras Burger

On our recent trip to France, foie gras was ubiquitous. I doubt there was one menu where it didn’t make an appearance. Asking the French to give up foie gras is like asking Americans to stop driving. While it may be the right thing to do, it’s not going to happen.

Jake ordered this foie gras burger in Nevers. You can’t really eat it like a burger. Every bite would be way to rich. It was delicious and decadent though.

As an aside, I should have my France pictures to post any day now. Editing them is taking a lot longer than I thought.

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In the Loop

I saw In the Loop last night and I can’t recommend it enough. The film is an offshoot of the British television series “The Thick of It” which I have only seen a couple of episodes of. The series and film have a sort of docu-drama feel although the actors don’t confront the camera at any time and you don’t get the idea that what they are saying is made for public consumption, but it has the shaky camera the quick cuts that are normal in such films.

The premise is to take the events that led up to the UN Resolution to attack Iraq and to show them through lower level cabinet officials of both the British and the American governments. What’s fascinating about this film is that each major point is fact. We know that the British supported America in their endeavor to declare war on Iraq. We know that the reasons were inexplicable to a large percentage of the British and American public. Tony Blair’s inexplicable unconditional support of the Bush Administration led many to characterize Blair as being the lap dog of the Americans. We know that British intelligence was used by the Bush Administration as justification to the war. We know that opposition was squashed despite very serious reservations about the quality of such intelligence.

So in this film, we see a fictionalized account of how all of the above came to be. The characters are fictional, but again I think the major points of the film are accurate. The film is funny. Depressing. How can so many people put their careers above the common good in such a callous way? It’s hard to swallow. The dialogue is great though I think the dialogue of the American characters is somewhat off. I think Americans are more likely to smile to your face and tell you what you want to hear than stab you in the back, so I guess what I’m saying is the Americans talk a little bit too much like the Brits. The Brits swear with such foul relish. It’s poetry really and very clever. And very funny. But not so American which is why it sounds odd when the American characters do it. I suppose we’ve heard of politicians like Cheney throwing fuck yous out there, but that’s not really so clever and funny. Just foul.

I loved Peter Capaldi’s performance. Just like on the television series he is fantastic. I wasn’t so taken with James Gandolfini but again I think that’s because the words coming out of his mouth just didn’t quite sound right. A little too British and not so American. It’s certainly an uncomfortable film to watch at times because the humor is so incredibly dark. This is an incredibly dark subject and very smartly done. The next day I’m still thinking of what a tragic clusterfuck this all was.

Update: I’ve just been looking on google for what other clips they show of this film. Ignore all the trailer clips. The film’s charm is the swearing which sadly is not included in any trailer.
I enjoyed the crossest man in Scotland: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa3eoMnMC80”

And the Steve Coogan clip: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5kdOvsyv98”

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One of the things that really pissed me off during the election was the widely stated belief that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had it so easy, because he was black and she was a woman. The same was said about Justice Sotomayor. This belief is generally spoken by older white males. Quite honestly, how the fuck would they know?

I would just like to present some of the ridiculous things that President Barack Obama has had to put up with. I argue that all of these accusations are in some way related to the fact that he is black. These are things that he would never have to put up with if he were a white man.

1. That he has deep-seated racism for white people.

2. That he doesn’t wear a jacket in the oval office and is thus disrespectful. Somehow, no one said a thing when white guys did it.

3. He was asked if he ever dealt drugs.

4. That he is going to indoctrinate children with socialist values. Again, no one made a peep when white guys did it.

5. That he’s a secret Muslim.

6. That he’s not a U.S. citizen.

And so on and so forth.

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I’m still reeling over the New York Times article that says don’t bother exercising because nothing will make you lose weight. This article makes me feel a bit better.

That’s the word from Danish researchers who studied more than 2,800 middle-aged people for up to a dozen years, only to find that those with the slimmest thighs had the highest chance of heart disease and premature death.

“There was up to a double risk for the people with the smallest thighs,” said Dr. Berit L. Heitmann, a director of research at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark. “It’s quite substantial.”

People whose thighs measured less than 60 centimeters, or about 23.6 inches in circumference, were in trouble. And those with stick-thin gams (less than 18 inches around) were at the greatest risk, according to new study in the online version of the British Medical Journal.

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I tend to pay attention to the news stories about pedestrians and cyclists getting killed by cars. I do this because I am a bicycle commuter and a frequent walker. Quite frankly, cars scare the shit out of me.

While cycling home yesterday and encountering yet another close call with a car situation, I thought of a news story of a young girl who was killed in a crosswalk in Shoreline several years ago. And then I thought to myself, oh my God, my grandmother died in a crosswalk. My grandmother was killed by a car while crossing the street in a crosswalk. The only grandmother I ever had.

I’m not writing this to elicit sympathy from my readers. This happened in the early 90’s and I’m over it. In fact, what was disturbing to me about my memory yesterday was the fact that I don’t believe I was ever traumatized by this fact of my life. The event happened. My grief passed, so much so that when I think of pedestrian safety I think of news stories before I think of my own family’s experience. It’s very odd to feel this way. Reflecting on it makes me think I am a very cold person.

There was something of a trial. The driver was old and the sun was in his eyes. Of course, I always think that if you can’t see you shouldn’t be moving forward. I don’t think anything happened to him. The sad thing about pedestrian, cyclist, motorist and motorcycle deaths is that if the perpetrator wasn’t drunk then s/he usually just gets a slap on the wrist. Of course the fact that it’s not a DUI certainly doesn’t change the fact that your loved one died.

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Spinal Tap at Wembley

Last night we watched the DVD commentary on one of my favorite movies: This Is Spinal Tap. No matter what Christopher Guest has done since, This is Spinal Tap will always be my favorite.

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Jake is having some withdrawal symptoms from not having his daily pan aux raisin. I, on the other hand, am having difficulty reading anything to do with politics. All of it makes me angry right now and I don’t feel like getting into the details.

On a local level though, I was pleased to see Mike McGinn come in first in the Seattle Mayoral Primary. I voted for him and, wow, that is fantastic news! I met McGinn at our Democratic caucus in Greenwood for 2008. He seemed like a nice guy and he remembered my name from some random emails I sent on a Greenwood ListServ. I tend to have a good memory, so I always like it when someone else does too. I have a big pet peeve about people who introduce themselves to me several times and never seem to remember me.

Another thing of note is that we took the new light rail on our return to Seattle. It currently doesn’t go all the way to the airport, but there is a shuttle from the airport to Tukwila where it starts. It was a very pleasant ride although there were a total of 7 bicycles and only 2 places to put them. Jake and I were lucky to snag those two spaces. When we got downtown we rode our bikes back home. It was surprisingly nice after a 10 hour plane ride.

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Yesterday we returned from our Loire River cycling holiday in France. To even begin to tackle all of the photos I took and decide which ones to post is overwhelming, so I decided for my first post to focus on the Loire River itself. I hope you enjoy them.

1. One of the many Loire signs on bridges to be found.

2. The Loire River is sometimes called the last untamed river in Europe. The currents are unpredictable and sand dredging up until the 19th Century was a huge project. When trains came along the river was left to her own devices. As you can see it is indeed wild.

3. A fisherman.

4. These signs helped us navigate the trail. The bicycle trail is called the La loire à vélo.

5. Here’s a sample of what the trail looked like when it was actually a trail. We did go off the trail many a time and found little difficulty sharing the road with cars.

6. The Bridge at Beaugency. Built by the devil in one day.

7. Amboise.

8. Pique Nique on the Loire.

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