21 Sep 2008

Some great signs at a "Women Against Palin" rally in Alaska

(I received the following in an e-mail from my wife, who received it from her aunt. I don't know who the original author is/was, but I love what she's written and I love some of the homemade signs at the rally...)

[The] Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was to be held outside on the lawn in front of the Loussac Library in midtown Anchorage. Home made signs were encouraged, and the idea was to make a statement that Sarah Palin does not speak for all Alaska women, or men. I had no idea what to expect.


The rally was organized by a small group of women, talking over coffee. It made me wonder what other things have started with small groups of women talking over coffee. It's probably an impressive list. These women hatched the plan, printed up flyers, posted them around town, and sent notices to local media outlets. One of those media outlets was KBYR radio, home of Eddie Burke, a long-time uber-conservative Anchorage talk show host. Turns out that Eddie Burke not only announced the rally, but called the people who planned to attend the rally "a bunch of socialist baby-killing maggots," and read the home phone numbers of the organizers aloud over the air, urging listeners to call and tell them what they thought. The women, of course, received some nasty, harassing and threatening messages.


I felt a bit apprehensive. I'd been disappointed before by the turnout at other rallies. Basically, in Anchorage, if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it's a success. So, I thought to myself, if we can actually get 100 people there that aren't sent by Eddie Burke, we'll be doing good. A real statement will have been made. I confess, I still had a mental image of 15 demonstrators surrounded by hundreds of menacing "socialist baby-killing maggot" haters.


It's a good thing I wasn't tailgating when I saw the crowd in front of the library or I would have ended up in somebody's trunk. When I got there, about 20 minutes early, the line of sign wavers stretched the full length of the library grounds, along the edge of the road, 6 or 7 people deep! I could hardly find a place to park. I nabbed one of the last spots in the library lot, and as I got out of the car and started walking, people seemed to join in from every direction, carrying signs.


Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn't honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn't happen here.


Then, the infamous Eddie Burke showed up. He tried to talk to the media, and was instantly surrounded by a group of 20 people who started shouting O-BA-MA so loud he couldn't be heard. Then passing cars started honking in a rhythmic pattern of 3, like the Obama chant, while the crowd cheered, hooted and waved their signs high.


So, if you've been doing the math… Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin's rally that got all the national media coverage! So take heart, sit back, and enjoy the photo gallery. Feel free to spread the pictures around to anyone who needs to know that Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for all Alaskans. The citizens of Alaska, who know her best, have things to say.

14 Sep 2008

This is exactly what I was saying on a few forums/blogs the day after the MTV awards...

India Knight, a columnist for the London Times, wrote the following about English comedian Russell Brand's hosting of the recent MTV Music awards and the ensuing broohaha...

(Reprinted in full from The Sunday Times. original article

From The Sunday Times

September 14, 2008

The funny thing is Brand let America off lightly

India Knight

The comedian Russell Brand, who is candid about the fact that his ambition is even bigger than his enormous nesty hair, presented the MTV video music awards last week. The show goes out live and is a very big deal in America, where Brand is, or was, largely unknown; it was watched this year by 8.4m people.

During his opening speech, he urged viewers to vote for Barack Obama, adding that though Americans were clearly open-minded people, since they’d let “that retarded cowboy fella” do his thing for eight years (“in Britain, we wouldn’t trust him with a pair of scissors”), it might be time to “let someone else have a go”. He went on to make jokes about Sarah Palin and about the “purity rings” worn by the Jonas Brothers, a wholesome teenage band who like to advertise their virginity through the wearing of jewellery – jewel-assisted virginity being, presumably, superior to the ordinary kind. (It’s only a matter of time before some American pop star broadcasts her sexual innocence by means of a huge, clanking chastity belt.)

Brand is a stand-up comedian, so he stood up and made jokes. Since he is a comedian rather than a children’s entertainer, the jokes had some edge, though his humour is observational and absurd rather than vicious: he doesn’t do great bitchy tirades. The jokes were funny, and were made funnier still by the nonplussed reaction of parts of the audience. He’s making jokes about our president! He’s making jokes about sex! He’s teasing the little Christian singers! He’s a Brit!

Never mind that this material was Brand Lite, sanitised for America: swathes of the viewing public were instantly outraged and keen to express their revulsion by flooding internet forums and news sites. Their comments were startling in their toxicity, taking in everything from Brand’s appearance – he’s a plain-looking fellow, apparently – to his heroin habit (he’s been free of drugs since 2003) to how he isn’t funny to Christian people, ergo needs to be hunted and shot. There was also lots of chippiness about how the UK is a “Third World country” and nobody in the US cares about it or anybody it has ever produced (um . . . Mayflower? Plymouth Rock? Oh, never mind). Television news and entertainment channels talked of nothing else for days, editorials were written, the blogosphere went mad: you get the picture.

America is so odd. They’re not weird in New York, or in California, and I know vast swathes of the country are packed to the gills with charming, lovely, clever people. They produce brilliant stand-up comedians themselves, and make some of the world’s best television and cinema. They have writers and actors and musicians of genius; the cliché about America being culturally barren is untrue. But you do worry about the rest of the populace when they threaten to do physical harm to a comedian for daring to suggest that Dubya, the least popular president in modern American history, doesn’t perhaps come across as being quite the full shilling. The vociferous commentators on MTV’s website can’t all have been fiftysomething Republicans whose sensibilities had been offended; they must have included a proportion of MTV’s viewers, broadly aged 16-24. How is it possible for young people to be so reactionary?

The issue seemed to be a) that non-Americans have no right to express any kind of opinion about the world’s only remaining superpower; b) that it’s not nice to say “retarded” (which it isn’t, especially, but– and I say this as the mother of a child with special needs – it is surely a matter of context. Besides, Americans like nothing better than the word “spaz”, so frankly we’re splitting hairs); c) that there’s nothing funny or odd about chastity rings (except there is: they’re completely absurd). This third point is especially peculiar given America’s vast, bottomless appetite for pornography, to say nothing of its fondness for sexualising female children: see the country’s tradition of toddler beauty queens in 3in heels and pancake. Britney Spears, the other star of this year’s VMAs, became America’s sweetheart at 17 by grinding and pouting while wearing a micro school uniform and her hair in bunches. Then she went a bit mad – gee, I wonder why – and America hated her for being fallible and human. The bile directed at Brand is nothing compared with the venom poor Spears endured for years. Then she looked hot again, so everything was fine.

I interviewed Brand last month; he was about to go back to LA for these awards. He was charming and bright, cerebral as well as motor-mouthed. He felt a certain trepidation about the VMAs, being fully aware that presenting them would catapult him into the American consciousness overnight. The awards haven’t done his US profile any harm: viewing figures were up 19% this year and MTV has asked him to host again next year. But his friend David Baddiel told me on Friday: “I think he was maybe a little surprised by the level of rage. He said he could imagine feeling that angry only if someone said something about his mum. What’s bizarre is that his remarks would be considered tepid in this country – it’s a massively disproportionate response to someone saying something very mildly out of turn.” Baddiel added that the script would have been checked by MTV, “which means you got maybe 10% of what he’d have liked to have said – he was operating at a fraction of his taboo-busting capabilities”.

The whole episode is like a parable about the differences between the US and the UK: so much common ground and yet such oceans between us. It isn’t about whether you find Brand funny or not: there’s always the “off” switch. It’s about the peculiar contradictions that seem to define modern America: the love of free speech and pride in democracy, coupled with bottomless abuse for anyone who has the temerity to voice dissent. The devotion to the flag, in people who strike some of us as trying their hardest to make the world dislike America. The sanctification of sexual purity versus the insatiable appetite for porn. And, above all, the sanctimony.

The only way of dealing with that kind of mindset is to joke about it, which is what Brand did. I’m glad of it: his performance was a useful reminder that sometimes jokes aren’t only funny, but necessary.

12 Sep 2008

Classic scenes from the movies part 3

The first clip is from Glengarry Glen Ross. For those of you who've seen it, you know that I could've chosen many, many scenes from this movie, but you also know that if I had to pick one, it would be this one. A little background. GGR was orginally a David Mamet play that opened on Broadway in the 80s. It's about real estate salesmen looking for that big deal to "close." I remember Empire magazine describing this movie as "a film about a bunch of guys sitting around, talking shite. But what wonderful guys. What wonderful shite." This really does sum the movie up.

Director James Foley decided to adapt it for the big screen and, because the dialogue was so actor-friendly, had no problem lining up a heavyweight cast for the film - Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon (who, IMO, should've shared the Best Actor Oscar that year for this, with Denzel for Malcolm X [on a side note, it went that year to, coincidentally, Pacino for what is surely his worst performance - Scent of a Woman - ham acting indeed]), Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Jonathan Pryce and Alec Baldwin.

This scene features Baldwin in his only scene of the movie and, interestingly enough, this scene wasn't even featured in the original play. Foley had Mamet write this scene especially for Baldwin once he'd climbed on board. In 5 short minutes, Alec Baldwin sets the gold standard for foul-mouthed monologues - a performance he has yet to better...

The next scene is from the French film Amelie. It is, in fact, the opening of the film and, like Magnolia, is one of the best openings to a movie I've ever seen.

A delightful, whimsical fable in which we see the world through eyes of matchmaker-turned-matchmakee (is that a word?) Amelie (played with appropriate doe-eyed innocence by the then-unknown Audrey Tatou).

The opening scene sets the tone for the entire film and, if you're familiar with the work of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet ( the wholly-original Delicatessen and the equally strange City of Lost Children), you know you're in for a treat...

...and, as a bonus clip, here's clip featuree Kevin Spacey on Inside the Actor's Studio giving dead-on impersonations of some famous actors - including Lemmon and Pacino. Genius.

9 Sep 2008

The Fall - the best movie I've seen this year

On Sunday Courtney and I watched what can only be described as one of the most original movies I've ever seen.

The movie is The Fall, directed by Tarsem Singh. It's set in LA in 1915 in a hospital. A young girl with a broken arm befriends an actor in one of the hospital beds. He enchants her with a magical story with a cast of characters based on people she's seen in the hospital...before I go any further, take a look at the trailer, for it synopsizes the film better than I can...

The movie is an amazing amalgam of The Wizard of Oz , Life of Pi (best fiction book ever written, IMO), The Princess Bride (but bear in mind that this movie is, in parts, quite violent and deserving of its R rating) and, and, and well, I can't describe what else, except to say that it's so much more than the sum of its influences.

Five-year-old Romanian first-time actress Catinca Untaru is mesmerising as the young girl, while Lee Pace (Pushing Daisies) gives a wonderfully-rounded performance as the storyteller/red bandit/blue bandit/actor/drug addict/etc.

The cinematography, art direction, costume design and all-around-visuals in the movie are among the best I've EVER seen.

The movie was shot over four years (!) in 28 countries (double !) and was truly a labor of love for Singh, who also co-writes and co-produces.

Arresting, funny, scary, wonderful. The Fall has it all. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

8 Sep 2008

Guitar Hero Baby!

Here's me, multi-tasking as usual, while Finn (in his sling...the greatest invention, ever!) tries to learn the words to Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes...


...and now, after trying numerous times (and failing) to master Freebird on expert, we take a well-deserved nap.


5 Sep 2008

Jon Stewart Hits Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, Dick Morris On Sarah Palin Hypocrisy

(Reprinted from The Huffington Post)Wednesday night on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart hit Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly with damning evidence of their hypocrisy regarding Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

While Rove recently praised Palin's experience as the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Stewart showed video of Rove trashing Virginia Governor — and former Richmond Mayor — Tim Kaine's executive experience, listing all the cities that are bigger than Richmond and calling such a pick "political."

Then, after recent video of O'Reilly describing Bristol Palin's pregnancy as a family issue, Stewart showed a clip of the Fox News host blaming Jamie Lynn Spears' parents for her teenage pregnancy.

Finally, after showing video of Dick Morris complaining about the rampant sexism in the media coverage of Sarah Palin, Stewart unveiled a clip of Morris saying that Hillary hides behind the sexism defense, and that anytime "the big boys" pick on Hillary, "she retreats behind the apron strings."

"In Dick Morris' defense," Stewart said, "he is a lying sack of sh*t."