Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Best and Worst to be Thankful for (or not)

Amanda and a few others have been kicking this around the blogosphere, so why not?

Most disappointing movies (not sure I can really say "hated" since most movies I see are ones I have applied at least some selective quality towards, being sure to avoid the ones I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't make it through or would hate myself for doing so afterward):

1) Cold Mountain - a very picturesque movie, but just didn't have any jazz. The characters weren't interesting. The story ends sadly.

2) Constantine - a mess, unrealistic effects, a movie that couldn't quite make up its mind whether to be serious or not.

3) The Constant Gardner - a great cast, but didn't live up to expectations. Rachel Weisz's character dies in it.

4) Donnie Darko - ??

5) Leaving Las Vegas - Terribly depressing

6) My Best Friend's Wedding - The beginning of my I Don't Like Julia Roberts stage; just an annoying plot line and disturbing character interaction

7) 15 Minutes - another movie not sure whether it wanted to be serious or not. It wasn't.

8) 3000 Miles to Graceland - couldn't get past the first few minutes.

9) The Clearing - the ending just drops off to nowhere.

Under-rated or over-looked movies:

1. The Brady Bunch Movie - a most humerous takeoff of the old sitcom.

2. Cop Land - Stallone, DeNiro. Bad cop--no donut.

3. Summer School - Mark Harmon, a young Courtney Thorne Smith, in humorous story of slacker gym teacher turned english summer tutor and his equally unambitious students

4. Weekend at Bernies (surprised to see this on the bottom ranked 80's movies)

5. Darkness - suspenseful. And it has Anna Paquin in it.

6. The Village - but like most of his movies, can really only watch it once.

7. Death to Smoochie - Robin Williams and Edward Norton in dark comedy about two children's performers

8. Cheaters - Jena Malone, Jeff Daniels, story of high school honor class that cheats to win state-wide academic competition (based on true story).

9. Trapped - Charlieze Theron, Kevin Bacon; couple has child kidnapped, but they turn the tables on the kidnappers.

10. In the Cut - interesting and erotic movie with Meg Ryan playing against type.

Used Books

I'm still waiting for my used copy of The Satanic Verses to come in the mail from the Amazon-affiliated book-dealer. Seems like I ordered it weeks ago. That's the thing with getting stuff through the mail. Like with Amazon, your order could come the next day, or you might wait three weeks. And I couldn't find a copy at my neighborhood Borders. Figures. I'll only have time to skim it by the time of my bookclub meeting. And it's a complex book, I hear, to say the least. There's a primer for it that was sent to me by one of my bookclub mates.

Meanwhile, I've picked up reading James O' Donnell's Augustine again. As at least one of it's reviewers noted, this Augustine is not an easy read, at least in terms of how the book is organized. The prose is fine, but if you're looking for a nice chronological story-telling, and an outline of all the characters and issues, this book isn't it. Probably better to read the Peter Brown version. Nonetheless, there are things to like in O'Donnell's version.

Like a lot of recent church scholarship, O'Donnell reveals a more nuanced Augustine and a more complex church portrait than what church apologists have painted. O'Donnell's Augustine maintains the career climbing, publicity seeking that marked his younger, uncoverted days. Only in his ecclesiastical career, his ambition takes the form of church authority and that era's form of self-promotion--letter writing, between the Bishop and the notables of the day, preferably the political and influential, rather than his fellow clergy.

Of the theological and political divide between Augustine's Caecilianists and the opposition Donatists, the latter of whom Augustine was himself once affiliated, and which before Augustine's time was the dominant sect, O' Donnell doesn't draw a nice, neat distinction for the reader, most likely because the distinctions are not easy to grasp for us moderns.

In fact, the strength of O'Donnell's tale is it's illumination of a less unified, theologically sorted out Christian religion than that proposed by both the orthodox Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants today. But for each, Augustine's more global, authoritarian views had a great deal in shaping their tradition's world views.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Dude, Where's My Ideology?

I've been trying to be pragmatic about the 2008 Dem field for president. Just win, baby.

But I can't help feeling concerned when I read stuff like this in yesterday's Wash Post Style article on Mark Warner:

"It behooves Democrats, he says, to reframe the debate liberal vs. conservative to 'future vs. past.' "

We've heard this before:

"This election is not about ideology, it's about competence."

Of course, after Iraq and Katrina, I'd welcome some good old fashioned competence for a change. And I think we can reasonably conclude that there's a connection between an anti-government ideology and the actual performance of government. And maybe Warner's right: reframing the debate from "liberal" to "future" is a good way to avoid a negative label while simultaneously recasting the conservative's backward agenda in a way that would make Democrats seem appealing by comparison.

But I hope this doesn't turn into a wholesale refutation of ideology, particularly among the progressive grassroots. Starting at least with the Dukakis campaign, Democrats began a withdrawal of their own from the ideological field of combat with Republicans and not surprisingly, we've been getting our hats handed to us ever since, defensive about our beliefs, and unable to shape the public debate and policymaking process.

Ezra Klein's concerned too:

For my part, I have an article on the Brown/Hackett race (and what it says about the netroots) in the most recent American Prospect. My argument is, basically, that the netroots need to start thinking about who they are ideologically rather than simply flocking to who they prefer pugilistically.

While Democrats should be optimistic about their prospects in 2006 and 2008, it may be tempting to do and say whatever we think it takes to win, without regard for laying out a cohesive narrative about what Democrats value (and the risks inherent in defining ourselves). But since the Republicans will define us anyway, better to do on our own terms.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Monday Morning QB

Norv Turner 16
The Danny 13

Everytime Kerry Collins dropped back to pass--and the nearest Washington defensive lineman appeared to be in Fairfax County--I cringed, imagining Randy Moss catching a bomb and scoring. Well, it turned out that Jerry Porter caught the bombs away pass that started the Raiders turn around yesterday. This game exposed just about everything that's been wrong with the Skins this year. Aside from the blitz, a non-existent pass rush, an inconsistent offense, turnovers, and poor pass protection. This was a crucial game for Washington. I've said previously that I thought Washington had a favorable remaining schedule, but not now. They needed to win--at home--yesterday and didn't get it done. Their season's over.

Seahawks 27
49'ers 25

Can someone explain to me why this game was listed as one of the TV games in the Balt-Wash DC area yesterday? Fortunately we got Indy-Cincy on the other station, but c'mon. And how was it that with Ken Dorsey at QB, the Seahawks didn't cover the spread?

Steelers 13
Ravens 16

Pittsburgh didn't have the one guy on their team that can pass-Rothlesburger--on the field yesterday, so you think they'd run the ball all afternoon. But everytime I tuned into this game when Pitt had the ball, I saw XFLer Tommy Maddux trying to pass. Strange game. Were Duce and the Bus hurt? Good game for the Colts as Pitt drops three games behind them for home field. Denver is two back.

Speaking of which,

Jets 0
Broncos 27

Ouch. Herm Edwards is too good a coach to have this kind of season. But their QB position is desperate. Wonder who they'll have next year? At 2-8, they may still be in the Matt Leinert sweepstakes.

Bills 3
Chargers 40

And SD is coming into town next week. Will Marty be the second ex-Skins coach to beat his former team? Skins go for two in a row next week.

Tampa 30
Falcons 27

Falcons have lost two straight and have fallen out of first in the NFC South. Tampa and Carolina on top. Guess the Bucs got healthy against the Redskins last week. Raiders will probably go on to win six straight.

Colts 45
Bengals 37

Very tedious end to this game, with Cincy trying to line up for an onsides kick at the end. The officials spent a basketball game final minute trying to sort things out. And, oh yeah, Colts 10-0.

Dolphins 0
Browns 22

What happened here?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

NYT Special Edition

Here's Frank Rich:

One hideous consequence of the White House's Big Lie - fusing the war of choice in Iraq with the war of necessity that began on 9/11 - is that the public, having rejected one, automatically rejects the other. That's already happening. The percentage of Americans who now regard fighting terrorism as a top national priority is either in the single or low double digits in every poll. Thus the tragic bottom line of the Bush catastrophe: the administration has at once increased the ranks of jihadists by turning Iraq into a new training ground and recruitment magnet while at the same time exhausting America's will and resources to confront that expanded threat.

But if anything, Brooks is even more interesting:

For while the American presence is a catalyst for violence in Iraq, it is not the main catalyst. The main source of violence in Iraq is the sectarian war between the Sunnis and the Shiites.

And, um, gee, why would that be?

In the vacuum of security caused by the botched American occupation, these ethnic tensions have turned into a low-grade civil war.

And, um, maybe the invasion has had something to do with the civil war breaking out, too.

And what about the administration coming clean on what it knows about Iraq, rather than pummeling us with "stay the course" propaganda?

There's one area, though, where I completely sympathize with Jack Murtha. I sympathize with his frustration. On Feb. 23, 1942, Franklin Roosevelt asked Americans to spread out maps before them and he described, step by step, what was going on in World War II, where the U.S. was winning and where it was losing. Why can't today's president do that? Why can't he show that he is aware that his biggest problem is not in Iraq, it's on the home front?

Since the president doesn't give out credible information, it's no wonder Republicans are measuring success by how quickly we can get out;